Action Plan (Update #5) for Improving Rankings

wrong-way-nichesiteproject.comThis is update #5 in the series of posts that outline the plan to regain high rankings in the search engine results. Last week, I mentioned a small mistake related to visitor statistics.

This week I may have made a MAJOR mistake that cost me traffic and money.


The update this week will cover the details of what was accomplished, results, and a few other updates.

If you are just joining the story, be sure to check out the initial post about this action plan. The initial update for the action plan to improve rankings covered the background of the website. There are a few important graphs in that post that you should take a look at if you have not already. That post really lays the framework for all the future action plan updates.

Accomplishments and Results

What was planned…

After several weeks of little to no feedback from Google in the form of improved rankings, I decided to pivot a bit and think about the next steps.

On Page SEO

I wanted to analyze the on page SEO. I mainly wanted to make sure that I did not have some keywords overoptimized when compared to other niche sites that are ranked highly.

301 Redirect

I talked about trying a 301 redirect and I tried it. I wasn’t getting any results from my efforts with adding more content and link building so something more drastic was in order.

If you are not familiar with what I am talking about, here is a general summary:

  • A 301 redirect is a permanent redirect and signifies that a website has permanently moved to a new domain.
  • A 301 redirect passes about 90 – 99% of the link juice to the new site.
  • Anecdotely, it can help a site that used to rank well return to its former ranking glory.
  • Many people 301 redirect to a brand new domain and some people just use a subdomain.
  • Back to the anecdotal evidence, a friend tried this last week and his site improved rankings enough to move to the front page. That’s pretty good if you ask me!

Lewis Ogden from explains it far better than me in this post: How To Recover From A Google Penalty – Step By Step. Lewis talks about redirecting to a brand new domain.

Glen and Diggy talk about a subdomain redirect on the ViperChill podcast – the What We Learned from 30 SEO Consultations episode.


On Page

I have looked at my on page statistics many times before. In general, I knew that my website was basically inline with most of the conservative keyword density recommendations.

I wrote my posts naturally and that is a good rule of thumb for keeping a site in the right optimization range. (Yoast’s recommendations for keyword density are a little high for my tastes… your mileage may vary.)

There are many theories about how much you should use a keyword or keyword phrase. Most people that have enough experience to comment with some authority all seem to agree that you don’t need to use your keyword too often.

In fact, they agree that you should use your keywords sparingly. There is a delicate balance and overusing your keywords is just as bad as not using them enough.

In the end, I saw that a one-word keyword was used more often than the other niche sites in the top 10. So, I reduced the usage of that one, single word.

How much was it used?
About 4% of the time when you include all variations of the word, like the plural usage. I reduced the usage to about 3% of the time to be inline with the competition.

Here is a tip – download the SEO Quake plugin. You can quickly analyze any webpage in many ways. Here is the summary from the makers of SEO Quake:

SEOquake is a popular and handy analytic seo-tool for Firefox, Chrome and Opera browsers. SEOquake helps to obtain an information about any site for a wide range of parameters such as page rank, Google index, Alexa and many others. Keyword Density tool serves to demonstrate a number of times a keyword or phrase appears on a web page. SEOquake has a parameter that highlights noffolow links.

301 Redirect

Here is the big activity from this week. I redirected my root domain to a subdomain.

Drastic action.

It’s a slightly complicated process overall. There are plenty of failure points. You need to work with the WordPress database and make changes to your .htacess file.

However, it should take less than an hour to accomplish. I am not even going to get in to the details of actually executing this task.

I made the changes and tested. Then, I asked a friend to test it.

Everything seemed to be working as expected. Great!


The results from the on page tweak have been overshadowed by the dramatic rankings drop. Uh oh!

Just before the redirect, the site was ranked 8th. The original root domain was still showing up in the search results after the 301 redirect was implemented.

That’s weird. It should take about 1 – 2 days to have the new domain or subdomain in this case to show up in the results. My new subdomain was just not showing up.

The other weird thing is that the subdomain was indexed too. Well, here is what happened to the rankings…

After some thought and a confirmation from an expert (thanks, Diggy!), it seemed like I received a duplicate content penalty.

Oh. Damn.

It seems that both my original domain and my subdomain were both indexed. That’s a problem.

Just yesterday, Thursday, I went back to the original domain and made all the pages and posts private to try to keep them from being indexed. After that, I headed over to Webmaster Tools.

I took the steps needed to submit a new site map for the original domain with the pages and posts (essentially) hidden.

At the time that I am writing this post, the site is still ranking about 170 – 180.

UPDATE: Just before publishing this post, I checked my rankings again. The site returned to around #10.


However, the result listed is not the subdomain – it’s still the original domain. Clearly, I haven’t mastered this technique.


The traffic isn’t good but there are still long tail keywords that drive visitors to the site. It’s pretty amazing the traffic didn’t drop more.


In ordered to get drastic results, you need to take drastic action.

Perhaps some people do not view a 301 redirect as something that is drastic but the first time seems pretty drastic!

The results were drastic and, sure, they were the opposite of what we wanted. The point is that something changed in the results and now, I can take some other measures.

I learned a lot about 301 redirects – mostly about what NOT to do. Next time, I think it will go a little more smoothly.

The whole situation actually drove me to a much bigger case study. I can’t reveal anything yet but I hope to share the plan with you all next week!

Overall, the jury is still out. I hope that I can correct the issue with the massive rankings drop as soon as possible. I think that I can make some smaller changes now that I have the redirect in place.

UPDATE: It is good to see that the website is back on the first page after a couple days back on page 18.

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10 comments… add one
  • Hey Doug,

    Tough break with the drop in rankings. Good to see it bounce back but I guess thats the risk we play with link building and other, clearly advanced techniques!

    I’ve not tried the technique you talk about myself but it does seem more complicated that a 301 to a brand new domain!

    Good luck this coming month, we should catch up over skype. Drop me a mail.

    – Lewis

    • Hey Lewis,
      Thanks…I am not sure where the site is going to settle out. It turns out the process is pretty much exactly the same except I didn’t buy a new domain.

      In hindsight, it probably would have been good just go to a brand new domain. Next time. 🙂

  • John

    Hi Doug,

    Is your site on page 1 now or is it back to page 18 ? page 18 is like rank number 171 to 180 right ?

    Doug, why not buy a new domain then create a site with the same main keyword on it, publish some 10 product review posts. Link your existing old domain to the new domain to help it rank, that way the new domain will rank faster since your current domain is already ranking and is an authority of that niche already.

    Though its really interesting to follow how you can bring back the existing domain to rank # 1, but would it be cool to make a new website with same exact keyword, that way you have 2 niche sites competing against it other, so by December the new domain might be number 1 then get that $6,000 month income again… and the existing domain might be number 2 …well on that time might be possible… so you get all the traffic ..

    • Hey John –
      It is on page1 or 2 now.

      That’s a very good idea, John. It’s a bandwidth issue for me – I only have so much time. Something like that is on the agenda though.

  • John

    Base on my experience way back June 2013, my site dropped to second page and now staying permanently at the 3rd page.
    I investigated what contributed to it. Here is what i found..

    1. Increase in anchor text view bigger picture
    –> caused by wordpress theme 2013 gallery plugin, use this put small pictures in matrix under a bigger thumbnail, once you click the small pictures it will take you to the bigger picture thus increasing the view bigger picture anchor text.
    –> those individual big picture pages are empty and was indexed yet its all empty just the picture and some few text describing the picture so it looked like duplicate content..
    2. skycrapper forum signature link
    –> my signature link was indexed multiple times, i see it in webmaster tool, i tried to disavow but still waiting for google to show result

    3. Try this for your site .. Google might have indexed the same content, you should make tag and categories un-indexed, there is a setting in wordpress not to index it.

    • Thanks for the tips. So did you start a new site? Do you still make money on the site from long tails?

      • John

        I did not buy a new site, this site was alive way back 2007, but the indexing of empty pictures are fixed, the disavowing of links are still pending, the tag and category indexing is still there. We have inquiries from time to time, its a real estate website, not an amazon or Adsense. It does not have so much searches on long tails, and facebook pages are overwhelming that local keyword… the site is still on page 3…

  • That is quite a ride in the rankings! Good to hear you’re back on page 1.

    For the keyword density topic, In general I agree that Yoast’s SEO plugin recommendation of 1% is too high. I usually stick to 0.5% or less for exact match, but I do include a lot of synonyms or variations throughout the content.

  • Curt

    Hey Doug, glad to hear about the bounce back.

    Interestingly my 301 dropped significantly the other day. Whether it’s because of something to do with the 301 or if it’s because I hit the new domain with a couple exact match anchors, I don’t know. Just means I’ll be getting a move on creating the replacement site!

    Anyway, good update.

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