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Thread: Google ranking puzzle

  1. #1
    Senior Member Kyle's Avatar
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    Google ranking puzzle

    Let me first say that those who know me realize that I'm not new to this business, and rarely post SEO/SEM questions. I feel this is a good puzzle to look at. I'm sure others have similar scenarios, but I have a feeling this may be very unique and a great example to discuss.

    Some brief history...

    Those who have known me may remember the large content site I produced with family over the past 6 years. www.surviveoutdoors.com. Survive Outdoors has 14 DMOZ listings that I know of, some of them are great where our anchor text is only "Sunburn", "Frostbite", and "Dehydration". We have always ranked well on MSN/Yahoo. Our Google rankings have always been understandable for the past 6 years (not in the past 6 months though). Ranking anywhere from the top 10 to the top 20, moving around in the top 50 sometimes, nothing too horrible. Our DMOZ listed articles were often ranked in the top 10.

    Also, given that our site is called "Survive Outdoors", all of our incoming links have the anchor text "Survive" and "Outdoors". Therefore, we used to jump around in the top 50 when you would search Google on just "outdoors". It was a fun side project of mine to work on ranking better on that. We're now not in the top 300.

    So basically, for years we were always ranked fairly well for our articles, jumping around from time to time.

    In the winter of last year, our rankings dropped for all our articles. Topics like "brown recluse spider" aren't even in the top 300 on Google. Our DMOZ listed articles aren't in the top 100. We get basically 0% Google referrals.

    My plan was to analyze the site, make changes, and email Google with a reinclusion request asking that we be unpenalized. I logically thought we were penalized based on our demolished rankings for a veteran website.

    So in the winter of 2005, I sent an initial email requesting to be unpenalized. Google replied assuring me we weren't penalized or banned. Okay, so what next?

    I discovered the site was indexed twice, with surviveoutdoors.com and www.surviveoutdoors.com. I setup automatic 301 redirects to force www.surviveoutdoors.com. I began to think maybe Google saying I'm not penalized only means there are no MANUAL penalties in place? So automatic dupe content issues that lower your rank may not be considered penalties anymore? Just some thoughts....

    Survive Outdoors also had an affiliate shopping section which I just recently took down (3 days ago). I also this past week sent my 2nd reinclusion request (remember the original was done ~ 6 months ago). I told Google "i believe I found the reason we are penalized. our affiliate shopping section, blah blah blah, company bio's obvious duplicate content, blah blah, mentioned the 301 redirect and double indexing, blah blah".

    The reply I got, "Please be assured that your site is not currently banned or penalized by Google."

    Conclusions I have come up with...

    - We have been re-sandboxed, and can expect understandable results in the next 6 months. I know some of you may not believe in the sandbox, but it's fairly obvious. I have 3 documented sites now which randomly appeared in the top 10 one morning after not ranking for 6-9 months in the top 100. And, all incoming links for that given site were obtained in the first month of launching. So the rank boost was not because of gradual incoming links being obtained.

    - surviveoutdoors.com is still indexed without the www after setting up the 301 redirects a little while ago. Google has been changing their search engine system, I don't remember the names given to these changes, but perhaps that put a delay on my ability to 301 redirect and remove non-www pages. Perhaps this is still a huge factor. Perhaps this re-sandboxed us.

    I'll post more thoughts as I remember them. Sorry for the typos, this is a long post dont' feel like proof reading.
    Kyle

  2. #2
    Senior Member chromate's Avatar
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    Very strange. I doubt you've been re-sandboxed. I just can't see why you should be. Have you made any changes to the domain registry? Hidden the whois or something?

    I feel really sorry for people that put loads of effort into great sites like yours, and then Google just dumps on them.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Kyle's Avatar
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    No changes to the domain registry chromate, thanks for the thoughts though.

    Regarding Google dumping on sites... In the past, whenever webmasters complained about Google, often other webmasters would say "Google is free, they're built for their users not webmasters."

    Lately, I don't have any tolerance for this statement. People who use the Internet use search engines. The vast majority use Google. Search engines are part of the Internet, not really an option. I'm not saying Google should just make everything public and serve webmasters every need, but they should not be so freakin careless. In my opinion, the carelessness they have displayed with their algo tweaks and random fluctuations is uncalled for.

    The point I keep making whenever Google's responsibility is discussed is...

    If an unpenalized page has been ranking in the top 10 on a given keyword for YEARS... and one day... it falls to position 387, and stays here for many months, does this sound like a working search enigne? If fluctuations are this massive, what the hell? And when these fluctuations happen in mass among many websites during one of their "Florida" updates which then become less severe 3 months later, what the hell?

    And yes, it is extremely important for Google to always make changes to improve their quality and eliminate spammy scammy sites. So I'd appreciate if any 'defend Google' posts don't touch on this issue.
    Kyle

  4. #4
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    I feel you man!

    It takes just one guy in a bad mood @ google to ruin your life.

    That's the cold true and there's not much we/you can do.

    Today it's you, tomorrow can be anyone in here.

    We all have to hope Yahoo and MSN get stronger and stronger...

  5. #5
    Senior Member Kyle's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by mark1
    I feel you man!

    It takes just one guy in a bad mood @ google to ruin your life.

    That's the cold true and there's not much we/you can do.

    Today it's you, tomorrow can be anyone in here.

    We all have to hope Yahoo and MSN get stronger and stronger...
    I understand and agree with what they attempt to do. It's important to improve their algo's and maintain quality. It's the carelessness I'm getting tired of.

    What I'm trying to figure out is WHY I'm being ranked so low. I don't think they're lieing when they tell me flat out I'm not penalized
    Kyle

  6. #6
    Registered Member moonshield's Avatar
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    have you been updating the site regularly?

  7. #7
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    Had exactly the same problem with a site of mine that's been around since 2001.

    March 8th 2006 was the date for me when google decided to do something which dumped half the normal traffic from my site. The pages were still indexed but came nowhere in the rankings where before they were generally in the top 3 pages.

    It woke me up to the fact that I was relying on Google too much and that I was worrying about SEO too much. Decided to concentrate on the users, usability and content instead, ditched Google sitemaps made some improvements to accessability and have got nearly half the traffic back already.

    I don't think we are alone though, I've read a lot of instances where this has happened recently.

    John

  8. #8
    Senior Member Kyle's Avatar
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    I agree about not relying on Google for money. Survive Outdoors is not my main income stream anymore, and all current projects which rely on search engines are developed base on MSN traffic. Any other traffic from other search engines I look at as a bonus.
    Kyle

  9. #9
    Gimme Fries with that!
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    good attitude icebane I share it.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Kyle's Avatar
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    Update.

    Rankings are good as of this morning.

    Examples...

    #10 sunburn

    #3 spider bites

    top 40 on "outdoors"

    top 50 on many other terms like bee stings, snake bites, frostbite, brown recluse spider.

    Hooray.
    Kyle

  11. #11
    Senior Member chromate's Avatar
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    Good news. Glad it's turning out ok.

  12. #12
    Your average angry alien dc dalton's Avatar
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    You arent the only webmaster Ive heard this from, BigDaddy (as it was named) wreaked havoc on very well established sites for the last 6 month. I know people who are basically out of business because they "dropped off the face of the earth" as far as Googles concerned.

    I also have seen some o fthe stupidest fluctuations I have EVER seen ever since BigDaddy ended in March. I honestly think they are trying to fix the mess they have made. One thing I have noticed though, every time there is a fluctuation on rankings I watch it appears the total number of returns for the terms drops too... but then again lets face it, freaking 3+ BILLION results on some terms like "web design" (thats where it was in MArch)... who the hell are they trying to kid!

    I feel for your pain, wish I had some amazing advice but I dont!

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