A wry smile spread across my face today, and I gave a little chuckle.
I’ve come to realise that I need to hire a full-time SEO expert to keep me on the straight and narrow.
Yep, once again my Google search rankings are down the pan.
Chapter 1 — paid links and Google-bombing search rank penalty
Chapter 2 — Gmail hack leads to domain name theft
Then in December a Gmail security loophole allowed a thief to steal my domain name, resulting in the loss of my website. Yet again, before the month was out a collective effort restored my online business.
Chapter 3 — content disappears from Google search results
During the domain name saga, I re-launched my blog on davidairey.co.uk, enabling me to inform my readers about the theft and temporary change of web address. As soon as my .com domain was returned, I had a choice to make — do I keep my .co.uk active, or direct it back to the .com?
“David, congrats on getting the domain back!
“You’ve gotten a look at how the UK domain ranks for your name for the countries that you care the most about. It sounds like the .co.uk might eventually rank even better for you (I guess every cloud has a silver lining).
“But you also want to move a little slowly to make sure that you get everything back to normal first. My advice: go back to the .com like you were using it before. Leave the .co.uk domain alive but keep separate content on it (e.g. why not leave up the story of getting cracked on the .co.uk site?). Then give everything a month or so to settle, let Googlebot recrawl your site, etc.
“Then after everything has settled in a month or two, that’s when I’d consider switching to the .co.uk. Remember the first rule of debugging (and it often applies to SEO too): if you can get away with only making one change at a time, that makes it much easier to see the impact of your change.”
Sounds like great advice, and I’m pretty sure it would’ve been, had I implemented everything in Matt’s intended manner.
What’s gone wrong with my SEO?
I kept my davidairey.co.uk site active, with just three blog articles (those detailing the website hack, the Gmail security flaw, and the restoration of my domain. I set it up to look just like my .com site, and had all navigation links and categories pointing to the .com. I thought that was the best way to do things as any visitors to the .co.uk would experience a seamless transition to the .com if they wanted to contact me, or view my portfolio for instance.
The .co.uk has a lowly Page Rank of 1/10, much lower than the 5/10 my .com has, so even though today I still show up in a Google search for David Airey (due to my .co.uk being in the search results), I’m no longer top of the list. What’s more, all those 250+ articles that were appearing in search results have vanished.
To sum it up, my 250+ articles in the PR5 .com domain have been dropped from Google’s search results (although they’re still indexed), and all that remains are the 3 articles in the PR1 .co.uk.
Possible causes of the Google search rank loss
First thing I did was check on my Google webmaster tools (something I’m not nearly familiar enough with).
Both sitemaps seem okay. So far so good.
Here’s where the trouble starts (click the image below for a larger, more legible version):
For a website with less than 300 pages, it’s a concern when there’s over 3,000 web crawl errors.
I should really have picked up on this earlier, but as I say, hiring an SEO expert would be very beneficial.
The content analysis doesn’t make pretty reading either.
The image above shows that the .com domain has 22 pages with duplicate title tags, and 259 pages with duplicate meta descriptions. I’m not sure which pages hold duplicate title tags, as I thought that all of my pages inserted either the article headline in the tag, or the page name / blog category.
I wasn’t aware that having a duplicate meta description on each page was a problem, although this now seems blatantly obvious from paying attention to the content analysis above.
There’s also a duplicate content issue, as those same three articles on the .co.uk are here on the .com, but then I’d imagine the newer site receiving a black mark rather than the more established one.
Possible Google ranking remedies
At first I thought about removing the .co.uk site, and directing that domain to the .com, but that won’t help those thousands of web crawl errors that were most likely caused by the theft of my domain name.
Then I thought about simply changing the title and description tags on the .co.uk, so they’re not identical to that of the .com. Am I leaving myself open to a removal from Google’s search rankings for having two websites with identical tags?
A call for SEO help
I’m probably beginning to sound like a broken record, all these requests for help, but if you have any input here, I’ll be very grateful. Also, if you can recommend a solid SEO expert, please leave a comment with their contact details. I have a few in mind, who have kindly helped in the past, and sometimes it’s best to hire a professional rather than dodge the minefield alone.
These past four months have been a bit of an online rollercoaster, but I guess I’m hooked on the ride.