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Let's take for example that I have a site about ice cream.
When I search "ice cream" my page comes up as #1.
But when I search "ice" my page doesn't even come up on page 100. I know I'm getting more traffic than most of the guys on page 5 at the very least, so shouldn't I at least be ON THERE?
Also, I might be wrong, but I think I tried link:mysite.com once and Google actually returned some sites linking me. They no longer return any results when I search for sites linking me now. Have I been blacklisted?
Also, 1-word searches usually return many more pages than 2-word phrases -- so it's harder to get to the top of the SERP. And if a site is about "ice cream" you don't really want to go for inbound links that just say "ice", anyway, and that's a lot of what it would take.
Now sometimes the single keyword can seem to be a good goal. I have one client who is a premier manufacturer of goods made from a certain "material". That single word returns 52 million pages, and they are usually in the top 5, sometimes at #1. However, that search has almost no business value for them -- it just doesn't bring in sales! What does bring sales are phrases like [material]+[type of good]
Another client came to me in a market where a 1-word search is considered to be the "holy grail" by many of their competitors. And yet, historically, those 1-word searches only brought in relatively low sales for their business. Added to that, getting to #1 and maintaining even a first page presence was an immense and unpredictable battle.
We diversified their search presence -- intentionally going for a wide variety of 2- and 3-word phrases that were highly relevant. And their sales went up, way up. In addition, through all kinds of algo changes and updates, their search traffic volume naturally maintains quite a steady level with minimal ongoing work.
So my advise is to relax about 1-word searches and move your attention further down -- more toward the "long-tail" of the search, even if not all the way down at the end of it. IF you really feel that the one word search is important for the site, test it with a minimal PPC campaign and see if that traffic is worth your energy. My guess would be that it isn't.
How do I tell if my site's been blacklisted by Google?
The easiest way is to search for your home URL, such as trying www.example.org. Don't put quotes around it, or it will just show text occurrences. If G gives you info for the URL, you're listed.
If you are listed, and just showing poorly in your hoped-for searches, then you have to work on adding content to the site, and getting more backlinks. Careful tweaking of titles and file-names helps, and arrangement of internal linking also, but bottom-line, SE's love words, so content is the key. Many good, pertinent pages, with much good, pertinent text, will eventually out-perform billions of dodgy links. Of course, you need a few decent inbound links to kick-start the whole thing.
And welcome to WebmasterWorld. Happy New Year.