So your website is enjoying good rankings as the result of your search engine optimization each month and all of a sudden your traffic disappears so you check your favourite keywords that have been bringing in the visitors and your website is no where to be found on the first, second, third or any google results page! Panic sets in and you can’t understand what has happened! How can google do this to you, you thought you were getting good at SEO?
Yes it’s happened to me before and it’s unofficially called the 950 penalty among webmasters. What happens is that your page or pages have dropped to the bottom of the serps and can sometimes be found ranking around the 950 mark! Which is rather useless. It is what I call a penalty for over optimisation, in other words you have done to much and triggered an alarm to say this website has been seo’ing a lot.
After the panic dies down a little you realize you need to take action so how you can you get out of it? Here’s what I did to help get my sites out of the hole:
1. Check your keyword density.
Do many of your pages have a high percentage of keywords that you targeted? You don’t need your phrases in there that many times that includes the Title, meta description, header tags. Your density should be very low at least 3% there are plenty of free keyword density tools out there, just google it. Here’s one that I found useful. Check your image <alt> tags also for any repetitive keyword stuffing.
2. Inbound link anchor text.
If you know seo then you know that keywords in the anchor text in the links to your site are important so what you have been doing is building links to your site with the same keyword phrase in it but did you vary it at all? You know if you did or didn’t.
If you didn’t vary your anchor text then it’s time to get those links changed! Of course you probably won’t be able to change them all nor do you need to but you for the ones that you can change easily do it, and vary your anchor text keywords.
If you have been varying your anchor text then this will require a little more research, you will need software that can analyze all your backlinks and anchor text. The report will be able to show you the percentage of anchor texts that link to your page for example ‘red widgets’ was the phrase that made up 30% of the links, ‘buy red widgets’ made up 10%. By analyzing my competition also I was able to see that some of the phrases I was no longer ranking for actually had a lot higher percentage than other websites for example a competitor had the phrase ‘red widgets’ on 15% percent of the links to it. So I set out to vary the anchor text of any high percentage phrases, I reduced it to around 10 to 15 percent because the keyword phrases that I no longer ranked for all seemed to have a higher percentage than 20%
3. Duplicate content
Check for duplicate content such as meta descriptions you should make sure that all of your meta descriptions are unique and are describing the page correctly. A lot of CMS’s will let you put a default meta description and use it on every single page of your site. You will be suprised at how writing good meta descriptions for your pages will help your rankings. If you think about it the meta description is very important to google, it’s what they show in the search results underneath your title. Besides doing it for google you should do it for anyone that will see your page in the results, think of it as an advertisement for the person to click through to your page, make it enticing but don’t over do it.
4. Internal linking
This is similiar to number 2 in that you should be varying your anchor texts, if you have a lot of internal linking going on make sure they don’t all have the exact same phrase to the same page.
5. Exernal links
For your pages that dropped did they have a lot of external links to low ranking pages? Try reducing them to about 10 and definetly no more than 20, create inner pages that can link out rather than putting them on your target rank page. I don’t think external links to high ranking pages hurts at all as google can see you are linking to quality so it’s likely that you are a quality page too, it makes sense.
5. Validate your HTML
Lastly I don’t think this matters much but it can’t hurt, you should validate your html there maybe some huge errors in there that you could easily fix.
So that’s all I did, basically getting rid of a lot of keywords within the content and varying the incoming and internal link anchor texts. Mind you I did these things over a period of 2 months because I wasn’t sure what would work or not. I saw results after another month, if you did all these changes at once I would expect you to see results sooner.
There is a huge discussion about 950 on the webmasterworld forum take a read of the whole thing and you should be able to come up with a few other adjustments you can try.
And as with all things search engine you’ll have to wait a few weeks or months to see the results!