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Q: Declining Google page position ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: Declining Google page position
Category: Computers > Algorithms
Asked by: windsurf-ga
List Price: $35.00
Posted: 11 Feb 2004 09:33 PST
Expires: 12 Mar 2004 09:33 PST
Question ID: 305787
For most of 2003 we were on the first page of Google for a popular
search term (hgh). In December, when Google made adjustments we fell
to page four and continue to stay there. Also, our Page rank fell from
5 to 4 and our Backward Links fell from 185 to 10. We add quality
content in the form of articles about every other day and have not
made any major changes to the page structure.

When we examine the pages that are currently on the first page for
(hgh) there are several that use redirects and one that has no Page
Rank or Backward links. Seems like Google is not following its own

We would like you to examine our index page and make suggestions on
how we might improve it, relative to Google.
Subject: Re: Declining Google page position
Answered By: serenata-ga on 12 Feb 2004 08:46 PST
Rated:5 out of 5 stars
Hi Windsurf ~

Answering this is a tough one. On the surface, there doesn't appear to
be a reason your site is slipping, so a look at peripherals has to be
considered and measured in relation to your site, the search term, and
other variables.

Sometimes we're fortunate enough to immediately spot problems that we
know are affecting a site. Other times, the best we can do is come up
with some circumstantial or anecdotal data that comes into play to
varying degrees. It is sort of like being at the wrong place at the
wrong time.

I need to remind you that Google Answers Researchers are independent
contractors and are not employees of Google. We are not privy to
insider information about its closely-guarded search algorithm. It
would be a safe bet that Google isn't likely to include us in its
secrets, either.

I can point out with certainty those things I know can adversely
affect how you are ranked in search engine results pages (SERPs), but
in this particular instance, I cannot argue with your comments about
the current SERPs for the search term you mentioned, "HGH".

In other words, an "infraction" (for lack of a better word) on your
site which may adversely affect your SERPs ranking compared to obvious
infractions in the current results - your site would seem the better
result by far. You are correct, the current results contain pages with
blatant "redirects and a page which has no Page Rank or Backward

With the results you see now, your question is not only reasonable,
but one that I would be asking, too, if I were in your place.

Understanding Google's Mission

Let's start with the basics:

Google (and every important search engine) wants to return the "most
relevant" results for every search query. Google takes this "mission"
very seriously, going so far as to publish it on its website on
"Google Today",

   ""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."
 - ://

Searching Yahoo (search engine powered by Inktomi), MSN, and All The
Web are also producing a mix of pages that don't all seem relevant,
either. This is obviously a difficult search term, by itself, to
return results which might be "relevant" to the searcher.

Often a search reveals the type of return a searcher is seeking, that
is, whether it's information, or to make a purchase, etc. Perhaps a
search for HGH by itself is just destined to bring such diverse
results. Fortunately, the searcher is learning to be a "better"
searcher, too. There is a timely article in Red Herring, dated
February 9th, quoting Tim Mayer, director of product management for
search platform and technology at Yahoo, and Jim Lanzone, vice
president of product management at Ask Jeeves.

You can read the article, "Search engine users wise up", here,


So far, we've established that Google wants to return the most
relevant results for a search query. We know that Google continuously
"tweaks" its algorithms to meet this goal. Most of the time there are
minor adjustments up or down in the SERPs, and the searcher is rarely
aware of any changes.

Occasionally there are major changes which are *really* noticeable,
like the so-called "Florida Update" last November, and another update
late in January of this year. This is the update that seems to have
affected a majority of sites for thousands of search queries, and once
again website owners find themselves really dropping in SERPs

There's a blog which succinctly describes the latest change, "Google
Going Goofy Again - The Austin Update", which you can read here:

What's Relevant, What's Not

It might be easier in this instance to consider what Google and
searchers do NOT consider "relevant" or want showing up in answer to a
query. Besides the obvious highly over-optimized sites which are
obviously trying to "spam" or "game" the system, several pages of
affiliate or reseller pages with what is basically identical content
are not considered *relevant*.

Unfortunately, this has happened often enough as to be noticeable and
most of the major search engines are working to eliminate "cookie
cutter" affiliate sites from the high rank in answer to a query.

Indeed, Google warns against this practice in its "Quality Guidelines
- Specific Recommendations",

   "* Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains
      with substantially duplicate content.
    * Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines,
      or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate
      programs with little or no original content."
  - ://

I suspect this may be a part of what you are experiencing. Perhaps it
isn't so much your particular site, but all the sites which are using
identical content regarding ProBLEN products.

For instance, a search for "ProBLEN Pharmacy" returns about 1,340
results, and there is identical content, in the nature of articles,
FAQs and other site content, on many of those sites.

This could be more a matter of avoiding sites with the same ProBLEN
specials and content than directed at your site in particular. I did
notice a lack of sites predominantly featuring ProBLEN products in the
search results on any of the search engines.

I want to emphasize the operative word *perhaps*, because while it has
been "noticed" and anecdotally reported that affiliate and reseller
sites have been adversely affected for certain search terms, only
Google knows for sure if that is a consideration - and they're not
talking. Such an observation, though, is not altogether unrealistic.

Other Considerations

1. Linking Schemes

I noticed your links pages. Relevant links are to be expected, links
established for no other purpose than to increase a page's ranking or
PageRank can get you penalized. Your page, with its offer of
reciprocal links and specifics for linking to you, including the
precise wording can be seen as an attempt to game the system. You
might want to reconsider the wisdom of doing this. has a discussion board, and this very topic is discussed.

You might want to reconsider how you are establishing the links to
your site - especially since you have noticed a decline in the number
Google is reporting.

Personally, I would totally rethink this method of establishing links,
as I have seen evidence that it won't hold up to close scrutiny
against Google's warning about linking schemes. I suspect this may be
affecting your site, but it is by no means the whole answer, but
rather a question of "degree".

2. Google Has Made A Mistake

This, too, is not an entirely unreasonable assumption. Jill Whalen
said it best in her High Rankings Advisor,

   "I suggest that anyone who has lost rankings this time
    around take a close look at the other sites showing up
    where you used to show up. Are they truly relevant and
    good sites that answer the search query at hand?

    ... I've noticed that for many queries, the current
    results don't seem to be the most helpful sites out

and the suggestion that if it is an error, Google will fix it, 

   "...Since we all know that the people who work at Google
    are indeed very smart, I imagine there's more to all of
    this than anybody knows at the moment."

Links to Your Site

You are correct in your statement that the number of links TO your
site has fallen. Currently, it is listed at 10.

When you perform a search for your site, entering your URL in the
search bar, Google offers a link to "pages that contain the term"
   - ://

Clicking on that link produces 1,180 sites that "contain the term"

Google search results -

Most of the links there have a PageRank of 4 or less. Many of those
links are also search results themselves, which would be the least
desirable results in answer to a searcher's queries. Nonetheless,
there are considerably more links to your site than are showing up
using Google's link:tool, and this may lend some credibility to my
advice to rethink how you are establishing links.

As noted above, there is evidence that some degree of penalty may
enter in when you have a great portion of links to your site that are
identical. This may smack of attempts to increase your ranking.


There is nothing I love better than to give a specific, authoritative
answer to a Google Answers question.

In this case, after really trying to find some specifics to present, I
have found some high probability reasons which are probably weighted
by degree. I suspect what you are experiencing is a combination of the
above, but only through observation, with no specific evidence to

Consider the evidence:

 1. A lack of ProBLEN product sites ranking well in the present
    serps, even though those sites might be more appropriate
    than the current SERPs. If it is a problem with ProBLEN,
    I would imagine it is incumbent on them to assist their
    resellers in achieving a decent SERPs ranking.

 2. More than one authority suggesting this might be a mistake on
    Google's part which will probably be 'fixed'.

 3. Links - the easiest to pinpoint - can be harmful is perceived
    to be participating in a linking scheme to increase your rank.
    Whether or not this has any bearing on the present situation
    is unclear. I would still suggest finding a better way to
    establish links, as I think this will eventually be considered
    spam and will penalize you.

My recommendation

For the moment, don't do anything. If it's a mistake, you'll no doubt
see a 'fix' within a few weeks, if not sooner. If it's a problem with
ProBLEN, they'll soon be hearing from their resellers and should be in
a position to help eliminate any penalty, if any.

The links have been discussed. I still believe you need to reconsider
how you're obtaining links. While it may be contributory, I do not
believe it is the whole answer to what you have experienced.

Until we get really relevant SERPs for that search term, there really
isn't a reason to make major changes, especially if the fix restores
better results with you back in a high ranking position.

Search terms used

I work with site design and search engine optimization on a daily
basis, and with the exception of specific searches mentioned, have
answered with resources I have bookmarked and to which I regularly

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)
     - ://

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

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 - - 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 the 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.

Warm regards,

Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by windsurf-ga on 12 Feb 2004 09:00 PST
Thank you so much!

Only one question...

The number 6 site on the first page results for HGH is a Pro-BLEN
site. It would seem that if Google had penalized the Pro-BLEN name
this site would also be impacted.

Any thoughts?


Clarification of Answer by serenata-ga on 12 Feb 2004 13:07 PST
Hi Michael ~

That one ( seemed to be an anomaly, too. Then I noticed
they refer to it as Pro-blen (notice the hyphen?).

That, of course, would be different than the word without a hyphen.
That's the one difference I noticed, and may lend some credence to a
possible "problem" with proBLEN resellers.

Again, I emphasize, I am not aware of any such problem, but
considering the proliferation of those sites, it is indeed strange
that they don't appear.

My suggestion is to wait and see what happens, the results are still
shifting and making changes now may end up being unnecessary.

windsurf-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars
VERY professional!

Subject: Re: Declining Google page position
From: robertskelton-ga on 12 Feb 2004 15:31 PST
Don't pay too much attention to PageRank. Several of my sites dropped
in PageRank at the same time (they are very static, nothing changed at
all), yet they started to receive more hits via Google.

As the web becomes bigger, older and more inter-linked, sites on
average will slowly climb in PageRank. Eventually a huge number will
end up at PR10. So every now and then Google has to make a downwards
adjustment to PageRanks across the board. I don't *know* this, but it
is logical.

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