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Gradual Google Rank Decline

     
8:05 am on Jan 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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joined:Jan 21, 2019
posts: 3
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Since December 2017, My site is being slowly wrung from the google index.
Back then, and for about 14 years prior to December 2017, my site was in the top few results for:
    Its brand name
    The name of its topic
    The name of its topic followed by 'forum'
    A thousand or so product names.
    The thousand or so product names, followed by other criteria
    The name of our online app.
    It was so popular that the number one suggested search, on searching for the topic was my brand name. This was achieved with organic growth - natural backlinks, a few links to us who were also in our directory. These were all hand-selected for relevance. We never bought or sold links.

Fast forward a year, the site is nowhere to be found for almost all terms. the graph is a gradual decline with a couple of steep steps. If you search for the brand name, the number 1 result is a scraped copy of our old home page, on a site we have nothing to do with. However all the links on it point to our site. The number 2 result is our TrustPilot entry, which again, links to us. We're at number 5.

    There were some changes to the site just prior to December 2017:
    A drop down menu system linking to the 1,000 or so product pages (rolled back about 6 months ago)
    A no-cookie basket system. For a while, I thought this was it, as it created an effectively infinite number of very similar pages. About a month ago, I blocked Google from accessing this feature with robots.txt, as of about.
    Product pages set to expire immediately, so that availability would always be current. Since changed, so pages are not set to expire at all.
    Javascript features - search suggestions / glossary, minimising over slow connection. The site works fine with javascript off though
    On a mobile device (screen width<600px) a small amount of cloaked text (font size 1, same colour as background in the menu bar) helps the links fit.
    Additional content. This is basically information on the products. The source is a few (about 12) copyright expired books. They are available elsewhere on the web, so could look like scraped content, though I have arranged them more helpfully than other sites.
    The pages pack a lot of information and are very small A max of 200k on a desktop, 60k or so on a mobile - but usable from about 12k. Lighthouse gives the site 100%, or very near, for SEO and Performance across the board.

I've Googled this extensively, and found little helpful, except perhaps, this:

In one situation, the site could not rank for its brand name even though it was a recognizable brand. Thatís usually a sign of either a significant manual action or serious technical issues. I wrote to a contact of mine at Google and within 24 hours they were on page 3 after being on page 11 for brand terms for months.
[ahrefs.com...]

It sounds like I need to have a contact at Google to fix this. That's very disturbing, and very un-google.

Is there anything else I can try?
1:48 pm on Jan 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member aristotle is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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A no-cookie basket system. For a while, I thought this was it, as it created an effectively infinite number of very similar pages. About a month ago, I blocked Google from accessing this feature with robots.txt, as of about.

If you fixed it only a month ago, you just might need to wait longer to see any effects. It often takes google's algorithm more than a month to digest a big change.

Also, if you keep making new changes too often, it might have a negative effect just from the fact that the site keeps being changed.

So maybe you should stop making any new changes for a while and see if that helps.
2:47 pm on Jan 21, 2019 (gmt 0)

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@FedUp

I get a sense you may have been caught in the 'scraped content' net.

Also, put in place canonical links for your pages. If you use URL parameters go in to Webmaster Tools and tell Google to treat all those pages as the canonical URL.

And probably best to find a layout work-around for that cloaked text.
8:22 pm on Jan 22, 2019 (gmt 0)

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I had the same exact problem. Used to rank at the top and then over the years kept dropping down and down and down. The next thing you know I was on page 3. I made a trivial change. I reordered the words in my tittle. Same words, different order and I shot back up to page 1 quickly.

I had more faith in google. I thought they did something smarter than simple keyword matching. I thought they considered the content more than the metadata and URL name. I was wrong. Since then I've also changed my URL links from something like /article.php?topic=6 to /article/dogs-are-cute. I've shot back up page 1 to the heights of years past. Same exact content. Different URL. URL naming matters. Contrary to what many "experts" have said on their sites, it matters a lot.
4:47 pm on Jan 23, 2019 (gmt 0)

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joined:Jan 21, 2019
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Aristotle, this is the dilema. Do nothing or do something.
I get a sense you may have been caught in the 'scraped content' net.


So what to do from here? I've delinked the scraped content for Google. For humans, they can access it but they have to click a link asking for it, which then loads it from a directory forbidden to Google by Robots.txt. A bit of a faff for them.

I have also added a robots noindex, nofollow tag to each of those pages.

Is that enough ?
2:31 am on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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WebmasterWorld Senior Member tangor is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

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Welcome to Webmasterworld, @FedUp!

If product was your basic traffic draw, things have changed over the last year or so ... and with the increasing strength of Brand v keywords if you are not a Big Brand things aren't going so well.

Just know that any link visible (and noindex does not mean don't read it), those links will still be visible.
5:20 am on Jan 24, 2019 (gmt 0)

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joined:Jan 21, 2019
posts: 3
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Thanks tangor,

Would noindex be enough to say to Google that I'm not trying to game the system with the scraped content and myriad of similar links?
 

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