Fickle Google! Competitive search phrases are not easy to maintain high rankings for given the fickleness of Google.

Basic SEO is easy. Just get the right words onto the page, and have the website SEO friendly with plenty of links coming into the domain. I do that to many websites and get great results.

But when you are competing for a competitive search phrase, you bear the full brunt of Google’s anti spam algorithm intricacies, and the humanness of their programming engineers.

The ups and downs of my SearchMasters page

I wrote an article in Sept 2008 about my efforts in ranking for the phrase Marketing - To the Top is not instantaneous. Experiments are interesting; tracking results over time, and that of competitors helps in understanding of the Google algorithm. With a powerful website such as SearchMasters, I should be able to rank well for phrases that I specifically onpage SEO for and target with links.

I used to rank top ten on for the single word “marketing”, and have ranked in the top 10 since October 2008. From 30 Nov 2009 to 24 Feb 2010, I dropped from 7th to not in the top 1000 on Rather disturbing! The page has remained rather static, I have not been getting many new incoming links for the page, in other words I had been doing nothing that Google might take offense at. But I still dropped! Yuck.

If other websites had got more incoming links, and so I dropped a small number of places then I would not be concerned. That’s what competition is all about. But dropping LOTS of places?

How do you know something bad is happening? My specific internet marketing page used to be the page that ranked using the same-site search. ie adding the following to the search box: internet marketing

  • my homepage ranks top, not my marketing page, yet the page has been specifically SEO’ed for the internet marketing phrase.


Why! This is always the question when you find something not doing well. And the first thing I check for is duplicate content. Other people copying the content of my pages. I found one website that had scrapped all the words from the page. Another several had copied the meta description.

Now I happen to like the content I had on that page. Since someone had copied ALL of the content of the page, I had to change most of the page. Another Yuck.

When you rank high, scraper sites find you and your content gets copied. If you don’t rank for anything, you are less likely to get copied and so you don’t get that penalty. You do the efforts to rank well, and that’s the moment you can disappear. Its why tracking results of you and your competitors over time is so important.

How to make unique

The most important part is the first mention of the search phrase on the page. Then there are a number of list items that I was able to change the order and wording of…

The slow road up the rankings

So what has happened on the search results as a result of the changes? From no-where, I have got back to 44th from 24 Feb to 28 Feb. I used to be above First Rate, now below them. Yet for homepage search phrases, I am still above First Rate.

From no-where to starting to rank, but still not where I used to be. Google has a memory, and once it ditches a page, it can take a while for it to remove that “penalty” against it. Was 3rd as at 16 Oct 2008 to no-where Now 44th as at 28 Feb 10 or 8th NZ Websites only - so its not all bad, but the big difference (44 v 8th) shows that Google still has something against the page.

6 Mar 10 - 19th, or 5th for nz sites only - Whoppee, making content unique and adding in about 2 extra links has made a great difference! Firstrate’s ranking has remained stable on 43rd. So its a change that I have made, rather than a Google algo shift.

What about other websites rankings was 10th 25 Sep 2008 now 36th 28 Feb 2010 and 38th 6 Mar 2010 (SearchMasters has gone from 44 to 19th)

So its not just SearchMasters that has been effected.

Are there duplicate content issues for

  • more than 18 copies of its homepage meta description
  • one other copy of the content of its home page.

It would be interesting to see what positive effect there would be for their rankings if they made their content unique again.

Google is fickle. It is definitely not easy to rank well on Google for competitive phrases. You have to constantly be on your guard. I will be interested in seeing how long it will take me to get the page ranked top ten again.

What are your experiences with getting rankings for competitive phrases?