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Huge Ranking Drop - Thousands of Keywords



6:06 am on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Really weird situation. My website was a niche authority site, ranking in the top 20 positions for several hundred keywords for the past 4 months. The site's content is all unique and all the technical issues surrounding the site are sound.

As of two days ago, all the pages on the site started to disappear from their rankings. Some to page 400, others to page 7 on google results, and others are gone altogether. All the pages on the site are still in the index, however.

It also doesn't rank when the search includes three specific keywords. To give you an example let's say that those phrases are "red," "white" and "blue". If I do a search for "taste black" it will rank, whereas a search for "taste red" will not even though that is what the page is about, what the internal and external links primarily say (switching the anchors of course, but the root word "taste red" is still there).

Is it possible that google thinks it's a bomb because I have used enough anchors? What is the best way to defuse this kind of situation? Should I just wait?

Any advice would be appreciated.


7:00 am on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member

Do you have any more information? A site profile including structure, anchor text, old links, new links, etc., average page length, rate of growth, recent changes, if any, would enable a diagnosis.

What do you think you might have done? Were you attempting any SEO before the crash? What penalties, if you read through Tedster's list here, were you qualified to get, if any?



8:34 am on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

Potentialgeek, I'm glad you responded because based on your 950 experience (I read through a lot of it), it looks like you experienced something similar...

Potential Problems:

1) There are "preferred domain" problems - I just changed it since the site lost ranking so that it only shows "www" instead of both "www" and "non www". My gut also says this is not the problem because we didn't have problems until recently, and it does not explain why long-tail searches continue to rank. That said, there were 60% more pages showing for "non-www" than "www"

3) Over-optimization - this is what I think the problem is. I recently got more inbound links from some blogs (medium quality and on-topic) and a couple blogroll links. I have been doing this for several months. I have varied the anchor text, but some anchors say the same thing. The site also has heavy internal navigation, where someone could be reading about "being red" and have links such as "how to become red" and "problems with being red" in the middle of the text (like Wikipedia).

In light of the overoptimization - I changed the titles of two pages literally three days before the site started having problems to better reflect what they were about (which is also what they were ranking for). Of all the actions that I performed, this is probably the one that was the most unique to the situation because I haven't changed the titles whatsoever in the past (whereas the linkbuilding has been fairly consistent).

For the blogroll, blog post, and other links, I did my best to direct them to many different pages. As a result, maybe that's why the site is getting hit with penalties for the main topics of the site - "red", "white" and "blue" - because many of the links say things like "what is blue" or "when to become white", etc.


10:52 am on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

maddawg it sounds very similar to a problem we had with two sites going back about 9 months.

We also suspected overoptimization and as we had little else to go on we de-optimized using the guidelines in some posts here and some good common sense. The de-op advice given by tedster and others is a very solid departure point (950 threads and some others - can't recall which but I think they branch from the main 950 thread).

It worked - after about three months the site gradually came back.

What we found out is that our internal link taxonomy was making us look spammy, even though we never really did it intentionally. Whilst clever internal linking has value, it is a thin line that I think a lot of people overstep.

In terms of the deoptimisations we also made sure that pages were unique in every sense - we went as far as simplifying navigation structure that were common to hundreds of pages.

Hope this helps.

We also ended up with too many pages that were about different shades of red, if you know what I mean.


11:28 am on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

what about backlink profile? weren't you using some shady link schemes to get to the top? We got one of our sites penalized definitely for poor backlinks and lack of real good ones.
I would not be so sure about on-page stuff unless you have a heavy link exchange page.


2:31 pm on Jan 5, 2009 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

The links aren't great, but they're not bad and they're not link-exchanged. Most are pretty on topic as well. It wouldn't be so much the quality of the links that could be a problem as much as the fact that we didn't change anchor texts enough and triggered some sort of "phrase-based re-ranking" as Tedster calls it. It sounds like this can also be triggered by heavy inner linking, which we also do.

More symptoms:

-will rank for nothing that has any value for traffic (ie we rank #1 for "becoming the color" but not in the top 100 for "becoming the color red")

-the site has been filtered gradually - the pages started dropping like flies several days ago and it's getting progressively worse. Does this make it a manual or automatic filter? I'm assuming it's automated but I read elsewhere that gradual filters or penalties are more likely to be manual.

Stgeorge, is it a good idea to consolidate the information about the shades of red into one just super-article instead? I get the sense that Google understands the words to a degree and doesn't see any reason why to have an article about fire-engine red, blood red, etc. Did you erase any articles and instead just write about "red and the shades of red"?



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