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What can you do if your ranking have dropped?

Some webmasters face the problem that their good web site rankings have been dropped or that their web pages have not been listed at all. If your web site rankings have been dropped, you can do the following:

1. On-site optimization factors you should check

It is very important that your web pages are spam free. Maybe you have changed something on your pages that search engines might consider spam. Even if you didn't want to cheat, search engines might get the impression if you use certain elements on your web pages.

Make sure that your web site doesn't use keyword stuffing, hidden text, cloaking or redirections. If you use any of them, search engine might tag your web site as a spam site. In that case, all other optimization efforts are pointless.

If you have new web pages that aren't listed, make sure that your web pages have enough text. Search engines need text to index web pages. Don't use frames because some search engines won't index your pages then.

Even Google has difficulty to index dynamically created pages. If you must use dynamically created pages and if your web page URLs contain questions marks, the & symbol and other special characters, consider rewriting your URLs so that your pages look like static pages (that's the way Amazon does it). Your webmaster can help you to do this. Dynamically created pages are often the reason for bad rankings.

Make sure that your robots.txt file allows search engines to index your web site. A broken robots.txt file can send search engine spiders away.

It's also important that you have plain text links on your web pages. If you only use image or JavaScript links on your pages, chances are that search engine spiders cannot follow the links so that it looks as if your web site consisted of only one page. Plain text links help search engines to spider your site.

Search engines analyze many different elements of a web page when they determine the ranking of a page. It's important that you check all of these elements.

You should also make sure that your web pages have valid HTML code. While most HTML errors don't cause problems, some of them can prevent search engine spiders from indexing your site.

2. Off-site optimization factors you should check

The number and the type of web sites that link to your site is very important. If you want to get high search engine rankings, try to get as many links from related web sites as possible. It's not only important that many other web sites link to yours. It's also important that the links are from related sites and that the link texts contain keywords that are related to the keywords for which you want to have high search engine rankings.

If you did have good rankings that suddenly dropped and none of the on-site factors mentioned above apply to your site then it is very likely that the search engine has re-evaluated the links to your site. In that case, the search engine either thinks that the links to your site are not from related sites or other web sites now have better links than you so that they are listed higher.

Note that the other web sites needn't have more links than you. They just need better links that are related to the keyword for which you want to have high rankings. In that case, you should try to get new links from related sites that contain your keyword.

3. General things that can influence your rankings

Make sure that your web server is fast and reliable. If your web server doesn't answer fast enough when a search engine spider tries to visit your web site, then your web pages won't be listed in search engines. For that reason, it is important to choose a reliable host. Don't go for cheap, go for quality.

Another important thing you should consider is that Google will put your web site into the sandbox if you have a new web site or if you change your web pages. That means that it can take up to six months weeks until you get regular rankings for your pages on Google. The phenomenon is explained here. Other search engines have similar filters.

It's hard, but the only thing you can do is to wait. If you have optimized web page content and good incoming links, you will get high search engine rankings. It just might take a while until you're out of the sandbox. It will happen.

In addition, it takes some time until search engines pick up new pages. Search engines have to visit your web pages, they have to evaluate the found pages, they have to build a new index and then they have to publish the new index. Depending on the search engine, this might take 4-12 weeks. If you already have other pages indexed by a search engine, new pages might get indexed faster but that's not always the case.

If your web page rankings have dropped, don't panic. Sometimes, search engines are just testing new ranking algorithms. Wait 2-4 weeks to find out if your rankings have really dropped.

If your rankings have really dropped, take a look at the list above and make sure that your web pages have all elements that are needed to get high search engine rankings. You will get your rankings back then.

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February 2006 search engine articles