How an SEO audit can explain falling Google rankings

Evaluating why some dental websites fall from grace

As we’ve seen in earlier articles in this blog, many dental websites have been relegated in the search rankings following a series of Google updates – namely the “Panda” and “Penguin” algorithm updates.

To recap very quickly, these updates were designed to penalise sites which were over-optimised and which had gained a prominent position in the search rankings, not necessarily through the quality of the site itself but via the efforts of a search optimiser. Google has clamped down on this, starting in 2011 and continuing with further anti-spam updates through 2012 and into 2013. This process is still underway as Google continues its quest to invalidate any attempts to artificially manipulate ranking positions. In particular, “poor” quality SEO and bad links to a website will result in that website’s demise. The graph below shows one such dentist’s website which was penalised by Google – the graph shows the resultant fall in web visits:

penalised-dental-website

So this is why we have seen many formerly prominent dental websites fall from grace as the efforts of their SEO teams have been exposed and penalised. A detailed SEO audit of a site can usually tell us what went wrong and what needs to be done to recover rankings.

Why an SEO audit makes sense

There are two main reasons for an SEO audit:

  • retrospective – checking to see why a website has fallen off Google’s radar
  • proactive – checking the current health of a website and making sure that it is not at risk of future penalties as Google continues to tighten it’s quality parameters. Just because your site looks good now, doesn’t mean it will be after Google’s next update.

The components of an SEO audit

A thorough SEO audit consists of two main elements, an evaluation of the on-site optimisation and similar for the off-site work. Whilst such an audit will make recommendations for what can be done better, more specifically it will look at what has been done wrong and likely caused the Google penalty.

On-site problems

Many factors can cause websites to fare less well than they should in Google but the factors that tend to attract actual penalties are:

  • cloaking – sneaky re-directs from keyword stuffed pages
  • doorway-pages – similar to the above
  • keyword stuffing – overuse of keywords in titles, headlines, text and page addresses
  • hidden or obfuscated text
  • “thin” content – this is extraneous, low-quality text which is added to a website simply to try and gain a Google advantage but is of little use to users
  • duplicate content – i.e. use of the same text that is already published elsewhere on the web. A favourite for some dental marketing companies is to use the same treatment text over and over again – don’t do this.
  • poorly configured re-directs from old pages to new versions
  • multiple examples of pages that return errors when viewed

Off-site problems

This primarily relates to the quality of links that point back to your dental website and how they are configured:

  • links from poor quality sites e.g. “free-for-all” directories, low-spec social book-marks, article sites and more. In fact the majority of sites where you can place a link automatically without any form of vetting. There are tools we can use to evaluate the “trust” and hence usefulness of potential link sites.
  • anchor text configuration – Google penalises over-use of targeted anchor text in a back-link. SEO audits will often show thousands of such back-links that have been placed by cheap, outsourced agencies working on behalf of UK marketing companies.

What to do if the audit shows up bad stuff?

If your SEO auditing shows up shoddy work which has already resulted in a penalty or could well do so in future, then you need to act quickly. Clean-up is not an overnight process and it does need expert guidance – you can read more about this in our blog post here.

Summary

If your website has already tanked in the search rankings or if you are worried that a future Google update may catch you out, then an SEO audit is essential. For example, did you use a cheap off-shore supplier for link-building directly or maybe a UK marketing company who outsourced to them? If so, then you may be at risk of a search engine penalty. At Dental Media we can perform a website audit for you which will identify any issues and make comprehensive recommendations to help your site recover or prevent problems in future. Please call our SEO team on 01332 672548 for more advice.