I have a site, escape-ecigarettes.co.uk which is 7 months old and was doing quite well for a new site until 28th March, when there was a big drop in Google keyword ranking positions. We had 3 keywords on page 1 and several close to the top of page 2, they dropped back by around 2 pages at first and have continued to drop off since. One keyword is back on page 1, but the others are all on pages 4-6.
Sales are now virtually zero and I can not afford to pay an SEO company, so I plan to slowly try and learn some SEO myself, but first I need to find out what caused the problem and fix it.
The company that was doing the SEO at the time believe that I caused the problem by posting fake product reviews and customer testimonials. I did not do this for SEO advantage or did I know that it could possibly cause a problem, I simply did it because the site looked so new. The reviews and testimonials were added steadily over a period of 3 months. I have to admit that I got a bit lazy in March and I was just copying reviews and testimonials from competitor sites, again at the time I had no idea this could cause a problem.
All of the reviews and testimonials were removed at the end of April a month after the drop, there has been no bounce back and rankings continue to fall. Have the reviews and testimonial caused the drop? or is it more likely to be something else?
The links that have been built by the SEO company for the site consist mostly of directory sites, 2 people have looked at the links, one says they have definitely caused the problem the other says they are just low quality and have not caused the problem. There is no penalty notice in webmaster tools. Do I have bad links that should be removed?
Could you please also comment on the following issues which have been mention as possible causes:
1. Duplicate home page
2. Duplicate home page content on directory sites
3. Keyword rich internal links pointing to the home page
Any help would be most welcome, I need to find out what needs to be fixed.