A page of mine lost the first page, keywords, and traffic. Obviously so many factors could play into this, but I noticed something in Google Search Console that has me concerned.
In the 'URL Inspection' tool I am seeing the 'Referring Page' section showing an article linking back to my page that is a '"mommy" blog that is pretty apparent it is involved in a link building scheme. Anyone think this could play some part in it? Appreciate any feedback.
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One of the biggest mistakes many SEO users make is that they see a page ranking drop and think that it must be something wrong with their page or what they are doing. Ultimately, it's almost never something you're being penalized for – it's something that someone else is being rewarded for.
The example I'm going to give is a very basic one – one that's easy to visualize, blatantly obvious, and simple to understand. Your situation is likely a lot more complex to analyze, but… this can give you an idea of the dangers in assuming you're doing something wrong.
In the early 2000's I created a Movie Soundtrack Database web site. It was my own personal learning experience to learn how to write SEO friendly dynamic web sites in the age where common thought was that Google would never crawl a dynamic web site. Basically I grabbed a copy of the IMDB database (it was public domain and freely downloadable back then) and then imported every movie (and every person attached to those movies) that happened to have the "Soundtrack Available" flag. Then, I'd go through and add soundtrack listings to movies that might have some search volume – be it things coming out on DVD as new releases, classic movies that had new collectors editions, or new movies with cool soundtracks that were about to hit theaters.
Now, for new movies not yet, but about to hit DVD for the first time or about to be released in theaters – I'd be sitting there nicely on page one for almost every movie. If music was an important part of it, I would often even outrank the IMDB since I covered that aspect of it more completely than they did at the time.
Then, when release day hit… BOOM. My rankings would drop – often taking me deep onto the second page. Why would Google punish me like this? What did I do wrong that made it rank just fine, and then suddenly on the day I can actually start to make some money on the movie and/or soundtrack sales, I'd bottom out?
See… the thing is, Google wasn't punishing me. It was rewarding lots of other people. On that release day, now the movie reviews started to come out. So now I've got to share space with them. You've got the news sites talking about the glitz and glam of the red carpet premieres. You've got Blockbuster Video creating the "If you like the new X Movie, You'll Love These Movies!" pages.
What I learned, of course, was that it wasn't me being punished as much as it was new and relevant things that – at the time, were more in demand than what I offered. (I think during the two year experiment, there were only three or four movies I managed to stay on the front page after premiere. Moulin Rouge was one of them – and, of course, that was because the music was the whole point of that movie and that was my niche).
So… the point here is to not just look at your dropping – but look at what is there in your place. Google almost certainly never said, "Ahh, Garret's page only deserves to be at rank 15." – it said, "Ahh, these other pages deserve to have a high rank" and you just sort of fell out by default.
In my case, it was timely stuff getting in the way. There are other things that happen too – new players in the game, established companies bumping their SEO efforts because they fell to page two when you took that spot on the first page, or even Google deciding that a search term means something different now and what you offer just isn't relevant. (I can't count the times in the past few years where I client says to me, "How come we lost all that ranking for <this term>?" And I say, "Because we don't have <this term> – or at least we don't have what people are looking for when they type that in." And they say, "Yeah, but it was bringing lots of traffic!" and I say, "And how many sales did that traffic bring?" lol)
Stand back and look at the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) as a whole. Always be familiar with what they look like today (in their entirety) so that if it changes to tomorrow, you can see what changed. Chances are 100% that it wasn't just you who got moved around in those results.
SEO Mantra #225: It's not all about my web site.
The three people I was hoping to get a response from and they all did. Jackpot! I read a comment a few days ago with you explaining this and the first thing I did was look at the competitors or whoever was beating me now.
I did notice a few things, I was being beaten out by two exact match domains (EMD)s now. They went to their home page but their home pages weren't nearly flushed out as my page, so I started to think about what you said with intent, but there is a mixture on the first page with services, and straight facts. This is also a sensitive term so there are quite a few .org non profits with big branding that I assume I won't beat out.
Your explanation is fantastic and helps me put things in perspective. It's just driving me nuts, but I thought maybe the searchers intent is changing for that term or it's just simply time to update my guide and keep looking at what's on page 1 and what I am missing and go from there. Like always, thank you so much for the response.
Micha » Garrett
I feel so used!🤣
I think you need new business cards: Micha, SEO Answer-Gimp 😃
Garrett » Ammon
Lol used and abused! 😂
lol Glad you hit your trifecta!
It's tough when there is ambiguous intent for a term. Google is not only going to try to give the best pages for the term, but it's going to try to split that between pages that meet either intent. So, if it's a term where it can't tell if you want info or if you want to buy – and you've got an info page – there are really only five spots for you on the first page. The other five are likely going to be buy pages.
Google also likes pages that can directly meet both intents or drive you forward quickly to satisfy either intent. So… for those home pages, I'd be willing to wager that those pages talk in general, and clearly present a couple of one-click paths that would satisfy either need. The home page itself may not satisfy either need, but it's a good result because it says, "If you meant this – it's here, or if you meant that – it's over here."
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