It’s no easy task to get your website to show up on the first page of Google for a certain keyword. So, when you finally achieve that noteworthy status, it’s a day for celebrating. Now, you can finally start attracting more traffic and doing more business.
Then, one day, the inexplicable happens. Your site drops off of page one. Traffic slumps. And you’re left scratching your head to figure out what happened.
There can be many reasons why your website’s search engine ranking may slip. But Evan Bailyn, president of First Page Sage, a search engine optimization company in New York City, recently told MarketingVox about four of the most common ones:
1. You’ve been outcompeted. The most common reason a site doesn’t rank on the first page is because the competition is playing Google’s algorithm game better. Google’s algorithm is based on site age, URL relevance, and Trustrank. “Trustrank, for those who aren’t SEO geeks, is the actual measure of the level of trust that Google holds for your site, which is largely based on the number, quality, and age of incoming links,” Bailyn explains.
2. Your site has been sandboxed, or re-sandboxed. “Sandboxing” refers to the ranking freeze that Google places on almost all new websites while it builds up a profile of trust. The sandbox period lasts anywhere from two months to a year, depending on the link patterns a site establishes in its first few months, Bailyn says.
“… most people don’t realize that a site can go right back into the Sandbox if Google perceives that the site cannot be trusted to abide by its quality guidelines anymore.” A common way to get re-sandboxed is to link to spam websites, he says.
3. Your site has been penalized. “A penalty is the most sinister thing that can happen to a website because Google does not explain it anywhere, or even acknowledge it in a site’s Webmaster Tools control panel.” On forums like Webmasterworld and Digitalpoint, webmasters have reported a “-10 penalty” or a “-40 penalty,” which means that their site is ranking ten (or, in some cases, forty) spots lower than it used to for a crucial keyword, he says.
This penalty is real, but the number of ranking places a site can be penalized is not so standardized. “The reason a site gets knocked off the first page has to do with a sudden change to the links going to the site. Google is cracking down hard on paid links now, so if you were, for instance, to buy a number of paid links and did not include a “nofollow” in the linking code, it is likely Google would penalize your site.”
4. You’ve been banned. While this is the worst thing that can happen to your site, it is also the easiest to spot, Bailyn says. If your site has been banned, Google may e-mail you, or else you will have a notification in your Webmaster Tools control panel. Another clear sign that your site has been banned is that a search for www.yoursite.com in Google brings up no results – in contrast, if your site has been penalized, the same search will bring up your site’s home page.
Google only bans sites that are involved in black hat SEO (cloaking, doorway pages) or are linked into “bad neighborhoods” (adult, pills, or gambling).”You can always submit a reinclusion request once you’ve cleaned up the mess, and Google does reinclude banned sites in its index after a manual investigation,” he concludes.
If your website has slipped in the rankings, consult with your SEO expert to try to figure out what might have happened. If you’re not linking to spam websites, or engaging in any black hat SEO, or buying paid links, then you may want to consider adding more keyword-rich content or freshening up what you already have on the site. If you’re not already engaging in social media, you should start – create a blog or a Facebook fan page to generate more interest in your website.
In fact, if you’d like more ideas, reach out to me by becoming a fan on my Facebook page. I’m happy to help!