|Is this indicative of a certain penalty or.?|
I have a 17+ year old content site, US based. There is only one other competitor in my niche that has been around longer.
We used to rank great for the keyword "widgets" (by great, I mean page 1) but widgets has become a highly competitive term at this point. For the couple of years leading up to the first Panda (2011) the homepage started bouncing around for the main keyword "widgets" - page 3 was the highest but usually we were around page 15 which would fluctuate between not ranking at all and that page. This continued until around Aug 2012 when we suddenly started ranking better for "widgets" for our homepage (between pages 4-6). When the Nov 21 Panda hit, we dropped back down and we have now been off the map completely for "widgets" for our homepage.
If this hadn't been a pre-existing condition I'd obviously suspect Panda, but it was happening before. And no fluctuations in the rankings coincided with any Panda updates prior to Nov 21. We have had plenty of other issues with Panda, however.
We do rank for "brandname" just fine (and thankfully since we've been around long enough we get lots of searches for that!). If you search for our brand, our homepage comes up #1 with sitelinks, authorship, etc. So that seems to me like the homepage isn't completely penalized from all rankings. If you search for "brandname widgets" our secondary landing page comes up #1 with the homepage #2. The secondary page is sort of the gateway to the specific widget sections.
If I do a search using the site operator for "site:example.com widgets" our two most trafficked interior pages come up first in the results (followed by other interior pages I would say in order of their rankings for their own terms), the homepage and the secondary landing page are nowhere to be found. These would be the most likely place a person searching for widgets in general would go to on our site. The ranking interior pages are widget-specific.
The homepage isn't over-optimized as far as I can tell. It reads "normal" and there isn't any keyword stuffing in alt tags or anywhere else. There has been zero link building done. Most of the incoming links we have the anchor text as our brand. There are some with "brand widgets".
At this point, with our other Panda issues, I wouldn't expect to rank on page 1 for "widgets", but I find it hard to believe that we don't rank at all. I've searched all the way to the end of the results and we're just not there. I'm just not sure where else I should be looking to try to improve our situation.
Does this stand out as being indicative of any certain kind of penalty or ranking issue? As I said, since we started having trouble pre-Panda I know it's more than just the Panda problems, but I'm at a loss as to what might be the root of the issue. And I also wonder if whatever the root issue is has made our Panda problems worse than they might have been otherwise.
Any insight, guesses, or magic spells would be greatly appreciated.
What type of changes, if any, did you make when the page dropped in the results and, again if you made changes, how frequent were they?
There weren't any substantial changes to the homepage either before the rankings improved (August - Nov 21, 2012) or before they tanked Nov 21. The specific content changes in small amounts based on new additions, seasonal trends, etc (fresh content is added daily). Things like keyword density are pretty consistent. Structurally the page hasn't changed and the title has stayed the same.
Interesting. Did you change any of the breadcrumbing or anything at all (linking, link text, etc.) pointing to the home page or the other one that got smacked?
Over the years, there have been some changes (remember, the bouncing in rankings has been going on for about 4-5 years) but no changes in the months leading up to the increase or the decrease with the Aug/Nov oddity.
|The specific content changes in small amounts based on new additions, seasonal trends, etc (fresh content is added daily). |
It might sound a bit crazy, but this is what I'd start looking at first then.
I think I'd try moving the seasonal and new additions to separate pages if possible and link to them from the home page to see if that helped so there's "static content" on the home page and the seasonal/new updates are linked from it.
What I'm thinking is maybe somehow those updates to the home page are getting you stuck in the Rank Modification for Spam Detection [webmasterworld.com...] portion of the algo, which was recently patented, but appears to have been in use much longer.
If nothing else has really changed in the way the page is linked or the main information on the page, something that "changes but seems like it should be fine" is where I'd start looking and the seasonal/new content updates seem to be the "constant change" on the page during the time of the fluctuations, so I think I'd try to get those off the page and see what happened.
I have considered that frequent changes could be triggering the issues which is why I've left important components like the title alone for so long (I did once trigger the penalty for too many changes on an interior page that I was tweaking a lot - took over 6 months to start ranking again and it still isn't back to where it was - lesson learned!).
I've had mixed feelings about making it completely static (definitely something I've looked at) since our competitors all have constantly updated content on their homepages. Many of our interior landing pages (subcategory pages) change just as much as the homepage and don't really experience this type of issue with their keywords (some of which are fairly competitive) so that's another reason I've been hesitant to switch to something more static. I'm not saying it's not the problem, I'm just not sure it's the whole problem since we fluctuated, then ranked, then tanked without really changing how things were done on that page.
Maybe as a first step I'll tweak the percent of static content on the page. Change some of the things that update daily to be static placements instead (some things that users won't really notice). And change some of the daily updates to be weekly.
I should also have mentioned initially that I think have ruled out any technical issues with the homepage such as 301 mishaps or canonical issues. At least I, and anyone who has looked at the site, haven't been able to find anything.