themaninthejar - 3:23 pm on Apr 30, 2012 (gmt 0)
First post for me on here. UK business with dot.co.uk domain promoting a service to UK homeowners and businesses. Therefore I'm concerned only with Google's dot.co.uk serps. No direct sales from the site so no product pages or carts. I have about 220 pages which are content text) rich, including many self-penned articles and self-compiled directories which link out to services related to, and complimentary to, our own. We've been on page one or high on page two for our main two-word keyphrase since 2004 and many of our internal pages performed extremely well as landing pages for diverse search phrases.
After looking at the backlink data of a couple of commercial sites that ranked ahead of us I started a backlink campaign in February last year, one day a week maximum. This seemed to work really well and I saw an uplift in traffic of 20%at the beginning of May and a further 17% uplift at the beginning of August. We started our usual Christmas decline in traffic at the end of November and saw the usual upward spike of recovery in early January. Then our traffic slumped on January 14th and fell off a cliff on March 22nd. The last 30 days have been 60% down on last year's peak due largely to dropping from page two to (at it's worst this weekend) the bottom of page seven.
The competitors' sites I mentioned above have remained blithely unaffected and have been firmly lodged on page one throughout. I have checked their backlink profiles again and they seem very similar to mine with links from directories and blogs and other sites that they own. So I don't think my backlinks are causing the problem. I built them myself manually and have never subscribed to any kind of a scheme. But what I do notice about these sites (and all the commercial sites that newly out-rank me) is the sparcity of content spread across quite a small total number of site pages.
I can say with my hand on my heart that my site has far more useful content than any one of the commercial sites outranking it and deserves to be on page one (as it is on Bing). So why is it failing? Well, I thought about it and concluded that (maybe) the more content you have, the easier it is to do something that might appear spammy - or to put it another way, the less content you have, the easier it is for an algo to make the filter/no-filter decision.
In any event there were (and are) pressing reasons why I felt sitting back and waiting wasn't an option (rent, groceries, beer...). So I went to Webmaster Tools and tried to look at things with fresh eyes. Crucially I paid more attention to Content Keywords than I normally do. Here I noticed that there was a heavy imbalance towards the two words of my main keyphrase as follows:
<Main keyword 2> 7200 incidences;
<Main keyword 1> 6200;
<Other word 1> 1000;
<Other word 2> 1000;
<Keyword closely related to Main keyword 2> 900.
Presented in this format it does look quite spammy, but this was not an intentional target of mine, it was simply the result of a "reasonable" level of intelligent SEO applied over a very long period of time on a page-by-page basis. Focussing on the page-at-hand stopped me from having a proper bird's-eye overview. So I've reverted to basics and conducted a full site review with the object of removing incidences of the the two main keywords unless they are absolutely necessary. In particular I found a lot of usage in my navigation anchor text which could be removed without affecting usability. I've also removed single repeats in meta-tags (previously considered acceptable, I believe) and have begun to re-write text to reduce the incidence of the keyphrase without degrading the meaning of the text-at-hand. I'm lucky in as much as my "closely related keyword" in the list above is very useful in achieving that.
My aim is to bring down <keyword 1> and <keyword 2> to about 3000 incidences each. At the same time to increase <closely related keyword> to about 2000 incidences, hence giving my Content Keywords a "smoother curve".
What is quite strange is the feeling that I'm using SEO thinking and methodology to de-optimise my site. I'm hopeful that when I hit the right balance of optimisation and stop triggering the optimisation filter, my content will take my site back to where it belongs.