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Q: Dramatic drop in search engine ranking ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   0 Comments )
Subject: Dramatic drop in search engine ranking
Category: Computers > Internet
Asked by: chriso-ga
List Price: $15.00
Posted: 02 Apr 2004 06:30 PST
Expires: 02 May 2004 07:30 PDT
Question ID: 324016
My websites and have been
ranking very highly for most of my keyword searches for the last
couple of years and I've been very pleased with the results. However
over the last few months, my ranking for one specific set of keywords
has dropped dramatically in the Google index, though not with other
search engines such as Alta Vista, Lycos and Yahoo. I have not changed
the way that I optimise the sites, and I have made sure that the sites
are modified frequently so as not to be considered out of date. I also
check carefully the relevance of keywords to page content.
Is it possible that Google have changed the algorithm by which sites
are ranked and that I have in some unknowing way fallen foul of some
new rule or criterion used, and is it possible to find out what, if
anything, I am doing wrong to be penalised in this way?
When I search for "QuarkXPress training" "Quark XPress courses" "Learn
QuarkXPress" and variations of these terms, my site appears well down
- page 7 for example when searching whereas previously it
was always listed in the top 5 results on page 1. Similar searches for
other keywords such as "Coreldraw training" produce much better
results from pages that have been optimised in exactly the same way.
Searches at produce better results but still much poorer
than a few months ago when it would always have appeared in the first
5 results. I'm not too worried about the ranking at, but I
need to improve results from the UK and Ireland. Although my sponsored
Google ads are producing good results, I know that many people don't
look at those.
When I look in detail at the sites that achieve higher ranking than
mine, many are not nearly so relevant and some have nothing at all to
do with the search subject.
I've avoided re-submitting the sites on a regular basis as Google say
this is not necessary, although I do resubmit from time to time just
to be on the safe side.
Subject: Re: Dramatic drop in search engine ranking
Answered By: serenata-ga on 03 Apr 2004 19:07 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi Chriso ~

Sometimes it is difficult to figure out what's going on with any of
the search engines when your search engine results placement (SERPs)
seem to be bouncing all over the place. And yes, every search engine
is always tweaking and improving its algorithm, sometimes several
times a day, to ensure they're putting the most relevant results in
answer to a searcher's query.

Sites which enjoy a fairly steady ranking in SERPs are those which
combine a combination of relevant content utilizing the search terms
sensibly within a page's content, relevant links TO their site (that
is, links from sources other than a page of links or link farms), and
good HTML, rendering a user-friendly and search engine-friendly site.

Taking your search terms,
   "QuarkXPress training"
   "Quark XPress courses" and
   "Learn QuarkXPress"

is telling.

QuarkXPress is used on your landing page, Default.htm, 8 times.
However, 7 of those are either in ALT tags or metatags.

While it used to work to stuff metatags and alt tags with the
searchable terms to increase a site's importance in search engine
results, most search engines ignore the metatags altogether or give
little weight to them, except for negatives if it appears a site may
be trying to game the system.

QuarkXPress is used only ONCE within the text content on your page.
Even then, it is used within a paragraph with other terms, such as
Corel Draw, Corel Ventura, etc.

If you want to rank well for QuarkXPress training, I'd suggest first
rewriting that paragraph to put each of those within a bulleted list.
That not only adds emphasis for your site's visitors, but it also
helps search engine crawlers discern the difference.

And if you want to rank higher in SERPs, you really need to use the
term more than once and place it high enough on the page to give it a
better position of importance.

Right now, you have afforded a PPA graphic and a graphic with script
text more importance than the text content.

Then the Winning the Website Wars, then the article about the jaggies,
and the search engine encounters all of this before it encounters any
information at all about learning and the courses you offer.

That would fall within the basic HTML and design aspects needed to
help in your SERPs placement.

A check for links TO your site shows "about 19" linking to it, and
most of those are internal links (that is, links from within your

It helps to have links from relevant sources outside your site as
well. Here is how Google explains it in its technology in "Our Search:
Google Technology":

     "The heart of our software is PageRank?, a system for
      ranking web pages developed by our founders Larry Page
      and Sergey Brin at Stanford University. And while we
      have dozens of engineers working to improve every aspect
      of Google on a daily basis, PageRank continues to provide
      the basis for all of our web search tools."

and its PageRank in "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
      themselves "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."
   - ://

Establishing outside links to your site, using the search terms under
which you wish to be found can only help.

While you are more interested in Google UK and Google IE, the same
suggestions and information is included for webmasters.

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)
     - ://

It never hurts to go over the information Google provides to help
webmasters get better rankings and design friendly sites; and those
who provide a good balance of relevant content, links to the site and
good design always seem to stay pretty secure in their SERPs rankings.

If you want to rank better for QuarkXPress, you need to use it more
than one time within the site's content (text), and give it a higher
place of importance on the page. The same is true of any page's

Search terms:

Except for the terms specifically mentioned above, I relied on
information and resource from Google's site.

Hope this helps,

Google Answers Researcher

Request for Answer Clarification by chriso-ga on 30 Apr 2004 04:43 PDT
Hi Serenata,

Thanks for your answer and apologies for the delay in coming back to
you. I've had a problem with Google Answers in that they disabled my
permissions which did not allow me to get back to you to request
clarification. All sorted now...

I take your point about the lack of priority attached to QuarkXPress
training on my home page. However, my home page is not where I expect
people to land when they search for QuarkXPress training - I have four
pages within the site dedicated to QuarkXPress - , , , and . These are the
pages that until recently performed so well in the search engines and
if you check them out you will see that the search terms have are
accorded a much higher priority on these pages, and therefore should
be deemed more relevant - hence the reason for my original question.

The reason that the pages are duplicated is that QuarkXPress is a
brand name that is commonly mis-spelled as Quark XPress, and this
seemed to be the best way of ensuring that which ever way people spell
it they still find one of these pages.

Clarification of Answer by serenata-ga on 30 Apr 2004 06:57 PDT
Hi Chriso ~

The first thing that strikes me is that Google frowns on duplicate
content, "Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with
substantially duplicate content." (From Google's Quality Guidelines -
Specific recommendations)
   - ://

While your reasoning about the misspelling is valid, those are still
seen as "duplicate pages". A better way to go about accommodating the
possibility of misspellings is to use a permanent redirect for any
misspelling which may be typed into a browser's locator bar.

While "penalty" might be a harsh word, sites have been dropped from
indexing for containing duplicate content. Why take a chance on it
when you can redirect misspellings?

The same for your "alt" tags. Their purpose is to describe to those
who browse without graphics (and search engines) what the graphic is.
Don't "stuff" the alt tags, it once helped, now it hurts - it's just
considered spam.

For instance (this from one image tag),

"img src="website%20optimization/ppasmall.gif" ALT="Small PPA
logo:QuarkXPress,Quark XPress,Quark,Quark express,training from PPA
Education & Training"

or from another,

"Quark express Introductory Training Course Overview of DTP" when the
actual graphic simply says, "Overview of Desktop Publishing".

This starts to look like a very "over-optimized" site, which won't
help and could hurt in the long run.

The best advice is still to concentrate on incorporating your key
words *sensibly* within your copy (there is no need to spam content),
to increase relevant links to your site and good html for a visitor &
search engine friendly site.

And remember that Google is constantly tweaking its algorithms with
the intention of presenting the most relevant returns to a user's
query. The rankings will change because others write better copy or
better html or have more relevant links or any combination of the

Run your pages through the W3C validator,

and then through the Lynx Viewer to get an idea of what search engines
"see" when they crawl your page,

avoid duplicate content by redirecting possible misspellings to the
correct page and work on the overall improvement and usability of your
pages. This will all help your rank as well.

Finally, remember that there will be changes to the algorithms, there
may even be some occasional strange results as algos are tweaked, but
ultimately, the most relevant sites are those that move to the top. If
you want your pages to be included, you need to ensure you are
providing the most relevant you can.


chriso-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars
Sound and useful advice - thank-you.

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