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Site dead to Google - fixed keyword density but no recovery

 1:25 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's been a very long time since I visited WebmasterWorld or had to worry about site traffic. The site ticked along very nicely for several years and all was well. Not so anymore. I am once again back on the brink of financial disaster. :(

I went to Google and read the possible reasons, but other than perhaps keyword density, I have found nothing that could explain the site's dismal rankings.

Back in the day folks here used to use keyword density to ensure their pages were found for their critical keywords. Of course, I continued that tradition until just recently, believing that could or would be the ONLY possible reason for the Google Gods to take aim at my site.

I had some major inventory changes coming up and decided to just write the best I could and not worry about keyword density. Believing Google's sales pitch about writing for the consumer, I proceeded to work for three months (day and night) ... drawing my widget layouts, taking photos of all the new widgets, reviewing each one and writing all I could about each that would be of interest to potential clients.

It didn't work.

I was possibly too careful about keyword density as I truly believed that to be only possible reason I could have been hammered so badly.

My website is 100% original content. I do all my own work and nobody touches the site but me. (Except once when my site was hacked).

Many clients over the years have told me that mine is the most helpful and informative website they have found anywhere on the internet in regards to widget hire and local information about the area. I also have a photo library with over 500 shots of the various anchorages and places to visit and write ups about most of the islands. I hired a plane and got a lot of aerial shots as well. In addition, I research each widget type probably more than anyone else in the industry to be certain that absolutely everything I write is accurate. All to no avail.

I became so paranoid about overusing certain keywords, I even described widgets as <similar to widgets> and <another widget type> as <shortened name for another widget type> something I would never do in everyday conversation! A widget is a widget is a widget. A bluewidget is a bluewidget not a blue widget! Even when writing about a specific widget model, I was very careful not to mention the model name as often as I would have normally.

Anyway, having looked at my site over and over and over, I can see nothing wrong. Competitors with all sorts of keyword stuffing (to the tune of 12.8% density) are killing me in the serps. So there has to be something else that I am not knowledgeable enough to find.

This morning, I attempted to sign up for Google webmaster tools and failed miserably. Not that I would know what to do with them anyway, but I thought I would give it a shot.

I have never asked for or bought links to my site. Any links I have have come naturally. I have no idea how to find out who is linking to me these days anyway.

Basically, I am saying I don't get it. It's been a long time now that my site has been in the doldrums (more than a year and a half) and I am just completely lost as to what to do. I would like to hire an SEO but sadly, I have left things too long, thinking my new widget pages would solve the problem. They didn't and I am dead broke again.

Does anyone have any sage advice as to what I should look for next?

I am 99% certain I have not broken any Google webmaster rules other than perhaps keyword density but if my competitors haven't been nailed, why was I? My pages were far less offensive than many of theirs and my new pages couldn't possibly have tripped any Google wires! It is all 100% ... solid, non spammy content that gets no recognition whatsoever.

Sorry for the long post. :(

[edited by: aakk9999 at 2:33 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2013]
[edit reason] Exemplified [/edit]



 3:26 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

It's not just about content (or keywords) anymore; it's the whole user experience when they visit your site. This includes things like the navigation, the layout, how fast your pages load, whether or not you're optimized for all devices (desktops, phones, tablets), whether or not your content can be found on lots of other sites (maybe reworded, but essentially the same), how long visitors stay on your site, whether or not they share your information via social media sites.

It's also increasingly difficult to rely *just* on organic search traffic for longterm sustainability. Where do your users hang out? You should be there, talking to them and convincing them to come back to your site for whatever's new and exciting. Consider starting an email newsletter, too.

Realistically, there's not going to be an overnight fix. Keyword density isn't even really a thing anymore. It's not enough not to break the rules; there are so many others competing with you (including Google themselves) that you have to find a way to really shine at what you do (there's still only ten organic links on the first page of Google - and sometimes not even that)

I keep saying this over and over, but if you can't afford professional help, then do some searches for the term "site audit" and educate yourself on how to do an objective audit on your own site. There are places that will give you templates and checklists of things to look for. The first thing is to see where your site is today, and then you have to make some decisions on how to move forward.


 3:47 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Laine you made several important points in your post. Not staying abreast of changes in the industry is like getting lost in the same city you live in because they changed the way traffic flows. Google has done this and your lost as were to go and what to do. Now you decided to stop and ask directions.
My advice (before it is to late) would be to have another set of eyes go over the site look for common errors old sites made, do a complete review of the site, and basically try to show you what road to get on.
Nutmeg basically said the same thing as I have.

If you are just now trying to sign up for a webmaster tools account and can't you really need some help. Sorry to be blunt but that is the truth.


 7:43 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the info. I actually resisted posting here as I pretty much knew what to expect. I haven't stayed abreast of SEO because I am not really a webmaster or an SEO. I am a salesperson with my own website.

I will try the audit route. Thanks!


 7:54 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks for the info. I actually resisted posting here as I pretty much knew what to expect.
Pretty lame.
I am not really a webmaster or an SEO. I am a salesperson with my own website.
Interesting I assume you have stayed abreast of best practices to sale techniques.

Owning a website you developed for sales is a webmaster, it is SEO it is how you made your living. You said
The site ticked along very nicely for several years and all was well. Not so anymore. I am once again back on the brink of financial disaster.
Back in the day folks here used to use keyword density to ensure their pages were found for their critical keywords.
must have had at one time or another a hand in being an SEO/Webmaster.

I wish you well because your focus was lost due to your website ticked along very well, and you lost focus.

Traffic is sales period.

You can't sell a drink of water to a man in the desert if he can't find you.

I hope you continue to come back, remain in touch with the changing environment, get the help you need to fix your website, and regain your rankings.

I see you have over 2 k in post (sure must have been active at one time or another) and joined in 2000. Got what you came for and moved on. Nothing stands still whatever your in will change remaining focused and abreast of the changes is the only way to survive.


 8:31 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)


I meant no ill will but sorry if I came across as lame. I knew it was my own fault for not staying abreast but I simply can't do three very different jobs well and simultaneously.

It's hard enough getting the website work done and do my sales job all at the same time, let alone trying to stay abreast of SEO. I honestly didn't expect things to go so pear shaped once I was on track.

I didn't just get what I came for and move on. In the beginning, I was invited here and stayed for several years. I like to think I contributed what I was able with a limited amount of knowledge.

I will be reading as much as I possibly can and will hopefully recover. If I do recover, I will be sure to hire an SEO to do the keeping up for me. I can't be all things at the same time.


 8:35 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

It sounds to me like you have good content on the site, so I'd forget keyword density - especially if you've written your content to sound natural, read well, and - above all - to be informative and useful.

If your traffic and rankings slowly tailed off over time, then you either took your foot off the gas or never had it on the pedal to begin with.

If your traffic suddenly took a hit on a particular date or dates, then you have been slapped by a particular algorithmic change. You can look up named updates and see if you have any particular problems, then read up on ways to fix them.

Whether you were penalised or overtaken, you need to get (back) into marketing. Common ways to do this are Social Media, email marketing, blogging or content distribution to establish you and your site as an expert in your niche, banner ads, competitions, or just plain link begging (if your site is that great then find out who'd like to link to it and contact them). Build relationships with customers, potential customers and those that can put you in front of their customers and their audiences online.


 8:47 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Few quick ideas particular to your site off the top of my head:

1) If you write about places to stay / places to eat / things to do in different locations, do the owners of those businesses know that you are recommending them and their sites? Perhaps they'd return the favour.

2) If you have great (aerial) photos, could you start a Flickr group? There are loads of other photo sharing sites

3) If you have great knowledge about various places, then why not get yourself some travel writer slots on some of the more popular (luxury) destination portals. There are loads and many allow profile links to your own site - some even allow links to your own site at the bottom of each article.

I'm sure you can think of more.

And what DON'T you cover in your site - are there sites out there that do cover that? How can you help each other?


 8:49 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi Frantic Fish.

No, it wasn't a slow decline. It was pretty much an overnight thing. That's what made me think it had to be a keyword density penalty. I have done no other SEO stuff ever. Went from number one to number 101 almost instantly.

The site is definitely what was once termed an "authority" site around WebmasterWorld. The good folks here and my mentor, DaveAFG (rest his soul) were the ones who basically told me what I had to do to get my site recognised and it worked really well for a very long time.

Not to worry, I will stumble along and do my best to suss out what has happened and get it fixed. I have little else to do with my time as sales are dead so hi-ho, hi-ho, it's off to work I go! :)


 8:53 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Liane forgive me if I come across a little strong. I work 3 jobs myself use to be 4 but I am as well getting burned out. I am not a writer I don't hold back. I say what I say not meaning to be mean or unforgiving but from my perspective. Probably not the best in most cases but that is whom I am, and how I will remain.
There was no ill will taken. I don't really get offended by other post here I just say what I see.
I didn't just get what I came for and move on. In the beginning, I was invited here and stayed for several years. I like to think I contributed what I was able with a limited amount of knowledge.
I believe that I said what I said to see if you would respond and you did. All it takes in an hour a day to read and stay tuned into what's going on. An hour a day.

Some good advice that will save you some money. Join the members group I think it is 149 a year. Not sure but close you can check. Go into the review section make 2 comments you feel will help the owner on a submitted website. Then submit yours, I promise you this look far and wide you won't get it this cheap and some of the best eyes on your site anywhere in the world. Put as much info in the post as you can to help the members understand what's going on and a possible date or dates when it all started going down hill.

[edited by: bwnbwn at 8:58 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2013]


 8:53 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

OK, well do signup with GWTools to see if you have a manual penalty or other notifications. There's lots of good technical knowledge in there.

If it's not a manual penalty but algorithmic the two most obvious candidates are Panda and Penguin. You can look up the dates that these hit, hopefully find out what you're dealing with, and take it from there.


 8:54 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

When I first came to WebmasterWorld, that is exactly the advice I was given less the travel writing thing. I did pretty much everything you've suggested and more. It took me well over three years to develop my site. I wrote constantly. Sigh, I hate writing but I've been told I am relatively good at it. I'll look into the travel type sites for sure.

Maybe free articles in exchange for links will help! Thanks for the suggestion.


 9:05 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am so embarrassed that I failed to verify my website at Google webmaster tools. I uploaded the file they gave me, but it said my site was not verified. I have no idea how I could mess that up but I did. That's when I posted here. As I said, I am barely what anyone would call a "webmaster" let alone an SEO.

I'll give it another shot tonight. I'm just really tired and seem to be making a lot of mistakes. Getting by on 4 to 5 hours of sleep - 7 days a week for several months while trying to rehabilitate my site has me pretty much drooling in my cups.


 9:28 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks bwnbwn,

I will try the members thing. First I have to borrow a friend's credit card though! I seem to recall having trouble paying for the Boston WebmasterWorld conference way back when too.


 9:44 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Maybe free articles in exchange for links will help!

Be careful with this. It can be dangerous. Basically any link that you arrange yourself, that can be seen as anything other than naturally given by a third party can be construed (or misconstrued) by Google as unnatural linking if not carefully done.

It's kind of like walking through a minefield, and honestly, I wouldn't do much of anything until you get a handle on the good, the bad and the (possibly) ugly about your site as it is today.

You have a big job ahead of you; for good AND for ill everything changes (and everything Google related changes even faster) and you've been out of the loop. Most webmasters / publishers never thought they'd have to worry about this stuff, and unfortunately a lot of them have experienced the same situation that you have. Some manage to find their way back, and some move on to other projects; only you can figure out which way is best for you.


 9:57 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I failed to verify my website at Google webmaster tools.

Well, that's a huge relief. When I read "failed miserably" I was afraid there was some new obstacle. There have been a few posts and threads recently about the increased interlinking of g###-owned properties, with particular reference to YouTube issues. So my first thought was that there are new hurdles and hoops for first-time gwt members, only nobody here knows about them because they are already signed on. (For example: did they force you to give a mobile phone number? Existing members get nagged periodically, but there's still an Ignore option.)

Tip: You have to leave the verification file in place. They don't check it every time, but they will re-check periodically. And be sure to register with both forms of your sitename, with and without www., even though you only use one form.


 9:59 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Liane, I am sure that with 2400+ posts you were much more than passer-by on these boards in the past!

With regards to Google Webmaster Tools verification - have you managed to do this now? After you uploaded the verification file to the server, can you access it in the browser ?

Pay attention to potential redirects here. For example, if you added a site without www to WMT and you are doing a redirection to www for all files (hence your google verification file redirects to www), the verification will fail. If this is the case, add a site in WMT with www and verify this. Basically, the verification file must return HTTP 200 for the site as entered in WMT without any redirects.

But I would definitely second what bwnbwn said about becoming a member and putting your site for a site review.

Added Overlapped with Lucy - we said pretty much the same thing about www/non-www issue when verifying the site in WMT.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 10:03 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2013]


 10:02 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Thanks nutmeg. Just when I thought I might have a good prospect to follow. :(

Sigh. Google! Why isn't having the best darned website in the industry good enough for you? Why all the hoops and ladders and games? I thought I was doing my job and you seemed so pleased with me for so long.

How is it that one day Google loves me and the next, I am out on the street with no particular place to go?

I am 60 years old. I don't want to move on and learn a new vocation and I certainly won't find a job working for someone else at my age. At some point in time, I'd like to to retire. At this rate, maybe when I am 80! There's something to look forward to! LOL.

Ah well slow and steady wins the race. I'll just have to start plugging away and do what I can. Maybe a whole new website is the answer.


 10:03 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Liane your probably using the wrong file to verify the site. It is an easy mistake.
Look at the way you are requesting Google to verify the website, there are several options. I always use the <meta name="google-site-verification" content="bunch of numbers" /> placed in the head tag on the front index page.
Be sure and add both the non www and the www version of the domain and verify both. Even if u have it 301'd it will still register both, but you have to add both of them in the webmaster section.

BTW Liane I am 60 to and if you can work through this 80 is a good shot. I can't see myself retiring those that do either get to many extra pounds, bored, or die.

[edited by: bwnbwn at 10:07 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2013]


 10:05 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

aakk9999 there are zero redirects on my site.

No I haven't tried to do it again yet.

No, it didn't show on my site, it just went to my homepage.


 10:09 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I am confused by this:
No, it didn't show on my site, it just went to my homepage.

So after you have uploaded googlennnnnnnnnnn.html file to the root of your site, can you see the file by adding the file name to your domain name:


Or does the above take you to your home page?


 10:13 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I got the file: google-site-verification: googleb###########.html
I put the file into my website file folder, uploaded it to the site and it appeared directly under the index page on the server.

Tried to verify by clicking the verify button but got the message that verification failed.

I went back and when I loaded that file name into the browser, it took me to my homepage.


 10:18 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Laine aakk999 means this.


The file name should be google#############.html that u uploaded
Add the name after the full path of your domain it should be
You should see the verification code.


 10:27 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

I feel so darned stupid. I just did it again and got the same response. Clearly, I am doing something wrong.

The instructions seem pretty simple:

1. Download this HTML verification file. [googleb#############.html]

2. Upload the file to http://www.example.com/

3. Confirm successful upload by visiting http://www.example.com/googleb############.html in your browser.

4. Click Verify below.
To stay verified, don't remove the HTML file, even after verification succeeds.

They supply the link, so clicked on it, but it simply went to my index page and verification failed.

The message is:

Verification failed for http://www.example.com/ using the HTML file method (less than a minute ago). Your verification file has the wrong content.

I simply uploaded the file as is to the server. Am I supposed to take that code and install it on my index page instead?

[edited by: aakk9999 at 10:51 pm (utc) on Dec 3, 2013]
[edit reason] Delinked [/edit]


 10:45 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

OK, I just tried something other than what I had already done.

I made a new page with the url:


I navigate to that page and it comes up with a blank page, as one might expect. Go back to google to verify and verification failed again. I think I need to get a decent night's sleep before I try again. I feel like a moron.


 11:02 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

OK, I think I get it. You have not downloaded the file to upload it.

When it says:

Download this HTML verification file. [google################.html]

(Assuming Firefox browser):
Position your mouse pointer over the link in WMT (shown as bolded above) and RIGHT click, then choose "Save Link As" and select a location on your PC to save the file to.

Then using FTP (or whatever you use to copy your files to the server), copy this file from your PC to the your domain root.

Once you have done this, then execute step 3 (confirm the successful upload). If all was done ok, you will NOT go to your home page when you click the link in step 3. Instad, you will see a white page with text "google-site-verification: google################.html" in the top left.

Then execute step 4 (click Verify).

Good luck.

You do also have some technical issues with your site since from what we can conclude so far, a page that does not exist took you to your home page.


 11:19 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Hi Liane. I have my sites verified by uploading a file into the WWW part of my server. It is in the format of:


It just sits in my server and is not attached to any web page.

Once in a while my site will get a message that it isn't verified. No worry, I just click on whatever google gives me to verify the site and all is hunky dory again.

And I hear you on the age thing. I'm still working full time at 66 (nearly 67) and hoping for the day that I can retire and spend much more time on my sites.


 11:36 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

"I have my sites verified by uploading a file into the WWW part of my server."

AHA! I have been uploading it to the html file area. Maybe that's it. Back in a few!

Please, please be the answer!


 11:39 pm on Dec 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

Maybe you should concentrate on building other traffic sources for a while, instead of trying to guess what google wants. That might give you the quickest returns. What about doing some social media? Set a Facebook page up, get a twitter feed going (you can even automate those if you don't have the time to tweet). Do some videos too? There are loads of different things you can do that don't rely on search engines

Getting traffic through other sources will probably do your search engine rankings the world of good as well, so with a bit of luck you might end up fixing the original problem


 12:50 am on Dec 4, 2013 (gmt 0)


Many thanks for the suggestions. I feel a bit like a one armed paper hanger here. There seems to be a whole lot more I need to do and I still have 10 more new products to add to my site, each takes at least 6 to 10 days to get done from start to finish. Then there are some old info pages that desperately need updating. I could easily spend a year doing nothing but rewriting my website. I guess I better get cracking!

I want to offer a debt of gratitude to aakk9999 for helping me to discover what was going on with the whole webmaster tools thing.

When I first downloaded the file to my desktop, I didn't see it so I clicked again. Unfortunately, my computer added the file extension "-2" as it was a duplicate. I didn't notice the extension and uploaded it. Naturally, it didn't work.

So I kept trying, clicked on the file, downloaded it a few more times until the file extension was "-4"!

Through sticky mail, aakk9999 did notice the extension and told me to remove it. I did, uploaded it and now I have an account! Yeah!

Thanks all, hopefully this is the first step to my site recovery. I guess I just have to wait and see what Google has to say.

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