What Is Wrong With My Blog?

You know, I’m not sure what else to title this post. I had a clever name for it which was "A Tale Of Two Search Engines". But I felt like that just didn’t really embody what I needed out of this post. Because what I really need out of this post is help. Help from all of you.

I’ve had such a wonderful time working on my blog over the past two and a half years. I feel as if I have been really successful, but I’ve had just one problem…Google just doesn’t seem to like me. Since starting my blog, I have never seen any increase in search traffic from Google aside from the occasional spike. I’ve complained about this on Twitter before, and I’ve put effort into trying to figure out what the problem is, but I’ve come to the realization that I need your help. I am sincerely asking for any help that anyone can provide. Google controls a significant portion of the internet’s traffic, and if they don’t like you, well then your site is in trouble.

I’m honestly upset just writing about this. I felt for a very long time that maybe what I blogged about just wasn’t very interesting, or maybe I didn’t hit the right keywords, but lately I’ve come across even more information suggesting that something is very very wrong. It all started the other day when I went to Google and searched for the phase "TekPub LINQ Challenge". While I expected to get my post back in first place, I didn’t see it anywhere. I clicked through and eventually found it several pages down. Talk about infuriating! I started asking around, and some people were seeing it in first place, while others were seeing it many pages down. Why? Who knows. What I do know is that numerous posts linking to my page were at the top of the results, but not my post. This post was still pretty new, so I figured there could be other issues, but it got me looking at my Google search rankings again.

Looking At A Few Examples

So, I went and looked at a few of my recent popular posts…. one of which was "The Static Spider Web Pattern". So what do I find? My site is nowhere. Where does it show up on Bing and Yahoo? First on Yahoo, second on Bing.

Next I went and searched for "LINQ SelectMany" which I wrote a post on a bit ago. On Yahoo, in second place. On Bing, in second place. Where am I on Google? I don’t know, I stopped looking after the fifth page.

I went and search for "The blurring lines of languages". On Yahoo? First. On Bing? First. On Google? Again, I stopped looking after about the 6th page.

When I search for "Using Accessibility On Auto Properties" I get number 1 again on Bing and Yahoo, but nowhere on the first page in Google. On Bing and Yahoo I actually am on the first page for the term "Accessibility Modifier"! On Google I can’t even fathom how far down my site would be.

And this kind of thing can be repeated over and over and over. If I put quotes around some of the searches above I might get one of my pages in the top 5 results. But for the most part it just seems like both Bing and Yahoo rank my site very well, but Google just absolutely hates it.

I’ve also talked with others who have similarly popular blogs, and my site receives only a fraction of the search traffic that they get. On top of that, my Google search traffic has never really increased. It has been relatively steady for the past two years (basically a few months after I started blogging). It is constantly fluctuating up and down, whereas most of the people I have talked to have a regular saw-tooth pattern to their search traffic. Check out my search traffic for the last two years:

image

It is all over the place. I have yet to talk to someone who sees search traffic like this. Also, during the spikes, there aren’t any keywords that rise to the top, it is actually seems spread pretty evenly across the board. Google sends about the same amount of traffic to my site as they did 3 months after I started blogging.

Getting Help

Some people I have talked to suggest that sites like DZone, which have syndicated my content are penalizing me because it looks like I am duplicating content from other sites. But Bing and Yahoo don’t seem to have any problems with them. I have had suggestions ranging from html validation, to getting rid of a negative indent on a specific element, removing "CodeThinked" from the title tags, setting the rel canonical tag, etc… I’ve taken suggestions from people and I’ve tried to implement as much as I can.

I’ve gone and used "bad neighborhood" link detectors, which are supposed to check and see if you’re accidentally linking out to bad sites. I’ve used the IIS7 SEO toolkit which had some very good suggestions, but my site actually does really good. I’ve moved a bunch of my css/javascript into a CDN to help my pages download faster. I’ve removed certain parts of my sites from search engines using the robots.txt file so that my monthly, archive, search, etc… pages don’t get indexed. I’ve just don’t TONS of different things.

I’ve gone and asked questions in the Google Webmaster forums, but I haven’t received any good help or suggestions. At this point, I am at a loss. You see, the problem is that search engines are just black boxes, and the little bit of help that is provided by something like Google Webmaster Tools, Yahoo Site Explorer, or Bing webmaster tools just doesn’t seem to help out much. I’ve gone on there, and gone through the suggestions, and done all of the things that I think I am supposed to do, but nothing seems to help. I know that they can’t give out their secret sauce, but how am I supposed to figure out what is going on?

What Is Going On?

So what is happening? You know, I really wish I knew. I wish I had even the slightest clue. Maybe it is as simple as saying that Yahoo and Bing use algorithms that are so different that my site in Google just really doesn’t have much weight. I find that hard to believe though, looking at some of the sites that show up above mine in searches. If I could find out what was happening, I’d get it fixed in a second.

So, how would I even know if my site is being penalized? I’ve gone through the Google webmaster guidelines, and as far as I can tell, I’m not violating any of them. I’ve made a few tweaks to my site, just in case I am doing something wrong. For example, I had my logo with "CodeThinked" in the anchor tag, and a negative indent so that I could show a logo there. This seems like a fairly common technique, but I removed it just in case Google saw it as hidden text. I’ve also gone through and removed broken links and tried to make my html completely valid.

Please Help

So, I am asking for your help. I’m asking for any help that anyone can give me. How can I figure out what is wrong? I feel as if I am just giving away a huge amount of traffic, and with the amount of time and sweat that I have poured into this site, it is really heart breaking. Up until now I have avoided complaining on my blog about this, but I feel like it is finally time to leverage the traffic that I do receive in order to see if I can figure this one out. Thanks in advance!

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69 comments

  1. http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&client=safari&rls=en&q=link%3Awww.codethinked.com&aq=f&aqi=&oq=

    Take a look at the sites linking to you. Only 187, and the top of them are all junk. If the rest of your site is well done as you say, you simply do not have enough back links.

    I know you site google on the meta tags and descriptions, but if you do not have unique one on each page, you are doing yourself a disservice, and a large one at that.

  2. @Mischa Thanks for the tips.

    @Scott That links doesn’t appear to be working for me. And anyways, when I go into Google webmaster tools I have well over 6000 links. Not sure the quality of all of them, but I don’t know where you are getting 187 from.

  3. Per Mischa, I can personally avow to this and openly admit to creating my title with the audience in mind. Looking back at my results, I can clearly see where I hit the nail on the head and it does make a huge difference overall. Most bloggers I know get this one wrong. First thing I ask myself before hitting the Publish button is how I would search for that info myself.

  4. @Anthony Mischa While I agree with what you are saying, my problem is much larger. Even if I search for exact titles, I find tons of sites linking to mine, but my site is nowhere to be found. I agree though that titles are important for searchability of posts.

  5. @justin, copy the link, your comment system is not properly url encoding links. All I am doing is plain google searches for site:www.codethinked.com and link:www.codethinked.com

    or http://tr.im/MRyl

    While I understand there is GWT, that shows you everything the site has ever seen, and it is ambiguous at best as to when they put it in parity with their index. Doing a link:domain.example.com google search is about as real world as it is going to get.

    Probably the best suggestion I have heard here is to use meta title to title your posts as you believe people will search for them. But that will not get you better index results. It may get more people reading, and in turn, more people linking, and in turn, a better page listing.

  6. Hey Justin.. something wierd happened to my blog too. When I changed the theme from QuickPress to Arclite my traffic from google went from 100 a day down to 1 a day! I just noticed now.. I am not 100% sure if this is the reason but I just changed it back to see if the traffic comes back.

  7. @Sameer How long did it take for your traffic to drop after you changed your theme?

  8. @Scott: The link:domain.com search isn’t remotely accurate. For example, site:encosia.com suggests that my site only has 204 backlinks, but I’ve received traffic from more separates pages than that [i]today[/i] alone.

  9. A. Lester Buck III

    Hi,

    I ran this page through the online version of AOL page test. The results are at:

    http://www.webpagetest.org/result/100204_4WXT/1/details/

    26 seconds on an empty cache? That reddit button is killing you. You are also missing a .png on your own domain. Maybe the server load at reddit is impacting your SEO.

  10. @Dave,
    I think you are missing the point, yes, it is not accurate in how many links, but it is a good metric to tell the quality of link. You rank poorly in google, a link:www.codethinked.com search shows poor numbers, I am saying there is correlation there.

    If the top 10 in link: type searches were top tier sites, i am pretty confident that your problems would not exist.

  11. @Scott: If that were the problem, how do you explain my site getting over 40,000 visits from Google searches last month and Justin’s getting only a handful?

    Both our sites show about the same number of backlinks in a site:domain.com search. It is clearly not a very good measure of anything, relative or absolute.

  12. Agreeing with the very few others here that it is not on page SEO that you should worry about. I would change the H1 tag, but I cannot imagine that that has that much influence. I have much worse sites, with very few backlinks, that rank much, much better than you. Especially when you search for a reasonably unique title of your post, you should be the first result.

    I would make a sitemap, make sure your site loads fast enough, and remove the robots.txt for now and see if that helps. It could also be the duplicate content if your entire entries are duplicated on other sites. I read years ago that Google’s duplicate content filter was terrible (see http://www.seochat.com/c/a/Google-Optimization-Help/Duplicate-Content-Penalties-Problems-with-Googles-Filter/ ), but you would think they fixed that by now.

  13. I haven’t got the same problem as you, but similar. My blog is 4 years old and Google traffic is increasing very very slowly, while traffic from Yahoo and Bing is non existent ~1% of Google traffic.

    What I did try:
    – Change domain (set me back in PR but I hope it pays off), buy a domain for several years (wasn’t possible with the old one)
    – Remove all cruft from the urls, like "archive", "2010/01/17", "blog", "post", ".html" etc.
    – Optimize with YSlow, but WordPress has limits

    I think it’s very hard to get beyond a PR of 4, codeinghorror got it by heavy linking from other sites right from the beginning (like Reddit).

    I fear duplicate content (DZone), but assume Google is clever enough now to detect duplicate content for ad farming and one for good reasons (also like scientific papers).

    Cheers
    Stephan
    http://codemonkeyism.com

  14. @Stephan I can feel your pain, and yeah, all of those changes are good suggestions. At this point though, with all of the backlinks that my site has, I don’t really want to switch domains. And if I redirected everything back to my old site, whatever is following me around would probably just come to the new site as well.

    And I agree that my PR of 4 is great, and it is hard to get past that. But first, domain PR seems to not be very important, but secondly, I know people with PR4 sites that get *substantially* (I’m talking 30-40 times more) more search traffic than my site does.

  15. With >8000 backlinks I wouldn’t switch either. I had a bad feeling even with only a few backlinks. Redircting everything was a pain, and cleaning Googles view of the site was a pain too (duplicate content etc.).

    Keep up the good work, especially like your posts with drawings,

    Cheers
    Stephan

  16. Is still a problem?
    This site is first for
    http://www.google.com/search?q=%22The+blurring+lines+of+languages%22
    and some of your other examples.

  17. Hi Justin,
    Not that I know my arse from my elbow, and to repeat what Dave Ward, charlotte and Stephen Schmidt have said, I wonder if your problem is DZone.

    When the articles are syndicated there can they be published with "noindex"?

    http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66359

  18. @Duderino I honestly haven’t checked in a few days to see if any of the tweaks in my site have affected my rankings. I’ll take a look today, hopefully it is a good sign!

    @mat thanks, yeah I have stopped the syndication of my posts anywhere that I could.

  19. Hi Justin,

    An interesting discussion. As others have mentioned Google WMT is a very useful tool to have in your box. Some really useful on page insights although I think the duplicate content issue is something worth considering.

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