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Page Disappears from SERPS for One Term

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 4:09 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)


I have been struggling to figure out what is going on between Google and my page since last April. End of April, I saw a 30% decrease in traffic in one day. And a larger decrease in revenue. Never recovered.

I have a good, honest, long-term (1998), white-hat site. Near as I know, never been penalized- no reason to (I know of). I have a broad site (1.75 million pages) in one niche. Quality, original content. User reviews. Pictures, videos. 10K Facebook Likes, 1000 Twitter foloowers. Active forum. Hell, even Wikipedia has an article about my site (as well as using it as a source for 1000's of pages).

I still get a lot of my long tail stuff, because that I have that depth. You search for a specific type of widget, you will get my site in the top 5, every time. I THINK where I lost Google was on a single, one word search entirely on-topic for my site (if you saw my site, it would be the absolute first word you would think of)- the term "Widget".

I was number 2 for this word on google, pre-wikipedia. Then, maybe # 4. Then, last April, I went to 11. Then the 20's.... then I held steady at 33.

Now, it does not show up at all for that single word in google at all. Gone. I add a second word to the search (one that distinguishes me, like "Dave Widget") and I am # 1. I use a second, much more generic word that I use a lot on my site ("Widget List"), and again, I am #1. So I guess I am not persona non grata at Google...

Right now, today, for that single term, I am # 3 at Yahoo. 4 at Bing. I do not see it in the first 10 pages at Ask (which looks just like Google for this term). #4 on Dogpile. 5 On metacrawler.

So, what gives here? Why would I be totally out of Google for one term, but be the king of two or more? One thing it may be, a friend mentioned I probably should not have the meta noarchive tag on my site... so I took that off.... but that in and of itself should not cause this, should it?

Any ideas?





Msg#: 4363792 posted 5:49 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

you manually build links to that page at all?


WebmasterWorld Senior Member tedster us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 6:06 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

I also thought of the point that I think linkbuildr is indicating. There are two reasons I can think of for losing one keyword and not others:

1. Excessive exact matches in external anchor text.

2. Google reassigning that keyword to a different taxonomy (classification) than its classification of your page and site.

By #2, I mean that Google classifies query terms according to user intention - mere text matching on the keyword is not enough to rank. They also classify websites, and then use that information to rank pages that match the classification of the user intentions.

Some (possibly many) keywords have a multiple intention assigned, and the SERPs will show a mix of page types. The balance of page types (30% informational versus 70% transactional, for instance) will shift over time as Google analyzes their user data.

To get a clue if your situation is #2, you can take a look at the top ranking pages and see what type of content those pages and sites offer. If they are radically different than your page/site, that may well be what's going on.

I think Google's automated taxonomy-classification is far more granular than the overly simple navigational, informational, transactional, locational schema that is often mentioned, but at least that's a place to start. There are some keywords I've worked with that clearly would NEVER be able to rank a page from a transactional website. No such page was apparently allowed in the top results.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 6:08 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Not actively. At least I haven't in 3-4 years (maybe more). Too busy building the site.

I know I have a lot... and I would assume all now are pretty natural. Is there a check I should run on these?


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 6:14 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)


There is a perennial #1 for the word. Wiki is n ow # 2. Most of the other top 20 are still in the mix, some up and some down. The word does have some ambiguity, but not a whole lot, and I am right on target for that word.... more so than the term "webmaster" for this site.

I did a keyword linking in to my main page, and my site title (with that keyword in it... 4 words, first is "The", 2md is small word, third is the key word I want and forth is a word personal to this site)... so just about all my links in will have that word in it... just as webmaster would be in most links in to this site...


WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time

Msg#: 4363792 posted 9:17 pm on Sep 17, 2011 (gmt 0)

Google also has the power to snip your sites ranking ability on a per keyword basis, if your keyword happens to have been placed in front of a pair of Google eyeballs.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 5:21 am on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

FWIW, I made a change to my index page this morning... within 10 hours, google had that change in the SERPs (on the two-word search- thew one word search still is not visible).



10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 8:27 am on Sep 18, 2011 (gmt 0)

This looks precisely like a symptom I have noticed on my site since April (and the Panda change).

Basically, it's like an over-optimisation penalty. Pages suddenly are unable to rank for when certain keywords are used in the search. Drop the keywords, which in my case make it more specific and therefore easier to rank for (versus generic) and the page does fine. Put the specific word back in and my page is off to the long grass again. Like I said, often completely contrary to the competitive dynamic of the SERPs, where the offending keyword is a niche brand, for example. Adding that to the generic search should limit corpus further and my page should be more competitive, not less.

As to cause, I have two theories:-

1) For the most obvious niche brandname example I had engaged in a little (lame) SEO campaign. It shouldn't have been difficult for my authority site to rank #2 (behind official) for, so I had a few articles written and Squidoo lenses created for links and developed a bit of a silo of pages around the brand, all interlinked.

2) Less likely is that Google has discovered that when they send traffic that includes that keyword, they don't get the "long click", so they're filtering me out. This is plausible, since we don't stock that many of this brand's products yet.

Hope this helps!


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 3:25 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

Thanks alot for all your help. My page is very key word rich, by necessity. So maybe that is it. Not even really stuffing, just natural, I have about 6% of my keyword on the home page.

Weirder and Weirder... I was talking to a guy at work this morning anout not being in the serps at all for one word, and he said let me see... he ran it (not logged in) and there I was at 13!

I went back to my work station, and googled it (same IP), no I was not there. We scratched our heads... and a half an hour latter, we were both seeing my page come up at 18 for the single key word...

So very weird... I will keep this post updated if it looks like a permanent change...

Robert Charlton

WebmasterWorld Administrator robert_charlton us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Msg#: 4363792 posted 8:22 pm on Sep 19, 2011 (gmt 0)

he ran it (not logged in) and there I was at 13!

This might be a search history issue, where Google might be tracking by cookie, not by Google account history.

You can try either flush cookies on your specific browser and do a fresh search... or you can turn off search history.

Paradoxically, to turn off search history, you need to be signed in (and therefore with cookies not flushed) in order for Google to remember that you want search history to remain off. Access to the setting is via the gear icon in the upper right hand corner of the search page, which will take you to your "Options" settings.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 3:28 am on Sep 20, 2011 (gmt 0)

Even with taxonomy changes in classification from Google sites generally stay in the top 5 pages.

In your case it very well might be link related.

If excessive anchors were built and titles were changed to promote that keyword at the same time, that can cause a fairly massive drop for the single keyword, which could explain a longer tail drop of 30%.


WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Msg#: 4363792 posted 12:09 am on Sep 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Well, I made a couple (what I considered minor) changes 2 weeks ago.

I saw the changes on google within 5 hours (Title tag change)

Within a week, I finally saw my site again, on page 14.

Two days later, page 11. Then page nine yesterday.

Today, I am on page 3.

I anticipate coming higher- I hope, but I am happy to see some pretty good movement. This is on a single, fairly generic keyword...



WebmasterWorld Senior Member sgt_kickaxe us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time

Msg#: 4363792 posted 3:18 am on Sep 30, 2011 (gmt 0)

Lets get scientific here, we have several tools to help us figure this out. Perhaps starting with Google's own webmaster tools we could...

1 - Add a keyword or short series of keywords to the footer of every page.
2 - Wait 7-10 days for webmaster tools to update and check the "important keywords" list.
3 - A penalized keyword won't show up on the list as important, a non-penalized keyword will.
4 - Test various keywords to get the extent of the ban, one word? one phrase? etc.

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