What Happened To My Site’s Rankings?

Small Business SEO Case Study

In mid-February, my site dropped rankings for several keywords that I was doing very well for.  My main keyword that took me 8 months to reach #1 for was “small business seo”.  On February 17, I woke up to see that I was #26.  A week later, I bottomed out at #41.  What happened?

Obviously, I thought that Google had made some kind of change to its ranking algorithm.  I checked with other SEO’s I know who specialized in affordable solutions for their small business clients and some of them had noticed similar ranking drops.  Some noticed small drops and others noticed no change at all.

So, I set out to find out why the rankings for my site dropped.  I went back and took a look at the keywords my site had been affected for.  I considered the link building strategy I used for each one of them.  After investing a lot of time and research into what happened, it is now clear to me why my rankings dropped.  The common link building method between all keywords I saw a ranking drop for was Build My Rank.

Build My Rank is/was a privately held blog network subscription service consisting of hundreds of blogs, hosted on various class C platforms with different IP addresses all over the world.  Each of the blogs was an established site, ranging in Page Rank from 0-7.  In order to get a link, you had to write a 150 word article and post it for distribution onto one of the blog sites.

The great thing about BMR was that it worked, really well.  And it was affordable.  That made it an excellent tool for SEO specialists like me to use as a way of helping our clients rank in their respective business niches.  That is, until Google stepped in and decided to start de-indexing the blogs in BMR’s network.

For your site, or any web page, to appear in search results, it needs to be indexed by Google.  Since link building is based upon receiving links from other indexed sites, if the sites you are receiving links from suddenly become de-indexed by Google, it is like those sites didn’t even exist; and, therefore the links don’t count.

Since Build My Rank was such a big part of my site’s link building strategy, that’s the reason why I saw my rankings fall.  And the more links I created for a certain keyword, the bigger the drop.  I had established well over 200 links for the “small business SEO” keyword between June and December of 2011.  Other keywords where I had created fewer links saw little or no drop.

As the folks at BMR began fielding questions about what happened, they seemed as mystified, at first, as people like me were.  But when they noticed that a high percentage of their sites were no longer in Google’s index, they made the announcement that they were closing their doors.

And Build My Rank was not the only private network hit, other networks also saw sites get de-indexed.  All of this de-indexing by Google occurred between January and March of this year and now we also have Matt Cutts making the announcement that Google plans to roll out an “over optimization penalty” in the near future which Google helps will “level the playing field”.  I’m reading into this that this is Google’s way of saying small businesses will still be able to compete in online marketing.

So, what did we learn?

Obviously, if affordable SEO is going to continue to be an option for small businesses, we as SEO consultants will need to be even more careful with the way we build links, when we use automated methods.

The keys to continued affordable SEO link building success will be a completely natural looking link profile, built at slower, more steady speeds.  Simply adding mass quantities of links for a keyword is not going to get the job done.  As I’ve seen for the “small business seo” keyword, adding more links does not help, even though I have rebounded to the top 10, as of this article.

Going forward, small business SEO consultants will need to use the following strategies if their clients want an automated approach:

  • linking to a large number of pages on a site, not just two or three pages
  • using a variety of keyword anchor text terms
  • using a variety of link building sources
  • creating links at a slower, steady pace

While I continue to use my site as the guinea pig for testing purposes and strategy, I am now offering an alternative SEO package to clients who wish to focus on relevancy – even though results will be slower – than speed, which could cause rankings to fluctuate.  Read more here.

I’m available for questions, comments or thoughts and eager to see all of us who work at SEO continue to provide affordable services for our small business clients.

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