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Lost your search engine rankings? Find out why..

It can be a frightening experience. You check your rankings and suddenly they have either plummeted or are non-existent. Your swallow hard and feel sick to your stomach. It’s happened to all of us and here are a few possible explanations.

This is the most common explanation and happens on a daily basis. Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) are in a constant state of flux with Google leading the pack. Gone are the days of the “Google Dance”. This has also meant, unfortunately, that you can be Top 10 one day and disappear the next. The only thing you can do in this case is be patient and give it a few days to see if your ranking reappear.

Stop or Poison Words
Have you added new content lately? It is possible you have added what Google calls “Stop” or “Poison” words. These may include Adult words or commonly words like Links, Search Engine, Bookmarks, Resources, Directory, BBS, Paid-to-Surf and Forum which although won’t knock you out of the SERPs, they can drop you a few spots.

Broken Links
Major Search Engines view a site with dead end links as “broken”. In some cases this can cause a major hit to your rankings. It is always advised to run a check using a tool like a Broken Link Checker and fixing them. I have seen a site rebound time after time within days of fixing this issue.

Links to Bad Neighborhoods
A single link to a banned site or a bad neighborhood can torpedo your rankings. A banned site can usually be shown by a site that had previously been indexed but is no longer in Google. A grey toolbar can indicate either a new site or one that has been banned. A bad neighborhood is one that employs black hat tactics. This may include a link farm. Link Farms are one of the most often asked about things and the general rule of thumb is “If it looks like one, it is one.” Avoid linking to sites with hundreds of links on its pages with little to no content

Use of Black Hat Methods
This will usually result in an all out ban and includes things like Hidden Text, Cloaking, etc
To get back into the index usually requires you to remove the offending method and email Google (or whichever SE banned you) asking to be reindexed. In most cases you will be succesful although be prepared to wait several weeks if not months

These are just a few of the reasons for a sudden loss in rankings though the most common. The best rule of thumb is to always build and SEO for visitors first and Search Engines second. If you try to stick to this, you should enjoy more stable rankings without the fear of your site dissapearing overnight.


1. An algorithm update.

An algo update is different from a “regular database update”. In case of a database update, you will possibly regain your positions without doing anything in a few days. However in an algo update, you will have to study the new ranking criterias based on the search results. This could be very difficult if you are unfamiliar of SEO practices and this is the reason why it is said that SEO is an ongoing process and not a one time thing.

2. Site update at your end.

You would have added new content on your webpage that is in search engine results. Generally a change of about 5-10% is considered as fine and you will not see a fall in your ranks. However a change much more than that might be an indication that some large amount of data has been added / replaced and is needed to be reindexed / analysed. In this time of reindexing, the search engine may not put your web site on the position that you have seen it earlier on. This is possibly viewed as a “site redoing” by search engines and to maintain the quality of the SERP’s they may drop your page for a very short time from the position. The retaining of positions will depend on factors like the relevancy of the data to the keywords, richness of the data popularly known as content value, uniqueness (no duplicate content), and use of black hat seo techniques on the pages. The percentage calculated includes the html coding, javascripts, content, and other factors. An example I can mention here is “adding many pages to a web site suddenly”. The listings are generally dropped and only if the content is found qualitative, the position retained. But if found to be some automatic generated content, then it’s possible that the listing be dropped for a long time. Search engines list pages and not web sites in SERPs but do consider the whole web site when listing a single page in the SERPs. If adding poor content to a website can drop a quality page from that web site, then it is sure that if poor content be added to the page itself, it drops in listings.
It is best to consult your SEO before making changes to your pages. If you have not followed any black hat techniques, then this could be a possible reason for a drop in listings.

How do I get out of the sandbox faster?

Sandbox is a collective filter that still has a lot of confusion and speculations surrounding it. One of the biggest areas is how one can “escape” it or at least make your stay there shorter. The theories (and I stress they are theories) break down into the following areas.

Link Speed
Some SEO’s claim the sandbox actually has nothing to do with time and is actually more a function of linking. There is a double edge sword here. To rank high you need lots of links, but to avoid the sandbox you can’t get too many links. As a compromise its proposed that you build your links exponentially which basically means if you get 10 the first week you would get 15 the next week and 20 the following, etc. Its believed it is this slow, steady and consistent increase in your number of incoming links that causes Google to see it as a legitimate and emerging site. So in the first month you may have accumulated 300 links but by spreading them out over the month you have avoided the sandbox filter. Alternatively, you can buy your domain before you even start designing your site and slowly accumulate links. This way by the time you are completely up and ready, you will not be subject to the sandbox.

Link Quality and Relevance
Majority of SEO’s and Webmasters tend to go after reciprocal and directory links when starting their first campaign. After all they are most likely a Page Rank 0 with a site no one has ever heard of, so they go with the one technique where these factors have little importance. What results is 100’s of unrelated and unimportant links. Google has been devaluing the importance of directories over the last year and with the addition of hundreds a day, this trend seems here to stay. In many theories it is believed that if Webmasters get the majority of their links from “Authority” sites, they will be viewed as important and therefore not subject to the filters referred to as the Sandbox

Purely Age
There are still those that feel that age is still the most important factor. If you are registering a new domain name, there is no way around this. However, many SEO’s buy old and existing domain names and add their own content. If you are able to get a DMOZ listed domain, you may help your chances even more as it will have an existing link structure. There are many services on the web that offer upcoming domain expiration lists so you may be able to grab one at a bargain price. Be aware though that there is a number of SEO’s that believe that these domains will be “reset” when ownership is changed so you may be subject to the sandbox anyway.

Best of Luck with your pending escape for the Sandbox!