Problems listing within Google

We created a new site about a year ago - - due to a Trust merger.  Prior to this we had three sites one of which was  When i joined the org (a few years ago) i was asked to try to promote the site on google.  I checked through the site after a little research and some advice and at the time there was a line in the meta tags which said robots no follow.  I changed this and within a couple of weeks sure enough if you typed in North Dorset PCT into Google our site came up top.

I recently typed in Dorset PCT into google and we are nowhere to be seen - however, the old North dorset site does still come up top.

The page ranking within google is 4/10.  I have had a look through the meta tags and they seem to be reasonable although personally I would probably have used a few more.  Now one thing that came to mind is that the structure of the site has changed - every page is saved within a folder and each page is called index.asp - this is so that our breadcrumbs work.   Could this be the problem with it being indexed properly?

Can anyone suggest what may be preventing us from being listed even within the first page? The main problem is that since the merger I have litle control over the site structure anymore as it was designed by a colleague.  

I look forward to your responses.
Kind regards
Who is Participating?
Hi Emma,

The first thing you should do is redirect the old site to the new site using a 301/permanent redirect.  This will pass the value of any incoming links from the old site to the new one.  Incoming links are the most significant off-page ranking factor, so you don't want to waste them on a redundant, retired old website.  Your new site is in the Google index, you just need to work on moving it up the search results now.  

Also, doing this will eliminate the possibility of duplicate content problems.  If two pages have substantially similar content only one will be listed and it is more likely to be the first one that Google knew about, ie. on the old site.

"I have had a look through the meta tags and they seem to be reasonable although personally I would probably have used a few more."

Why ??????  The site already has an absurd number of meta tags.  Meta tags are not a ranking factor and have not been for a number of years.  Adding bunches of useless meta tags to a web page just adds code bloat unless you stuff them full of keywords, in which case your rankings will be harmed.

"The page ranking within google is 4/10."

Don't get hung up on PageRank.  PR is a measurement of incoming link value and as such is one (of over 100) ranking factors, but it is a lousy indicator of where a page will appear in the search results because it is not keyword specific.  Additionally, what people tend to refer to as PageRank is actually toolbar PR.  Toolbar PR is not used by Google, but rather is a rough and infrequently updated estimation on a 1-10 scale of the actual PR of a page.  Focus on search results, not PageRank.

"Could this be the problem with it being indexed properly?"

No, that is a legitimate way of doing things.  Where you do run into problems is using underscores in your URLs instead of hyphens.  For example, this ...
... is not as search engine friendly as ...

And as I noted, the site has been indexed, it now just needs to move up the search results.  The only question is ...

"Can anyone suggest what may be preventing us from being listed even within the first page?"

Yes.  The site is very poorly optimized.  A full listing of what you need to fix would be too long to post here, but take a look at the excellent SEO tutorial at  This will give you a solid grounding in SEO fundamentals and put you in a position to start making your own extensive list of the problems with the site.  You may not have direct control over the site anymore, but it is not going to rank well until whoever does takes the time to optimize it properly and start to build some incoming links.
NorthDorsetWebAuthor Commented:
Thank you for your help on this.  Is it ok if I use this thread to ask questions in relation to our site as I read through the informatoin?

If so, here goes if not then I shall post another question.

The first area is within the title.  We currently have current page, section above and the Dorset PCT split with the > character.  So for instance....

The Board > The Organisation > Dorset Primary Care Trust

Now the old site uses the | character - does this make a difference?

Kind regards
Yes, please feel free to ask related follow up questions.

I haven't seen anything yet to convince me that using characters like that are a hindrance from an SEO perspective, though some people claim they are.  The more likely result is that the SE's ignore them.

I can't give a definitive answer to this, though, because I have no practical experience using them.  Why don't I use them?  Two reasons ...

1) Why take the chance of confusing the SE bots?  and

2) Page Title real estate is too valuable to waste on special characters.  The title element is the most important on-page ranking factor.  As such, it should be chosen very carefully so that you have an effective page title that makes good use of your targeted keywords (and the tutorial linked above gives some good advice on how to do this).  This important task can be a challenge and you only have around 60 characters (maximum) to work with.  Do you really want to waste characters on >'s and |'s ?

I also think you will find that when you have a good sense of what you want to accomplish with your page titles, you will have less need for or temptation to use these sorts of characters.
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NorthDorsetWebAuthor Commented:
Ok thats for that - understood!

I am now onto METATags.  Sorry where I said more METATags I actually meant more keywords - I was under the impression that 25 was about right - but of course I have also heard that these may or may not be relevant now.

<meta name="keywords" lang="en" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust, PCT, Heath Service Dorset, " />
<meta name="description" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust website provides information about the health and social care services provided by the NHS in Dorset." />
<meta name="DC.subject" lang="en" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust" />
<meta name="DC.description" lang="en" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust website provides information about the health and social care services provided by the NHS in Dorset." />
<meta name="verify-v1" content="Xcof2mB9IXdZ6qQuL7jimkLxX8r7Po/yBWb95dFpdKU=" />
<!-- #EndEditable -->
<link rel="schema.DC" href="" />
<link rel="schema.DCTERMS" href="" />
<link rel="shortcut icon" href="/favicon.ico" />
<meta http-equiv="cache-control" content="no-cache"/>
<meta http-equiv="pragma" content="no-cache" />
<meta http-equiv="expires" content="-1" />
<meta http-equiv="content-type" content="text/html; charset=iso-8859-1" />
<meta name="ROBOTS" content="FOLLOW" />
<meta name="author" content="Rowan Allinson" />
<meta name="DC.title" lang="en" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust" />
<meta name="DC.creator" content="Rowan Allinson" />
<meta name="DC.publisher" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust" />
<meta name="" scheme="DCTERMS.W3CDTF" content="2006-01-16" />
<meta name="DC.type" scheme="DCTERMS.DCMIType" content="Text" />
<meta name="DC.format" content="text/html" />
<meta name="DC.format" content="13735 bytes" />
<meta name="DC.identifier" scheme="DCTERMS.URI" content="" />
<meta name="DC.language" scheme="DCTERMS.RFC1766" content="en-uk" />
<meta name="DC.coverage" content="Dorset; England; UK;" />
<meta name="DC.rights" content="Dorset Primary Care Trust" />

The tutorial only mentions - keywords, desccription and robots,  would you be inclined to remove everything else?

Absolutely, I would remove everything else and go even further.  

I would also delete the keywords meta tag.  It has no relevance to search rankings and search engines ignore it (unless, as noted above, you fill it full of spam).  The only reasonable use is to use it to remind yourself what keywords you want to optimize the page for and since it is not really possible to properly optimize a page for more than 2-3 keywords or key phrases (as in your tag), you would never need more than that anyway.  But even that is optional.

So, if you are in the camp that thinks the keyword meta tag retains some slight relevance (let's call that the 'Hopeful-Against-Evidence-to-the-Contrary' camp), then leave in the meta tag with the 2-3 keywords you will be optimizing the page for.  It won't do you any harm, at least.

I would also delete the robots meta tag.  It can only be used to block a robot from accessing your page (and even then a robots.txt file does that more effectively).  Contrary to what some claim, you can not use the robots meta tag to order a search engine to "index, follow" your page and links.  They have their own criteria for determining what pages to index and what links to follow.

So, that leaves you with the description meta tag.  Again, it is not a ranking factor unless you fill it with keyword spam and then it works against you.  It is useful, however, because search engines will often use the contents of the tag as a snippit to describe your page in the search results.
NorthDorsetWebAuthor Commented:
Ok, Can i ask a side question?  Its not really relevant to my full time job but just some work that im doing for a private site I host.   It will help with this though because I can apply it to my day work.

Im quite concerned only after you answering one or two questions.  The company I run the site for have just employed a SEO Specialist.  Think they are being charged about £300 per month for their services - they do guarantee a refund as long as I put in place the changes to the site they request.

To cut a very long story short, I have quite a big report from them, they want me to write some script so that the META tag descriptions are unique on each page, want me to put keywords in the Alt tags, add 250 keywords merged in the current content throughout the index page, he is talking about supplemntal pages in google which would indicate that a lot of the content isnt live anymore (the site only has about 12 or 13 main pages with property and detail pages being called from information in a database).  he wants me to add keywords witin header tags and to change the content within the index page every couple of weeks - and add pages so the site increass in size.  Apparently we will be receiving link requests (the ones we have received seem to be from really random sites) one was a hose company in Japan and nothing to do with property.

Im a little suspicous.. im not entirely sure what work at their end they will be doing?

What do you think?
Overall, I think you have reason to feel suspicious.  Having said that, each page should have a unique description because each page will have a different purpose and content.  Keywords in your headers are marginally helpful.  Fresh content and adding pages is good, but should be natural.  If you have a page that includes quality content including the information you want to impart to the visitor, changing it for the sake of changing it is more of a negative than a positive.

Additionally, people who advocate these measures - 'add keywords here, add keywords there' - are often ultimately talking about keyword stuffing, which is counterproductive.  Headers, content, tags, etc. that are clear, effective, and well written are better in general and also better from an SEO perspective than their counterparts that are created with too much concern for adding keywords.

Along those lines, "... add 250 keywords merged in the current content throughout the index page ..." is definitely a warning sign that this "Specialist" is headed down that (wrong) road.  The same is true of the notion of expecting to receive link exchange requests and actually receiving them from seemingly random and unrelated websites.  Reciprocal links have not been of any real SEO use for some time now and use of them can now actually do harm to your rankings.

Likewise, the fact that you are getting these low-grade solicitations suggest the possibility that your site has been entered into some kind of cross-linking scheme.  If you start adding outgoing links to these sites, you can be pretty sure that your rankings will take a hit.

Bottom line - I don't want to say anything definitive without a more detailed understanding of what the report recommends, but your overview concerns me.  The fact is that there are a lot of so-called professional SEO's who are either out of date and under-informed or who are outright scammers.  There are more of them than there are legitimate and competent SEO's.

Every good SEO I know will tell you that over half their business comes in the form of cleaning up the messes made by these people.  So, if you don't have a good grounding in SEO, you are in no position to properly qualify a prospective consultant and if you can't do that, you're more likely to end up with one of the bad ones than one of the good ones.

Anyway, unrelated to this question, I would be interested in taking a look at the whole report.  If it is not confidential and you would be interested in a more informed opinion, please feel free to send it to the email address in my profile.
NorthDorsetWebAuthor Commented:
Hi there

I sent an email in response to your advice.  

Thank you for your help on this.  I hope that I may contact you in future should I need some more advice.

Kind regards
Glad to be able to help and thanks for the A :)
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