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A test to see if Google disallows you to rank for keyword?

     
4:21 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I added the question mark to the title because I'm not 100% sure this works, but it would seem to. As you know Google has the power to stop any page/site from ranking from any given single keyword or keyword phrase. Google does not warn you they've done this.

So how can you tell if you can no longer rank for a specific word?

Old way - look at your websites sitelinks and change the page title until you notice a word vanishes. This took time but gave away the fact you could not rank for that word. Google has since fixed this.

New way(?) - If you perform a search in Google for various keyword phrases and find your top ranked page you will see some words highlighted and some not highlighted. If BOTH your search query AND your page title have the same keyword but the serps do NOT highlight the word it means a)the word is a stop word or b)you can't rank for that term.

To be sure you can perform a search for a keyword phrase that includes that keyword and see if the word highlights for other sites. If the word highlights for others but not for you... you're not ranking for that word.

Note: Google seems to have fixed this when performing a site search, all matching words will be highlighted, but perform a regular search and (until Google fixes it) you can SEE which words Google isn't attributing to your site/page. Use this while it lasts to spot possible keyword de-ranking.
5:12 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Interesting observation.
5:22 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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I have sometimes seen the word bolded in the page title but not the snippet - and that's for a URL that's already in the top ten. Does that fit with your idea?
7:35 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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The snippet seams to be irrelevant as far as rankings go, it's the title that's important. It's also on a per page basis, some pages may receive bolding while others do not. It may mean absolutely nothing but at the same time my rankings are MUCH lower for that page when looking for that keyword, usually 500+.
9:32 am on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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Obviously it depends on the best matches that Google is able to find on your site using the regular search
3:33 pm on Oct 5, 2011 (gmt 0)

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So let me see if I've got this right. What you're seeing, deep in the SERPs, is that sometimes a word in the search phrase is NOT displayed in bold - even though it is contained in your title. And your idea is that this [currently) indicates your page is blocked or penalized from ranking on that word.

Have I got it?