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Hobbyist can't crack Google

One frustrated dude here.

     
2:55 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I went live with my new site last March. I run a site for a hobby. I still have not been indexed by Google. I am frustrated. Here are the facts as I know them.

1. If you search on my target search string, I don't show up in Google at all. I get a lot of hits on my site from msn, yahoo and others for those search words, but none from Google. I have zero visitors from Google.

2. There aren't many links that I can get from other sites. I have worked my tail off to try to get on, but their are some sites that are listed on Googles top 5-10 pages are not being managed. In other words, nothing on those sites has changed for years and there is no one on the other side that will return my emails for links.

This is really one of my biggest pet peeves with Google. They list 3 sites on the first page of Google that are literally dead, yet still being served. No fresh content at all. Good job Google.

If I search on my target search string, I see my site listed on the first pages of Google on other peoples sites as links. Yet, a backlink search on Google shows that I only have 2 links when I have at least 30. It doesn't even list a backlink I have on the most popular link site there is for me (and it has a high page rank). It's the site that comes up first under my search string and it shows my site in the detail. I've been there for 3 months now. I know Google has indexed that site as my site is listed. Why no backlink?

3. I have seen the Google spider on my site...a lot, so I guess I have kinda been indexed. Occasionally I will get on the first page of Google, but it only lasts a day then I'm not listed the next day anywhere (and I've searched the entire results of Google pages using my search string). If anything I am listed last and in a weird way. Just my url heading.

4. It's difficult to 'freshen up' content on a site like mine, but I decided I would give it a try by offering updated news, reviews and comments on my site. I've only been doing this for a couple of weeks, but I have no idea what affect it will have...if any.

5. I program in php and use an include file for my header information (which contains metatag info) and menu (or my links to internal web pages). Makes it easier to make changes. Not sure if Google will hate me for that. I just started doing this two weeks ago, so that wouldn't explain my first nine months problems with Google.

6. I've submitted my site to Google quite a few times over the last 10 months.

7. I have no idea if I'm doing something wrong in my server setup. It's pretty vanilla though.

I appreciate any constructive help that can be offered. I'll offer my site up if you need it, not sure if it is frowned upon here.

~very frustrated

4:43 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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link: searches are a waste of time on Google.

What does site:yourdomain.com reveal?

Kaled.

4:56 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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First thing I can say, you have a lot of company these days -- it's a familiar story, and not just for hobby sites. Note: we prefer to discuss things in a general way and don't work with specifics (site reviews) here. You've given a lot of helpful information, thanks for that -- it allows a more thorough discussion.

Some first impressions:

1. Don't worry about the Google backlink report -- they intentionally only show a sample of all the links they know about. The fact that it shows two links for your site is a good sign.

2. PHP includes are done on the server before the page is sent in response to a user agent request -- so Googlebot will only see the completed code. No problems there.

3. Have you checked to see if any other site is scraping your content?

Occasionally I will get on the first page of Google, but it only lasts a day then I'm not listed the next day anywhere

Something is going on that trips Google's "I don't trust this site yet" tests. The fact that they return some backlinks is a hopeful sign. You may be just one or two links away from clearing the hurdles.

And finally, even comercial sites who are working to earn a livelihood are feeling this same Google pinch. Sometimes working with Yahoo and MSN traffic alone is a good thing. When Google finally kicks in, it's a nice gift but not a requirement.

[edited by: tedster at 4:58 pm (utc) on Dec. 21, 2005]

4:57 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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It reveals a page cannot be found.
5:01 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Thanks Tedster.

I have been patient. It's been 10 months and I've worked and waited. I've had those backlinks for a while now and I've actually lost one in the past month.

What really burns me is that there is a 'competitor' site out there that is dead (but still being served up). Nothing has changed on this site for 3 years and the reason I started my site up is because this one was dead. It appears on the first page of Google. Makes me want to scream.

5:05 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Kaled,

I ran it again in Google and it showed 2 pages of links to my site. They are over 3 weeks old though.

5:10 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Hi Smiddy,

It's been a tough year for people wanting to break on to google. I haven't seen googlebot for 2 months and my sites been going for years. I used to get updated every 2 days or so and thus everyone down the line from my links would get the same courtesy. This would keep everything up to date and tickityboo.

However, since google has been trying to address the massive scam and spam problems on their index, they have started to reduce the number of sites that they trust.

I would advise you to contact some complimentary sites that have been trusted on google for years and beg for a link. If your site is a hobby / interest site and poses no threat to their business, you should get some help. Their links will help you get trusted, as google is very suspicious of new sites without any backing from long serving trusted sites at present.

Best of luck

Colin

5:43 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If I search on my target search string, I see my site listed on the first pages of Google on other peoples sites as links.

same wth my site as well despite getting PR4 last update. backlink counts after current update is now more thn 400+ . so need not worry, one day we'll see the sunlight

6:04 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Keep working every angle you can to get real traffic to your site, and then give that traffic a good experience that encourages multiplepage views. That traffic alone can make miracles happen, and it also increases the chance of the kinds of "good, natural" links that Google likes.

Why does traffic alone make a difference? Google has ways of getting traffic data and they use it. This obviously includes Google Toolbar information, but I'm sure it extends further than that. So if people like and use your site, that information will bleed through.

This, IMO, is really good news, especially for the hobbyist. You can focus on your passion and not get too tangled up in SEO and technology questions once you know the basics are nailed down.

Another thought -- run a spidering application like Xenu against your site to make sure the links all work properly and that all pages can be spidered.

6:05 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I had this EXACT same problem with my hobby site - only it wasn't a new site, it had tons of traffic from Google about three years ago, dropped out, and didn't come back until Bourbon back in May, when it was suddenly #1 all over the place. I hadn't done anything differently - no black hat (it's a hobby site) and I emailed Google several times asking if I were somehow being penalized, and they always said no. There were articles being written about the site in the major Detroit newspapers, and at one point, even the State of Michigan website added a link to it (you'd think those would be considered authoritative sites) The sites who came up ahead of me were things like old Detroit Free Press articles (not about me or my site) from two years ago, or similar. Then the update came, and overnight - boom. Within six weeks it was getting 20k visits per day, and it's still everywhere I want it to be now. I can't offer you any specific advice, except that if all your ducks are in a row, I believe that eventually an update will pick you up.
6:10 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I may have missed this, but are you listed in DMOZ.ORG?
7:00 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Do all these things to make sure there are no underlying problems with the site:

- Run 2 or 3 of the pages through [validator.w3.org ] to make sure there is no major coding screw up on the page.

- Run your site through Xenu LinkSleuth starting at both domain.com and again at www.domain.com and see what your site report says. Fix any broken links within the site.

Check a few pages using WebBug and make sure that any domain.com page returns "301" and that all www.domain.com pages return "200 OK" as their status. If not, then add the redirect as a matter of urgency.

- Use WebBug to see what happens for URLs that do not exist. Try both www.domain.com/page.does.not.exist.html type URLs, as well as www.domain.com/real.file.name.php?real.parameter=non.valid.value for several examples of each. You should get "404 Not Found" as the status shown in WebBug. If it is 200 or 301 or 302 then you have a major problem on your hands.

- Make sure that every page contains a unique title and a unique meta description that describes exactly what is on that page.

That is a good place to start ensuring that you have a site that is spiderable, and has sane tags for the bot to parse.

7:29 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Very good replies. Thank you.

I have used the link verifier and all links are good.

I'll try the other stuff tonight to verify good programming.

What's dmoz.org? I am not listed there as far as I know.

7:46 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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5. I program in php and use an include file for my header information (which contains metatag info) and menu (or my links to internal web pages). Makes it easier to make changes. Not sure if Google will hate me for that. I just started doing this two weeks ago, so that wouldn't explain my first nine months problems with Google.

Regardless of your implementation method, be sure that your titles and descriptions are different for each page, and accurately describe the content of each page that they appear on. Duplicate titles and descriptions can cause problems.

Jim

7:59 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Most definitely a title and description problem. If you are doing includes, this could kill your site. If anything, do a db call and populate the title and description with different data on each page.

Also have you tried adding &filter=0 to the searches in G. Could be the pages are there, just not showing up in the normal results. This might also point to the dupe title and description problem.

8:19 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Just my experience, but in the last 3 months I've put up 3 sites. Two of which are "normal" php driven sites and one blog.

The two "normal" sites have a few links including Y! directory listings.

The blog has no links to it to speak of but it has the advantage of RSS feeds and an automated ping set up to one of the big ping services.

Google is indexing the tar out of the blog. The other two sites are in varying states of being ignored by Google.

If you want your site indexed fast and spidered daily. Set up a blog (or at least RSS feeds) and update regularly.

Freq---

10:09 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Well, I ran the validator test and came up with some issues.

1. I hadn't declared a DOC TYPE on any of my pages.

2. I had mixed up some of the head and title statements. Not really sure if that was a big deal or not as they appeared on the source.

Will either of these affect Googlebot?

My titles are different on every page. When you say description, do you mean the meta description? That is the same on every page. I had heard that Google doesn't read the meta description.

10:14 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Meta descriptions must be different for Google to display the pages at all. I seem to recall a discussion where the consensus was it's better to *not* have a meta description tag at all than to have them all be identical.
10:19 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Regarding the meta description, this tag is very important.

See post#318 in this other thread [webmasterworld.com] for more information (site shows almost all of the 140 pages when I checked yesterday!).

10:23 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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If I search on my target search string, I see my site listed on the first pages of Google on other peoples sites as links.

I know exactly what you're saying. I have experienced the same a year ago. My site, launched in December 2004, well optimized for its main keyphrase, showed several pages deep in SERPs while a few sites linking to me with my target keyphrase in anchor text (and it was the only occurence of this phrase there) ranked in first 20 of SERPs for this phrase.

Situation changed when site reached the age of three months (and tPR changed from 2 to 3). It jumped up from nowhere to #5. This was the first time I started to believe in a thing called sandbox.

This was Polish version of the site and .net.pl domain. The version in English with .net domain is still nowhere too find even if it's one year old now and both domains have tPR 4. I'm not sure whether it's a sandbox effect or my backlinks are still too weak to compete for its phrase in English against over 40 million other results (in Polish there are about 4 million results and I'm between #2 and #5 now).

But the effect you've described is familiar to me. I'm not sure was it passing 3 months the reason of starting to rank, or adding more backlinks.

10:23 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What is the definition of different?

Is

"Site Name 1"

different from

"Site Name 2"

? Just one character would make it different?

11:12 pm on Dec 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

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different = any difference at all, however minor.
12:26 am on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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>>>Regarding the meta description, this tag is very important<<<

Yes i completely agree with g1smd about meta description tags.

My new site of 120 pages crawled and indexed in a week. 112 pages went straight into the ommited results. It seems googlebot had used my drop-down menu on every page as the snippet for every page description as i never had any meta description tags (didn't think I needed them as I thought a snippet from the main content on each page would be used)

I have started putting unique meta description tags to each page and they are slowly popping out into the main index.

Seems like you have to make each page as unique as possible smiddy, even the description tags. Good Luck!

1:52 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What's dmoz.org? I am not listed there as far as I know.

It's a volunteer-run directory that Google heavily relies on (or at least has done). It certainly used to be considered pretty much essential to be listed there. It's easy -- and free -- to submit to.

3:16 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Haecceity - I know people thought so, but it never was essential to be listed in the Open Directory (dmoz.org). It's handy for sure, especially since the Google Directory is basically the Open Directory re-branded.

But Larry and Sergey would be pretty put out at the idea that their clever algorithms rely on a directory, even if it is the biggest on the net. And there are plenty of people round here who would tell you that their sites are doing fine without a listing on dmoz.org.

3:23 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Give it time! It takes a year or two to build up natural links. Directories are good though they leek too much and are short lived.
4:05 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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What is your PR?
How many backlinks show up in Yahoo?
4:30 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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My pagerank is 0 at Google.

I have 37 backlinks at Yahoo.

6:00 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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I think something is wrong. What's your hobby? Florida Hotels :)

I have a very similar site at geocities that is a pure hobby site. It's a PR2. It has 1 backlink showing in google from itself and about 26 backlinks in Yahoo.

I am listed in DMOZ and some of those links are from DMOZ mirors.

I rank number one for a few key terms and pretty high for some other terms. I get about 10 visitors/day from it.

If your site is squeeky clean and a true hobby site you should have no problem getting listed in DMOZ. It may take a while but you should get in.

You may want to poke around Forum 17 and see hwat directories are wortwhile. JoeAnt and Zeal were popular at once.

See if there are any wikipedia categories you can submit to.

Sign up for Google sitemaps. You don't need to create a sitemap to see some useful stats about your site.

9:21 pm on Dec 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

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Haecceity - I know people thought so, but it never was essential to be listed in the Open Directory (dmoz.org).

I'm almost always skeptical about the received wisdom on this forum, myself. Still, it can't do any harm to get listed.

This 38 message thread spans 2 pages: 38