Action Plan for Improving Rankings January of 2014, my main money site took a hit in the rankings. It went from #1, a spot which it held for almost 3 months, to #3.

Almost exactly one month later, the rankings dropped again…

This time the website went all the way down to #10 for the primary keyword.

This post is the start of the series that will track the progress of returning to the top (or at least near the top) of the rankings in Google.

Here are some posts about the site if you are just starting to follow along:


I started a brand new website last year in July. It was quite successful overall and here are some details:

  • Achieved Rankings in the top 10 within 60 Days.
  • Sustained the Rankings from October to December, 2013.
  • Stopped adding content and adding links during October to December, 2013.
  • Rankings fell in January and again in February.


A lot of people wonder how long it takes to get your site indexed in Google, then actually ranking in the search results, and then getting traffic. You can get your site indexed pretty quickly, normally within days. I don’t really even take any action to try to get a post, page, or site indexed.

Unfortunately, I did not keep detailed records of the rankings over time. I did not think it would be very important or that I would need the data.

I don’t have the data about moving up in the rankings but I do have the traffic information which is probably more important. I will let the graphs tell their own story…

An Update Caused a Fall in Rankings

On January 9th or 10th, 2014 there was a retroactive update rolled out. Actually, you can see the fine print in the graph above.

Update: an improvement to our top search queries data was applied on 12/31/13.

What was the update all about?
Why did the website fall in the rankings?

I’m not quite sure. The initial theory was that the exact match anchor text was over optimized…The exact match anchor text was about 12–14% which is a little high these days. However, the #1 result right now has just about the same anchor text profile. So, that’s not the problem.

The onpage SEO seemed fine overall – most all of the posts are over 500 words written by me or native English speakers in a natural way and the keywords are not overused.

My best theory was that backlinks were no longer recognized for one reason or another. The backlinking strategy that I implemented makes use of free web 2.0 blogs (called Tier 1) that link directly to my site. Then, I build backlinks (called Tier 2) to those free blogs to boost the authority of those sites (Tier 1).

I thought that maybe the Tier 2 links were no longer valued or they were deleted. The impact would cascade up causing my money site to drop in rankings.

The other thing to note is that I did not add any content or links from October to December of 2013. I had other projects that I was working on and simply neglected the website. I am sure that did not help!

Wait, it gets worse…Another Update?

About one month after the first drop, there was another change in February. The website dropped from #3 to #10. The traffic impact has not been too substantial this time though. It’s a little surprising that the traffic didn’t drop more.

There was an algorithm update rolled out that week but it seems to be targeting sites that are ad heavy above the fold. My site is not ad heavy at all…there are a lot of affiliate links but they are within the text of about 4,000 words.

Action 250

I want to get the site ranked in the top 3 again. I definitely can see that it is worth the time. I have a few strategies that I am implementing right now.

Add more content

I had not added any content in several months. I hired a couple writers to help out and I have some new articles up now. I will probably continue adding more information to ensure that the content is not stagnant.

Add More Links

This is the big one. I need more backlinks. I really should have been making an effort to keep the backlinks growing over time.

  1. I like blog commenting. I’m starting the campaign for commenting again on relevant blogs. I am aiming to make 5–10 comments per day (on most days) for the next month. They are nofollow but it adds a nice diversity to the overall backlink profile. The number of referring domains will go up significantly.

  3. I am now adding links on my Private Blog Network (PBN). I have been able to invest in a small, humble network. I only hear good things about PBNs so I’m checking it out myself.

  5. I will outsource some link building to paid services. I tested out the HOTH (affiliate link) last month on another site. The results were remarkable. The site moved significantly (bottom to the top of page 1) after the campaign finished. In addition, the customer service from the HOTH is amazing. I was reviewing the final report that was emailed to me this week and saw that one of the Web 2.0 properties that they created was removed. I emailed the support team and within 10 minutes I had a reply. They said the HOTH already found that it was removed and replaced it with a new property. It was reflected in the report in my account but I did not see it since I was looking at the report in my email. Basically, they detected the problem and fixed it before I even figured it out. I’m a customer for life now! After the email exchange, I purchased a Platinum package to help with the link building.

  7. Finally, you can’t beat the links that you get with old fashioned networking and outreach with other webmasters. The process takes time and work. This will be long term campaign of emailing and creating relationships. I haven’t started this part yet but I hope to kick it off next week.

Check the Progress and Results Each Week

It is my goal to get this site back up in the rankings. I am taking checkpoints frequently to review the success of the action plan.

I am probably checking the progress too frequently. 🙂

I will post updates on a weekly basis to track the progress.

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28 comments… add one
  • Roberto

    Nice to see you’re taking action to recover! Don’t you think that so many blog comments might hurt your site? I read that many of them might be seen as spam

    • Hi Roberto – Thanks. I am not worried.

      In 99% of the comments that appear they have been manually approved by the webmaster. They don’t look spammy. I have to add that the stick rate of the comments is low sometimes but that’s the cost to have them manually approved.

  • Winston

    I remember emailing HOTH asking about the packages early January. The packages looked promising. But I never got a reply. Oh well…

  • Hey Doug, I hope your site recovers quickly. I’m not sure if there was a G update, but the rankings on my vacuum site improved as well (although still nothing to write home about). I just purchased a platinum package from the Hoth as well. We’ll see how it goes!

    • Hey Reggie, that’s cool the site moved up. I have high hopes about the HOTH platinum. 🙂

  • Love your traffic graphs.. I am sure that you will get back to that traffic in time.

    Maybe you could share the “Google trend” about your primary keyword.. It’s possible that the search query is slowing down these couple months that impact your traffic too.

    • Hey Kent – Thanks. The graphs are pretty telling.

      I may add the trends graph for a future update – good idea. Yes, the search volume is down and that impacts the traffic too…but the major reason is, of course, the drop in rankings.

  • Theodore Nwangene

    Interesting article Doug,
    It really hurts to see our site loose its ranking after much work but, some days are like that though.

    However, with all the plans you laid down here, I’m sure you will eventually regain your ranking position after applying them.

    I trust what you can do man so, just do it:).

    More strength to your elbows and, my warm regards to your family.

  • Hey Doug,

    How many Web 2.0′ did you have in your Tier 1 to rank that site? And do you have any other type of Tier 1 links that you built Tier 2 links to? If so i’d be interested in how your Tiers were set up. The kind of links in each tier and quntity. I’m excited to see how this turns out. I want to invest in a PBN soon.

    • Hey Lindsay – Sounds like I need to do a post on this. A lot of people have asked similar questions.

      About 8 – 10 Web 2.0 Blogs. There were also some article posted to article directories – about 5 – 6 of those.

      Does that help?

  • Very interesting findings, Doug! Too bad on the rankings drop after those updates. Good luck with jumping right back; I think you’ve got a winning strategy there…

    I just checked out HOTH as I’m busy with the link building part of my first niche site. Currently I have around 11 referring domains and over 2700 backlinks (I know the ratio is ridiculous) and have only used blog commenting and RSS Directory Submissions so far. I’m ready to move onto more aggressive tactics.

    Tell me, with HOTH, when you ordered the Platinum package, did you opt for the standard Filipino content or did you go all American? Does this really matter since these articles aren’t done on your actual niche site but on web 2.0 properties?

    • Hey Ruan – Sorry about the delay. I have been getting the Filipino content so far. It seems to be good enough. If I had a more brandable site that I was linking to, then I would go for the American writers.

      That’s funny about the comments and the backlink to domain ratio…they must have the comments in a side bar all over the site.

      • No problem, Doug.

        Oh definitely… They have one of those “recent comments” sections in their sidebar (this is only one site) but I’m losing a number of links each day due to this (they get new recent comments). Luckily for me those are not juice links, so it’s not hurting as far as I can tell.

        Thanks for the heads-up with the Filipino content. Yeah, I figured since those are all to be published on other Web 2.0 properties and not my own site, Filipino should do the trick.

        This is so exciting! I can’t wait to order my first Platinum arsenal of links from HOTH. Currently I’m trying to push out as many longtail keyword articles as I possibly can before I let HOTH do their thing… This should put me into an excellent position to get those ranked when HOTH comes through…

        • Yes – I think I’ll be using the HOTH Platinum for my base link building…

          That will save me the trouble of creating all the web 2.0s. 🙂 If you do order let me know how it turns out for you. Cheers!

          p.s. I’d appreciate it if you go through my aff link too…no pressure though. 🙂

          • Thanks for bringing that up – of course I’ll order through your link! Costs me nothing additional and helps you with a few bucks 😉

            Will keep you updated! Cheers!

          • Thank you!

  • John

    Hi Doug,
    You mentioned that your website was once number 1, then dropped down to number 3.
    May i know if the number 1 and number 2 sites were there already way back July or October, before your first interview ? back when you were earning $1k+ ?
    When did you noticed the number 1 and 2 competitors popped-up on that rank place ? what month ? was that after your second interview when you were earning $6,000 ?

    • Hey John, The #1 site was around in July. We actually started within a few weeks of each other. #2 was previously ranked at #1.

      The #1 site moved up to page 1 in December and moved up through January to the top of the page. It looks like they have a steady stream of PBN links being added.

      The #2 site has been around for a while and never left the top 5.

      I have investigated the possibility of negative SEO but I don’t see anything alarming yet. One of the secondary keywords looks very suspicious though…I’ll keep monitoring.

      • John

        HI Doug,
        its nice to know that you and the owner of the number 1 site now knew each other back then.. looks like an unintentional niche site challenge way back then in July.
        Was the owner of number 1 site experience the same income on December? were you two comparing income reports ?
        Was your December income bigger than his?

        • Hey John – I don’t know the webmaster but I know the site.

          I don’t think the other website got the same kind of traffic in December or the same level of income.

          • John

            ohhh, i thought you were communicating back in July. Ah yes since on December you were the number 1 right? and that maybe he have fewer products reviewed and published posts on his website at that time…

            I hope you can get back to $2k to $4k monthly Doug .. then $6k every December

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