I always like to try to answer questions from readers whenever I get a chance. I received a great email last week posing a number of great questions, so this months newsletter will be dedicated to answering each question individually.
Great site- Just found it. Many, many thanks!!!
I am perusing your back issues, and wanted to thank you for this site. Your insightfulness and willingness to discuss valuable trade secrets restores my faith in humanity.
In a future issue, is there anyway you could talk about determining one’s position in a search engine at the start of site promotion? For instance, on some of our sites I have no idea of where they are when doing a search.
Hi Blain. You’re very welcome. One of the most important aspects of good SEO is providing a quality site filled with useful content. I’m not worried about giving away any “secrets” any more than a mechanic is afraid to tell you what you need to do to fix your car. Almost anybody can purchase the tools and a manual, get their hands dirty and do the job, but not everybody wants to. SEO is the same, the concepts are such that just about anybody can follow them, but many find it more worthwhile to go to an expert because they know we already have the tools and the know-how to do the job professionally and correctly.
To answer your first question, if you want to know where your sites are ranked, the first thing to know is the keyword phrases which each site has been optimized for. If you don’t know this you’ll need to go back to the drawing board to research and select the terms that will drive targeted traffic to your sites. If you already know which terms your site SHOULD be optimized for, make sure that you are using your keywords naturally throughout the body copy. Only then will your sites be able to achieve top rankings for the targeted key phrases.
For programmers Google provides an API key which allows you to develop your own automated tool which will allow you to query the engine up to 1000 times per day without penalty. Short of that the only way to check your rankings is to type your queries in manually, which can be quite cumbersome.
Also, if possible, could you address search engine penalties? Our main site went from a page rank of six to a page rank of zero overnight. Obviously a penalty, but I am such a novice that I have no idea if it is possible to talk to google about this, or what. We were on the first page for search words “online shopping”, but now I cannot find us anywhere.
Getting banned from Google usually only happens for extreme spamming (what constitutes spam is a lengthy issue on its own). More times than not when you see the PR of your site drop it is not a spamming issue but merely a PR update or even amalfunction of the PR bar, which is usually corrected in a day or so. I pulled your site open and, sure enough, you have a PR0. I tried to pull open your Google cache but there was none which means that Google no longer has your site within its index. For good measure I tried to do a backward link check and again there were no results. It definitely appears that you have been penalized.
The first thing you need to do is to fix your site. Go through page by page and remove anything from your pages that can be considered spam. At this point you don’t have the luxury of skirting the line. Anything even remotely questionable needs to be removed. If you have to ask the question “Can I get a way with this?” then the answer is no. Remember, Good SEO does not require tricking the search engine in any way, what you present to the engine should be the same that you present to the viewer.
Once your spam is removed you should contact Google. Tell them that you think you’ve been penalized and you have now removed all spam from your pages. Be nice and even apologetic. Let them know you have learned the error of your ways. In some cases this will get Google to lift the penalty, though the timeframe for this to be achieved is questionable.
If you do not have the luxury of time you might just want to start over with a new URL (only after you have removed all spam). You will have to pull your old URL from the server and use a 301 permanent redirect (contact your web host) to redirect your visitors to the new URL. This isn’t always the best solution but sometimes is the only one available.
Of course, if you did not use any spamming techniques then you have not been banned, just deemed irrelevant by the search engines due to lack of content and links. Speaking of links…
And, another thing is links. Your words on links were very, very helpful- but, I am totally confused about number of links. Some people say that the engine’s only count up to fifty per page, and some say it doesn’t matter. I’ve been trying to talk my partner into breaking up our links pages as soon as we can afford it, but he says that number of links doesn’t matter. I’ve had people tell me that unkempt link pages can actually be penalized by the engines.
Google states that they will follow only the first 100 links on a page. Having more than 100 will not harm your site in any way, it just means that some of those you are liking to will not receive the benefit of the link. Many people will not swap links if they are placed on a page with more than 100 links. Other search engines may have their own criteria on this, though I don’t specifically know of any.
I don’t see how un-kempt pages can harm you as the engines don’t really look at the appearance of your pages. If your code is garbled and contains HTML errors, that can harm the ability of the search engine to index your page properly, but this is applies to any page, not just link pages.
We must be doing something right, because several of our sites are well ranked by google. But, we were almost destroyed in the florida update last November, and I don’t want to live or die by google .
Again, thank you for the great site.
Many were hurt by the Florida update last November but things have leveled off (or normalized) since then. Lately, however Google still seems to be going through a lot of ebb and flow with little ranking stability, so don’t be surprised if you find your rankings come and go. This is normal for any search engine that is constantly adjusting their algorithm, but a bit more stability would also be nice.