An Open Letter to Google

I’ve been unable to update my personal blog over the last few weeks because I’ve been up to my nose in a frustrating process on my main website: HysterSisters Hysterectomy Support.

This has become a time consuming, brain zapping process and I don’t feel like I’m any closer to having answers today than I did weeks ago.

And so, I would like to ask my questions here.

Hoping. No. Praying that Google will see it and provide me some answers. Or perhaps Matt Cutts will provide some sort of help. (Matt, loved your costume.)

Dear Google,

I launched the website in 1998 and have worked daily to make sure it is the best it can be. I’ve spent countless hours organizing content, adding articles, redesigning the skin with my visitors in mind. I’ve assembled the best volunteer staff that help with visitors, articles, website input.

My visitors, by the way, are wonderful women. Hormonal. In pain. Frightened. Feeling alone. Many are online for the first time. Often, their husbands find HysterSisters.com and help their wives register.I’ve tried to make sure the website provides well marked links, easy registration for our community and created pages that match their particular need.

As I launched it over 9 years ago with the intent to help women through a difficult time, that intent and my daily motivation remains the same. For the women. Kindness and support. For them. For their needs.

I’m at my best managing my site’s content. I have a notebook near me that collects my ideas based on the needs of the visitors and I plan the next projects to enhance the quality for the site’s visitors. As I spent all my time providing the best I could offer for them, I was rewarded early with wonderful organic search results. It meant that more women who needed help….. could find us! Yahoo loved HysterSisters and selected it as a “hot find”. Google search results were ideal.

Those in the Google ranks have told web-masters/managers for years that if we would just provide content and concentrate on our visitors needs, the SEO would come naturally. And yes, it did for many years. But not so anymore. Not for me.

Over the past year I have become a stressed web-manager, panicking at the loss of indexed pages in Google as I’ve watched my traffic edge slightly lower. Checking the “site:www” function doesn’t help. 12,600 for hystersisters.com (where we have over twenty times that many pages and all used to be indexed) and 17,000 for girlsgetgoing.com (my other site which I do nothing for SEO, never used a sitemap, and has 1% of the traffic, members as Hystersisters.com)

I installed vbseo sitemap AND added the sitemap url in my webmaster tools in google.com in an attempt to get Google Spiders back to loving my site. Freak out. Stress. I checked the webmaster/tools/crawl rate and it displays charts that seems to have stopped crawling in mid October. I’m the largest, most well respected website in this niche and I can’t get pages indexed.

And I’m baffled. Is it something I did?

And of course its all connected to revenue. Revenue required to keep the site up and available for our visitors. One server for the database. Another server to serve the files. A system administrator to manage them. A web-developer to maintain the software and to code the snippets we need for added features for our members. Adsense has been a great revenue generator until the end of October. All of a sudden, the income is not what it was. Not even close. And yes, its tied to traffic. (Which is my double freak-out for search results, and sitemap stuff.)

Enter Adwords. Trying to make up for the loss of organic search from missing indexed pages (where are they?) I tried to set up an adwords campaign. I went to a wonderful Adwords for Success seminar in Dallas and learned a ton of good stuff. But what I didn’t learn or understand is that I can’t seem to bid high enough in my keyword area to gain much traffic. In fact, upping my budget did next to nothing to increase impressions/clicks. An oddity I don’t understand: Google Adwords doesn’t spend my daily budget even with quality scores on my keywords: “GREAT”.

I’m not a techie. Not really. I’ve linked the right way. Built my content the right way. My ultimate goal is for our visitors: Make sure the women can find us so they can get the help, information and support the need.

So, dear Google, I have many questions from weeks of frustration. (And yes I know there are some answers Google does not have.) Please tell me:

1. Should I remove the sitemap in webmaster/tools?

2. Did the Google spider crawl stop in mid october on HysterSisters.com? If so, why?

3. Where did my indexed pages go?

4. Are there Adwords reps for smaller budget folks like me to help with campaigns?

5. Why is Adsense revenue taking such a beating right now?

6. Why are Adwords bidding so high I can’t participate?

(And don’t these two questions contradict each other? I’m gaining less through adsense but can’t bid high enough to compete with my keywords)

7. And biggest question of all….. If I remove the sitemap, disable my vbseo sitemap creator, ignore Google webmaster tools, disable my pitiful adwords campaigns and go back to working on my site to help my visitors: will I wake up next year to find my website on page 99,945 in keyword search for “hysterectomy”?

Yours truly,

Kathy Kelley

Hystersisters.com

8 Comments

  1. Hi Kathy, it looks like you might have been in digital co-op or a similar link exchange last year? In general, you have to be careful about link exchanges in terms of whether the link exchanging becomes excessive or if you end up linking to sites that search engines will consider spammy.

    That said, I don’t see any penalties on http://www.hystersisters.com/ at all right now. It’s possible that any link exchange links to your site aren’t counting as much as before, but they’re not counting against you. So in some sense you have an open path ahead of you. I’d recommend not to try to get links from tons of link exchanges if possible.

    One thing I would recommend would be good keyword research. For example, you show up #3 for the search [hysterectomy] to me. You might think about some of the searches that you show up for almost by accident (e.g. you’re in the front page for the search [novasure]), and whether you want to show up for more searches like that. You might also want to research more specific versions of queries. You’re in the top 3 for [hysterectomy], but nowhere to be found for related searches such as [laproscopic hysterectomy]. If you can generate useful + relevant discussions on more specific topics, those discussions can serve as great resources that users would love and benefit from finding in Google.

    Best wishes,
    Matt Cutts

  2. kathy

    Hi Matt,

    Matt, Thank you for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate the time you have taken to read about my woes and reply to me. I was penalized almost 2 years ago for being in the dp link coop (when DP claimed it was not so) and immediately removed the links and requested reinclusion. Google claimed to forgive me. But, from that point, the pages were never indexed properly again it seems. We have many discussions (almost 300,000) for laparoscopic hysterectomy, vaginal hysterectomy, abdominal hysterectomy, fibroids, endometriosis, hormone therapy, (the list goes on). Hystersisters.com is the leading authority for patient support but the spiders are not getting to the content. I have no idea why.

    I am not a link-exchange-monster. There are a few authority sites we link to naturally, providing resources to our members. (Is our link directory of carefully moderated content a problem? We created the hystersisters link directory as a place to recommend our visitors for additional resources for fibroids, endometriosis, hormone therapy, etc. We do not link directly, rather we use a link jump. Are we being penalized for that?

    I had a sitemap from vbseo but have removed it now. I have set the spider crawl rate to FASTER but that doesn’t seem to help. No matter what I think to try (sitemap, adwords, etc) nothing seems to help with the spiders getting to the content to make it available in organic searches for our patients.

    THanks again, Matt,
    Kathy

  3. Dear Kathy, you are experiencing a Google Sandbox.

    Please refer to this post
    http://sphinn.com/story/14506

    Google SandBox happens when you SpeedLink to your Website above the average speed of natural linking.

    This happens to new and old Websites.

    This is a big problem and Google needs to address it.
    A competetor by design or your users inadvertantly may cause your site to go into a SandBox, by over Digging and Stumbling it.

    Think of it as Quick Sand, the more you link to your Website the lower in Google index your Webpages go.

    I would advise not to actively recieve inlinks to your site, if it is at all possible and later continue a natural linking process.

  4. Kathy, for a Website as yours with Google PR 2 to have 106,000 inbound links is not normal. You may want to compare to other forums in your industry and see what is the ratio of indound links to Google PR.

    You better hurry up, because Google Toolbar PR will be hidden soon!

  5. kathy

    My PR is 5.

    I’m talking about this website: http://www.hystersisters.com

    I have 17,524 inbound links according to my webmasters/tools.

    I have never been dugg nor stumbled upon. I don’t understand those sites and just have too much to do managing my own site to worry about digging and stumbling. ;)

  6. I feel your pain Kathy. As someone who has been in the same/a similar situation I know how extremely frustrating this can be. I do believe in cases like this Google has an interest in resolving them as they clearly don’t serve the consumer any better by not allowing the best sites to rank the highest. Unfortunately I also know of cases where a team of people from Google have actually looked at a site and not definitively been able to figure out why it had lost it’s rankings. So you are not alone and in some cases it’s not very clear cut.

    I’d like to address a few of your questions and also point you to a thread that might be able to help you out. It’s the one which eventually ended up clearing out a large part of our dropped pages, although quite some are still missing in action (but we’re hoping that time is the answer to that problem!).

    1. Should I remove the sitemap in webmaster/tools?
    – I wouldn’t remove it, but I don’t generally trust any tool that comes from a site including seo in the domain… also, I can’t even see it at it’s standard location: http://www.hystersisters.com/sitemap.xml ?

    2. Did the Google spider crawl stop in mid october on HysterSisters.com? If so, why?
    – You should definitely be able to see this in webmaster tools under I believe the tools section. You can see google activity there including how many pages/bandwidth etc they are fetching.

    3. Where did my indexed pages go?
    – I guess that’s the key question really!

    4/5/6. Sorry, I’m no expert in this although I try and keep up. I’d say the answer to your adsense revenue tanking is clearly less search traffic. If your traffic has dropped, it’d make sense that your adsense income dropped by the same, probably more (since search traffic tends to bounce out by clicking on ads more than users visiting from bookmarks).

    There’s a rather long thread over at google groups pertaining to our specific case and perhaps reading that will give you one of those ‘a ha, perhaps it’s that’ moments. The thread is at http://groups.google.com/group/Google_Webmaster_Help-Indexing/browse_thread/thread/f0ad62c3fe6e9d33/05208168c956ce3d (man, why do those urls s**k so much?!).

    Do you run any affiliate programs? Have you changed anything within the shop area or is there a reason none of your meta titles there actually pertain to the content on the page (ie. on a page selling product x, it’s perfectly normal (and in fact desirable) to have your meta title saying product x once as well as have it as a h1)? The title just seems to be HysterSisters Hysterectomy… on all pages.

    Anyway, not sure if I’ll be notified of follow up comments (hate blogging systems that don’t allow that!) but if not, feel free to send me an email. I’d be happy to try and help.

    Good luck and keep up the great work!

    Sam

  7. Hi Kathy

    There’s an interesting thing with a site: search that Google doesn’t show the meta description for the pages. Instead it shows: “You are viewing HysterSisters Hysterectomy site as a guest. JOIN for *free* access to receive hysterectomy support!”. The tag looks properly formatted, although it’s mostly the same as the title.

    I would also suggest that you remove (or NOFOLLOW) the links to Moms Who Think – – Girls Get Going that are on the foot of every page. I know they are your sites, but that can be the problem, they are probably hosted in the same place with the same contact info in Whois. Sometimes side-wide neighbourhood linking is not a good idea.

    Unfortunately, SEO is not an exact art, and the longer you keep looking the more things you find that could be causing it.

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