Jill's note: I started answering this question with the usual answer, but as I looked at the site in question, I realized there was more going on than meets the eye. Please read through the entire question and my response to see what I mean! - J
We recently released our new website in Feb. and prior to release we held the number 1 position on Google for [our main keyword phrase] and the number 3 slot and number 2 spots for [additional keyword phrases].
Within days of our release our rankings fell through the roof as did the number of quality Google leads that were coming through our doors. We seem to still be holding up well on the other sites but still not like we did before. We have an SEO firm working with us and we have been with them for 4 years. At this time I am starting to wonder why we continue to fall and what we/they are not doing right. Is it normal to fall like this after the launch of a new site? They told us it would be a week or 2 and now we are on month 2.
Thanks for your time.
This is common with redesigns when you switch content management systems or otherwise change your URLs. You will often have to wait for some period for the search engines to remove your old URLs and index the new ones. Plus, they sometimes give less weight to new URLs that have no history (or previous link popularity).
However, then I took a quick glance at the site and noticed some disturbing things. I thought it would be a good idea to discuss them here so that others could learn what *not* to do on their own sites, especially as it seems to have had such a dramatically negative impact on the business.
The home page looked nice and professional at first glance; however, near the bottom of the page was a scrolling window with a ton of keyword-rich copy contained in it. Scrolling through that window revealed a ton of keyword-rich text links. Neither of these things are necessarily search engine spam in and of themselves, but because of the way they were integrated into the website, they certainly set off alarm bells in my head. Companies don't bury great marketing copy that will help sell their products or services. They do that only when they don't understand how to write for their users and search engines alike.
Even though this copy was technically visible (one could scroll the inner window and read it all) the search engines may very well consider it hidden text.
A quick peek at some of the pages in the "hidden" links revealed more problems for this site. The links were pointing to a slew of old-fashioned doorway pages, the likes of which I hadn't seen since the 1990s! Sure, they were a bit more sophisticated than the old 90s versions, as they were integrated into the site template. They could even be mistaken for real site pages when viewed individually; however, it was pretty much just "madlib spam." In other words, all 20 or so pages said the same thing, only they switched out keyword phrases for other keyword phrases. They were poorly written and oftentimes simply gibberish.
It's scary to know that there are still SEO companies out there creating this kind of junk. John declined to tell me who his SEO company is, so I don't know if it's a well-known firm or not. I don't know what he paid for the pleasure of spamming the search engines either, but I hope it wasn't much. He also just told me that due to their lack of a search engine presence in Google for the past few months, they've just had to lay someone off. Now, I don't believe in relying on search engine rankings in order to successfully run your business, but when you think of the horrible impact a bad SEO company can have on a business, it's frightening. I'm quite sure that one day in the not-too-distant future there will be lawsuits based on this kind of bad SEO. That won't be good for any of us in the SEO industry.
John's CEO is now aware of the problem and they're cleaning up the mess. I suggested that he file a Google reinclusion request once they have removed the spam.
If anyone reading this provides this sort of SEO spam to clients, you really should be ashamed of yourself. If you work for a company that offers this type of shoddy work and didn't know that it was spam, you may want to voice your concerns to the folks in charge (and/or find a new job). Being responsible for a company's loss of business would not be a good feeling at all.
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CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.
High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.
Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ, Inc.com, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.
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