In a Google Office Hours hangout, Google’s John Mueller answered a question about why a site lost rankings. His answer focused on the power of being different and how this quality can help a site rank better.
Question about a Site that Lost Rankings
The publisher apparently may have had pages ignored by Google for ranking purposes.
Here is the question:
I have a website. I lost traffic.
It’s a ringtones download site with 60,000 ringtones on it.
On the 17th of December we lost our ranking and if I search my site with a site colon query I only see seven pages available.
I’ve not received any manual action.
Is it an algorithmic penalty in which Google removes web pages?
What can I do to recover my traffic?
Google’s Mueller began by pointing out that the site colon search query is unreliable for diagnosing anything about a site.
The site search is not meaningful and only gives a rough idea of how many pages are indexed.
“So, in general, a site query is not representative of all of the pages that we have indexed.
It’s a good way to get a rough view of what we have indexed. But it’s not the comprehensive list. It’s not meant to be like that.
For more information on how or what we have indexed, I would use search console and the index coverage report there.
That gives you a better look at the pages that are actually indexed.”
While the site colon search gives a rough and inaccurate idea of pages that are indexed, in this case, there’s something meaningful about the site search. The search shows that at least 60,000 ringtone pages are missing from the site search and Google is only showing seven pages.
That kind of result is significantly more than just a “rough view” of how many pages Google has indexed.
While Mueller is correct in a general sense, in this particular case, I think we can all agree that those particular site search results are a flag that something is seriously wrong.
Mueller continues by recommending posting in the webmaster help forum to get specific answers.
There are some people in that forum offering decent advice, if anyone wants opinions about a specific website from strangers.
Mueller returned to the topic of traffic loss:
“With regards to losing traffic, I realize that’s sometimes hard.
In general, I think with a website that’s focused on ringtones, it’ll be a little bit tricky because our algorithms really do try to look out for unique, compelling, high quality content.
And if your whole website is built up on essentially providing ringtones that are the same as everywhere else then I don’t know if our algorithms would say this is a really important website that we need to focus on and highlight more in search.
So with that in mind, if you’re focused on kind of this small amount of content that is the same as everyone else then I would try to find ways to significantly differentiate yourselves to really make it clear that what you have on your website is significantly different than all of those other millions of ringtone websites that have kind of the same content.
- Maybe there is a way to do that with regards to the content that you provide.
- Maybe there is a way to do that with the functionality that you provide.
But you really need to make sure that what you have on your site is significantly different enough that our algorithms will say well this is what we need to index instead of all of these others that just have a list of ringtones on the website.
So that’s probably not going to be that easy to make that kind of a shift but that’s generally the direction I would hit.
And that’s the same recommendation I would have for any kind of website that offers essentially the same thing as lots of other web sites do.
You really need to make sure that what you’re providing is unique and compelling and high quality so that our systems and users in general will say, I want to go to this particular website because they offer me something that is unique on the web and I don’t just want to go to any random other website.”
Being Different and Ranking Better
According to Google, being different than the competition is important to Google’s algorithm. And when he says different he means being better in a way that makes the site desirable for obtaining a specific product.
Mueller said that a high ranking website must:
- High quality
Why Drives Consumer Desire?
- Why do teenagers sneer at Facebook?
- Why do middle aged people enjoy Facebook?
- A boot is a boot but why are Doc Martens boots loved by old and young consumers?
This Is What Powers Success
Teenagers may spurn Facebook because it’s their parent’s community (anti-youthful symbol) and it does not offer the instant communication and entertainment that other social media platforms provide (not useful to a teenager’s needs).
Middle aged people enjoy community, helping each other through adult issues and catching up with old friends.
Doc Martens boots are long lasting and communicate a sense of authenticity and individualism, it might be that it complements the aspirations of those who wear Doc Martens.
Symbols and Mirrors
Products and websites are more than just products and websites.
The best products and websites the ones that are symbols of what consumers value and mirrors of who they want to be.
- Symbols of aspirations and goals
- Reflects personal values that are important like authenticity, faith, community and so on.
Products and websites can be symbols and mirrors of our values, aspirations and of usefulness.
These are the kinds of things that distinguish one site from another and helps it produce the signals of popularity that help a site rank better.
Watch Google’s Webmaster Office Hours