Website ranking dropped, trying to get it ranked again.

Hello people with SEO problems!

A quick summary:
A high ranking website was redesigned and migrated to WordPress, after 6 weeks the website SEO had dropped from a steady 400 visits a day to less than 50 visits a day. On the 7th of Feb 2019, that number had dropped to 24 visits a day, and I was probably 2 of those visits.

So for 2 years the website had seen an average of 400 unique visits, in 6 to 8 weeks that number had dropped, 2 days before writing this articles, it had dropped further and will continue to drop unless something is done asap.

These results are sad and could make any website owner furious!

Here’s a screenshot from Google Analytics:

Website ranking dropped

What will we discuss:

  1. Ill give you some history into the old website. (History)
  2. Ill tell you how and why the ranking had dropped. (Problems)
  3. Ill tell you how I am trying to fix the problem. (Solutions)

History of the Website:

The website being discussed was an original project of mine, the client wanted a redesign which I wasn’t able to commit too at the time, also I felt that the site was perfect as it was in the sense that the website was fast, responsive, easy to use and navigate, most importantly it had high authority in that specific niche. The bounce rate of the website was also lower than normal and the returning visitor count was good, So, quite frankly, it want a matter of urgency.

Nevertheless, clients want what they want and in Novemeber 2018 the client informed me that he had found a designer who offered to redesign the website for R5000.00 (Five thousand rand).

Because I usually only work with clients that host their domain and files with me, the client needed the server credentials which I provided him with who intern shared them with the new designer.

Before I handed the server and FTP details I gave the client specific instructions.
On the top of this list of instructions was that the designer should maintain all the current URLS. Whether the client shared this information with the new designer or not is irrelevant because anyone who has a basic understand of SEO or even websites in general knows that you MUST keep your URLS!


Moving along:

In January 2019 (after the design was changed and published) the client contacts me and asks for a quotation to manage the SEO aspects of the website that was redesigned by the new designer.

I told him; I needed to look into it first to determine what effect the redesign has had and this is when I noticed the following problems:

SEO problems:

When I looked into the SEO status of the website I found a number of problems that was shocking and quite sad. After putting so much effort into improving the websites ranking, a 3rd party pretty much charges R5000.00 to break what was working well. What this means is that after the client had build his brand for 3 years, someone destroys the image entirely in a matter of 4 to 6 weeks at their expense.

Problem 1, New URLS as duplicated content:

Instead of redesigning the website, the designer scrapped the old website and published a brand new WordPress installation, they then copied the old content, tweaked it a little and slapped on a WordPress theme.

There is nothing wrong with WordPress, WordPress themes or starting fresh,

The problem here is that:

  1. All the previous high ranking pages were deleted
  2. New pages with new URLS were added with the same content that was just deleted.
  3. No redirects were set from the previous URLS to the new URLS and no canonical tags were used.

Basically its the worst form of duplicated content.

Problem 2, Spam content:

The original website had a total of 13 URLS, all unique, indexed and well-ranked. The new website had 45 URLS, 13 of them were duplicated content from the previous website and the rest were pages filled with dummy Lorem Ipsum sentences, fake comments and WordPress plugin explanations.

Problem 3, Google index

  1. Google had already indexed all the spam pages and had removed from its index the previous high ranking pages
  2. The spam content raised such flags on Google’s radar that Google almost immediately started penalising the website

Problem 4, Website design

Although, visually the website design was neat, responsive and pretty awesome, certain aspects of the design didn’t help the site in any way. Also in comparison to the old design, there wasn’t anything “different”

While this is not a problem on its own, small things like this reflect poorly on the sites SEO in the broader sense.

  1. Way too much clutter, there’s more source code and HTML comments within the code than actual content
  2. Too many external resources being downloaded. Using Bootstrap, Jquery, Fontawesome etc like is almost industry standard but it needs to be done efficiently
  3. Using bookmarks on the home page. Sometimes to fill content, designers will copy content from other pages to the home page. This is all good and well but personally I think its unnecessary.
  4. The original designers of the theme had very little consideration for SEO
  5. Something else which I cant explain

Redesigning a website is not something that should be taken lightly. A website redesign is much like company rebranding, you cant simply download a theme, install plugins and call it a day.

Nevertheless, this is a different topic altogether, but its important to note that the websites bounce rate had increased by 10% to 79%

Problem 5, Basic SEO

There are just certain things that go without saying these days. Stuff like Meta Titles, Meta Descriptions, Correct usage of H1, H2 tags, Image descriptions tags, etc. As a designer or developer, you just know that by default you need to consider them. In this case this is what I found:

  1. No Meta Descriptions at all
  2. No H1 tags at all, not on any of the pages, not even by mistake !
  3. 11 of the pages had the same H2 tags, and they were all for the phrase “contact us”
  4. Very little though was put into the Meta Titles
  5. No privacy policy, although this is not an SEO factor, I personally value it and even though I have no evidence to back this, I think search engine do to.
  6. Some poorly thought out comment widget that expands the height of the screen when the comment changes, this is totally annoying and greatly and directly impacts user engagement which effects search ranking

This is it, in a nut shell.

SEO solutions

Although I feel its too late to regain the original authority the domain had, We can atleast try to salvage some of the reputation, I will be doing this in 2 stages.

Stage 1, fix the problems

  1. Delete all the spam content
  2. Create and submit a sitemap
  3. Get all the old URLS redirected to the new content
  4. Manually request a re-index for all of the old URLs once they have been 301 redirected to the new content

Here we are using whatever leverage we have to inform Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo etc that something went wrong and we are fixing the problem.

Stage 2, implement an SEO strategy and carry it out over the next 6 months or so

There is a lot that we can do to re-establish the domain as an authority in its niche but it all comes down to the client, how much time are they prepared to put into their SEO or how much are they prepared to spend on having it done by someone else.

I will probably propose the following to the client and quote according:

  1. Fix Meta Titles,
  2. Fix Meta Descriptions
  3. Use the correct header tags
  4. Go through all the pages and interlink the documents correctly
  5. Add atleast 5 unique articles over the next 2 months
  6. Add 2, maybe 3 links to authoritative websites

If the client is able to extend the budget I will also highly recommend the following:

The website is build with WordPress and because wordpress is so popular, it is one of the most attacked platforms on the planet. The website logs indicate that since WordPress was roled out, the page hits has quadrupled! This is absolutely ridiculous because the actual visits is almost nothing. What this means is that 99% of the page hits to this domain are now coming from spambots and the like.

Now, its important to know that there are millions of WordPress websites out there and a great number of them have very good search ranking. I am not saying that WordPress is a problem, what I am saying is this:

  1. Google knows something is up with your website because they are dropping your ranking like hot potatoes
  2. I feel, that just as back links from low authority websites can affect your ranking, so can visits from spammy servers only when your website has clearly been affected by something.

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