Hello JLocao ~
I'm sure it is little consolation, but you aren't alone in having your
site disappear from a prominent position. The disappearance of your
site, "www.catdoor.com", from the search engine results pages (SERPs)
is most likely the result of the latest changes to Google's
algorithms. This change, dubbed "Florida Update", has affected
thousands of sites which, like yours, were among the first two or
three pages of Google's SERPs for their particular search term.
The phenomenon you are experiencing has been remarked on in several
articles and countless search engine discussion boards. Here's a very
recent article on BizResearch, "Google? News - Post Florida Update"
which may help you understand "what" seems to be happening, if not
In order to help answer your questions, it may be of help to
understand Google's philosophy and its relationship to what you see
Google Today - "Great Isn't Good Enough"
Google's goal has always been to provide the best and most relevant
results to its users. As a consequence, they enjoy a well-deserved
reputation for doing just that - delivering the best results for
users' search term.
It is also important to remember that Google's responsibility is to
the user of its services. That philosophy is clearly stated in its
"Corporate Information - Google Today", (well worth taking the time to
read if you are concerned about your placement).
"The perfect search engine," says Google co-founder Larry
Page, "would understand exactly what you mean and give
back exactly what you want." Given the state of search
technology today, that's a far-reaching vision requiring
research, development and innovation to realize. Google
is committed to blazing that trail. Though acknowledged
as the world's leading search technology company, Google's
goal is to provide a much higher level of service to all
those who seek information, whether they're at a desk in
Boston, driving through Bonn, or strolling in Bangkok."
- [Corporate Information - Google today]
"Google's point of distinction however, is anticipating
needs not yet articulated by our global audience, then
meeting them with products and services that set new
standards. This constant dissatisfaction with the way
things are is ultimately the driving force behind the
world's best search engine."
- [Great Isn't Good Enough]
There appears to be a valid argument that Google hasn't penalized the
sites which have disappeared so much as it no longer gives weight to
those sites which were "overly-optimized". Or this could be one step
in a process to discourage those who have gamed the system and the
results as you see them won't stand.
As I mentioned above, your site has apparently been caught up in the
"Florida" update. Since May, Google has been tweaking its algorithms
enough to be highly significant and noticeable by those who make it
their business to pay attention to what Google is doing.
Like hurricanes, the major changes have been named alphabetically, and
the two major changes producing the most comments from webmasters have
been named "Dominic" with what some believe was a "correction" named
"Esmerelda" in August, and November's "Florida"
Florida seems to a broad attempt to remove "overly-optimized" sites
from immediate SERPs. With over 3.5 billion pages in its database, it
would stand to reason that some mistakes may have been made.
My use of the words "apparently", "seem" and "seemingly" are not by
accident, as no one but Google knows what it has done and what the
long term plans are - and they're not going to reveal it, except to
the extent they continually state to "design for the visitor" and
"follow the guidelines".
There is enough anecdotal evidence (usually by those whose sites went
from top of the ranks to not among the first 1000 returns) to draw
some significant conclusions, among them the fact a major change did
occur and that a lot of sites, relevant or not, have disappeared from
a high rank.
I'm including some links to discussion boards and articles regarding
the Florida update. A word of caution, though, you will see a LOT of
theories ... and unless you see something specifically offered by a
contributor using the n ame "GoogleGuy", regard it all as just that -
a theory. Remember that there are a lot of disgruntled webmasters who
hae lot long-term high ranking in SERPS, and often their
pronouncements are from their personal circumstances - and are hardly
- Webmaster World (a discussion forum for webmasters and
search engine optimizers [SEOs] where information and
advice are openly discussed.
- High Rankings Forum (another discussion forum with
active discussions on all search engines, and many
threads about this latest change in Google)
- "Are The Bad Guys Winning at Google?" (article by Jill
Whalen, an acknowledge SEO expert), dated 11-04-2003
- "Been Gazumped by Google? Trying to make Sense of the
"Florida" Update! By Barry Lloyd 2003-11-25"
While Google's algorithms are known by a very few individuals who
aren't about to reveal how it works, Google does give some information
to help website owners and webmasters build quality sites.
"The method by which we find pages and rank them as
search results is determined by the PageRank technology
developed by our founders, Larry Page and Sergey Brin."
- [How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google? No.1 The Basics]
and from "PageRank Explained":
"PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the
web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of
an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets
a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for
page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of
votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page
that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are them-
selves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make
other pages "important."
"Important, high-quality sites receive a higher PageRank,
which Google remembers each time it conducts a search. Of
course, important pages mean nothing to you if they don't
match your query. So, Google combines PageRank with
sophisticated text-matching techniques to find pages that
are both important and relevant to your search. Google goes
far beyond the number of times a term appears on a page and
examines all aspects of the page's content (and the content
of the pages linking to it) to determine if it's a good
match for your query."
- [PageRank Explained]
For the longest time, Google has offered "best practices" for
inclusion in the search index in Webmaster Guidelines, which
emphasized designing for your visitors, not for search engines in the
form of Design and Content Guidelines, Technical Guidelines, and
Stressing content, the guidelines are basic common sense guidelines
that webmasters should be including in design as a matter of course.
They include the "obvious" basics as:
"Design and Content Guidelines:
* Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links. Every
page should be reachable from at least one static text
* Offer a site map to your users with links that point to
the important parts of your site. If the site map is larger
than 100 or so links, you may want to break the site map
into separate pages.
* Create a useful, information-rich site and write pages that
clearly and accurately describe your content.
* Think about the words users would type to find your pages,
and make sure that your site actually includes those words
* Try to use text instead of images to display important
names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't
recognize text contained in images..."
"Quality Guidelines - Basic principles:
* Make pages for users, not for search engines...
* Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.
A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable
explaining what you've done to a website that competes
* Don't participate in link schemes designed to increase
your site's ranking or PageRank. In particular, avoid
links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web
as your own ranking may be affected adversely by those
* Don't use unauthorized computer programs to submit pages,
check rankings, etc. Such programs consume computing
resources and violate our terms of service...
* Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive
* Check for broken links and correct HTML..."
Unfortunately, some webmasters seemed to find it easier to "game the
system" than to follow the guidelines. For a while, such "gaming" or
"spamming" works - they achieve a high ranking in SERPs regardless of
the content the visitor may see.
When it becomes apparent to the user - there can be a 'shake up' in
the algorithm to eliminate the gamed sites.
So, What About www.cathole.com?
Let me start by answering the questions you posted in the "Comments" section below:
"1. Are you saying GOOGLE made a change to their SE logic that caused
this problem? If so, aren't thousands of others affected similarly?"
As you can see from the above, and if you have looked at any of the
references, there seems to have been a major change to Google's
algorithm which has negative affected thousands of sites in the SERPs.
"2. I do not know what the terms "Open Directory" and Quality Links" mean?"
The "Open Directory" is the Open Directory Project, www.DMOZ.org,
which is a directory with voluntary editors for the directory
subjects. These editors decide whether or not to include a site in the
Your site is included in DMOZ under the category
> Shopping: Pets: Cats: Litter Boxes
I'll note now that your site could not be found using
"www.cathole.com" (with the "www"), but was found as just
"cathole.com" (without the "www"). The significance of this will be
This category doesn't seem to have an editor at present and therefore
relies on other volunteers to "pick up the slack" as they can.
"Quality Links" are usually links from another relevant site, often
within the contents of that site, such as, "I found the greatest way
to hide that litterbox but still make it easy for Kitty to get to it.
I can't recommend the Cathole enough" (or something similar). This is
as opposed to a page on a website with nothing but links to other
Jill Whalen said in her HighRanking discussion board,
"There are not too many sites that can legitimately support
a number of pages that simply link out to other sites.
What is the point of those pages? What is your site about
that it would need to point people to so many other sites?"
- [Highranking discussion forum]
I wouldn't go so far as to say that a page with nothing but a list of
links has been penalized, but I there does seem to be evidence that
the Florida update gives such link pages no value to the sites on
those pages. (Again, this is not fact, just a theory with a high
probability of being so).
"3. You indicate that GOOGLE may "fix" this problem, however are you
recommending that I do something?"
There are always improvements to your own pages you can make. I
noticed the bottom of your pages the following text:
"CATHOLE is a cat door for your kitten. It can be found
under cat, kitten, kitty, cat doors, pet doors, cat
products, cat items, cat door, pet door, cat stuff, cat
behavior, cat names, cat nametags, cat name tags, kitty
names, kitty nametags, kitty name tags, kitten names,
kitten nametags, kitten name tags, and kitten supplies. "
In my opinion, this looks like 'spam' - whether or not that is your
intention. I can't figure out why you would add that peculiar text,
and the only thing I can think of is "search engine optimization". If
I see it as such, it could be that Google and other search engines see
it the same way.
If the purpose of this Florida update is to remove those who spam from
higher rankings, this *could* be a reason your site was removed.
I recommend you pay close attention to Google's Guidelines and ensure
your site follows those guidelines. Time and again in all the forums
you will hear those that say they have designed their sites for the
users and follow the Guidelines haven't seen an appreciable difference
in the SERPs since the Florida update.
"4. Are you suggesting that I must invest time and energy to get other
sites to link to me?"
Besides the discussion in answer to your Question No. 2 above, it is
also what Google recommends. I'll remind you that Google's PageRank is
based on the number of pages which link to your site.
"The best way to ensure Google finds your site is for your page to be
linked from lots of pages on other sites. Google's robots jump from
page to page on the Web via hyperlinks, so the more sites that link to
you, the more likely it is that we'll find you quickly." (SEE Google's
" How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google? - 2. Submitting Your site")
There are many practical ways of establishing links which are
beneficial to you. These methods do take time, but they also help in
establishing credibility and help with your page rank.
Approach like-minded or complementary businesses about linking to your
site (with a reciprocal link from your own). This works without
harming search engine positioning or page rank.
Some excellent articles on how to establish the right kind of links
are available in Traffick's "Ten Steps to Building Links to Your
Site", Craig Fifield - 5/3/2002
and "The Right Way to Improve Link Popularity", By Paul J. Bruemmer -4/14/2002 -
"Link Building Is Important", which discusses link building from A to
Z and also provides a good reference page with linking resources.
The information contained in the above articles offer suggestions
which can be easily adapted for use on any website without resorting
to link farms. The differences in "good links" and those which may be
harmful are discussed, and the articles offer simple ways to get
started to the kind of linking search engines prefer.
"5. I am trying to keep my site simple and uncluttered, if I ask
others to link to me won't they expect me to link to them also?"
Remember, the internet is a series of links. No doubt they will ask
that you link to them, too. But I ask you, what is so wrong with that?
The articles listed above will help you understand how to do it in
context with your site's own content.
"6. If the above is correct, isn't this just a big game that everyone
will engage in?"
I'll refer you to Barry Lloyd's article dated November 25th on Search
Engine Guide, "Been Gazumped by Google? Trying to make Sense of the
"Florida" Update!". The whole article is worth the read, but about
half-way down the page, just under "The most logical theory ... "
"Google has seen their search engine results manipulated
by SEOs to a significant extent over the past few years.
Their reliance on PageRank? to grade the authority of
pages has led to the wholesale trading and buying of
links with the primary purpose of influencing rankings
on Google rather than for natural linking reasons. In
some instances, people would not link to sites unless
they thought it would not harm them or would benefit
them for Google."
It is already being done, and literally on a 'wholesale' scale. The
right way to do it is within your site's content, not from links
pages. While important, linking is not the be-all and end-all of
search engine results placement. But linking right only helps. Do it
right and see if everyone doesn't benefit.
"7. What has happened defies logic -- is there a simple solution?"
The awful answer in this case is "no". I suspect it doesn't defy logic
at all - that what happened isn't so much accident as a part of a
process which only Google knows.
If you take the time to peruse the postings on any of the forums,
remember that so far, everything is hypothesis. On Webmaster World, I
would pay attention to anything posted by GoogleGuy, a Google employee
who provids official Google advisor to the webmaster community at
Some Other Observations
I observed that searching for "www.cathole.com" (without the quotation
marks) produced different results from a search for cathole.com
(without the "www").
I got different results across the board, starting with dmoz.org and
including AltaVista and Yahoo.
You might want to ensure that links to your site all contain the full
URL: http://www.cathole.com so that results are more uniform.
Important Google Links For Your Reference
I have taken the liberty of including important links from Google's
site. This information will help you understand Google's goals and
responsibility to the web searcher (and not the webmaster or site
Webmasters who follow the guidelines and avoid Google's "Thou shalt
nots" usually have no problem getting listed and showing up under the
search terms they desire.
* Google Today (absolutely the best information you
can read about the "how and why" of Google's results
* How Do I Get My Site Listed on Google?
* My Web Pages Are Not Currently Listed (a good 'primer'
on how and why Google works so well)
* PageRank Information (covers both Google's PageRank and
* Webmaster Guidelines (contains both the dos and don'ts)
* Google Facts & Fiction (can you buy your way to a
high ranking in Google?)
* Search Engine Optimizers (some good advice on what to look
for if you're going to hire a Search Engine Optimizer)
* Frequently Asked Questions (pretty much what it says, but
definitely worth wading through)
Other Sources of Information
There is also good information from many of the top search engine
optimization experts, such as
* Detlev Johnson, Search Engine Guide
* Danny Sullivan, Search Engine Watch
* Jill Whalen, High Rankings
* Shari Thurow, Web Pro News (and quoted all over the Internet)
who all have columns or newsletters to which you can subscribe and
keep abreast of the best way to use good content for better
positioning in search engine results.
In addition, Webmaster World - http://www.webmasterworld.com/ - has
discussion boards on most of the search engines. While some of the
discussions are anecdotal and/or questions for information, there is
usually enough discussion to keep abreast of what seems to be
There is an entire section devoted to Google at:
It never hurts to keep track of these discussions, but remember,
trying to optimize for search engines only is like trying to hit a
moving target. You'll notice among the more experienced contributors
to the discussions - plus the SEO experts listed above - that there
really is no substitute for content, relevant links and good HTML.
I do not know why your site is no longer in the position you once
enjoyed. I did notice that text (mentioned above) which could
conceivably be considered 'spam' and I suggest you remove it. Why risk
being penalized for spamming?
I suspect you are more a 'victim' of Update Florida than anything
else, but this is an excellent time to study the guidelines and making
changes that make your site more user friendly, which can only help in
search engine results placement.
This answer to your questions was prepared from the most current
information I could find to compose an authoritative answer. I used
bookmarked resources and resources I refer to on a day-to-day basis in
the course of professional web design and web marketing consulting.
If you have any questions, please ask for a clarification and I'll be
happy to do so.