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Drop in SE placement, not sure why

Advice on why I dropped in Google



12:39 am on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

This is in reference to a message board site that specifically targets residents of a small county (in the US). I've never paid a lot of attention to SE placement, but I know that for about 10 years, just about any search for that county name would find my site in the top 10.

After reading some posts on here, I did a search and found that Google now has me on page 9! That's a pretty big drop.

I really can't understand why, because on paper, everything seems right:

1. The county name keyword is in the domain name

2. The meta tags are accurate and not spammy

3. The keyword is in both the title and meta tags

4. I use an H1 tag to emphasize the county name in the header

5. The site has a lot of traffic (about 4 million monthly pageviews), almost entirely from people in that county

But when I look at the sites above mine, most of them don't do ANY of these things. In fact, some of them are generic sites (like zip code sites, or tripadvisor) that only have a town name in the 4th or 5th directory!

Any suggestions on what I've done wrong? I don't think I'm allowed to post the link, but I'll send it by PM if anyone wants to take a glance.


1:14 am on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month

Quick question: Does the county name have any other meanings, either lexically or as a place name elsewhere?

I grew up in Yolo county. Who knew.


11:00 am on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member piatkow is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

It all looks good in theory. Have visitor numbers dropped?

Get some friends to do test searches to make sure that the drop is general and not a side effect of your personal search history.

Whenever I have occasion to use a borrowed machine I always do a quick check on my main search arguements to make sure that results on my own machine aren't skewed.


11:30 pm on Jan 16, 2014 (gmt 0)

I grew up in Yolo county. Who knew.

Now THAT's funny! :-) But no, to my knowledge the county name doesn't have any other meanings.

Piatkow, I did see a drop in unique visitors around April or May 2012, but I had made another change at the time and I assumed that was the culprit. That change couldn't be undone, though, and the pageviews stayed the same, so I just lived with it.

Now, I wonder if that's when the search engine shift occurred, and I just didn't realize it.

I will check on another machine, though, that's an excellent point. When personal search history changes the results, I have no clue how SEO is supposed to work.


2:20 am on Jan 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Oops, I meant the drop I saw was April or May 2013, not 2012. Sorry, forgot what year this was :-)


2:59 am on Jan 17, 2014 (gmt 0)

Sorry for 3 in a row...

It looks like the drop in Google would have happened around May 9, 2013. Looking online, it seems that a LOT of people were being impacted at that exact time by an alleged "pre-Penguin 2.0" "Phantom" update:


About two weeks before that, I had changed from Google Adsense to a more specialized ad network, and I had blamed the loss in traffic on them! But the money was higher, so I let it slide, and now I feel kinda bad that I blamed them when it might have been Google all along.

Reading that article, I know we didn't use rel="nofollow" tags at that time, so that could have been a culprit. I added them in either September or November 2013, though (I made tech updates on both dates, so I don't know which included the nofollow tag), and the site is still low, so I don't know if that fixed it or if Google just hasn't updated.

Cross linking is a vague possibility. I do have a page on all of my 46 sites that list and link to the other sites, so that a user can find a site that's more appropriate for them. But that's just one page per site; would that be considered inappropriate cross-linking?


7:43 pm on Jan 30, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Are you providing anything useful for the visitors?

Or is this really just an adsense website.


2:01 am on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

I like to think that it's useful, yes. The site is very active, with roughly 120,000 unique visitors a week, and about 4 million pageviews, which is why I didn't pay that much attention to search engine placement.

As for content, we have about 5,000 posts in the message boards (daily), and roughly 400 classified ads posted (daily). The local news and gas prices update at least once a day, too.


3:30 pm on Jan 31, 2014 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Ok, that sounds very useful if you have that much interaction with visitors.

I asked because Google has had many updates targeting high ranking websites that offer little or nothing for the users. Who's sole purpose was for Adsense clicks.

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