Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
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In my consulting for other marketing consultants, I'm usually helping them with really complicated cases. But more often lately I'm helping them to troubleshoot sudden ranking drops.

Often the drop is due to a hidden ranking penalty or other problem on the G+ Local side of the house. But more and more often I'm finding it's a PURE ORGANIC penalty for a problem on the website itself.

One tip for trying to diagnose to see if it's a LOCAL penalty or ORGANIC is:

1) 1st do through searches (with location set to their location) for City Keyword in blended, then in Places Search, then on Maps search. (This will show their local ranking)

2) Next go to AOL search (or use my Catalyst Organic Google Search Gadget).
Search the same phrase "City Keyword".

WHY? Both tools show you PURE organic results as if Google Local never existed. Both pull pure Google organic results with no G+L (Place page) influence at all. It's like going back in time to when Google only showed organic and no map or pinned results. This exercise can provide important clues that will help you determine if it's a Places problem or organic site problem.

IF it appears to be an organic problem, there is a great thread over at WebmasterWorld about how to try to diagnose and get to the bottom of it.

Analyzing a Sudden Drop in Google Rankings Google - WebmasterWorld

Like I said, more & more I'm seeing ORGANIC penalties that keep listings on page 3.

Recently I uncovered an organic penalty for an Atty I was consulting for. He didn't believe that one little thing on his web site dropped him from #1 to page 3.

I said HUMOR ME! Delete it from your site. The VERY NEXT DAY he shot back up to #1.

He had numerous problems on the Places side that needed to be cleaned up too, but after thorough research of his PURE organic ranking I could tell the penalty was on the organic side of the house. Wasn't positive that was it, as it's a relatively new penalty I had just found out about and it's something lots of local sites do. But my gut told me that was the problem and it appears my gut was right!

Re ranking troubleshooting, when I do it, it's like playing Doctor or detective. I eval everything on both sides, run a bunch of tests, then via process of elimination try to narrow it down. Sometimes it's obvious, but often it takes a pretty deep dive to find the culprit.

And sometimes it's like a mysterious disease where there's really no rhyme or reason and the puzzle goes unsolved. Doesn't happen often, but it does happen.

THE THREAD ABOVE does not really touch on LOCAL ORGANIC penalties. There are some specific things I see lots of local sites doing that can trip a penalty and some of them are pretty new, so most people don't even know they are a problem. Later today if I get time I'll try to outline a few of the ones I commonly see. SO STAY TUNED AND CHECK BACK!

Any other tips to share for diagnosing ranking penalties?
Any questions?
Jul 23, 2012
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Fascinating to read this post, Linda. I had a similar experience recently with a marriage counselor who lost their rankings. I took at look at their site and their was a really obvious duplicate content situation going on that I'm sure is a major contributor to their ranking loss. Important to understand the organic side of things as they very much affect local businesses, too.

BTW...wild guess...was your client's issue the big list of city names???

Or, maybe, the stuffed geo term title tag?

Just guessing:cool:

Linda Buquet

Local Search Expert
Jun 28, 2012
Reaction score
Oh sorry Miriam. Meant to come back and explain what it was. It's a newer suspected penalty I recently posted about here: http://localsearchforum.catalystema...ation-penalty-local-sites-internal-links.html

In the case of the atty I posted in the 1st post in this thread, they had an internal link back to HOME PAGE in footer, so it was on every page of the site. But instead of the anchor text being "Home" as it should have been, it was something like: Atlanta Divorce Attorney - Divorce Lawyer in Atlanta
(Different city and legal specialty but City KW - KW City in both directions just like that.)

So tons of pages with same anchor AND bad anchor text that should not have been used to link to home.

There is no NATURAL reason to link to your own home page with keyword stuffed links, much less no reason to DOUBLE KW stuff the links. And in the article I posted earlier on this topic, just having City + KW linking back to home was suspected of causing the over-optimization penalty.

In this case, like I said - next day after he removed the footer link he popped right back to #1.

HOWEVER, that seems pretty fast to have a penalty removed, so I admit it also could have been a coinkydink. "correlation does not always equal causation" :rolleyes:
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