I was checking my blogs while waiting for a conference when I started sweating: I had just installed the Moz Toolbar to see my page ranking and I was seeing “Page Authority:1”. Zero. Nada. How did this happen? I checked my other blogs and everything seemed normal. How come the blog I put more effort into had been penalized?
I checked Google Webmaster Tools and yes, Google had sent me a message (as Matt Cutts had promised at SMX Seattle, they were improving their communication). I read the following request/suggestion:
I did not even know what this was. Google was asking for an XML Sitemap that followed Google standards. XML sitemaps is the best way to feed the engines your content, a tool that allows you to indicate search engines which data of your site you want them to crawl, how your site is built and which are your priorities (hierarchy of site content and last updates.
So I had to learn how to build and submit a sitemap, that was accepted by Google. In 24 hours my site was being crawled again.
Provide custom 404 File Not Found page
That was the second message I received from Google. I had several broken links from the time I moved my blog and made the big mistake of not redirecting.
When error pages do not have a custom 404 some funny picture and some other links to get to your site, who is going to come visit you to through that door. A broken link is a wasted opportunity. Worst of all, it affects the trust readers have in you. Bad, bad, bad lama.
Readers are more likely to just turn away if you don’t offer them some alternative links to direct them to your site.
I downloaded a plugin for error pages. Not the best design but at least it offered a message and directed to the home page and some alternative links of my most popular content.
Takes too long to download
The following message I received from Google was actually a warning: “some urls take too long to download.”
For example: tag/title of my post. I did not know what to do with this one. How come a tag was being considered a post?To me, everything looked good but I spent some time in trying to resolve some speed issues that I had in the recent past because they were slow down my site. I specifically reviewed image sizes and made sure they were uploaded in the site at desired size. I also reviewed my plugins and widget since they tend to take some space too.
Could pingbacks be the culprit?
I don’t have any proof of this and Google did not send me any message, but this is the last thing I did before I saw my SEO ranking back: I unapproved pingbacks between two of my blogs.
I have a Spanish version of Onlinista (PeriodistaHispano.com) and, although some information overlaps, I decided to keep two separate sites because I don’t always blog about the same in both sites.
Every time I translate a blog post, I link back to the other language version. This generates a “pingback”. My blog sends me a message asking me to approve the pingback as I do with comments. Which I did.
After hearing that backlinks are dead it crossed my mind that me approving these backlinks could be perceived as something suspicious. Maybe Google had not discovered that I am the same person for both blogs and that they are related but in different languages. To me, there is no reason why Google would think this is wrong (hey, I am doing double the work by putting the info in two languages). But just in case, I unapproved those pingbaks.
My SEO is now back.