The question is not what you are doing wrong, but rather how Google
search results have changed.
Last November a large number of websites lost their good Google
rankings overnight, and it became a very hot topic amongst search
engine optimizers and webmasters. Pages didn't just drop out of the
top 10, they plummeted to below 100.
I spent a week soliciting examples from webmasters for analysis, and
having discussions with search engine experts. I believe I worked out
what was going on, but my opinion is just one of many, and all we can
ever have are educated guesses, because Google keep their search
algorithm secret (even from us at Google Answers).
So, here is what I think has happened, followed by links to the opinions of others.
Florida Update / Filter
Last November Google updated its index, and it has been dubbed by
webmasters "The Florida Update". At the same time Google introduced a
filter to combat the use of artificial link strategies to boost
Before the update, having a single phrase in every link to your site,
and using that same phrase in on-the-page optimizing, was an extremely
powerful strategy, albeit in a grey-area of Google's guideines.
With the Florida update there have been a huge number of sites
targeting commercial keywords drop out of the search results. Debate
is continuing, and an agreement on what has caused this is far from
being reached. I have been in discussions involving many experts in
the field, and this is my own take on what has happened:
1) Google uses the words in and around links to a page as a ranking factor
2) Either due to the introduction of stemming in the search results,
or just a general desire to make results more relevant, Google
introduced a filter to dampen the affect link text has on sites that
are using link text to influence search results
3) Link text works great for non-commercial results, so the filter
only affects commercial keywords (possibly those that are bidded on in
4) The filter dampens the affect of all links pointing to a page,
internal or external
5) The filter only kicks in when it sees the same keyphrase repeated
over and over again
6) The filter might then also look for on-the-page optimizing for that
phrase, and possibly determine whether a page is being overly
7) Sites affected by the filter almost always drop a few hundred
spots. I think that this is because link text was the only factor that
had them so high in the first place, but it could also be a set
Your Site's Ranking
To see filtered and unfiltered results, head over to Scroogle and
search for pet urns:
The first half of the page shows the unfiltered results, with your
site ordinarily at #6. The second half shows the filtered, current
Google results. A total of 53 sites have been removed from the top 100
due to the filter.
For custom pet urns, your site is unaffected:
The trigger for the filter (in my opinion, but I've yet to see a case
that doesn't fit) is link text. Google places a lot of emphasis on the
words in and around links to a page, as representative of the page's
content. Traditionally this has been used by webmasters to improve
search ranking. It still works in general, but no longer for many
The page that was previously doing well has many links from within
your site that use the phrase "pet urns", and "pet urns" also appears
in image link ALT tags, as on this page:
Google's software will have decided that this could be an attempt to
artifically influence search result rankings, and has filtered your
page from the search results for that phrase. If all the internal
links to that page said "custom pet urns", then you would have been
filtered for that phrase as well.
Links from these high PageRank pages also feature the phrase "pet urns":
See AlltheWeb for 50 pages linking to yours:
Based on the new filter, and the way Google works out search ranking,
the "trick" of having links to a page using your targeted keywords is
on its way out.
The answer in your case is to vary the keywords used in links to the
page. At present Google sees many links, and virtually all of them
contain "pet urns".
I do not know what the magic number is, but less than 50% containing
the phrase would be a good start. As well as changing internal links,
also try and get some more links pointing to your site, and try to
make sure the links just contain the text "Cheers Pottery".
After changing half of the link texts, resubmit your sitemap to Google
(make a tiny change on the page so that Google knows it should
re-index your site) and wait for the next update. I would fully expect
your previous high ranking to resume.
Search Engine Watch - Florida Google Dance Resources
Analysis and Implications of Hilltop Algorithm
WebProWorld :: Google's Response to Florida Update
I have tried to summarize what is a tricky and complicated situation.
If any of the above is unclear, or if you have further questions on
this topic, just ask for a clarification and I'll get back to you.
Clarification of Answer by
09 Feb 2004 14:19 PST
Google's version of Open Directory hasn't been updated for 6 months
and often has category inconsistencies. It is a problem that
webmasters have no control or influence over. There are many Open
Directory clones out there, and their combined power should negate any
negative affect from the Google version.
Any changes you make to your site, and the affect of any changed or
new links to your site will only be reflected when Google updates
their index next. The cycle is usually 1-2 months:
1. Google updates main index
2. Google spends a month indexing individual sites
3. Google updates main index
If, during the monthly cycle, they visit your site before you made the
changes, it would take two updates of the main index before the
changes show up. Google also has FreshBot, and any search results you
see with a date alongside them have been updated independently of the
From the following search, it currently says that Google re-indexed
your home page on Feb 7, via Freshbot. The rest of the site should
have been visited at the same time, but any changes will not appear
until the next main Google update:
Keep an eye on the threads at WebMasterWorld - a new update is usually
announced there first:
The thread will have hundreds of replies. The most recent update was
on Jan 24, nicknamed Austin:
It used to run like clockwork, but has changed recently:
(Austin not listed)