17 Poor Quality Signals Your Site May Be Sending

You see the postings in the forums. People talk about their sites going in an out of the index on a regular basis. Their sites go in for 5 days, and then are out for 10. It’s a wrenching experience.

In my recent interview with Adam Lasnik, Adam explained that it simply means that Google is detecting what it considers to be some poor quality signals with regard to your site. The other thing that Adam outlined is that the reason for the in and out behavior is that Google is tweaking their algorithms on a regular basis.

Based on some of my experience in helping some people with these problems, a regular basis could be as frequent as weekly, or even more often. It’s interesting to contemplate why Google would be making these tweaks so frequently. It could be that it’s a part of constantly testing search quality with the live index. It would be reasonable to speculate (and I am speculating) that they have a variety of automated measurement tools in place to see how various tweaks affect overall click though rates, bounce backs, searchers per use per session, etc.

But if this problem is happening to you, you want to have some idea about what to do. Here is a list of things that you may want to look for:

  1. Too large a percentage of your links are reciprocal
  2. Lack of high quality inbound links
  3. Too large a percentage of your inbound links are not relevant to your site topic
  4. No outbound links
  5. Outbound links to poor quality sites
  6. Too large a percentate of your outbound links are Nofollowed (note: does not apply to blog comments and forums, where this expected behavior)
  7. No coherent topic for your site
  8. Too large a percentate of your pages with duplicate content
  9. Too large a percentage of your pages with minimal content
  10. Titles are duplicated
  11. More than 5 keywords in your keywords metatags on your pages
  12. Meta descriptions are the same on every page
  13. Image alt tags that are way too long
  14. Keyword stuffing
  15. Hidden text, or almost hidden text
  16. Hidden Links, or almost hidden links
  17. Web server downtime too high

So if your site is going in and out of the index, this is a list of things for you to think about. It’s natural to agonize about what is going on, and many webmasters that are experiencing this problem are honestly trying to run good web sites. But, the in and out behavior of your site tells you that you have something to work on.


  1. Eric Enge says

    Hi Feir,

    The only search engine I know that says they look at meta keywords at all is Yahoo, and it is clear that they think of it as a very minor factor (Google does not look to meta keywords at all as a signal for increasing ranking.

    As for the possibility of it being a spam signal (or a poor quality signal) I do not know for sure that any search engine looks at meta keywords tag as a potential spam signal.

    However, I decided to put it in the list because it occurred to me as something they could use. Too many keywords in your keyword metatags is like any other form of keyword stuffing. Whether or not 5 is the right limit to put on it is something you can debate, but this metatag was never meant to contain huge lists of keywords like I see on some sites.

    You can get more of my philosophy on this in this article:


  2. says

    “More than 5 keywords metatags on your pages ”

    Hi Eric,
    I came here by way of a link to this post on Small Business SEM. This is my first visit to your site and I really enjoyed this article. It’s a very good checklist.

    I think I see a little confusion in the above quote. It’s reading (to me, anyway) as though you are saying you shouldn’t have 5 meta keywords tags on your page…when I think what you actually mean is you shouldn’t have more than 5 keywords in your meta keywords tag. I don’t think anyone actually has 5 meta keywords lines in their code…though you never can tell with silly spammers, right? :)

    At any rate, it’s probably not a big deal, but I thought I’d point out what I saw as being confusing about this statement. In the end, the meta keywords tag is really a dinosaur.

    Good post. I’d like to read more from you!
    Kind Regards,

  3. Eric Enge says

    Hi Miriam,

    Thanks for pointing out the wording flaw. I think most everyone would know what I meant, but the wording was not well constructed, so I fixed it.

  4. says

    A friend of mine had his site drop from PR6 to PR4 despite numerous links from PR5 and above pages. The problem? Almost every single page was from one site — it looked as if he has scads of higher ranking back links (he did) but the variety of pages was limited to one domain.

    Apparently, Google is ignoring multiple links from the same site.

  5. Eric Enge says

    Hi Matt,

    No question – tons of links from one domain is not as valuable as one link from tons of domains. I wouldn’t say that they ignore multiple links, they are not quite as additive as one might hope.

    If you think about it, from the point of view of wanting to count a link as a vote based on editorial judgment for your site, this makes sense. Once someone has decided to link to you, you have their vote. Letting them vote 100 times does not make sense.

  6. Frances Leyland says

    Are more than five keywords in the metakeywords tag bad? I’ve never heard that before. I thought they were barely counted by the search engines so I tend to fill them with related words that I can’t get on the page any other way.

    But you would recommend keeping them right down?

  7. says

    In re Fraces Leyland – Frances, if you cannot get the words on the page, then they do not belong in the metadata, even if that meta tag is for keywords. The purpose of metadata should be to highlight that which is most important on the page. If the words are not on the page, then they are not important TO THAT PAGE….. but they may belong elsewhere on the site, and matched in the metadata, keywords included.

  8. says

    SEO has been a very hot topic in recent years. Every webmaster comes to notice that traffic is more important than anything and would be willing to do anything to increase the number of unique visitors coming in.

  9. says

    Nice article, I have done a lot of seo work and agree with most of what you say. Nowdays though meta tags and descriptions are irrelevant, though you should still content focus them.

    I think one of my main problems on my tech site at the moment is content focus, it is causing me some trouble!



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