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Anyone care to alleviate my stress levels by venturing any theories as to the cause of this? was there some google update that I am not aware of? was I hit with a dupe content (some datafeed pages) - would I still see the pages indexed, just very poorly ranked? or was I hijacked?
Penalty, something I did, bad G, not sure, But the site ranks in the top 3 on the other top engines.
We have never had a robots.txt file but my logs have always returned a 200 when robots tried to get the file. On the 22/23 March the logs started showing a 404 and the robots.txt showed as an erroneous file. Y and M weren’t put off and continued to crawl but G didn’t. Gbot tried for robots.txt many times in the following days but would not continue and now doesn’t even visit. Of course we’ve now added a robots.txt and just waiting to see if Gbot will ever show an interest again. We’ll then know if this was just a coincidence.
Has anyone else noticed a change in log reporting for robots.txt?
Several very well known, but dodgy, SEO firms have got wiped out by that too in recent days.
Ordinarily I would have said to check for duplicate content, and to check that you correctly use a 301 redirect from all non-www to equivalent www URLs. If you have already done that, then it might be your incoming links causing you a problem.
Some of my pages have descriptions in G results, some don't.
My best guess is that they are rotating randonly their source (in your html) for the description of your page...
...because up til now I didn't use alt text for images, so that was a significant blank. I used meta description tags 99.99% of the time, and everything else that's important...
Almost all of my pages I found not displaying descriptions did have meta description tags.
2. Re: links number gone down
I think the best theory to explain a lot of what we've seen lately is the "ageing factor" - As best I can tell (from my 2000 pages and other reports), important things that affect page SERPs (perhaps also backlinks? mine haven't changed, but some of my competitors' have, along with their PR) have been rolled back 3-5 months.
E.g. an author who wrote about 100 articles on my site in Nov and Dec 2004 is still ranking well and getting the best traffic (on a variety of topics) of any of 30 authors on my site- whereas those who were newer and had begun to exceed him in number of pages of high rank and traffic have dropped back significantly.
I don't know if you'd call this 'sandbox' or a new kind of sandbox, but it looks like, at least right now, anything you do had better be longview-oriented, because it's going to take 3-5 months to benefit you.
The upside of it is that, if this theory is correct, despite however bad things may seem now, they should improve over the next few months even if you do nothing- but don't do nothing... do more work ;-)
My assuption is that it was not a penalty it was google not liking the prior site setup and link structure.