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Q: Negative drop in website ranking ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Negative drop in website ranking
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: weddinman-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 25 Jan 2004 06:38 PST
Expires: 24 Feb 2004 06:38 PST
Question ID: 300004
My website,, was coming up #1 on relevant
keyword searches in Google yesterday morning.  "pittsburgh wedding
minister", "pittsburgh wedding officiant", etc.  Today I've
disappeared!  So far as I knew, I was using only legal methods to
attain my high ranking.  Can you tell me what is on my page that I'm
being penalized for, please.
Subject: Re: Negative drop in website ranking
Answered By: serenata-ga on 26 Jan 2004 07:09 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Weddinman ~

You haven't really disappeared from Google's index.

Search #1

However, a search for (without the "www")
returns the following results:

     "Sorry, no information is available for the URL

      * If the URL is valid, try visiting that web page by
        clicking on the following link:
      * Find web pages that contain the term
   - ://

There are 0 links to that page, and about 14 links that "contain the term".

Search #2

A search for the term (with the "www"),
returns the following results:

     "Showing web page information for

      Pittsburgh Wedding Minister Officiant Wedding
      Ceremony - Heaven's ...
      Pittsburgh Wedding Minister, Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant,
      Pennsylvania Wedding Ceremony. Chaplain Dan, Minister of
      Weddings Wedding ..."

[Note: the above is the title and a small description of the site]

     "Google can show you the following information for this URL:
      * Show Google's cache of
      * Find web pages that are similar to
      * Find web pages that link to
      * Find web pages that contain the term

[Search Link} - ://

This search (with the "www") shows 4 links to your site and about 14
links from sites that "contain the term".

Search #3

You are currently in 49th place for the search term "Pittsburgh wedding officiant".
(search returns about 12,700 results)
   - ://

Search #4

You are in 195th place for the term "pittsburgh wedding minister"
(search returns about 25,300 results)
   - ://

So, What Does It Mean?

First of all, there has been a noticeable change in many rankings over
the last few days. This is no doubt due to another "Google Dance",
which is where results from recent crawls and a presumed change in
Google's search algorithms present different results from what you
might be used to seeing.

Google explains these changes in its "Changes from one index to the
next." in its Webmaster Information:

     "Each time we update our database of web page (about once
      a month), our index shifts: we find new sites, we lose
      some sites, and site rankings change...

      You may want to check and see if the number of other
      sites linking to your URL has decreased. This is the
      single biggest factor in determining what sites are
      indexed by Google, as we find most pages when our robots
      crawl the web and jump from page to page via hyperlinks...

      It's also possible your rank decreased because other
      sites were found and assigned a higher rank. You can be
      assured that no one at Google has hand adjusted the
      results to boost the ranking of a site. Google's order
      of results is automatically determined by several factors,
      including our PageRank algorithm. Please check out our
      "Why Use Google" page for more information on how this
   - ://

Google's "Why Use Google" page, which explains its algorithm, can be found here,
   - ://

Google's Search Results

It probably helps, too, to understand that Google takes its mission to
deliver the most relevant search results to a searcher's query very
seriously. You might want to read Google's "Google Today" in order to
understand its responsibility to the searcher (and not to the Website
owner). You can find that here,
     - ://

Basically, if you want to rank higher in the search engine results
pages (SERPs), it is your responsibility to provide rich content to
match the query (the search terms under you wish to be found). Since a
major part of SERPs ranking is measuring the importance of you page by
links TO your site, it is important to have links from other relevant
sites to your own.

The last thing you will want to do is to pay close attention Google's
Webmaster Guidelines which contain specific recommendations and
suggestions regarding site design in order to make your site
visitor-friendly and search engine-friendly.

Those guideines contain some pretty basic good web design recommendations, such as:

     "* Make a site with a clear hierarchy and text links.
        Every page should be reachable from at least one
        static text link.
      * 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 within it.
      * Try to use text instead of images to display important
        names, content, or links. The Google crawler doesn't
        recognize text contained in images.
      * Make sure that your TITLE and ALT tags are descriptive
        and accurate.
      * Check for broken links and correct HTML.
      * If you decide to use dynamic pages (i.e., the URL con-
        tains a '?' character), be aware that not every search
        engine spider crawls dynamic pages as well as static
        pages. It helps to keep the parameters short and the
        number of them small."
   - ://

Without a good combination of the three items above, relevant content,
links to your site, and good basic HTML design, your site just want
rank as high as others for the terms under which you wish to be found.

And What You Shouldn't Do

Along with its recommendations and suggestions, Google specifically
lists practices which can get you penalized or even dropped from
Google's index altogether.

From Google's Quality Guidelines - Basic principles:

     "* Make pages for users, not for search engines. Don't
        deceive your users, or present different content to
        search engines than you display to users.
      * Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine
      * 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

and specifically in its Quality Guidelines - Specific recommendations:

      * Avoid hidden text or hidden links."

and warns in its reasons your site may not appear,

     "...certain actions such as cloaking, writing text that
      can be seen by search engines but not by users, or
      setting up pages/links with the sole purpose of fooling
      search engines may result in permanent removal from our

Site Specifics

A close look at your site,, shows the following.

1. Title Tag

A look at your <title> tag (between the <title> and </title> in your heading shows:

     "Pittsburgh Wedding Minister Officiant Wedding Ceremony -
      Heaven's Touch Weddings - serving SW Pennsylvania"

These are a lot of words which don't really make sense as a title, and
in all likelihood is considered an attempt to spam the title tag.

As this page reads now, it doesn't make any sense to your site
visitor, it shows the same bunch of words in your search results; and
it is not a good practice to attempt to cram relevant terms which make
no real sense in the title tag.

Give your page a "real" title, something like "Chaplain Dan,
Pittsburgh Wedding Minister/Officiant". It makes sense to your visitor
(visitor-friendly) and the terms will still be found in a search.

2. Keywords, Key Phrases & Description

Most search engines ignore keyword, key phrases and description
metatags for the reason they were often stuffed with words and phrases
in an attempt to spam or game the system.

With the ** possible ** exception of the description metatag, they do
not help your site at all, although stuffing them with lots of words
or repeating them by calling one "keyword" and the other "key phrases"
can certainly be construed at an attempt to spam. You don't want to
give that appearance at all. If you want to keep your key word metatag
to help you focus on the terms and words you need to include in your
page's content, that is fine - key phrases is overkill and is probably
seen as an attempt to spam.

My suggestion is to drop it and the other unnecessary metatags which
add nothing but bulk to your site and can add load time, especially
for those who are connected by a slower dialup connection.

3. Spamming

You said, "So far as I knew, I was using only legal methods to
attain my high ranking.  Can you tell me what is on my page that I'm
being penalized for, please."

Please understand that only Google will tell you if you're being
penalized, and to what extent. As I quoted above, you can be removed
from their index, and they may or may not tell you:

     "Your page was manually removed from our index, because
      it did not conform with the quality standards necessary
      to assign accurate PageRank. We will not comment on the
      individual reasons a page was removed and we do not offer
      an exhaustive list of practices that can cause removal."
   - ://

"Hidden text", or text that is nearly the same color as your
background so that it is barely discernible is considered spamming or
gaming the system. It can get you banned.

Your text, "Pittsburgh Wedding Minister, Pittsburgh Wedding Officiant,
Pennsylvania Wedding Ceremony", which is between <H1></H1> tags, can
only be seen as spam. Don't do it. It wouldn't make sense as a header
for the content on the site, and it will cost you in the long run to
leave it there.

Even more important ... you have your "content" on white against your
blue background, and way below where most visitors would bother to
look, because of the layout and design, are six paragraphs of text,
beginning with "Chaplain Dan Jenkins is a caring ..." and ending
toward the end of the page.

This is definitely spam by anyone's definition. If it were intended to
be a part of the page, why is it NOT included within the text on white
that you present at the top of the page to your visitor?

My advice: Get rid of it. If you keep it there as it is, don't be
surprised if you are removed from Google's index. Google warns it may
do so, and is it worth it to take the chance?

4. Basic Design

Google suggests you make your site user-friendly. One of the major
items missing from every page except your index page is a text menu
for navigation. This helps your visitor maneuver your site (instead of
necessitating the use of the 'back' button), and it also helps the
search engine crawlers get from page to page within your site. You
really should consider adding at least that navigation aid on every
page within your site.

About those search terms

You mentioned two search terms, "pittsburgh wedding minister", and 
"pittsburgh wedding officiant". I found the following returns for
these terms:

   * pittsburgh wedding minister - about 25,300 results
     (down about 3,000 from last week's results)
   * pittsburgh wedding officiant - about 12,700 results
     (down about 2,200 from last week's results)

(It is significant that there are a few thousand less results this
week than last week, and another good reason to make sure you are
following the guidelines. As the results are refined and tweaked to
present relevant results, you do NOT want to be penalized for

Consider the results that are ranking high in SERPs, and you can see
where the searcher would consider those results relevant to his search

No matter how you look at it, that is a powerful lot of competition
for the terms under which you want to be found.

It might be worthwhile to spend some time at Wordtracker
- - to seek out all the related phrases you
can, then write copy based around the best, most relevant terms.
Include those words in your Title tags and within the content of your
website accordingly. That will certainly help.

If nothing else, by visiting Wordtracker, you'll get an idea of what
search terms your prospective customers are *really* using when it
comes to wedding officiants and/or weddings in the Pittsburgh area.


There may be some sites which don't deserve a high ranking in SERPs
for the search terms you mentioned, but rest assured Google will work
on rendering the *most relevant* results for those terms.

Google is working constantly to improve its search results, and it is
already clear that pages have been dropped. So long as some pages are
still getting through only means they haven't been eliminated yet.

To make sure your site isn't included, you will want to pay particular
attention to your own case of that "hidden" or "almost hidden" text
and either incorporate it within the content you are readily showing
your visitor or deleting it. My strong recommendation is to get rid of
it, or at least as it is now written, because it will be considered

There is no substitute for good, rich, relevant content, links TO your
site from relevant sites (and not linking schemes), and good,
user-friendly design. All of these are included in Google's
information for Webmasters.

Since you are still included in Google's index, you might have been
penalized, but you haven't been removed - yet. You do need to make
changes in your design to ensure it won't happen.

Important Google Links For Your Reference

I am 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 owner).

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)
     - ://

   * Remove Content from Google's Index (just in case you feel
     a burning need to start all over again)
     - ://

Search terms:

Besides those searches specifically listed above, I relied on
resources known to me and used on a daily basis to answer this

I am sure that making the changes recommended above and following
Google's suggestions and recommendations will help you regain some
lost ground in SERPs and keep you from being penalized.


Google Answers Researcher
weddinman-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $20.00
Thank-you.  I'm glad you did the review .. I've seen other reviews
you've done.  You confirmed my suspicions on two points and brought
two more to my attention.  And, for your information, I've already
made the modifications in conformity to your suggestions, except for
adding the menu to the other pages .. that will take another day.

Subject: Re: Negative drop in website ranking
From: serenata-ga on 26 Jan 2004 11:54 PST
Hello again, Weddinman ~

Thank you for your rating, and thank you for your very generous tip.

I'm glad you're making the changes, as this will be the best time to
make them, with all the activity going on!

Best of luck to you, and thank you again,


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