Late last year, I've been hired into an Aussie company that manages a listing website. When I came in, they were doing well: top 400k in Alexa Rank, ~60k users per week from Google Analytics and Search Console, usually top 3 for our top terms. Note that this has been maintained for months before I arrived. So as time went on and the previous IT guy left, I have noticed our Alexa Ranking and weekly users slowly going down. I saw that this was affecting the whole market but it was hitting our website harder than the others. Now we're sitting at ~550k in Alexa Rank, 45k users per week in Analytics and Search Console, and top 3-6 for our top terms.
As this is a listing site and I was totally new to SEO, I started adding nofollow tags to subcategory links found in category pages as I read about how that could cause keyword cannibalisation especially when a chunk of the same listings are found in both pages. Aside from that, I have also fixed some small grammatical errors which I assume don't have major impacts on our organic searches.
I will be mentioning a dummy website and main search term but these will be similar to the actual ones. As we run a listing website, let's say the website's name being "Australian Vehicles For Sale", we rely on the top search term "vehicle for sale" for our pages to rank well. If a user searches "vehicle for sale" while in Sydney, our Sydney search page is what is shown. If a user searches "vehicle for sale" in Melbourne, our Melbourne search page is what is shown. Generic descriptions for each location are similar to below. Only text in bold is changed based on location.
This page will help you find a car, motorcycle, or truck for sale in Sydney, NSW… (other generic text)
We also have over 30 categories and each page has generic descriptions where some words are substituted for the current category. For example:
This page will help you find a Trailer Truck for sale in Australia… (other generic text)
The substitutions only replace the phrase Trailer Truck for other categories like Luxury Car, Motorcycle, and others.
The system is configured (for years now) to append "Vehicle For Sale" in the headline of each listing. So typical listings would be like "BMW M3 2009 Vehicle For Sale" or "KAWASAKI ZZR1100 1995 in Sydney Vehicle For Sale". Each listing is also headed by the category they're present in, appended again by "Vehicle For Sale". This would cause the phrase "Vehicle For Sale" to appear multiple times in each location and category page.
So my questions are:
Did the nofollow tags negatively affect our search ranks? Should there be unique descriptions for each location and category? Should the repetitive "Vehicle For Sale" phrase be removed? Why is our rank dropping so quickly after being consistent for months? If there is a lot of changes to be made, is there a risk of our ranks dropping and not being restored again?
Please note that I'm still relatively new to SEO and have difficulty applying SEO techniques to the website since most of what I see are article or blog based advice.
Thanks in advance.
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