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I have a small web site that is, or rather was in a niche market. Twelve months ago, I was ranked number one with Google for my keywords. It is not so commercial a site, so I did not really check on anything for 1 year. Now it seems everyone is battling it for every keyword out there. I now am very much removed from the top of the pile, and by many sub domains of the same sites (they tend to be sales sites with very little or no content).
I used to exchange links and I think or thought that was what it took. I also got listed by a few directories and also had some people link to me for free as they thought my site was good.
I have a small understanding of making sure the keywords appear and where, plus associated words; this was quite easy and natural anyway for my site.
Is there anything people can tell me about how Google has changed (it seems to be more Spammy, yes, or is this just my dented ego?)? A summary of things definately to do now and what not to do? Also, without being paranoid, is there anything others can do to affect my site's ranking? Sorry if this has all been asked before, but I can not see it.
IMHO, Google hasn´t changed much because I see very encouraging signs on the serps and it seems that google still rewards the good old white hat SEO principles and use the followings factors for top ranking pages on serps:
- Keywords/ keyphrases in tiltle are highlighted (which underline its importance in ranking).
- Keywords/ keyphrases are highlighted in domain names, sub directories and page names.
- The acceptable level (or %) of Keywords/ keyphrases density in body content is still observed.
- As mentioned in another thread, ALT text is still counted (though it could be misused).
- As mentioned by JuniorOptimizer, anchor text in the links is still important.
- Effective internal pages linking (crosslinking) within a site still has effect.
- Inbound linking strategy is still important.
- Content (especially fresh/updated) is still a king.
- There is still a great risk of being panelized for duplicate content.
As you might have noticed, there is nothing new under the sun of Google :)
I hope this helps.
There are lots of competing theories as to what happened - filters, semantics, hilltop, etc, etc. However, I would warn you that to my knowledge no consensus was ever reached, so don't expect to find any clear answers here.
The bottom line is that it is now much harder to get top rankings on Google, and much harder to find out what to do in order to improve.
I'm not saying a site can't survive left on its own. However search rankings will suffer over time especially in a competetive sector and if your content gets dated easily.
I've left a site without any changes for over 5 years now. Sure it's still getting page one rankings on Google, but not number ones anymore.
Over time, the sites that link to you wilt and die themselves, going offline, and you don't get enough natural linkbacks to replace them on a site that isn't updated.