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Taking the downs with the ups…

Posted by Pat | Posted in 'Work' | Posted on 15-01-2011


It’s been a while, and a blog is just for moments like this.

Tempting though it is, a blog shouldn’t be just for one’s successes. If you don’t include the failures you’re painting a false picture. So here goes!

Yesterday I noticed a 25% drop in visitors to a site. I brushed it off for the most part, as traffic had been mildly inflated with some recent weather related news, plus I was jet lagged from a trip to Las Vegas and barely gave it the proper attention. Today however, I am seeing a further 50% drop, day-on-day to the same site.

As ever, the disappearance of visitors is a direct result of Google taking away positions for a plethora of keyword combinations that this particular site ranked for. This site is the only one I ever really have problems with. I’m not in any way black-hat, I do everything properly and transparently, but for some reason this site always sits on that fine line, ready to be shot down inexplicably at any moment – this is the 4th time I have had to deal with such a problem.

I stayed up last night pondering the reasons and sent in my first tentative ‘Google Reinclusion Request’ – the only direct communication a webmaster like me can have with the company. It’s policy they read the messages, don’t necessarily act on them, and never engage in a two way conversation. They do however give you the courtesy to let you know when the request has been processed.

The last time this happened, I sent in 3 of these requests after various changes to the site, and found the site bouncing back mid way through waiting for the 3rd request to be dealt with. From start to finish, the process took about 3 months. So, it is a waiting game – each request should be given 6 weeks to be looked at, according to Google.

Why did the site fall from the skies? Well in early December I noticed someone had taken the trouble of registering and hosting a domain almost identical to the site’s own, and copying the front page from it. Because my webstats code was on the page, I could see all the traffic hitting the page – which was tens of thousands of hits from a multitude of porn sites (indicative of someone ‘buying traffic’ through an adult traffic broker). The traffic stopped in a day but the site remained. I was nervous about it – they hadn’t used my content to try and flog their own wares or gain any other obvious benefit – their reason would have to lie in trying to destroy my site’s authority within Google. The site is now gone thanks to a cease and desist, but the fallout is still there – and this remains my primary theory. Google ambiguously state that there is ‘almost’ nothing a competitor can do to harm your rankings – well I think this fits into the ‘almost’, and so my request points out what I noticed and what I did to recify it.

These moments of gloom are why I am so retiscent to give an actual figure when people ask me how I’m doing – things are always changing, and in this case, fairly dramatically. If I pro-rata the fallout from this over a year, half of my income has gone. It’s happened before, and the lure of knowing I am completely unemployable means I always try bloody hard to make sure it doesn’t get any worse.

So, no flowers, I’ve had it good for a year (almost to the day since the same site came out of a previous bad situation), now is the time to buckle down yet again. After 6 weeks of pissing about across the atlantic and back, I feel the press of karma telling me to get my finger out.

For now, however, I must wait – or any changes I make can worsen and confuse what I could (hopefully) be lifted from by my original request.

I will update the blog with progress (if any), as and when.

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