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major google traffic drops between the months of July-Aug
Some query terms are ranked differently according to the season of the year. Other according to the day of the week or even the time of day. It sounds like your site might fall into that category.
I no longer rank for any 2 word combinations on ether sites. Google just seems to ignore keyword combinations on my sites.
Since we're still pretty far away from July, this almost sounds like a Supplemental Index issue. Has your PR fallen? Perhaps your backliknks are not being weighted as strongly as they once were? Do you have any meta desscription or title tag issue - too short, duplicate, etc.?
This might affect a number of areas... problems with those sites would be seen by both of your sites, and too many common sources (not unusual with sites on the same topic) might be seen by Google as a small network for linking purposes.
I've frequently seen sites in the same market area, with too many related inbounds, where changing the hosting and/or getting more separately-sourced inbounds fixed the situation.
These can be very legit sites of related brick and mortar companies run by partners or management companies, generally in similar market areas, though often focussed on very different niche products and keywords. Common management tends to lead to patterns. It isn't necessarily just cross-linking or just the same class-C, or exactly the same keywords... but it is often a combination of one of these and too many commonly-sourced inbounds.
I first saw the problem on "sister" sites with one deep cross-link and consecutive class-Cs, and many commonly sourced links. The arrangement simply resembled a small network built for linking purposes only to get the sites into trouble.
[edited by: Robert_Charlton at 1:18 am (utc) on April 15, 2009]
I'm not running a linking scheme but I'm worried google may see my sites as just that.
What can happen with two sites in the same niche is that they end up being listed on the same directory pages, the same link pages, etc, because that's where they fit, and that, if coupled with, say, too many tandem submissions to private sites you approach, might raise an algorithmic flag if also accompanied by other factors.
Since you've nofollowed the cross-link, I don't think that is the factor... and for the time being I wouldn't jump to change hosting.
Is it possible that among your commonly sourced inbounds, there are some sites upstream whose links have been devalued enough that now both your sites have weakened link profiles?
Initially, I'd put some effort info building content and links on just one of the sites to see what effect that has. I'd also be very careful not to have similarly worded content or site structure on both sites.
The only official word about it from Google was from Matt Cutts in a video, and he said very little - just that it's a sign that you are doing too many things that you think of as "optimization".
Matt Cutts has commented, very briefly, on Search Engine Roundtable [seroundtable.com] about the -950, end-of-results, over-optimization thing.
annej, regarding the -950 thing, I'd watch this video I made: [video.google.com...]
Starting around 1:42 into the video is where I talk about this.