Adding Your Site To Webmaster Tools May Reduce Your Rankings

by David Whitehouse
Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency

This title is a bit of a shocker, but it’s true, but before I can explain it fully you need to hear the background to my story.

Back in December 2010 I bought a website off Anthony, the website is called Cockatiel Care, it’s a terrible looking static site that for some reason had been earning around £20-30 a month on AdSense for the past 5 years.

I asked how much Anthony wanted for it, and he said the figure I had in mind, £300 – so we did the deal and I got the website later that week. After getting the website I basically did the following:

  • I updated the website with my Google AdSense code
  • I moved the website from Anthony’s hosting which was in Germany (but he’s just told me the week before that it was hosted in the US) to the UK
  • I added AdSense to some of the pages that Anthony had forgotten to (this increased my adsense viewings by 50%).
  • I added Google Analytics
  • Updated: I added the site to Google Webmasters Tools

After a happy few weeks I did a few more things:

  • I did a link exchange with Rory (he asked me, I didn’t really need to, but they were in the same niche so it kind of made sense)
  • I *think* I added the website to Google Webmasters Tools – it appeared Anthony had never gotten round to doing this (he literally had done nothing with it). (see above)

Literally the next day after I made these changes my traffic started to die off.

The amount of money I was earning dropped from £1 a day to something like £0.30 per day – naturally I panicked. I got the reciprocal links removed and I did a reconsideration request – no change.

Then I noticed the traffic dropping off was only from the US:

So my next assumption was that by moving the hosting to the UK I some how lost the US traffic (I now know Anthony had moved it from the US the week before I bought it) so I decided to buy a piece of hosting in the US and move it there. I got this done within a few weeks, but I saw absolutely no change. I then simply put it down to Panda or something and spent the next few months having my colleagues take the piss out of me for detroying a perfectly profitable site.

Two weeks ago I finally lost my patience and decided to sell the site on Flippa, hoping to make my money back (the listing is here if anyone is interested)! Then last week I had a brainwave: when you add a .co.uk website to Webmasters Tools it automatically geotargets it to the UK, and you can’t change it. So I wondered – could simply adding it to Google Webmaster Tools cause the drop, so I decided to delete my listing from Google Webmasters Tools, and low and behold the next day I started to get more traffic:

Doesn’t look like a massive difference, but the last time I had traffic as high as that on a Sunday was January 30th (195 visits), so this is looking partcularly positive. Now if you look at the traffic just coming from the US, you can see that there is actually a big jump and I believe it is probably growing:

So here is my theory – by default Google doesn’t geo-target domains, only if you add them to Google Webmasters Tools does it begin to geo-target them, and if you use a country specific domain name then you will have no choice and will actually limit the amount of traffic you get by adding it to GWT!

Crazy or what? I’m kind of wishing I hadn’t put this on auction now! Although it hasn’t hit its reserve yet, so maybe I can pull it before someone puts a higher bid in.

Bronco - Digital Marketing Agency
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