Google Deindexing – Slimstat Plugin?

I have been building a website that’s been doing quite nicely for some search terms (surprisingly well, actually) that is about a year old, has had no “Black Hat” SEO tactics applied to it, but does have very high quality well researched articles, many of which are over 1,000 words in length.

A couple of weeks ago though, I noticed that it was dropping in Google’s SERP’s like a rock thrown into the ocean, until finally, the entire site appeared to be completely deindexed. I quickly set up a profile and registered the site with Google Webmaster Tools, and as I suspected, Google reported that zero pages had been indexed. It was a rather astonishing situation that a site that  had been doing so well and was getting great feedback from visitors, would suddenly disappear from Google’s search.

There were no “warning” letters in the GWMT account, no security issues, and at first, nothing that I could see for being any reason to have it deindexed completely. Except, I then noticed that Google was reporting an inordinately high number – over 400 (there are about a total of 415 pages on the site) of “Soft 404” errors! Just about every page was listed.

I then requested from within GWMT’s to “Fetch as Google” with the “Render” option selected. When I could see what Google rendered, I finally was able to nail down the reason – a plugin that I had installed called “Slimstat” seemed to be generating an error when the Google Bot visited, but not when I or other human visitors visited!
The error message that Google Bot received was:

Fatal Error: Unsupported operand types in /home/…wp-slimstat.php on line 728

I was using both the latest version of WordPress and Slimstat at the time. I did not have a chance to do much research into the error message, but I immediately deactivated the Slimstat plugin and then requested Google Bot to refetch the site. This time, I could see that the error message was gone and the full site appeared.

It took about five days, but my previous rankings are gradually returning. They are not all back yet, but it’s nice to see some traffic again from Google (traffic from Yahoo has actually increased in the past month).

So, if your site appears to have been deindexed by Google (when even doing an exact phrase search with quotes shows nothing in the SERP’s), it may not be for the reasons you first suspect. I had to admit I was wondering if perhaps someone had attempted to sabotage my site, perhaps by sending a ton of crappy links to it. But that was not the case. One of the first things to check is to see how Google is actually seeing your site, and then fix that asap if you see something wrong!

Let me know if I can help you.

Domain Names For Sale

Don’t you just hate it when you have an agreement with someone and in good faith, you stick to that agreement then discover the other has blatantly infringed the agreement?

That has happened to me recently with regard to domain names. It’s nice that I have the agreement in writing and is signed along with other supporting documentation, so I do have options.

In the meantime, I have decided to put up for sale, some domain names that I have held for a long time and have had different ideas about, but haven’t gotten around to doing. They are available at Afternic – some are priced, but if you want to make a reasonable offer, I’m welcome to suggestions.

The domain names are:

  • customtackle.com
  • commercecourt.com
  • dontsuffer.com
  • lifewithjeepliberty.com
  • rodsandtackle.com
  • surfthemind.com
  • webeducated.com

If any of these grab your fancy, head over to AfterNic and take a look. Again, I’m open to reasonable offers, even on those I have set a minimum price.

I have others that I am not quite ready to release yet, but I’ll update this if I do make them available for sale.

 

Google Search Engine Rankings Bouncing Around

The last week or see has seen a ton of weirdness going on with Google. I’ve been seeing a lot of stragness in the Google SERP’s on many many searches, and it looks like Google rolled out a “Penguin” update, and then did something else..  but they seem kind of messed up right now.

Another quick observation which I have to look more into is that I’m seeing a lot more traffic on a significant number of sites that is originating with Bing and Yahoo. I know that something has been in the works as far as an agreement between Firefox and Yahoo but am not sure if that is in effect yet, where Yahoo is to become the default search engine for new installations of the Firefox browser.

I won’t have time to delve into this for the next couple of days too much, but for now, it’s an interesting observation that has my attention.

What have you been noticing?

A Free SEO Audit? Not From Me!

I’ve been seeing quite a few offers in email spam messages, offering me a “free” SEO Audit. I am sure many of my readers have also received similar offers, and perhaps you’re wondering if you should take up the offer. I mean.. it’s “free,” right? So why not?

It appears to me that most of these offers of a free SEO website audit originate in India (that’s not to say that there aren’t any legitimate SEO firms in India) where providing spam type backlink services has seemed to become an almost “cottage industry.” As I’ve reported previously, I have spoken with one of these “SEO experts” who offered a free audit of one of my websites, and the conversation was laughable. Clearly, the person knew very little about search engine optimization, or even how to get a clear picture of a website’s backlink profile.

So what is involved in one of these “free” audits anyhow? Well, from what I’ve seen, they mostly amount to a short report advising you of how many backlinks to your website that Google is reporting. This is pretty easy to do on your own, but in itself is not a real indicator of your backlink profile at all.

Where do these free “audits” get this backlink information? They simply use the ‘link operator’ in Google, for example [link:ianism.com]. Typing that in a Google search box, as of today, returns a grand total of “About 20 results.” And that even includes links from within ianism.com as well. Obviously, this is no where near accurate. Using other tools, I can discover that ianism.com more accurately has over 22,000 backlinks.

However, even this number does not tell the whole story, and further analysis can be done. The point is, these free SEO “audits” are pretty much useless by only providing the number of backlinks that is returned when using the link operator in Google.

Some of these free audits may contain some information that is helpful. They may be able to pick up on some technical aspects such as duplicate Title tags within a website, along with duplicate meta descriptions. This of course is good to know, but again, it does not tell the whole story. There is no analysis being conducted on those tags, and often if there is missing information, the free “audits” won’t report on that.

The SEO audits that we conduct go far more deeply into simply counting backlinks. Yes, duplicate title tags and meta descriptions are also important to note and fix, but there is far more to an SEO audit than that. Depending on the size of the site, there is usually at least 12 solid hours of work and analysis, and quite often much much more, when conducting and completing an audit. As Google has frequently pointed out, there are more than 200 factors that go toward determining where a site will rank, and while we don’t know what all of those factors are, or how precisely they are all weighted, we want to cover as many issues as possible.

Good search engine optimization starts with the website in question. Without a good base or foundation, while you might “fly” in the SERP’s for a time, it’s quite likely you’ll crash and burn if all you’ve done is hire a shoddy “cottage industry” SEO firm to build you some spammy backlink comments from low quality blog sites.

So no, I will not offer you a free SEO Audit. My time, as well as yours – and your website – is more valuable than “free.” And what we provide is far more than simply typing [link:yourwebsite.com] into Google.

If you’re interested in really seeing how your website is performing and what could be improved upon as well as knowing about critical and potential problems, contact me through my business website.

Bounce Rate – Does Bing Provide More Relevant Results?

I am personally finding better results when using the search engine Bing recently. However, Google still has a huge gigantic market share of search results and I doubt that will change anytime soon.

I realize that my opinion is subjective – what does “better results” actually mean? Well to me, it means I am getting results that are relevant to what I am actually looking for and that is helpful to me based on my search query in the first couple of pages of search results. What does it mean to you? My own opinion was unscientifically confirmed when I took the “Bing Challenge” as well.

I wondered if there was an objective way to determine the “quality” of search engine results or the relevancy of them, based on data that I have. And for that, I turned to Google Analytics and used the data that Google provides me with.  I’m also thinking that the measure of bounce rate might be an interesting measure to use. For visitors that are referred to sites from either Bing or Google, which visitors stick around more often and which do not? There are some suggestions in the SEO world that Google uses the bounce rate of visitors to a site as one of the many factors in their search results algorithm to determine rankings for any search term.

According to Wikipedia:

Bounce rate (sometimes confused with exit rate)[1] is an Internet marketing term used in web traffic analysis. It represents the percentage of visitors who enter the site and “bounce” (leave the site) rather than continue viewing other pages within the same site.

[…]

A bounce occurs when a web site visitor only views a single page on a website, that is, the visitor leaves a site without visiting any other pages before a specified session-timeout occurs. There is no industry standard minimum or maximum time by which a visitor must leave in order for a bounce to occur. Rather, this is determined by the session timeout of the analytics tracking software.

 

So, I’m using Google Analytics as the tracking software. Presumably, the bounce rate that Google uses in their tracking software is based on the same definition if there is one, that they would use in any part of their algorithm that uses Bounce Rate as a factor in their SERP’s.

I examined 6 different websites, all in totally different niches that I have access to their Analytics reporting. Four of those sites are directly controlled by my business, while the other two are clients of mine. The results were interesting to say the least. And the results beg the question: “Is Google truly the best search engine providing the most relevant search results for the user’s search terms and phrases?”

Is it possible that indeed, Bing provides superior results?

There are problems however, with using Bounce Rate as a measure of whether or not a URL was relevant to a search result. We’re told that the lower the Bounce Rate, the better. If we assume this is true, then Google has a bit of a problem.

On the other hand, a high bounce rate could mean that a searcher found exactly what they were looking for when they clicked through to a URL from a search result. If they found exactly what they were looking for; an answer to a question, a solution to a problem, or an article of interest that gave them pause for thought, they might not be clicking around the site they landed on for more information.

But let’s assume for now that a low bounce rate is preferred and how the Google engineers may have determined that a low bounce rate is a preferred as a measure of relevancy.

Let’s take a look at the data Google provides. This is for the dates between August 29, 2012 and September 29, 2012. These six sites have in common that they get a minimum of 1,000 unique visitors per month, with a few of them significantly more than that.

Site #1:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 35.94%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 16.83%

Site #2:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 41.16%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 37.07

Site #3:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 21.47%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 14.56%

Site #4:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 6.98%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 3.61%

(Above numbers are very enviable no matter who wins and I was very surprised at how low it was)

Site #5:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 11.88%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 26.43%

Site #6:

  • Google Bounce Rate: 44.31%
  • Bing Bounce Rate: 23.81%

In five out of the six website analytics data that I took a look at, there was a significantly lower bounce rate with visitors coming from Bing than those who arrived via Google’s search results. Granted, Google also provided a significantly higher number of referrers overall, but it generally matches the market share of each search engine.

So, if Bounce Rate is a determining factor in how well accepted a site is to a visitor, is it not interesting that Bing Results seem to indicate that they are providing better results overall as visitors are finding for whatever search term they used, some motivation to stick around more than Google users?

Of course, the answer could be more complex as perhaps the demographics and some other characteristic information of the users need to be taken into consideration as well. Having said that, although I’ve provided results for the top six of the websites that we monitor Google Analytics data for, the results are typical for all of the sites that we monitor.

I’m curious as to what you find when you compare the Bounce Rate of visitors to your site that have been referred by either Google or Bing. And how would you interpret these results?

I am also curious as to how these numbers stack up against each other from periods prior to the major Panda and Penguin updates. I took a cursory look and interestingly to me, there was not quite as much of a spread between Google and Bing – which indicates to me that in Google’s “quest for quality,” they haven’t achieved it in their war against whatever they are warring over and making significant changes in their SERP’s (yes, two of the above sites were hit by either Panda or Penguin).