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Old 09-11-2007   #1
michelled
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Angry huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Hi all,

I have been optimizing the content of several different pages (including the homepage) on a site that's over two years old. I made the standard on-page changes that are commonly recommended. Specifically, I made each title tag unique and keyword relevant, I added headers with keywords and included keywords in my body text. Nothing I did seems unnatural or spam-ish to me. In fact, I'm 100% confident that it reads better for the user now. Despite this, after my site was crawled, it took a massive drop in the SERPs. While once appearing on page 1, my homepage has dropped all the way to page 6. I know to optimize for every page but I've limited my concerns to the homepage at this point because none of the other pages ranked well to start (although they are all indexed).

Essentially, all of my pages are ranking horribly now and I have no idea what to do. It's been 10 days since I've made the changes and nothing has happened in the SERPs. I'm guessing that because the drop was so extreme (approx 50 positions), it had nothing to do with natural fluctuations or increased competition for my key phrase. Any thoughts?

Is this common to experience after many changes are made?

Will this bounce back on its own over time?

Should I revert my changes to bring it back?

Is it possible my optimization efforts were too "by the book" so google has filtered my pages?

I'm eager to hear any ideas or experiences you've had.

Thanks in advance.
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Old 09-11-2007   #2
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

There has been a discussion of drops here:
http://www.webmasterworld.com/google/3326855-6-30.htm
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Old 09-11-2007   #3
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Did you make sure you don't have index.html and domain.com as two different iterations of your main url..... and the www.domain.com and just the domain.com
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Old 09-12-2007   #4
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Quote:
Is this common to experience after many changes are made?
Sure, any changes that are made can bring unintended consequences. Best bet is to always make changes slowly so you can see their effects. Change the page titles, wait a few weeks to see what happened. Same with the meta description and any other on-page elements. Wholesale changes of many factors at one time make it very difficult to determine cause and effect.

Quote:
Will this bounce back on its own over time?
Non-answer: It's a possibility, but only time will tell.

Quote:
Should I revert my changes to bring it back?
I would tend to think that if you're really "100% confident that it reads better for the user now," then the search engines should also like the copy. Always keep in mind that there's a bit of a different world out there the past couple of years, it isn't only about keyphrase density , but also about related terms, synonyms, co-occurrence of terms and phrases and a host of other things. But, again, if your copy rings true to you audience it should also be effective for the search engines.

Quote:
Is it possible my optimization efforts were too "by the book" so google has filtered my pages?
Google likes good pages. A clear and concise title, a good meta description, a good H1 header, hx (where applicable), solid body copy -- all accompanied by some decent PageRank -- and you're gold, especially for the longer tail search terms.

And two things brought up by Aussie Webmaster: 1) Always take care of any possible technical glitches first; 2) Google is sometimes in a bit of a flux and it's hard to know exactly what the heck is going on.

Sorry that there's no black and white answers, but everything in search is just different shades of gray.
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Old 09-12-2007   #5
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Thank you for the various answers. Next time, I will definitely make changes more gradually.

Aussie Webmaster, I spent some time looking into your question about my main url. I took it to mean I need to make sure that www.domain.com resolves to the same thing as www.domain.com/index.html. In my case, if you go to www.domain.com/ and www.domain.com/index.php (we don't use .html), you'll see the same thing.

That said, I do have four alias sites. To explain, I will call the primary site AAA.com. When I update the content of AAA.com, it is set to automatically change in my other domains - BBB.com, CCC.com, DDD.com, and EEE.com.

Currently, these additional domains are not set up with a permanent redirect. Also, each unique domain has many unique pages indexed in google.

I am concerned because the pages from the alias sites account for a significant number of links pointing to AAA.com (my main site). My instincts tell me that something is wrong but I don't have the experience to be confident in this.

Do you think this could be hurting me?
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Old 09-12-2007   #6
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

If you are saying that the other sites are duplicates of aaa.com then you will have problems.
If they are different and just has a change of the the content paragraph referencing aaa.com that is okay.
But you need to have one url for www.domain.com/domian.com/domain.com.index.php etc - always best to go with www.domain.com it usually is what others use to point to you and others get redirected to that
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Old 09-12-2007   #7
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

It sounds like I have a problem.

I have only one url for my main site - www.domain.com, but
I have four mirror sites with the exact same content as my main site on every single page. They don't redirect to the main site on inner pages either. For instance, if the main site is www.AAA.com, then www.AAA/site.com will how the same content as the mirror site at www.BBB/site.com.

I've been digging around about this on several forums and it looks like I need to do a permanent redirect on the mirror sites. Do you agree? If so, do I need to redirect every unique page or is there a way I can do it for the whole site?
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Old 09-12-2007   #8
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Yes, you need to 301 redirect all the shadow domains to the main domain so there's only one domain showing the content.
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Old 09-12-2007   #9
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

I would use a combined front with links that move to the various niches... redirect the other home pages to the main one and leave all other links alone
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Old 09-14-2007   #10
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by michelled View Post
It sounds like I have a problem.

I have only one url for my main site - www.domain.com, but
I have four mirror sites with the exact same content as my main site on every single page. They don't redirect to the main site on inner pages either. For instance, if the main site is www.AAA.com, then www.AAA/site.com will how the same content as the mirror site at www.BBB/site.com.

I've been digging around about this on several forums and it looks like I need to do a permanent redirect on the mirror sites. Do you agree? If so, do I need to redirect every unique page or is there a way I can do it for the whole site?
Ouch....

sounds like you could have got a duplicate content penalty

As has been said, if you have mirrored sites all redirecting to the one main site but using different web addresses...

What you are best off doing is to 301 permanent redirect all of the mirror sites to your main domain....

As you say no internal pages have a good PR you may not need to redirect every page for every mirror site

Add this to a .htaccess and put it in the root directory of all of your mirror sites
Quote:
redirectpermanent / http://www.your_main_site.com/
But not in the main sites directory of course.

If you have people linking to internal pages in mirror site AAA then you will need to add redirect lines for all of those pages

like this

Quote:
Redirect 301 /olddir/oldpage.html http://www.maindomain.com/newpage.html

Note/ Don't add "http://www" to the first part of the statement - place the path from the top level of your site to the page. Also you mustleave a single space between these elements:

redirect 301 (the redirect instruction)
/olddir/oldpage.html (the original folder path and file name)
http://www.maindomain.com/newpage.html (new path and file name)
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Old 09-17-2007   #11
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Thanks for all of the advice. I have placed a permanent 301 redirect on the mirror sites and will let you know if that improves my rankings after the site is crawled again.
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Old 10-03-2007   #12
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

two weeks and no positive changes..
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Old 10-03-2007   #13
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

But you are still in the SERPs - you have not been dropped completely.... is it possible a bunch of your inbound links have been down played.

Possibly the lesser domains had been downplayed and that caused the drop. You may want to grab a few more links as well.
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Old 10-03-2007   #14
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by michelled View Post
two weeks and no positive changes..
Sadly, 2 weeks is a short time in terms of SEO and google

Have you tried searching for your main domain in google?

like this

Quote:
"domain.com"
If so are you listed in number one position? if not please ID where you are listed (position number)
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Old 10-03-2007   #15
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Quote:
two weeks and no positive changes...
Best case: it will take Google some time to straighten out the shadow domain problem.

Worst case: those shadow domains caused G to penalize the site and you'll have to file a reinclusion request.

Wait a couple of more weeks to see what washes out.

Question, how is the site doing in Yahoo? That's usually a good barometer of possible penalties.
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Old 10-03-2007   #16
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Thanks for your speedy replies!

I am still indexed for my key phrases and when I google search for domain.com, my site appears #1. I understand that two weeks isn't very long but my site is crawled and cached every few days. Because it was ranking well even before the permanent redirects were placed, I'm considering trying to reverse some of the changes. Would you recommend this? I'm worried that I possibly set off some type of spam filter when I changed my internal link text, title tags, meta tags and body text. Although everything reads naturally for the visitor, it does contain a lot of keywords. I optimized my homepage for X trading, Y trading and Y brokers. The name of my company also contains the word 'trading.' Knowing all that, you can imagine how many times the word trading appears even though i didn't keyword stuff the page.

In yahoo, my site appears somewhere on the first five pages for each of my key phrases. The best phrase even appears on the second page. The problem is, I never got much traffic from yahoo..

In the meantime, I will work on getting more quality links coming in. Thanks again for the advice.

Last edited by michelled : 10-03-2007 at 01:45 PM. Reason: added more..
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Old 10-03-2007   #17
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Take it slow. You can't make changes, reverse changes, make new changes, etc., without waiting for the dust to settle. You'll never know what did what to what or what didn't do what to what.
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Old 10-03-2007   #18
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

Quote:
Originally Posted by jimbeetle View Post
Take it slow. You can't make changes, reverse changes, make new changes, etc., without waiting for the dust to settle. You'll never know what did what to what or what didn't do what to what.
I generally agree with that but when you have lost your traffic you are going for the shotgun approach and just want to see the target hit
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Old 10-03-2007   #19
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

what is a reasonable time to allow for the dust to settle?

AussieWebmaster, I'm not sure I understood your last post. Would you recommend changing things back?

I'm not sure I'll ever be able to slow changes down enough to ever have a real since of what caused what. I am working full time as an in-house search engine coordinator for a company with only three sites.

Thanks again for your advice and guidance. As someone new to search optimization, I cannot emphasize enough how helpful this forum has been.
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Old 10-03-2007   #20
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Re: huge drop in SERPS after white hat on-page optimization - HELP!

no I recommend you move forward and not be as concerned about what got you back as just getting back - cleaning pages, getting some links, etc. whatever does it right now matters.

Using this type of problem as an opportunity to isolate things being done to see what gets you back is something I would not do personally... I would wait and create a test environment where I am no losing money etc.
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