An alternative look at Google Webmaster guidelines, with the leaked quality raters handbook in mind, and over ten years experience ranking web pages in Google (the site that – probably – sends you 90% of your search engine traffic) … I actually started writing this a while ago…. but seeing as Seo Book has a nice relevant infographic I thought I would publish…..
A Google-friendly website used to mean a website built so Google could scrape it properly and rank it accordingly. While SEO has never been easier – the meaning of a Google friendly website has changed for me. When I think ‘Google friendly’ these days – I think a website Google will rank top, if popular and accessible enough, and won’t drop like a f*&^ing stone for no apparent reason one day, even though I followed the Google SEO starter guide to the letter…..
The reason for the post was basically about Google treating different types of sites, differently (!) - just because they are a certain type of site – and the apparent wide-spread ignorance of this (on Google forums at least). This was big in 2011 – and will be in 2012 I think.
IN these forums – I see a lot of folk complaining about ranking drops and site traffic annihilation – and long-time before Google Panda*.
My website has lost all it’s rankings! My website has lost all traffic from Google! My website is now on page 4,5,6 of Google….
Is It The BackLinks?
Well, if you are Google Chrome – at the moment – yes it is :) – But it’s not always about the links these days. You can have great links and still tank.
The following image graphs what happened to a site classified as a doorway page, for instance. This was apparently nothing to do with backlinks…..
Lots of people ping me and say “this type of links got me reduced in rankings”, or “this type of links gave them a -40 penalty”, or “links from this site vaporised their website”.
Those are SOME KIND OF TOXIC LINKS people are picking up, if that’s the case. Where are they learning link building? And, em… why not just modify those toxic links and point the exact same links at your competitor? This is the way I think – and why I don’t think it is always about the back-links.
Would Google give a seo or spammer that sort of opportunity? I think it’s more reasonable to assume the effectiveness of links like that are just nuked from your overall link profile – I also think you really need to take the p*ss (with a big site) to get a site totally slapped because of back-links.
The fear of toxic links make people scared of getting links to their website and this suits search engines. But if you look at back-links as much as I do – you can’t help but notice some sites out there are doing very nicely on pretty low quality links. Well, some types of website are.
It’s The Website?
*NOTE I am not talking about ‘over-optimisation’ – or rather, poor optimisation. It’s never been easy to build a google friendly website in 2012 – from a technical point of view.
I’m talking about ‘commercial intent‘ as the Google Quality raters handbook defines it.
Why does a well built site with good links and good content tank? This has nothing to do with the backlinks in this example, either…..
Anyway. I think the majority of sites tanking, today and tomorrow that show up in Google webmaster forums…. will be sites Google has categorised / classified as a site Google can do without – rather than the spammy links these sites may or might not have. The fact Google now tells you in Google Webmaster tools they class your site as a doorway page, to me, was an indication of this.
I have stopped looking at sites in Google forums with this problem because – more often than not – the sites are just low quality information sites that make money passing the visitors from search engines to another site for a ‘couple of bob’ – effectively ‘thin-affiliate’ sites. Why even bother looking at their spammy link profiles.
Lots of people seem to think it’s all to do with back links FROM DIFFERENT SITES and this doesn’t really sit well with me.
Sure, you can get penalties based on links – if that’s the case – lots of websites probably have them – and just don’t know. I’ve certainly seen keyword specific penalties on specific keywords – even for ‘real’ websites.
Your spammy links probably helped you rank, then you got manually – or algorithmically – penalised because your site was a bit sh*t and your particular commercial intent was pretty obvious and all-too commonplace. Or you may be collateral damage – a site that just looks a bit like a ‘content farm‘, as opposed to a ‘thin affiliate’… I’d imagine lots of similar pages, lots of similar page titles… sort of thing.
But this isn’t new – Google has been actively targeting these kind of sites since 2005 or something…..just now it’s not JUST about original content anymore – it’s about the function your site provides to Google’s visitors.
Google Panda * - Perhaps about SITE BLOAT (lots of pages with similar content) + A Particular COMMERCIAL INTENT = RANKING DESTRUCTION. Panda looks a bit like a doorway page penalty focused on specific parts of the site – like sub-folders – as opposed to pages on the site AND the home page - or on specific keywords – without, of course, a nice Google website message saying ‘you’ve been pandalised! I am no Panda expert though.
I am building affiliate sites at the moment with the following in mind…..
- Don’t be a website Google won’t rank - What Google classifies your site as – is perhaps the NUMBER 1 Google ranking factor not often talked about – wether it Google determines this algorithmically or eventually,manually. That is – wether it is a MERCHANT, an AFFILIATE, a RESOURCE or DOORWAY PAGE, SPAM, or VITAL to a particular search – what do you think Google thinks about your website? Is your website better than the ones in the top ten of Google now? Or just the same? Ask, why should Google bother ranking your website if it is just the same, rather than why it would not, because it is just the same…. how can you make yours different. Better.
- Think, that one day, your website will have to pass a manual review by ‘Google’ – the better rankings you get, or the more traffic you get, the more likely you are to be reviewed. Know that Google at least classes even useful sites as spammy, according to leaked documents. If you want a site to fly in Google – it better ‘do’ something other than just link to another site for commission. Know that to succeed, your website needs to be USEFUL, to a visitor Google will send you – and a useful website is not just a website, with a sole comercial intent, of sending a visitor from Google, to another site – or a ‘thin affiliate’ as Google CLASSIFIES it.
- Think about how Google can algorithmically and manually determine the commercial intent of your website – what are the signals that differentiates a real small business website from a website set up JUST to send visitors to another website – non-masked affiliate links, on every page, for instance, or adverts on your site, above the fold etc,can be a clear indicator of a webmaster’s particular commercial intent
- Google is NOT going to thank you for publishing lots of similar articles and near duplicate content on your site – so EXPECT to have to create original content for every page you want to perform in Google, or at least, not publish content found on other sites….
- Ensure Google knows your website is the origin of any content you produce (typically by simply pinging Google via xml or rss) – I’d go as far to say think of using Google+ to confirm this too…. this sort of thing will only get more important as the year rolls on
- Understand and accept why Google ranks your competition above you – they are either:
1. more relevant and more popular,
2. more relevant and more reputable, or
3. manipulating back-links better than you.
Understand that everyone at the top of Google falls into those categories and formulate your own strategy to compete – relying on Google to take action on your behalf is VERY probably not going to happen.
- Being ‘relevant’ comes down to keywords & key phrases – in domain names, urls, Title Elements, the number of times they are repeated in text on the page, text in image alt tags, rich markup and importantly in keyword links to the page in question. If you are relying on manipulating hidden elements on a page to do well in Google, you’ll probably trigger spam filters. If it is ‘hidden’ in on-page elements – beware relying on it too much to improve your rankings.
- The basics of GOOD SEO hasn’t changed for years – though effectiveness of particular elements has certainly narrowed or changed in type of usefullness – you should still be focusing on building a simple site using VERY simple seo best practices – don’t sweat the small stuff, while all-the-time paying attention to the important stuff - add plenty of unique PAGE TITLESand plenty of new ORIGINAL CONTENT. Understand how Google SEES your website. CRAWL it, like Google does, with (for example) Screaming Frog SEO spider, and fix malformed links or things that result in server errors (500), broken links (400+) and unnecessary redirects (300+). Each page you want in Google should serve a 200 OK header message.
As I said… this excellent info-graphic was very timely:
*OK that’s me – sorry about the grammar – as usual this post ended up being a bit of a ramble – I will work on that in 2012 – but for now…. back to work. :)