Msg#: 4373025 posted 11:03 pm on Oct 10, 2011 (gmt 0)
I've got a bit of a puzzler on my hands, on an established site that has never had this problem before. All articles use related links, usually embeded within the content or placed immediately after it.
As of late the wrong pages return for the search terms, example: Blue widget guide vs blue widget list. Both articles have a link to the other, both were highly ranked before (top 3) but now Google's returning the wrong page almost all of the time.
A search for "blue widget guide" returns the "blue widget list" page as most relevant for that term and vice versa. Worse is that since it's the wrong page it ranks extremely poorly.
I received a manual response to a reconsideration request stating there are no manual penalties so something else is at play. Could it be that if you write about something, and include a link to it, Google ranks the page being linked to more highly? If that's the case it would explain why all of my pages rank so poorly out of the blue. Besides Panda, what else could it be?
Msg#: 4373025 posted 3:51 am on Oct 11, 2011 (gmt 0)
Related links use the page title of the page being linked to as anchor text. Odd is that if search A matches page B then a search for B's title will return page A almost exclusively (and vice versa!).
possibilities ~ Google is ignoring the related links(that have been there 7 years), passing no value, but giving weight to the text used in the link FOR THE PAGE THE LINK IS ON. ~ Google is counting the link but not the anchor text, resulting in more (too much?) value being passed to the related article.
Something else entirely?
Keep in mind, this is after many years of not being a problem, it began happening around the time of the last Panda iteration and short of removing the related links I'm not sure what's being calculated wrong so I'm not sure where to start trying to fix it. This is new (to this site).
Tedster talks about having some luck in adjusting the use of co-occurring words and possibly de-optimizing the page a little.
I have seen situations in which Google has decided they know better than you do which page a user wants. This has happened a lot on eCommerce sites when you want the user to land on a product page and Google chooses the category page instead. The tough part is figuring out if that is an internal linking issue.
If I ventured a guess, since this is happening site-wide for you, I'd say maybe those "related links" are being de-valued, which has had a drastic impact on how your internal linking is calculated. That's just a wild guess though. Good luck!