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Search Engine Algorithms, Inbound Links, Website Rot
The Difficulties in Ranking as an Authority
Liane

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 11293 posted 6:26 am on Mar 23, 2006 (gmt 0)

One of the biggest challenges a webmaster faces is to build and maintain an “up-to-date”, content rich site ... and achieve the recognition the site deserves as an authority site.

Aging of Authority Sites and the Putrification Factor

As the internet ages, so do established websites.

The unfortunate part is that there's a lot of old, very old information rotting on the vine and putrefying the web. The information contained on some very old sites is long past being useful. Site owners who may have moved on to bigger and better things or who do not have the time or inclination to update the info, just keep throwing money at the registrar in order to keep the URL live because it happens to be a great URL and they may have plans to sell the URL or intentions of updating the info “someday”.

In their day, these so called “authority sites” were very useful and therefore had many, many inbound links which they have managed to keep because human beings are inherently lazy. Very few webmasters delete links to old sites.

Along comes a web author looking for authority sites in a specific field, about which they plan to write. They take a cursory look at the sites which pop up in their keyword searches and because they don’t know beans about the topic (and because they are too lazy to go past page one of the search results) they erroneously make the assumption that because a particular site comes up for many different keyword searches, that it must be “the” authority site for that particular topic.

After writing their article (including old or erroneous information) they gleaned from the very outdated site(s) they used as reference, they proceed to link to them, perpetuating the myth that this particular site is “the authority"!

... And the Rich get Richer!

It is infuriating to work your butt off, writing a truly content rich site which is clearly head and shoulders above the old, "established" sites ... only to have it beaten consistently by these outdated sites containing erroneous information, broken links and photos which no longer represent the person, place or thing to which they are referring. In my sector, some so called “authority sites” need only mention the the keyword or phrase in order to come up number one in the search engines!

My site on the other hand may have 15 pages of in depth information, photos, data and links for a specific topic ... yet it is relegated to fourth or fifth place (or even further down the list) for certain keyword searches behind these very old sites with virtually no content at all.

I am in the travel industry and own a niche site for a very small country. There is no question (in anyone’s mind) that my site contains much more information than any other site (including the Tourist Board, other government sites and other more established sites) for this particular little bit of the world. Yet older, so called "authority" sites and sites with keyword targeted URL's and not much else to offer, often beat me in the search results.

URL Utopia

Years ago, another site in my little area, had the foresight to buy “THE” perfect URL ... even before the government ever dreamt of having their own website. Very smart indeed. Years ago, it contained some very useful information and attained many, many inbound links. This was back in the day when webmasters actually willingly “gave away” links to any sites they deemed useful. But times have changed!

This site (with the perfect URL) called itself a "directory" and claimed that it represented every company in the country. That was a flat out lie. The truth is that they charged $400.00 annually for all outbound links and represented less than 20% of the companies in the country. It too was allowed to rot on the vine for many years with little or no new content of consequence. It was a cash cow!

Yet another "authority" site is currently charging $1,700.00 per annum for a link from its PR7 site! This site belongs to an official organization to which my company belongs and to which I pay annual membership fees. Sorry, but their site has WAY less information than my site does ... and I simply refuse to pay them for a link!

How to Compete if Yours is the New Site on the block?

So ... along comes a small business owner (me), desperately trying to do business on the web. I can’t afford to pay the outrageous amounts some “authority sites” are demanding in return for a link. What to do?

I was told by those in the know here at WebMaster World to “build content and they will come”. And its true! A good content provider will be recognized in time ... lots and lots of time!

The search engines slowly but surely began to discover my site and listed it “somewhere” in the SERPS. Respectable ranks were achieved (in time) and my “new site” began to receive traffic and a modicum of recognition from other webmasters. Mostly though, it received a lot of attention from travellers on travel forums looking for information. I thought that was great and expected the site to soar in the rankings ... but it never really happened because forums are too easy to spam and the search engines know it.

I am just guessing here, but I think links from forums are not deemed terribly important by the search engines ... and therein lies the tragedy! The very people you are targeting are "voting" for your site by linking to it, but the search engines do not give those links any sort of "real" value because forums are too damned easy to spam. Sigh!

My site has never seemed to measure up to the “big boys on the block”, in regards to ranking. Why? Because the web has changed and webmasters expect something in return for a link or choose to steal your content. Its a vicious circle!

Now what should I do if I still can't afford to or do not wish to buy links? Build more content of course! And away I go ... writing fiendishly, spending months doing research, spending thousands on camera equipment, trying to learn as much as possible about photography, spending more money travelling to various places to take photos, hiring planes and helicopters to take aerial photos ... more writing, more research, interviews with people, travellers and other business owners, locals who have lived in the area for 50 years or more ... and so on, adding content, lots of original content. Now surely, my site will be recognized as an “authority site”? Well ... maybe not!

Inbound and Outbound Links

I link to all sites in the territory for free because I still believe we should all be looking out for the greater good and we (webmasters) should link "freely" to anyone and everyone with content which our readers and potential clients may find useful.

Despite what Google or any other search engine thinks, I even link to sites which have been deemed "bad neighbourhoods". Where I live, very few business owners are webmasters, nor do they understand the first thing about search engine rules and penalties. As a result, they are subject to mistakes made by their webmasters ... through no fault of their own.

I will link to anyone who is deserving of a mention on my site. Full stop. I don't care what the search engines think about this practice. I only care about what my potential clients and readers think.

Once again, I live in a very small country and the people here are not necessarily very worldly or educated in the ways of the internet. It is unforgivable to penalize them for something their webmasters (who are not very internet savvy themselves) for breaking some unwritten rule of which they are completely unaware!

Call me silly or stupid if you wish, but I will continue to do what I think is right and fair in this regard and if my site gets penalized for doing so, then so be it!

In a perfect world

The truth of the matter is that ranking a website based on inbound links is an outdated premise which must be abandoned. In theory, and in a perfect world, it should work ... but what the search engines did not take into account (back in the day) was that the world is not perfect and human beings are flawed. We are greedy and (to a degree) morally corrupt. If that weren’t true ... there would be no need for organized religion or laws of any kind.

So of course, as soon as webmasters began to understand the value of an incoming link ... it became a type of currency which could be bought, sold or traded. The true value of the website being linked to often doesn’t even come into consideration when webmasters choose to link or not to link.

It is not the fault of the search engines that my site and hundreds of thousands of other deserving sites do not achieve the recognition they deserve. It is the fault of lazy and/or greedy and/or corrupt webmasters!

  • Many (lazy) webmasters do not refresh their links on a routine basis, leaving links to outdated sites in place and failing to look for new, better or more deserving sites to which they might link.

  • Some webmasters choose to steal content rather than providing a link to the site which rightfully owns the content.

    Stealing content creates a mathematical nightmare for search engines (who use logic) to determine which site owns the content and which site is just regurgitating the original content.

    One thing I have found is that I can write content, and two years later, someone steals it. I then update my page and "some" search engines suddenly "assume" that because my page is newer than the other ... the site with the oldest date must be the original owner! This is really annoying.

    Google on the other hand assumes that the site with the most inbound links should be recognized above the original owner! This is particularly infuriating!

    The End User

    Because the world wide web is the single largest entity containing an almost infinite amount of information, the challenge posed to any search engine is to be able to determine (algorithmically) which site is more deserving to be recognized as an "authority" than another. In fairness to all search engines and taking into account that human beings are inherently greedy, this is pretty much an impossible task.

    The best any search engine can ever hope to do is "come close" to delivering that for which a surfer is wanting to find. That's why there are often millions of results for any given keyword or phrase. It is up to the searcher to determine which sites they want to look at.

    So how do searchers determine which sites to look at within all those sites being presented? The search engines can only "suggest" which sites their algorithm has determined to be the most relevant based on their limited, mathematical ability to make such a determination determination. Right? ... right.

    The various elements included with each listing are intended to help a searcher determine which site they'd like to visit. Those elements are:

  • Title
  • Snippet
  • URL
  • Similar Pages

    But once again, searchers (being people instead of machines) are inherently lazy and they will almost always click on the first result regardless of the elements contained in the search results being offered. As a result, if they don't find what they want immediately, they may look at the next few results or eventually refine their keywords out of frustration.

    Each element is important (to a degree) and are pretty much self explanatory.

    Title

    One would "hope" that the webmaster responsible for creating the page will carefully craft his/her title in order to describe in 7 words or less, the key factors a particular page is about.

    Note: 7 words is debateable ... but let's assume that this is the magic number for the sake of argument rather than getting into a discussion about how many words work best on which engine. OK?

    Snippet

    Many believe that meta tag "descriptions" are useless and outdated. I disagree. Most of my descriptions are used on all search engines. It is intended to be an accurate synopsis of what the surfer will find on a given page.

    URL

    I happen to use URL's like www.mysite.com/photos_this_topic.html or www.mysite.com/information_this_topic.html

    These are key elements used by google to help determine what a page is about and they do factor into search results ... though I don't know what weight they are given.

    Similar Pages

    This is where Google falls flat on its face! If you are searching for something which may not have to do with the main topic of a site but the site happens to contain very relevant info for the topic you searched ... if you click on "similar pages" you will likely find absolutely nothing about the topic you searched for!

    This is because your site has been "classified" with your main topic through various other web resources including DMOZ and other directories.

    This is a very basic and immense flaw in the current system which I have been waiting years for Google to address!

    If you own a website which sells car parts, but you write the absolute best and very detailed history of the automobile ever written ... you may never achieve your goal of being recognized as the best and most authoritative website on the internet in regards to the history of the automobile simply because your site is classified under "car parts".

    The "similar pages" link is where Google and all search engines and directories are really lacking in "intuitive or smart" cross categorization for medium to large sites with exceptional content.

    In Defense of Google

    I am a widget broker. I built my own web site (with the help of the folks here at WebMasterWorld) because I could no longer afford to pay webmasters to do it for me and was within days of becoming homeless when my website tanked on Inktomi. Back then, Ink was "the" force within the search engine industry.

    The following are assumptions on my part based upon my very limited and possibly flawed understanding of how search engines work ... so please take that into consideration prior to slagging me off for defending Google.

  • I believe that Google has recognized the inherent flaw in its original premise of ranking sites based on "popularity votes" via inbound links from other web sites. Links have become a "currency" which can be sold, bought and traded in order to manipulate search results. As a result, manipulation of search engine results has flourished and must be stopped in order for search engines to survive and remain useful on any level.

    For some time, they (Google) have been grasping at straws, trying to prevent outside manipulation of search results (by unfair means) by implementing penalties, filters, etc.

  • I believe Google has recognized the inherent flaws associated with search engine results based on any one or even three or four values being used to determine relevance. As a result, they have decided to experiment with many different factors in an attempt to emulate the deductive reasoning of the human brain.

    We all know that (so far) humans can still outdo any machine in determining the true value of a website by simply surfing to it and reading the content. But it doesn't matter how big and wealthy a search engine becomes, there is no way they can hire enough humans to do the job! No company on earth could afford to do that! It must be done through an algorithm and that's a pretty lofty goal!

    However, human beings are (as already noted) ... inherently flawed. We are greedy and not always morally concerned when it comes to money!

    So my assumption is that Google's goal and newest algorithm/infrastructure will be based upon many and varied factors including many of those things a human being (given sufficient data) would be able to detect or take into account if intimately familiar with a given topic and reviewing a website. Those things would include:

  • PR or Page Rank [webmasterworld.com] representing votes from other websites.

  • TR or Trust Rank (which has yet to be added to the WebmasterWorld glossary) but which is based upon the age of a site as well as the quality of sites linking in.

  • Stemming [webmasterworld.com] which has to do with variations of the root word used on a web page such as boat, boating, boater, boats or yacht, yachting or yachts.

  • Anchor Text [webmasterworld.com] or Off page Criteria [webmasterworld.com]

  • Cloaking, Stealth or Obfuscation [webmasterworld.com]

  • Cross Linking and blatent webmaster abuse by related sites [webmasterworld.com]

  • Dead Links [webmasterworld.com]

  • The use of doorway pages or domain doorways [webmasterworld.com]

  • Splash or entry pages [webmasterworld.com]

  • Filter Words [webmasterworld.com] and Stop Words [webmasterworld.com]

  • Hidden Text or Hidden Links [webmasterworld.com]

  • Keyword Stuffing [webmasterworld.com]

  • Link Farms [webmasterworld.com]

  • Link Rot [webmasterworld.com]

  • Mirror Sites or pages [webmasterworld.com]

  • Page Jacking [http]

  • Reciprocal Links [http]

  • Referrer Strings [webmasterworld.com]

  • Spamdexing [webmasterworld.com]

  • IP Spoofing [webmasterworld.com]

    Much of the above is related to guerrilla marketing techniques intended to manipulate search results. Ultimately Google wants to put a stop to the manipulation of their algorithm so that they can level the playing field for all available "content" versus those who choose to steal, manipulate and ultimately control any given field of information.

    I for one applaud Google's efforts and although many have suffered tremendously throughout the growing pains, Google and other search engines have supplied many of us many years worth of free traffic.

    They have all undergone massive changes over the years and from time to time, there are those of us who think Google, Inktomi, Yahoo or MSN just plain suck ... and you are entitled to your opinion just as much as I am entitled to mine.

    I don't think any of the search engines suck because all of them send me the traffic I need to make a living. Some send more than others and some drive me crazy because I just can't figure out what they want ... but the fact of the matter is, this is how I make my living and I accept the fact that I will just have to do my best to figure it out the best I can!

    I think the folks at Google are the most incredibly focused group of people on the planet who have one goal ... and that is to gather all the written information in the entire world, categorize it and deliver the most relevent search results possible for any specific search term.

    If you think about that for even five minutes, anyone will realize what a monumentally impossible task that really is. Kudos to the people at Google for even making such an attempt ... and many thanks for the free traffic you deliver to my site daily! It is greatly appreciated.

    If my traffic ever dries up (again) ... I promise, I will not be slagging Google (or any other search engine) off as I once did. I "get it" now ... and am in awe of what they are all attempting to do.

    I hope that eventually, they are each able to stop outside, biased and greed driven manipulation of the search results. Even if my website should suffer throughout all the growing pains, I believe in what they are doing and will accept that they have to do what they have to do to achieve their goals!

    I hope at least some of you will agree ... but even if you don't, that's OK with me. I'm used to my opinions being quite some distance from the accepted norm.

    Now ... if Google or any other search engine were to require payment to be considered for a listing in their search results, I would not be nearly as idealistic. I would paid whatever fee was required and then I would employ every guerrilla marketing tactic available to man in order to fight and claw my way to the top!

    The way I look at doing business on the internet

    I work very hard to provide the content the search engines like to use (for free) and for their own profit to supply their surfers with the answers they are looking for. I don't charge the search engines to spider my site and in fact I welcome them!

    In return, the search engines send me the traffic I need to make a living. We (the search engines and myself) enjoy a symbiotic relationship. There are no short cuts to being successful (free of charge) on the internet which I find acceptable. Provide the content and you will be rewarded with free traffic. Try to cheat me out of the traffic I have worked so hard to cultivate by working hand in hand with the search engines ... and I will report you through any means possible! I am sick to death of content thieves and will take any and all infringers to task!

    Surfers want what they want and I do my best to deliver it for my specified field. I get traffic in return from the search engines. What I do with the free traffic rec'd from search engines is up to me and hopefully, once I get an inquiry, I will perform my job well enough to convert surfers to buyers!

    Jeeze I'm tired now! :)

    [edited by: trillianjedi at 5:25 pm (utc) on Mar. 24, 2006]

  •  

    Webwork

    WebmasterWorld Administrator webwork us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 12:37 am on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Wow! I feel like I've just read something rather intense, though I'm not quite certain what it is that I just read. An ode? A cautionary tale? An homage to Google? A biography?

    Homer comes to mind and I don't mean Fox's version. A little extra caffeine in the expresso this morning Odysseus? :0)

    All kidding aside, I think it is a Webmaster's Odyssey you just crafted. Interesting read. A fair number of parallels to the original work. :)

    Liane

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 1:05 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    LOL Webwork. Actually, it was a very sleepless night. I had an exceptionally bad day and my mind was racing. So I came to WebmasterWorld to catch up on what had been happening ... which wasn't much, truth be told.

    I began reading all the various comments in some of the current Google threads and realized that there are hundreds upon hundreds of posts asserting that "Google has gone mad", "Google SERPS are hopeless", "Google sucks", "Google will lose their market share" "I hate Google" ... and so on. Well in my considered opinion, they are wrong.

    I realize how desperate webmasters can become when for seemingly no reason, their FREE traffic dries up and suddenly their income begins to dry up. I really do understand and I sympathize, but it is time that we all start to look at the big picture and realize the problems all search engines face.

    To a large degree, [b]Webmasters are responsible for this current situation. [/b ]If all Google or any search engine had to do was to organize the information contained on the world wide web, that in and of itself is a monumental task. But that's not all they have to contend with!

    Imagine if you will that you are a librarian and you have just been handed a brand new library. 85 billion books are dumped on your doorstep and your job is to read all of these books, categorize them and come up with a system of finding the most relevant books (or chapters within any given book) when a customer comes in and simply says something like, "eiderdown pillows". Oversimplified at best ... but this is in effect what search engines do. You as the librarian are then tasked with giving your customer your "best guess" as to where they might find the best reference material for eiderdown pillows.

    Though you are an exceptionally brilliant librarian, the task is simply too much of a challenge, so you enlist the help of the public to corroborate your findings. You happen to believe that Joe's Handy Guide to Eiderdown Pillows is the single best book about eiderdown pillows in existence. However, you also think several hundred or even several thousands of other books may have some pretty useful information too. So you tell your client, here's my list on this topic. Why don't you tell me which of these you think is the best. You then do this with every customer looking for any information on any single topic and you ask them all to cast their votes for the best resource. You then begin adjusting your lists accordingly. Makes sense to me!

    But while you were dilligently reading, categorizing, dealing with customers, adjusting your lists ... (all at the same time I might add) hundreds of thousands of gremlins (webmasters) were busy recategorizing your work without your permission or knowledge.

    Add to that those webmasters who can't be bothered to maintain their old sites and who leave very old and no longer accurate information just hanging around in the libray. You can't stand still for a moment. You have to keep rereading all those books and try to sort out which has the current and correct information and which does not. Its a never ending task!

    Webmasters (through manipulation of SERPS, scraper sites, hidden text, etc. etc, have undermined the work of the search engines to such a degree as to render many of them useless. That is why only three (of consequence) remain.

    Google has not gone mad, they are simply trying to reorganize so they can attempt to clean up the mess we created. Many guilty parties will suffer the consequences they have brought upon themselves. Unfortunately, it also means many innocent parties will suffer right along with them. It can't be avoided.

    That's really all I was saying.

    koen

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 5:26 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Maybe google should value change differently than it has done now. Now and then I read about a webmaster who redesigned the site and drops in the SERPS. But redesigning is actually a sign that the site is still active and the webmaster cares about his site. So a site that never changes should be looked upon with suspicion, and a site with dead links and images the more.

    kevinpate

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 5:30 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    > a site that never changes should be
    > looked upon with suspicion

    hardly seems appropriate in that there are those sites which quite legitimately have evergreen content, information which simply does not need updating.

    sit2510

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 5:57 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Excellent post Liane! You've explained all the burdens in my heart better than I could do it myself over a thousand times...Best of Luck to you.

    cerebrum

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 5:58 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Liane is fit to be a moderator at WW. My vote for him. I am very much impressed by your analysis.

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:02 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    evergreen content

    Never heard that term, but I like it! And I agree. Let's say a particular site has extensive information about film genres, other than adding information about new movies that fit into each particular genre there really isn't anything the site owner needs to add. And if that particular site has been holding a spot in the SERPs for a while, it is a pretty safe bet for the search engines to regard that site to be a good source for information on film genres.

    surfin2u

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:04 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Liane wrote:

    I link to all sites in the territory for free because I still believe we should all be looking out for the greater good and we (webmasters) should link "freely" to anyone and everyone with content which our readers and potential clients may find useful.

    Liane, that is certainly an admirable decision and generous of you. I wonder if you have considered moving all of that directory for visitors content onto another new site, so that your charter site is exclusively focused on yacht charters, as opposed to being a kind of portal for charter vacationers?

    You could link to your visitor directory site from your charter broker site and still giving your visitors useful information. You've obviously given this much thought so I'd like to hear your reasoning.

    Liane

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:09 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I started out doing just that but it didn't work. The traffic went to the "directory" site and very few followed the links to my site.

    In addition, the links went to the information site instead of my "business site" as well!

    koen

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:16 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    "hardly seems appropriate in that there are those sites which quite legitimately have evergreen content, information which simply does not need updating."

    It does seem unlikely to me that a site can exist for 10 years and never needs to remove a dead link or so. I'm not just talking about the content. A site can exist for thousand years and still have relevant content if it lists the works of Plato eg. But if no links are updated, no new interesting links are added, noone has linked to the site in the last 2 years... shouldn't that trigger a question mark?

    surfin2u

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:25 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    The traffic went to the "directory" site and very few followed the links to my site.

    I understand and that makes sense. I was looking at your site, at least I think it's your site, based on your profile. There is one thing I didn't find there that might be worth considering. How about adding some detailed accounts from charter vacationers that talk about how much fun they had, what they did, interesting and unusual things that happened, and of course what fantastic service you provide. Good testimonials go a long way toward making new sales and also create new content for search engines.

    pontifex

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 6:40 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Liane, thanks for taking the time to write such an entertaining and informative article from your point of view. Indeed I agree (mostly) with your statements, but the "authority model" can be beaten, don't forget that.

    If your site has a certain age now and a serious amount of incoming links, it should be able to rank above the old site you mentioned, which has outdated content. If it does not, it does not mean, that the authority factor is the reason for that.

    I also believe, that link-buying is not bad. It just needs a closer look and a tight time relation. If you buy text links for certain phrases and you spend a few hundred dollars to do so, it is most likely, that you take good care of your site, that you update it and that you are serious in providing something useful for your customers. That in combination with the "changed sites need more attention from SEs" could IMHO indeed be measured positive. If a site appears to be buying links and has not changed within 6 weeks, something is fishy. The problem is, that "good" spammers update their sites automatically with e.g. RSS feeds.

    Evergreen content and content that needs updates: I would rather prefer to talk about sites in that matter. I agree that "History of the World War I" will probably never need any changes, but the site history.something will sure change over time, because new content is brought up daily about ancient events (just as an example here, to fit Lianes picture).

    All in all I understand Lianes frustration about the authority topic, but after working 15 months on one topic alone, i am #2 for the most competetive keyword in my area (>180M results) and I have to admit, that #1 is at least as good as I am as a result for that phrase.

    Age does not mean "authority" automatically and I think the lower rank of Lianes site compared to no. 1 is a result of link count and age of links. I would bet, the no.1 site outranks you with high pagerank backlinks?

    Anyhow: great posting, thx again!

    P!

    Liane

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:09 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Good testimonials go a long way toward making new sales and also create new content for search engines.

    Actually, as much as I appreciate your viewpoint, I simply disagree with the whole "patting oneself on the back" sort of thing some websites include ... including "testimonials" from clients.

    Many clients appreciate my service and reward me by returning year after year. They also send their sailing buddies my way becase yachties all talk amongst themselves and word of mouth is a far more credible source than the typical "testimonial" page. Personally, I have never believed a single one of those as they are inevitably signed something like: Gail & Jeffrey in Colorado.

    Heck, anyone can write a dozen or so glowing reports and stick them up on their website. I just don't buy the whole concept. Now if I could convince clients to let me post their names and e:mail addresses so that prospective clients can send them a personal message ... that might be a different kettle of fish. Let's see now ... I have a nephew in Victoria BC, and aunt in Idaho, two cousins in New York and one in London ...

    Naw, don't think I'd buy into that one either! ;)

    but the "authority model" can be beaten, don't forget that.

    Oh I realize that and have indeed managed to beat the authority sites on several occassions. However, when it comes to links, I am still way down in numbers from the so called" authority sites.

    I have some pretty respectable links coming in from sites like the New York Times, Wikipedia, Fodors, etc. but they have a lot more links and continue to get new links ... which is just mind boggling to my way of thinking.

    But when you look at the sites I am getting links from, they are all legitimate sites whose authors who actually do their homework!

    The fact of the matter is that SEO is far from dead as some like to claim from time to time. The whole link buying thing just rankles me to no end. As a business owner (rather than a webmaster), I see no end to it. The more people are forced to buy links in order to be found, the stronger the sites you buy links from become.

    The only way I can see to even try to counter this effect is to link to all sites in my territory and do so for free ... hoping someday, my day will come!

    I would bet, the no.1 site outranks you with high pagerank backlinks?

    Yup ... and he has literally hundreds of dead outgoing links on his site. An authority site? Not anymore!

    I have no dead links. I check every one of them once a month.

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:15 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    noone has linked to the site in the last 2 years... shouldn't that trigger a question mark?

    Totally agree with you on this one. :)

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:20 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    The whole link buying thing just rankles me to no end. As a business owner (rather than a webmaster), I see no end to it.

    Oh there will be an end to it, and it will come sooner than most people would like to think. Link buys aren't the great thing that most people think them to be. As a matter of fact Matt Cutts mentioned in his blog that Google is already pretty good at spotting those types of links, and I can only imagine them getting better at it.

    Lorel

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:38 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Liane,

    Despite what Google or any other search engine thinks, I even link to sites which have been deemed "bad neighbourhoods".

    This could be part of your problem. Google has been warning for a long time to not link to bad neighborhoods.

    I recently read a discussion by g1smd on WW where he tested linking to a bad neighborhood from a frequently cached page--and noticed Google quit updating the cache the very next day. He removed the link 2 weeks later. He did this 3 times with the same result.

    Ove

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:48 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    <Google has been warning for a long time to not link to bad neighborhoods>

    Who decide what bad neighborhoods are?
    Its the same thing with spam Who decide what spam is?

    I totally agree with Liane, do what you think is good for your visitor and give them what you think is good for them.

    Bulid websites for people not for machines.

    /Ove

    MinistryOfTruth

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:51 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    I think the future of Google and all search engines is much more than just further refining the current algorithm. It's all about analyzing the web's evolution.

    At the moment, Google takes a static picture of the web's structure graph, and then applies a bunch of algorithms to it. These currently include the age of links and sites etc, but I'd imagine this is only the start.

    In two years time, I think we'll see a Google that treats the web's structure as a continually evolving graph. Rather than looking just at one crawl, it'll look at a continuous history of crawling that produces a fluid, continually changing graph of the web's link topology. They have hints of this already implemented...

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 7:53 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Who decide what bad neighborhoods are?
    Its the same thing with spam Who decide what spam is?

    Do you really want to pick that kind of a fight with Google?

    Liane

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:06 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Before anyone goes thinking that my site is not doing well as far as ranking goes ... that simply isn't the case. It does very well thank you very much. My original post was not intended to be yet another whining webmaster tale of woe. I was simply making observations ... albeit rambling observations I admit. (Hey, it was the middle of the night, ok?)

    In fact, the major point I was trying to make was that I believe webmasters (as a community) have brought the current "search engine crisis" if you will ... upon ourselves.

    Lorel,

    I agree that linking to bad neighbourhoods may very well be "part" of my "minor" ranking problem. But regardless of what Google's stance is on that particular subject, I respectfully believe they are wrong.

    As I have explained ... people in my small country simply don't know a darned thing about search engines or their "unwritten" rules. It is flat out wrong to penalize anyone for something their webmaster may be doing wrong if they don't know it is wrong in the first place.

    These are in most cases very, very small businesses (beach bars and such) who pay anyone who calls themself a webmaster whatever they can afford to build them a website even though many don't don't even own a computer! The webmasters themselves are not internet savvy either ... at least not for the mostpart.

    So I come along and I'm enjoying a nice cold drink with old Mr. Smith (in his 80's who still rides his donkey to work) at his road side bar and he says, "Liane, ah heyah you got one a dem website tings an ah be wantin' to aks you if you can gimme one a dem link tings so dat peoples can see my place when dey look at dems computers?"

    Google is dreaming if they think for even a nano second that I would say no to my good friend Mr. Smith! Of course he gets a link and so will everyone else. I don't even look to see if the sites are associated with any bad neighbourhoods. They get a link and that's all there is to it!

    [edited by: Liane at 8:13 pm (utc) on Mar. 24, 2006]

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:12 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    They get a link and that's all there is to it!

    Lots of good karma points, but I doubt Google cares, and I don't see them caring as it would make their job exponentially difficult.

    If an particular site is suspected of being part of a bad neighborhood the link always can be made to contain a 'nofollow' tag, so that all the "Mr. Smiths" can get the links for exposure and the webmasters who point to them can do it safely.

    Ove

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:17 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    <Do you really want to pick that kind of a fight with Google? >

    Yes i do, and i have never heard google told anyone not to link to someone.

    /Ove

    TypicalSurfer

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:43 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    a 'nofollow' tag

    Most ridiculous thing I've heard come from google. Tell your visitors "go there", tell google "don't go there".

    Kufu

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:43 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    From Google's webmaster page:

    "avoid links to web spammers or "bad neighborhoods" on the web"

    [google.com...]

    Look Under:

    Quality Guidelines - Basic principles (third bulette)

    Lexur

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 8:44 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Maybe you forgot that, as Internet ages, online business ages too as brick and mortar does. You can have the better products with the better prices with the better customer support but the people go like dead sheep to Walmart stores.

    Yo only have to wait ten or twenty years and people will turn their steps to your store.

    surfin2u

    10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 9:23 pm on Mar 24, 2006 (gmt 0)

    So I come along and I'm enjoying a nice cold drink with old Mr. Smith (in his 80's who still rides his donkey to work) at his road side bar and he says, "Liane, ah heyah you got one a dem website tings an ah be wantin' to aks you if you can gimme one a dem link tings so dat peoples can see my place when dey look at dems computers?"

    Liane, I can just hear Mr. Smith saying those words and you are so right to help him. Anyone with a heart could not do otherwise. I run one of those authority sites that you are talking about. Would it be ok if I put a link to your site on my site?

    ronburk

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 12:24 am on Mar 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

    It is flat out wrong to penalize anyone for something their webmaster may be doing wrong if they don't know it is wrong in the first place.

    Well, if the little girl across the street is selling lemonade laced with arsenic, should I keep sending people over to buy lemonade from her just because she's completely innocent and doesn't know she's doing anything wrong? How was she to know that the industrial tap she's drawing water from has arsenic in it?

    Unless... someone kindly tells her.

    Seems like a better outlet for strong moral feelings on the subject might be to show folks how to get out of bad neighborhoods and explain to them why they need to do that so that you can then link to them.

    And is it really that hard to beat out folks who have more IBL than you? Hmmm, I'm curious whether your Google traffic is overfocused on a tiny number of keyword/page pairs, and what your Google Stability Number [webmasterworld.com] is.

    ken_b

    WebmasterWorld Senior Member ken_b us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 12:43 am on Mar 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Links and bad neighborhoods.

    I think it's highly unlikely that Google is going to penalize a site that occasionally links to a bad neighborhood.

    If all, or most, or maybe even half of your links point to bad neighborhoods that's one thing. One or even a few such links mixed in among a bunch of good links is another, and far less threatening thing.

    nedguy

    5+ Year Member



     
    Msg#: 11293 posted 1:21 am on Mar 25, 2006 (gmt 0)

    Interesting initial post Liane.

    I think I agree with almost everything you say, particularly in support of Google's efforts... at least, I agree with my head. But in my heart I'm not as forgiving.

    I'm not sure I can be as balanced as you. I run an evergreen authority site (also travel). I think - I still don't really know - some careless restructuring & changed filenames on my part in Aug last year may have triggered my disappearance off the face of the Google serps at the start of Jagger and despite best efforts I've simply never got back. My traffic has picked up a little, thanks to yahoo, but I'd still have to multiply it by a factor of 12.5 times to restore it to pre-jagger levels.

    I do think Google does amazingly well given what an impossible task it has, but the truth is (and you suggested it yourself) it actually doesn't have to be all that good at its job. In fact it can get away with crap because Joe Public is mostly satisfied with just one relevent answer on the first results page. (IE 10% relevancy. A French university recently measured Google's average relevancy just lower than Yahoo at around 44%. Personally I think their methodology was biased and would put it at around 35%).

    And that's why I'm angry with them. Not because they screwed up over my site - they don't owe me or you a living - but because they are conning the public who genuinely believe the hype that Google is providing some sort of golden search experience. You only have to read the last six months of forum posts to know that's not true. They are providing the public with a seriously flawed search service, significantly worse than it's ever been, based on faulty algorithms that can't grasp that www.domain.com and domain.com are likely to be the same site, and corrupted with fossilised data cached over 12 months ago.... the jurassic period in internet timescales! In that respect Big Daddy is too little, too late.

    I think they have really fouled up, and judging from Matt Cutts rather twitchy blogs this week, I think they know they have too. They can't admit it because packs of lawyers would gather in a feeding frenzy (as the frivolous kinderstart action demonstrates), but you can sense the months of hostile posts in webmaster and SEO forums have begun to put Google's search engineers under some pressure. Good job too! They certainly weren't being put under much pressure by the shareholders, the mainstream media or the public, who all seem oblivious.


    So my school report on Google is: Nice personality, means well, trying hard, but failing to meet required standard.

    NG

    PS curious about your yacht charter site. I think I'll pm you for the url. I have a strict no-reciprocal-link policy, so not after a link!

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