HELP! I’ve dropped in Google Rankings: Over the last few months I’ve had lots of calls from panicked photographers exclaiming that they have been dumped, unceremoniously, out of the Google rankings.
In almost all of the cases (one case was a server configuration error), the reason was because their website has been affected by the evolutionary algorithm updates from Google.
Firstly, there is a BIG difference between being “kicked off of Google” and simply being penalised (dropped in Google Rankings). If you have physically been ejected from Google, or sand boxed, there are likely to be some serious issues with your site, it’s architecture or its server stability.
In most cases, the photographers have been penalised, rather than ejected. Even though you may think you have been removed from Google (because you no longer appear in the top ten pages for “Oxford Wedding Photographer”, the chances are you are still in the Google search database.
A very quick way of checking this is to use the Google Search Operator “site:”
If you pop into the search box: site:www.kevinmullinsphotography.co.uk (replacing my site with your of course) you will see all the pages Google has in its index for your site.
This tells us all the pages Google has indexed, and are still indexed.
The chances are you have simply dropped in Google Rankings, rather than removed completely from the index.
Almost always this is because, despite many warnings, photographers have employed some pretty black-hat style techniques for the SEO on their websites. I mentioned in my SEO tips for photographers that authentic, organic, exceptional content really is the only way forward these days.
Google are cleaning up search. They don’t want results at the top that are not good conduits to the content that the searcher is looking for. It doesn’t want a dodgy wedding photographer from Suffolk appearing at the top of a search result for “Oxford Wedding Photographer” based on hoodwinking the algorithm.
It wants real results, for real people (we are not real people, by the way – the clients, brides, grooms, commercial clients, mums looking for baby photographers – they are the real people) based on their expectations.
For years, Google has been warning about building dodgy back links, keyword stuffing and cloaking (amongst other things).
It still amazes me how many sites still have content such as: I’m a wedding photographer in London, I can wedding photograph across all of London and being a London wedding photography expert I can also photograph weddings in Essex, Kent, Suffolk, Oxfordshire, Belgium, Russia and on the moon!
By employing these techniques, you are simply trying to hoodwink Google. You are forcing search recognition, falsely, and building backlinks for anything other than organic reach is seen with the same short shrift these days.
Do you partake in a blog comment link-circle? Well don’t. It’s got a pattern. Google can see patterns and anything that is a pattern, is clearly there for “SEO Reasons”. What Google wants is for you to do stuff and write content for your client. Not for SEO.
I often say to people if your thought process is: “This will be good for SEO!”….then the chances are it won’t. Google, the brainy bugger, will figure out that you are doing something “for SEO”.
If your thought process is something like “Hey! This piece of content will be great for my potential clients!”, then Google will love it and the SEO love will follow. Organically.
Google’s goal is to relegate sites that are over-optimised. If a bride came to your website and thought “Wow! Great pictures, but this guy guy writes likes a chimp” – then so will Google.
How do I know if I’ve been penalised by Google?
If you have been severely penalised by Google, the chances are you will get a message in Webmaster Tools (you do have a webmaster tools account right?). You may get something like:
We’ve detected that some of your site’s pages may be using techniques that are outside Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.
Specifically, we detected low-quality pages on your site which do not provide substantially unique content or added value.
Which is about as clear a message as you are going to get that Google is getting pissy with your site. Although this message isn’t specifically Panda orientated, the chances are it will be a symptom of a Panda algorithmic penalty on your website.
What should I do if I’ve been penalised by Google?
Firstly. DON’T PANIC!
Secondly, stop doing any of the following:
Paying for links
Participating in link circles
Using sneaky redirects (i.e having a site such as www.thebestweddingphotographerinlondon.co.uk that simply redirects to your site).
Using dodgy SEO agencies!
Thirdly, start doing some, or all, of the following:
- Write honest, organic content.
- Think about your client, not Google
- Architect your website well
- Restructure your categories and tags
- Use a good SEO agency (there are loads; a Good SEO agency should be empowering you to do all the things in this list. A good SEO agency will not say “We will go and get you 5,000 links by Monday!”)
- Consider an SEO Audit (see what I did there? 🙂
- Earn quality, natural links…… notice I use the word “earn”, not “get”. Put engaging content on your website and the links will come. Organically. They will be earned.
You can read more about the updates all over the internet, but a good start would be here.
There is a whole load more to it of course. This is just a very bare overview of what may have happened if you have been dropped in Google Rankings, that I hope answers a lot of questions going through photographers heads at the moment regarding their SEO and online marketing.
If you are struggling with a decrease in rankings, take a look at my SEO Audit offerings. For the foreseeable future I’m not going to be offering SEO training for photographers – however, I’ve updated the audit offerings. I’ve performed many of these audits, for many photographers, and (for the ones that have actioned the recommendations) they have always resulted in a rise in rankings.
I hope this article helps, especially at this time when so many photographers seem to be getting pinged by Google. Please do share it on social media if you can.
Any questions, as ever, please drop me a line.
By Kevin Mullins originally for photographywebtips.co.uk.