Google Issues September 30, 2008

Google Issues

You guys have helped me with Interweb issues before… maybe you can help me here.

For whatever reason, this website doesn’t appear on the first page of Google when you search for my name. Or even when you search for “Friendly Atheist.”

What am I doing wrong…?

Thanks in advance.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Everyone needs to put links on their blogs/pages/etc to “Friendly Atheist” linking to this site. That’s the #1 way of increasing page ranking.

  • You might want to add a rel=”nofollow” on that link in your post to “Friendly Atheist” linking to Google. 😉

  • Work the term Friendly Atheist into as many of the alt tags and title tags you can… instead of title=”Blogroll” try title=”Friendly Atheist Blogroll”, etc. Don’t over do it though…if it looks like your trying to repeat something gratuitously you might get penalized for it…so don’t add Friendly Atheist a 100 times in brown type on the brown background at the bottom

    Maybe we need a “Mention Friendly Atheist day”…where people check blog posts at and leave a comment somewhere that mentions Friendly Atheist. So if I find a blog entry somewhere I could write a comment like “I wonder what Hemant at Friendly Atheist would think about that?” The more links from off-site coming into this site, especially with the phrase “Friendly Atheist” linked will help. Hopefully everyone tyeps caerfully.

  • Is the linking the only issue? Because I think I already get plenty of links from people…

  • Scott Lichtenstein

    You might want to know that if you use iGoogle and type in “atheism” as a tab subject, the Friendly Atheist blog comes up as a widget, lists links to the last five blog posts…that’s how I found this blog. So that’s good news for you.

  • Are you “pinging” after each post? If so which service are you using? Technorati has been very, very quirky lately so you might want to use something else like Feedshark or even ping Google directly.


    This is a really cheap answer, but maybe submitting a site map to Google may help?

  • Very odd indeed. FWIW, you’re #1 in Yahoo, Ask and Live for the keywords “friendly atheist”.

  • Chas

    Your site is unfortunately competing against your own fame! 😉

    Google “scores” sites based on how often people click on them for other searches (and other things as well). So if there is a wikipedia page with “Helmant Mehta” on it, it’s going to score higher than a page from this blog.

    Here’s a couple suggestions that may or may not help “score” your site better, but at least with increase chances of people finding you:

    I would see if you can get a link back to your blog on as many of the those articles that do come on the first couple of result page as possible.

    Setting up cross linking to other site will help some, specially if you think google might “score” them higher. Think about the atheist associations that get a lot of press.

    You also may want to set up pages on various social network sites (Myspace, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc) which are highly “scored” by google. You may have to fill out each page, but just make sure you put your link on it.

  • Courtney

    You might have been “Google Bowled”. Basically, somebody who doesn’t like you/your site creates a bunch of links to it from “spam” sites; when Google sees them, it thinks that you’re trying to boost your search rankings through means they don’t like, so they remove your site from the index, or seriously drop the weighting on it.

    It recently happened to a friend of mine, which is how I found out about it.

  • SmilingAtheist


    Cat’s Staff is correct. You need to put Friendly Atheist in every title on your website, including your name if you want people to use that as a way of finding this site. My wife was told to do that with her site and she now appears on the front page. Also as Bjorn suggested make sure you’ve submitted to Google and other search engines. Meta tags are still useful too but apparently not what they once were.

  • Autumnal Harvest

    I think Courtney is right, and that you’ve been “Google Bowled.” Or, alternatively, Google has implemented new algorithms for targeting illicit Search Engine Optimination and/or spammers, and you’ve been identified as a bad person according to their algorithms. If so, the suggestions about modifying the link structure—rewriting titles, links, and so on—will not be helpful.

    Until recently, typing “Friendly Atheist” into Google put you in first place. Now, it returns you at #25. I have trouble believing that the link structure changed so drastically, so recently, just by chance. A lot of people would have to suddenly decide to stop linking to you, or you would have had to rewrite a lot of titles or page headings, badly. It seems much more likely that Google has (incorrectly) decided that you’re doing something they don’t like. Unfortunately, I have no suggestions as to what to do about it if this is the case, because Google will not tell people when or why they made this determination.

    Do you by any chance know what your PageRank was a few months ago? Currently it’s 5, which seems surprisingly low for a site of this popularity.

  • sam

    I hear you get a better rank if you register your domain for a longer period of time.

  • have you submitted your url to google?

  • To start with, you need to put a certain meta tag in your header.

    <meta name=”robots” value=”all” />

    See if you can get this to be injected into your html template retroactively.

    And yes, submit it to google as toomanytribbles suggests. In fact thanks tmt, I forgot to do that since I changed my blog a couple weeks ago!

  • Oh, and use a keywords meta. They say it’s deprecated, but I think it may help somehow.

    <meta name=”keywords” value=”friendly,atheist, friendly atheist,friendlyatheist,atheism,freethought,skepticism” />

  • Jake

    Interesting note, it’s number 1 on Yahoo for friendly atheist, and number 2 for your name.

    I guess Google isn’t as great as people think.

  • alan

    Hi Hemant,
    First of all, thank you for this site!
    There are plenty SEO actions you can undertake to improve your ranking in google and Cat’s Staff is right: you should have this issue in mind every time you think of a title. This being said, I would say that the most important of all is the quality of your URLs: Yours are definitely not search-engine-friendly enough. The keywords you want the users to find you with should appear in plain text in the urls as often as possible. For instance, “” doesn’t mean a thing to google. Instead of “about the contributors”, try renaming that page to “Friendly Atheist – Hemant Mehta” and wait a few days. The impact will be dramatic.

  • bobbo

    have you tried praying about it?

  • Sue

    Yesterday, a good friend of mine shared with me that his site suddenly dropped from front page to page four and his rank was showing as 0. I am actually concerned that this may be a wider problem than two random sites at the same time.

  • I think there is a bigger problem going on. I enjoyed being in position #3 for a period of time, as of last week I lost my page rank and position and now sit on page 5 for my keywork phrase.

    I do not subscribe to any spamming or link exchange and used my keyword in the META TAGS on each page.

  • Google seems pretty fickle. I’ve noticed sites come and go from the front page with no apparent reason. Hopefully it will sort itself out in due course. I think you’re doing everything right, and WordPress is generally pretty Google-friendly. I’ve added a link to you, so hopefully that will help a little.

  • Looking in the source code of your homepage, I only see the phrase “Friendly Atheist” three times! In the title, the summary of this post, and in the footer. So it’s not terribly surprising that Google doesn’t think this page is about “friendly atheist”!

    I found this site on the bottom of the third page when searching for “friendly atheist” and the top of the fifth page when searching for “hemant mehta” — and tellingly, the snippet from both is also the summary of this post! Perhaps if you used both phrases more in your site, it would improve. Your current standing for these terms is almost certainly a factor of how many sites link to yours.

    Here are a few suggestions.
    – the title of your site is just an image, and a background image at that, so there’s not even an “alt” attribute that you can stuff some text in. You’ll get a boost right away I bet if you include “friendly atheist” in an h1 header tag. A Fahrner Image Replacement might be what you need.

    – Follow Cat’s Staff’s advice and wherever there are images in your design, include your terms in the alt attribute, and include your terms in the title attribute for any links. For instance, your header right now is wrapped with a link to provide users a way back to the main page, add “Friendly Atheist” as a title attribute and you’ve already increased the term usage by 33%. Update the titles for the existing navigation links from “FAQ” to “Friendly Atheist FAQ”, etc.

    – Like Aerik said, add some meta tags (keywords and description). These certainly aren’t critical any more, but they’re not exactly deprecated. They’re good to include — and you don’t either right now, so they would only help.

    You’ll have a slightly higher hill to climb with “hemant mehta” because you’re competing with your own fame, like Chas said. There are a lot of references out there to your name that refer to your book or interviews instead of the site, and you’ll have to compete with those. You might try things like replacing the title tag for your “Contact Me” button with “Contact Hemant Mehta”, and so on.

  • We use the “All in one SEO pack” WordPress plugin on our site. It can rewrite your title tags to include you site name in one shot, and you can easily change your meta tags with it. We ran into some trouble by not disabling the function that adds all of your tags to the meta tags — something I do not suggest doing if you’ve got a ton of them.

  • These tips were really helpful with tweaking the MN Atheists site, such as including more references to Minnesota Atheists, and changing the site name from to Minnesota Atheists – Positive Atheism in Action!

  • As others have mentioned, you need to target your terms a bit better, be more consistent and push your terms a little harder. There’s also no structure to your pages, the earliest heading I see is a H3. I’d expect to see a H1 and a H2 above that, but there isn’t. As a general rule I use a H1 for the site title on the main page and then a H1 for the article title on single pages. That should help people get to your homepage for general searches but deeper into your site for more detailed searches.

    As you’re using WordPress there are numerous plugins you can use, some are do-it-all like All In One SEO Pack where some are more specialised like Meta Posts. It’s worth trying out. You can also do some things in your theme to help out, like automatically putting the tags you use against a post in the meta keywords header and the “excerpt” of a post in the meta description. Meta data is still used by some search engines, and this is a zero effort way of improving your rankings in those engines once it’s set up.

    Something else I noticed is that if you search for your name, your old site comes up second for me. It would be beneficial if you set up a permanent redirect to show Google that this is where you now live. That way all the Google juice your old site had should be passed on.

    As a side, I checked the rankings of my site, The Atheist, and I’m about fifth in Google for the term “atheist blog”. So I must be doing something right!

  • Autumnal Harvest

    On the “Google Bowling”: I just browsed the list of sites that link to your site, and they all seem like legitimate sites, so I don’t think that you’ve been Google Bowled.

    However, I still think that Google has tagged your site as suspect for some reason, and thus demoted its ranking. Given that this site was very recently first place for a “friendly atheist” search, and that LiveSearch and Yahoo still put you first, it can’t just be normal backlinks and pageranking. The explanations that people have given above about how to Search Engine Optimize are fine for general sites, but they don’t explain why your site, with the exact same tags and links, would suddently change in ranking. You have a ton of relevant incoming links, and you blog has the two search words right in the title. Any reasonable algorithm will put you in the first few hits, unless the search engine company (Google) has demoted your site for some other reason.

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