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Solving The Google Mystery

Sometimes, I’m at a loss as to what to blog about. This week, not so much. There’s been a theme in my correspondence with clients this week and it’s this: Google continues to baffle all of us!

I had one client this week email me in a panic. His website (which only launched about a month ago) had completely disappeared off of Google’s search results, even though it was there a week ago. And we hadn’t even touched it in a month! What happened?

I had another client contact me because his “Ask the Author” page was showing up as a top result on a Google search for his name, while his homepage was much further down. Both pages used similar metadata, including his name. So what gives?

Unfortunately, the answer is, “I have no idea!” And, chances are, most people who make a living doing nothing but SEO don’t know either. Google is a mystery to pretty much everyone. How they rank pages and why pages get knocked off their search results sometimes can be a million dollar question.

Luckily, I do know enough to try and remedy these situations. Here’s what anybody baffled by Google search results (which is pretty much everyone) needs to know:

  1. A Google Webmaster account can do wonders. If you ever run into problems with how Google is ranking your site, set up a Google Webmaster account (https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/) and submit your site for reconsideration. You’ll then get a message like this from Google:
    We’ve received a request from a site owner to reconsider how we index the following site: http://www.blahblahblah.com/
    We’ll review the site. If we find that it’s no longer in violation of our Webmaster Guidelines, we’ll reconsider our indexing of the site.
  2. Don’t duplicate content! That’s a big no-no with Google. If you put the same page of text on two different URLs (even if it’s on two different sites), Google can ban you.
  3. Beware of robots! No, not the kind from The Jetsons. We’re talking about a robots.txt file, which (if you have one) can block the search engines from viewing pages on your site. Those pages will then never appear on search results. And for WordPress sites and/or blogs, the default security setting is to block all pages from the search engines, so make sure to change that setting when you launch.
  4. Don’t try to trick Google. Make sure your metadata is actually relevant to your site content. So, for instance, don’t put “apple pie” as a meta keyword when the site is selling running shoes. Hidden text and/or links are also Google no-nos. You can’t fool Google!
  5. Use your metadata wisely. This is one of the most important pieces in Search Engine Optimization. Get your 5-10 most important keywords in your meta title, meta description and meta keywords fields. Make sure they’re relevant to your content. And use different metadata on each page, if possible. All of this can improve your search engine performance.

Google is always changing it’s ranking algorithms, so neither you nor I will ever be able to say we’ve “mastered” Google. But follow the guidelines above and you should be able to avoid most Google horror stories.

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