Causes for Ranking Loss Identified & Successfully Remedied

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This post is about things I have identified as causes for sites not placing well since the last quarter of 2013.

I don’t know if related to Hummingbird, or Panda/Penguin specifically, because they are things that have always been problems that could kill rankings. However, the issues did not affect the performance of the sites until October 2013, which is when they all fell off the first page into nowhere land.

1)     Bad Backlinks – and by this I mean specifically:

Free Directory Links – These are links on spammy, free directories. They are bad neighborhoods, because any site can be listed on them, so it’s where sites that can’t get good links go to get links, like porno sites for example. To see examples of these types of directories, all you have to do is Google “free links directory”.

Blog Comment Links – This is where you go to a blog, make a comment and link back to your site with a keyword.

2) Having more than one domain name pointed at your site, and it’s pointed incorrectly. Instead of it being 301 redirected, it’s 302 redirected or not redirected at all. A 301 redirect tells Google the site moved to a new domain permanently (this is the right way to do it). A 302 is temporarily moved. Google sees 302 redirects and/or no redirect at all, as two separate sites with duplicate content. They also see the non-www and www versions of your site as separate sites. For example, and – When you go to https://Visual you will notice it redirects in the address bar to This is called setting your canonical url, and prevents Google from indexing both versions. Your site needs to be represented one way, either with or without the www, and under only one domain name.

3) Having bad links (as above) on an old domain that is redirected to your site. Your current domain may not have bad links, but your old one might. And if old is redirected to new, all those bad links still count against you.

4) Not having original content, or someone copied/stole your content. You can check this at

5) Targeting a city in your main SEO where your office is not physically located. Since Hummingbird (from what I’ve noticed), Google seems to only be serving up sites for local searches that actually have a physical location in that city. Example: you are going after Dallas as your main seo focus, but you are located in Plano. It doesn’t mean sites don’t still slip through and manage to rank without an address, but it’s an exception to the rule when it does happen (and might be because the site is very old, is being grandfathered in, or has a bunch of trust, which equates to ranking power with Google. The solution is to target the city where you actually are located, or get an executive suite address from a company like for the main city you care about ranking for (not a UPS or postal center address or P.O. box). You’ll also need a Google+ (map listing) page for the address, and citations in the major business directories from a company like, and BBB membership listing your address is a VERY good idea. I have written several blogs about this, which you can find at:

If you have not joined your local BBB, I suggest you do so. Here is the person to contact for the Dallas area:

Brian Reagan | District Manager – Phone: 214-740-0343 – Email: He is VERY helpful, SEO knowledgeable (on the board of the DFWSEM) and speaks at conferences. He is interested in your success online.

The above are major issues I have encountered recently, that once corrected have repaired rankings. Make sure they are not issues you have if you have lost your placement on Google.

Joshua Cabe Johnson

Joshua Cabe Johnson

Joshua Cabe Johnson has been an SEO since 2008. He has personally helped over 1000 clients with online visibility and brand strategy for SEO growth.

Visual rankings has been helping small business owners online since 2002.

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