Fixing a Page That Ranks for the Wrong Term
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On occasion, a page ranks for the wrong term. Though this isn t really a problem ( Oh no! I rank for too many terms! ), it is a situation that can be improved.
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A page is not ranking for the term you intended it to. This is different from the common situation where a page ranks for its primary keyword and a lot of other variations on its content (long tail).
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1. When this happens, it is almost always caused by inbound links (from
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strong external domains) linking with the offending word as the anchor text. Y best option is to make the page more relevant to its real our keyword by including it in the URL, title, and text. Y then need to build ou links with the correct anchor text. 2. If that solution does not work, you should consider changing the URL of the page. This negates all of the offending inbound links (usually a really bad idea) but gives you the opportunity to start fresh.
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Search engine penalties are the stuff a successful webmaster s nightmares are made of. One day you are top of the ultracompetitive SERP; the next you are completely removed from all listings. Luckily, there are things you can do.
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Page with a Penalty
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In my experience, this has been the most reported SEO problem from prospective clients.
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A page is either completely out of a search engine index or is ranking suspiciously low for a term it once ranked highly for.
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Don t confuse penalized with simply not ranking well for your important term or terms. There is a difference.
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1. Unlike other SEO problems, identification is not the first step toward
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finding a solution. The first thing to do when you suspect a page has been penalized is to figure out what changed. Many times it s a simple
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code change on the site. In my experience, these have included modified footer links and modified global navigation. Other times, the cause is a new group of inbound links from a bad source. In the worst-case scenario, it is an algorithm update inside the search engine black box.
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WARNING Common examples of penalty-inducing tactics include: Sending a specific global navigation to search engines and a different navigation to people (cloaking) Unintelligible text used solely for boosting relevancy metrics Buying links Adding unrelated links to footers Keyword stuffing Automated link building Misleading redirects Misleading URLs Misleading title tags
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2. The next step to remove the penalty is to fix every easily identified
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SEO problem on the given site. Y best bet in reversing a penalty is to our stop doing anything that might be causing it. This can include cloaking, spammy content, hidden content (either placed off the viewable page, layered under graphics, or displayed in a color that is identical or very close to its background), hidden links, paid links, link farming, misleading redirects, and misleading URLs. Simply put, if you wouldn t feel comfortable telling a search engine engineer at one of the major engines about a given tactic, stop doing it.
If you go the route of fixing these issues (and you should), be sure to keep records of what you changed. I have seen people waste a lot of time and money trying to find a nonexistent smoking gun.
3. After you clean up your website, you need to make a backup plan. It is
quite possible that the page in question will never be restored to its previous rank. (This situation occurs when the search engine algorithms themselves change as opposed to something changing on the given website.) Y should warn yourself or your client about the possibility of ou
not having the page return to its previous rankings. 4. After you have implemented all of the changes to clean up the given website, you can submit a reinclusion request to Google. Be as open and honest as possible in it. SEOs don t know what tools Google has to look into penalties, but we do know some of its resources: The search engines have a copy of your website and a list of all of the links going to it and how that list has changed over time. They have information on where it is hosted and who owns the domain name. They have information on the given website s competitors and allies. They have at least one snapshot of what the site used to look like. Y best chance for getting reincluded is to be honest and fix everything our that you can. Reinclusion requests take between three weeks and three months to get processed. Google rarely responds to the requests, and there is no way (that I know of) to get ahead in line. Do not submit multiple requests. A lot of people do this, and it frustrates the reviewers. Put yourself in the position of the people who read all of the reinclusion requests. Write your request as if you are talking to a real person, not a gigantic corporation. (Y can see a sample reinclusion request in the sidebar on the next ou page.) 5. Another approach is to try to contact a search engine spokesman. They make themselves available at search conferences and are sometimes able to fix a problem. This option has a better chance of working than a reinclusion request but is also very inconvenient. Googlers frequently hang out at the Webmaster Help forums (www.google.com/support/forum/). Inside, the Webmaster Central forum has a specific discussion category called Crawling, indexing & ranking in which people can ask for help diagnosing penalties.