I’ve been monitoring one of my sites for some time and in the past month, I’ve noticed a 50% decrease in the amount of organic (search engine) traffic that is coming to the site. Of course, when you see a trend like this, the first thing to find out is if it’s an industry trend. The company being a legal services firm, I immediately began calling my contacts in the industry to see if they’ve seen the same downturn. They have not.
OK – now that we know it’s not industry wide – the second question is did Google change it’s algorithms again? From what I can tell, I believe so, but that has been fairly recently (early April) and traffic dwindled in the month of March. So what’s next?
This week I began forensically going through the site to try to locate the problem. The problem with this method is that you inevitably find 20+ things that in theory “could” be causing the low traffic from Google. I’ll only examine one in this post – maybe I’ll pick it back up in another one later.
In my forensic examination of the site and it’s traffic problems, I discovered that their internal search engine was indexing case study urls twice (same page – 2 different urls). Uh-Oh! If the internal search engine is seeing duplicate content (more than 300 pages of it – which now looks like 600 to Google) then I can assume the other engines like Google are seeing it that way as well.
OK – now to locate the source of the duplication. Since both urls point to the same page, there have to be links somewhere in the site to both versions of the url. When I say versions, here’s an example of what I mean. www.domain.com/casestudy.asp?casestudyid=198&casetitle=KW1l+KW2+KW3
As it turns out, the assumption was correct. There was one section of the site that was linking to the shorter url (the one Google was indexing) and the rest of the site had links to the longer url (the one msn and yahoo were indexing).
One quick database fix and this problem has now resolved. Fortunately, along the way, I found another source of duplicate content to correct. I’ll write about that one in a later article. The point – always spend time looking through your site and the way Google indexes it. You’ll be amazed at the things you learn.