My Biggest SEO Mistake And How You Can Avoid It
My Biggest SEO Mistake And How You Can Avoid It
Copyright © 2009 Titus Hoskins
Imagine this: for years you have kept the number one spot in Google for a very lucrative and profitable keyword phrase. This keyword alone adds hundreds of dollars of daily income to your bottom line. Then suddenly your number one keyword starts bouncing like it's attached to a yo-yo with a fifty foot cord.
One day your keyword is at #1 in Google, next day it drops to the #50 spot. Ouch!
You're scrambling to find out the reason for this disastrous fall from Google's graces. After you have exhausted all your cuss words, your limited but very fine-tuned SEO brain goes into overdrive and starts dissecting the problem.
Newer sites have suddenly catapulted into your once glorious spot. You know some of them are buying links because a few of the sites in the top spots have even approached you for links. But link buying is not the real problem because a few days later your keyword has bounced back into the number two spot.
Your first assumption: Google is launching another one of their countless updates to how it ranks their index and everything bounces/dances for awhile. But the SEO forums are fairly quiet and no major updates are on the radar.
The most puzzling aspect of my keyword meltdown dilemma is the bouncing back and forth. The obvious reason - there must be some Google filter that my page and/or keywords are triggering. Something within Google's 200+ ranking factors is causing a few of my most valuable keywords to suddenly become bungee jumping wannabes.
When the same thing happens to another one of my long standing top 5 keywords - I know I have a serious problem. I am definitely doing something wrong with my site or my link building; probably both!
Most of my SEO and link building is done through article marketing; I submit informative articles to all the free article directories on the web and my articles get picked up and placed on thousands of sites. In my resource box at the end of these articles I am careful to vary my keyword anchor text links because it's generally believed that Google has a keyword quota - repeat the exact same keyword phrase too many times and you risk getting banned for keyword spamming.
Any link building has to appear natural in the eyes of Google. This is only SEO common sense, someone linking to your site naturally will use many different text or words in the link. But for years I have been using link bait - quality articles, ebooks, videos, software downloads... so that webmasters naturally link to my sites because of the quality content their visitors can receive. These webmasters use many different anchor text in those incoming links to my sites.
If a keyword quota is not the problem, then what is causing this yo-yo effect? Why are my keywords bouncing in Google? And why is it only in the lucrative U.S. rankings and not in other countries?
Then while closely monitoring my keyword results in Google I found what I believe to be the problem and my mistake. I say "believe" because with Google nobody is sure what is happening within their algorithm, including the engineers who created it. Over time it has become so complex and interactive, nobody can honestly predict what results it will cough up.
In my case, Google was listing both my main index homepage and my optimized page for the same keyword phrase. This appears to be diluting the ranking of both pages. The optimized page was at around 50 and my homepage came in at the 95 spot. However, this is more my mistake than Google's, since I inadvertently placed the same keyword phrase in links on my homepage going to other interior pages and not necessarily to my main optimized page which I wanted ranked in Google.
Let me explain further, I develop sections of my site that are keyworded to different markets generally relating to my main site or domain. For the keyword phrase in question, I have a well established page that's linked from hundreds of related sites around the web - this is the page that should be ranked for this keyword phrase since it is the most relevant, not my homepage. Likewise, on my own site I have constructed my pages so that PR flows to this optimized page. For years, this optimized interior page held the number one spot in Google.
However, recently when Google was spidering and updating my site in their index, they picked up that keyword phrase and linked it to my homepage as well as to my optimized page - causing both pages to drop in the rankings. Now when Google re-indexes my site and DOESN'T pick up the keyword phrase on my homepage - my optimized page pops back into the #2 spot in Google, or at least on the first page results.
Only problem is - I have been using this linking structure or this practice for 4 or 5 years but only now am I seeing those rankings drop. Could Google be cracking down on PageRank Sculpting within your own site? Matt Cutts discusses this issue in a recent blog post.
Google seems to be randomly selecting text from your page to index and this can be quite fluid each time they re-visit your page. Now it seems to be more of a hit and miss, which keyword phrase your page is ranked for in Google; definitely giving SEO a bad name and lowering the effectiveness of Google Search!
There are probably off-site penalties as well in play here too because I also made the same mistake of linking another keyword phrase to my homepage, instead of to my optimized page where I want and where my visitors should go because it has the most relevant content for those keywords. As far as I can judge, this is misleading Google and causing my rankings to drop for both pages.
At least, this appears to be what is happening but with Google nothing is certain. Besides, if this was the case, couldn't someone easily sabotage another site's rankings by creating links to your competitor's homepage with your mutual keyword in the anchor text as long as that competing site has this same keyword on a sub/interior optimized page rather than on their homepage. Or if Google has a keyword quota, could a less than scrupulous competitor sabotage your rankings with thousands of spammy links to your content in order to make your rankings drop or be penalized. We are talking revenues in product sales changing hands, corrupt people have done a lot more for a lot less! Google would never let that happen, would they? Could they even stop it from happening?
Shiver me timbers!
But this bouncing keyword effect in Google has probably more to do with what you place on your site and homepage. Be careful of the keyword phrases you use on your homepage and don't link to other interior pages using the same keyword phrase other than your optimized page - the one you want listed in Google's results. Try to coach Google into only listing your optimized relevant page for that all important lucrative keyword.
What really complicates things, if Google lists both pages (your homepage and optimized page) together in their SERPs you will probably be jumping for joy because this means you will be getting much more traffic, especially if this double listing is on the first page. Many online affiliate marketers, myself included, really target this kind of double listing in Google because no matter where it appears on the first page - you still get much more traffic than a single listing.
Now, lets try to summarize, you want double listings for your keyword as long as they are together - say in the #1 and #2 spots in Google. But you don't want to make my mistake and have two single listings in the #50 and #95 spots in Google for your favored keyword, as this appears to dilute the rankings of both pages. PageRank Sculpting maybe something you should pay attention to on your site. Be extremely careful of how you link to your homepage and/or your optimized page for the same keyword phrase and be careful of how you use that same keyword on your homepage. In the process, try to coach Google's algorithm into listing the right page for your chosen keyword phrase. Hold your breath and pray that thing hasn't developed a mind of its own while nobody was looking.
The author is a full-time online marketer who has numerous websites. For the latest web marketing tools try: Internet Marketing Tools Copyright © 2009 Titus Hoskins.
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