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First, I changed the keyword density on 3 of the 700+ pages. I have a high keyword density as most of the pages are news related about a specific person or company. I noticed some of the stuff above me didn't have the keywords in the title or in links pointing to them, just the phrase mentioned once (often out of context).
After reducing the keyword density of the main 2-3 keywords for each page (knocking about two thirds of the density on average) I took Google 4 days to show a new cached version and those versions dropped to the 60-150 ranks. All other pages seem the same.
I had this before when I changed titles (i.e. everything plummeted) but rankings came back after 6 days. I consider title change to be a major alteration. Removing a few words from the content shouldn't create the same effect ... should it?
I'm probably starting this thread a little early in the test I realise but I love a good bit of speculation.
Removing a few words from the content shouldn't create the same effect ... should it?
I wouldn't think so either - in fact, I don't think on-page signals are all that big a deal today, just as long as there are SOME signals there.
some of the stuff above me didn't have the keywords in the title or in links pointing to them
Now that's an eye-opener. Is it just the sheer number of backlinks in those cases? I guess with no keywords in the title element or anchor text, keywords in the content is one of the few relevance signals left.
Is it just the sheer number of backlinks in those cases?
No, Google and Yahoo show 0 external backlinks to most of those pages and nearly all do not have internal links with that anchor text either as those pages are not really about the keyphrase, they just happen to mention it whilst rambling about something else.
It is the strangest sets of results I've even looked at. (Google.co.uk)