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Getting robust
Whose relevancy is it?
starec




msg:52152
 11:51 am on May 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

After reading a lot about new penalties and semipenalties, and freshbots and deepbots, and dominic (and sabbatic?) and other terms I still find slightly confusing, I decided to share a bit my experience with robust google strategies. I realize this approach may not be good for everyone. It may even be completely wrong. But so far, it works fine for me.

Long time ago, I was hit by one of the very first google penalties. I know perfectly how it feels like when within 48 hours the referrals drop by 90%...

It was one of those "collateral damage" things, the site itself was clean. It got resolved within one month. (In those times, Googleguy did not have his sticky disabled :). But still, it was a very, very scary experience. I decided I will never allow such a thing to happen again.

I decided to go robust.

A robust website must withstand 80% of ANY algo changes of of any SE without loosing more than 10-20% of its referrals. To do this, I decided (instead of guessing what google engineers consider relevant this month) to build a truly relevant website.

Since the true, user relevancy is difficult to measure directly, Google uses 500+ parameters and 50+ PhDs to estimate it. A webmaster pursuing active strategies tries to estimate this Google's estimation of the relevancy function and optimize his website accordingly. A webmaster pursuing passive strategies tries to understand the objective relevancy function and optimize his website accordingly.

In other words, while an active webmaster follows the changes Google's PhDs make in their strive for relevancy, a passive webmaster strives for relevancy himself. If he does things right, Google's algo changes should eventually reward his truly relevant website and give it the position it deserves.

There is a clear analogy here with the active/passive investment strategies. A passive webmaster takes some position and keeps it, because his analysis of fundamentals tells him to do so. Only when the fundamentals change his position changes. The fundamentals in this case is the user relevancy, it is not the Google's current algo.

I radically changed the way I work more than a year ago.

1. I stopped reading update threads. I don't do any changes based on "this month, anchor texts are important" and "in this update, titles got more weight" etc.

2. I stopped searching for reciprocal links and I ignore reciprocal links requests. I add a link to a website if and only if it makes sense for my visitors.

3. When I see an interesting website with some traffic potential, I ask for a link without taking into account its PR and without offering reciprocity.

4. I add content that helps my visitors. I do not add content if it does not help the relevancy of the site.

5. I use anchor texts that help my visitors. I let other websites, linking to me, to put anchor text that helps their visitors.

All the time saved (in my case probably more than 50% of time previously allocated to reading update threads and to active SEO) I dedicate to making the site more useful, more relevant. I also actively work on alternative, non-SE related methods of traffic building the site (viral marketing being the most important one).

Results: Sales doubled in the last 12 months. No penalty-related insomnia. 50% increase of Google traffic in the last 12 months. And a robust, truly relevant website (well, not 100% relevant, but getting there).

Maybe by being more active I would have obtained better results. Maybe by being more active I would have been participating in the semipenalty thread by now...

 

seekanddestroy




msg:52153
 12:06 pm on May 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

Absolutely Starec!

Trouble is the perception of 'time' to the webmaster often goes awry.

It's easy to think OK, more links = more visitors, more product = more visitors, because it is so quantifiable, but this of course is not at all qualitative!

My site has not been wrecked by the recent algo changes because of quality, however I am keen to rank for the big search phrases in my area, and these are being wrecked by totally irrelevant results - were talking three and four words here, and the results can really suck. So that becomes very disheartening, because the people with these sucky pages are usually multiple domain link hogs!

But never the less, ultimately the answer lies in unique content.

And yes, this whole linsk thing can be rather a nonsense - I recently discovered some majorly heavily competed for phrases being won by a site with no apparent links in/out other than it's own multiple domain spam.

So what I'm saying is I think your right generally, but that webmasters are getting away with hideous tom foolery which has the Googleplex suckered, and they get away with it week in week out - perhaps more spam reporting is needed, don't like doing it, but it seems the only way.

Morgan




msg:52154
 12:32 pm on May 26, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's absolutely the right way to look at things, starec. There was a great article in Webmonkey a couple years ago that I think most people could still get a lot out of, but it ends with this same macro view --

"Success comes from being what people are searching for in the first place."

If you concentrate on being what people are actually searching for, your rankings will improve as search engines improve. That doesn't mean you'll be where you want to be every month, but over time you will improve. The month to month fluctuations can take up way too much time and energy in understanding them compared to the potential returns.

Imaster




msg:52155
 7:44 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I loved reading your post, Starec. This is exactly what I believe in.

JudgeJeffries




msg:52156
 8:32 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I agree, but this PR crap buries you most times unless you have it. Dump the green bar I say!

Traveler




msg:52157
 9:01 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

starec:

Enviable position.

Sounds like you've been here a while (since back when GG had sticky mail active) and I believe that explains your steadiness within the results.

Most of the drops we've experienced are not due to some new change to the algo, but due to the use of an older DB, said to date back, perhaps, to Feb.

We had followed the suggestions here @ WW and found ourselves placing page one on most of our kw combos until Dominic. We made this quantum leap just one to two updates ago (differs by kw).

I believe (and hope) that most of our recent fall is not "punishment" for optimizing our sites, but just a reflection of the fact that all of our improvements are not factored in.

Had we done what we had done prior to Feb, we would still be golden. (The people we replaced in top position have returned with their old rankings...looks like a trip back in time to last winter).

Wuschelbuschel




msg:52158
 9:03 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Good content ... that's also in my opinion the best way of SEO! Specially in the long term!

Marketing Guy




msg:52159
 10:55 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Passive investment - the art of fighting without fighting!

It's exactly the same choice as going toe to toe with your competition or ignoring them.

The former will consume your resources (and sanity!) and the latter will help you develop your own methodologies and market, thereby forcing your competitors to keep up with you.

When I joined WW I applied some of my knowledge to site and saw reasonable success. I kept up with the updates, etc.

But later on I decided that way too much emphasis was being put on SEO and lot of good web design techniques were being sacrificed because of it.

So when I started my next site, I ignored PR, my rankings, the update, etc, etc. and have seen nothing but increasing success since.

Granted I design my sites with search engines in mind, but I design them FOR my users.

Scott

shaadi




msg:52160
 11:30 am on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Amazin post, starec

I would also add: One should monitor rankings for targeted keywords, and report spam if any.

Current Google is such a show case of Spam that your website get buried under competition's multiple domains, keyword rich domains, sub domains, hidden text pages, pages with back links from guest book etc.

cornwall




msg:52161
 12:11 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

>>A robust website must withstand 80% of ANY algo changes of of any SE without loosing more than 10-20% of its referrals. To do this, I decided (instead of guessing what google engineers consider relevant this month) to build a truly relevant website. <<

Well said.

In the end it is always the content rich, well structured site that supplies users with the information they want that comes up on serps month after month. It continues to surprise me that this message gets lost in the hubbub of debate.

I operate good web sites that fill this definition and they are "robust" to the extent that Google updates have very little effect on them.

I do not go quite as far as ignoring updates, I spend a small amount of time each month trying to see what needs "tweeked" when I can see what (usually) minor changes have been made to the algo.

Net effect is that most, if not all of my 50 odd sites, are on the first page of Google for their nominated keywords.

I could commend webmasters to spend perhaps more time researching keywords. You know if you are on the first page of Google serps by doing the search, but are you sure that different keywords would not have brought you more traffic

Brad




msg:52162
 12:14 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Excellent post starec. Every webmaster should bookmark this thread.

Think long term, build well and you will still be there long after your competitors have burned out.

albert




msg:52163
 12:28 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I like your post, starec.

IMO at least one important complement was made by Cornwall because it's not trivial:
I could commend webmasters to spend perhaps more time researching keywords. You know if you are on the first page of Google serps by doing the search, but are you sure that different keywords would not have brought you more traffic

Furthermore important: the theme pyramid concept.

All in all designing a website for users couldn't be that wrong for SE's: e.g. relevant keyphrases in <title> helps users and SE's ...

mat




msg:52164
 12:32 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Yes, all solid stuff. So this will turn all SEO/SEM people (back) into site-builders, no?

Alphawolf




msg:52165
 1:36 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I decided to go robust.

A robust website must withstand 80% of ANY algo changes of of any SE without loosing more than 10-20% of its referrals. To do this, I decided (instead of guessing what google engineers consider relevant this month) to build a truly relevant website.

That's all great, really. But do you feel you can get a site ranked well under 'web design company', 'search engine optimization', 'Internet Marketing' or 'online gambling' by using your methods alone?

AW

europeforvisitors




msg:52166
 1:45 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Starec:

My approach is similar to yours, if only because I have an editorial (a.k.a. "information" or "content") site. I always feel slightly puzzled when the teeth-gnashing and wailing occur on Webmaster World after each month's update, because my own Google rankings change very little from one month to the next--and in many cases, I rank in the top 5 or 10 (and not infrequently #1) for a given keyword or keyphrase.

Still, I do read WW fairly religiously, because the discussions keep me aware of things that I should know or that I may know but have neglected on some pages--e.g., using H1 tags for major headlines, using descriptive anchor text in internal links, and using other basic common-sense techniques that help Google know what my pages are about.

The Subtle Knife




msg:52167
 2:04 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I notice this kind of posts often.
They don't make sense!

People saying Just Build relevant sites, and forget everything about SEO, and everything will be OK.

It's a bit like the 12 month plan, spend 12 months,
building a site and you'll be OK.

There are holes in google, and there are ways
to FURTHER optimise relevant sites to get more traffic.

You either choose to join the SEO rat-race or you don't.

You've got to admit though, not being part of the SEO rat race is stress free, if you have traffic.

If you don't your forced to get into the SEO rat race and read forums - ad tedium. ( personally I'm really sick of the whole thing and playing catch up )

I'm still stuck in the SEO rat race, and all I can say, your damn lucky to get traffic without trying to get it.

albert




msg:52168
 2:28 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

SubtleKnife,

those who stick deep in the rat race are in danger to get problems sometimes, no?

Ok, ok, I understand, your competitors.

But "this kind of posts" are not senseless, as you said. And I don't think they're relevant only for a "damn lucky" few of members.

seofreak




msg:52169
 2:31 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

lol .. I truly feel sorry for one of my sites .. It is SO much content rich .. it's a diff theme site, industrial product site. NO other site related to that product has that many pages or details as mine. I even have a client login area page which no one in this product line has on their wesite.

I had become so focused on getting it on top that I went for cheating which is why the internal pages are now punished with pr0 about 150 pages in all...

I have noticed the same thing starec, but credit to u for pointing it out ofcourse, keep ur site gentle for visitors, only think for viewer benefit and with time gradually u get what u deserve from google.

seofreak




msg:52170
 2:37 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Who is the actual Brain ....

Oops wrong thread .. some moderator delete this message (not the top one)

europeforvisitors




msg:52171
 2:42 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

[quote]I notice this kind of posts often. They don't make sense! People saying Just Build relevant sites, and forget everything about SEO, and everything will be OK.[quote]

Starec didn't say to forget about SEO, nor did anyone else in this thread. No one would dispute that basic, common-sense SEO techniques like using descriptive titles, descriptive anchor text, and user-friendly navigation schemes are helpful in obtaining good SERP rankings in Google. (In fact, Starec specifically mentioned anchor text in his original post.)

The point of the "build content" argument is simply that focusing on content is more productive over the long haul than trying to second-guess the engineers and programmers at Google. It sure beats gnashing your teeth over a PR0 penalty or watching your pages fall 50 places in the SERPs because Google has wised up to guestbook links, crosslinking between multiple domains, hidden text, or whatever else you were using to get an artificial boost in the search results.

Of course, if you're an entrepreneurial techie whose skills run more to exploiting algorithms than to writing compelling text, a content-based strategy may not be practical. But if you do have editorial or copywriting skills, there are advantages to building a large, content-rich site that will attract visitors and provide opportunities for growth regardless of changes in Google's algorithms and spam filters.

shaadi




msg:52172
 2:50 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

There are holes in google, and there are ways
to FURTHER optimise relevant sites to get more traffic.

I agree with you here!

All that stuff written here [google.com] works opposite...your honest content site gets pushed to #100 by the spammers.

Spammers: def. The ones who are loved by Google.

seofreak




msg:52173
 3:03 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

shaadi: that quote is a bit harsh don't u think .. the more strict the law the more are the crimes .. similar is in google's case .. had altavista been the most popular .. i'm sure it must have been flooded with spam at a later stage as well ..

but since we have found so many loopholes .. they should be fixed as soon as possible

astounded




msg:52174
 3:04 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

I run go for the content, too.

But there are some basic non-spamming ways to build and organize a site that definately help get ranked higher. You see some sites that ignore that completely, and even with good content they floudner.

europeforvisitors




msg:52175
 3:22 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

your honest content site gets pushed to #100 by the spammers.

Not in my experience. I have #1 spots for some highly competitive keywords and keyphrases, and my pages rank high in Google for many, many other search strings.

In any case, there's no such thing as a site getting pushed to #100 by spammers (or by anything else). Google doesn't index sites; it indexes pages. That's why a content-based strategy is so effective: Every page is a different point of entry for search-engine users, and the "organic" nature of real content means you'll get referrals for search phrases (or variations on search phrases) that you never even thought of. I get nearly 4,000 referrals from Google on a busy weekday, simply because my site has pages on so many different subtopics of my main topic.

Having a content-rich site has advantages that go beyond search-engine referrals:

1) Because the site looks professional and inspires confidence, users can feel comfortable in buying through the site's affiliate partners. (This is important, IMHO, because many users don't distinguish between the site and its partners or advertisers.)

2) It attracts users who are looking for information. If your site is an authoritative, trustworthy source of information on the the topic that interests those users, they'll come back when they're ready to buy.

gopi




msg:52176
 3:51 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)


But do you feel you can get a site ranked well under 'web design company', 'search engine optimization', 'Internet Marketing' or 'online gambling' by using your methods alone?

Add the more classic "buy phentermine" , "online casinos" and "debt consolidation" to the list ;)

Brad




msg:52177
 4:37 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

This is not an, either/or, thing. And it is not just about traffic from search engines.

A mature site should get a large percentage of traffic from people's bookmarks. If you build with the visitors interest in mind and content for the visitor, you will get those repeat visitors - people will want to bookmark you. You will also gain word of mouuth referrals which are the most powerful advertising available.

Sure you need to always be aware of basic SEO techniques. If you want a long term presence than starec's advise is well founded. If you want to play at the edge of the cliff then expect to have to change domains and sites often.

webwhiz




msg:52178
 8:25 pm on May 27, 2003 (gmt 0)

Way to go, starec! It's the same kind of stuff I and others have been trying to tell people for years. Good old-fashioned common sense too.

micahb37




msg:52179
 12:23 am on May 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

That's all great, really. But do you feel you can get a site ranked well under 'web design company', 'search engine optimization', 'Internet Marketing' or 'online gambling' by using your methods alone?

AW

AW,

I struggle with this daily. I have a client who wants me to utilize all the cloaking techniques I know to get his pages indexed. Yet, I continually discuss cloaking as a non-long term solution. Rather, building a relevant site, with all the "standard" SEO stuff (title tags, keyword dense copy, etc.) will enjoy long-term benefit, similar to what starec advocates.

Yet, when you look at the top ten sites for most competitive (highly or moderately) many of the pages utilize some sort of "content delivery system."

So, then the question becomes: Do you build pages that can index quickly and highly in SEs, utilizing various techniques (cloaking, etc.) which are tenative at best, or do you advocate building out a content rich page that might never be able to rank higher than a page that utilizes various SEO techniques?

Alphawolf




msg:52180
 12:29 am on May 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

So, then the question becomes: Do you build pages that can index quickly and highly in SEs, utilizing various techniques (cloaking, etc.) which are tenative at best, or do you advocate building out a content rich page that might never be able to rank higher than a page that utilizes various SEO techniques?

Both?

AW

Chris_D




msg:52181
 4:04 am on May 28, 2003 (gmt 0)

Search Engines are one method of acquiring new 'New' Clients

A whole heap of marketing initiatives can help you get 'repeat' business from 'existing' clients.

Almost every business I have ever analysed, that has claimed that it constantly required a stream of 'new business', has typically paid little or no attention to their existing clients, or repeat sales.

Unless of course, you run a funeral parlour....

Chris_D

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