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|What's the fuzz all about?|
Sites that get boosted after Florida
The last few weeks, I swear over half the posts across Webmaster World have been in the neighborhood of "Google sucks after the 'Florida' update". Is that true? Well, I did some research, and found a very interesting trend. Let's look at some of the different page categories and compare before vs. after 'Florida'.
Category One: Highly optimized sites
Before 'Florida', these sites usually had very high page rankings. They were all fighting about the top SERPs. Many were tweaked and tweaked to acheive the ultimate SE (in this case meaning 'Google') ranking. These pages ranked well on other search engines as well.
After 'Florida', however, these sites took a dive on Google. Now, the interesting thing is that they still rank well on most non-Google powered SEs!
What does that tell us? Is Google penalizing SEO? I wouldn't say that. It looks, however, like highly optimized sites, sites targetting Google's algo, no longer benefit from that. In other words, sites optimized for Google seem to have lost their advantage.
To better understand this, let's take a look at the next category.
Category Two: Plain optimized sites
First, what's the difference between a 'highly optimized' and just an 'optimized' site? Well, there are some basic steps to optimization that should be involved in all site development, such as proper use of headings, paragraphs, and other HTML elements to properly mark up the content for what it is -- 'the right tool for the right job'. Clean search engine friendly code.
Then, there are sites that go beyond this basic optimization, sites that were tweaked against Google's algo. These are the highly optimized sites, the ones that took a noticable dive post 'Florida'.
What does this tell us about the post 'Florida' Google, and about Google's new algo? We come back to that after taking a look at the last category.
Category Three: Non-optimized sites
Sites in this category are usually home brewed personal Web sites. They are more often than not built using one of many WYSIWYG editors out there. But, what sets these sites apart from the rest is their purpose. Usually, whoever built them, had no intentions of getting high rankings. Most likely he/she is not a professional, or has a very limited user base, and would not benefit from SEO. These sites were pretty much unaffected by the 'Florida' update, as expected, and will therefore not be included in the further analyze.
Analyze: Trying to sort out the WHYs
Let us first look at a quick summary of the difference between search engine results before and after 'Florida'.
|Category One: |
Ranks well on all search engines
Ranks extremely well on Google
Ranks well on non-Google search engines
Still ranks well on Google, but is not fighting about the top SERPs for more general keywords
|Category One: |
Ranks well on all search engines
Google results seem to be worse
Ranks well on all search engines
Google results seem to be better
What does this tell us? For some reason, there is no longer a difference between one of those 'highly optimized' and a plain 'optimized' site -- they fight about the same SERPs, and are ranked on the same level. What did Google change? Well, there has been a lot of discussion on the board about whether you get penalized for what your incoming links look like, or whether Google penalizes you for this and that. Is that really it? Or is there more to it?
Google's FR (Fair Ranking) Algo
Imagine that there never were any 'highly optimized sites', that no sites were targetting Google more than other engines... Everyone would just optimize their sites using basic techniques like proper use of HTML elements, focus on content instead of keyword placement... What would the SERPs look like? I believe, contrary to most people's belief, that we would have had the same results we see today. To be more frank and to the point -- I think there was a bug in Google's algo before. Now, Google has yet again tweaked their algo. Why? To return better and more accurate search results. And that's why some sites appear to have taken a dive, or as some would put it, why 'some sites have been penalized'. While that may be true for some sites, if your site still appears in Google's index at all, it is not penalized. Instead, it has lost its unfair advantage over other sites.
Google has always proclaimed that to rank well, you should do the following:
• mark up your HTML content using the HTML tags (headings, paragraphs, etc) the way they were intended
• use clean code, not too markup heavy
• focus on content, content, and more content
• write for humans, not spiders
• use descriptive page titles, file names, and link texts
• if using dynamic pages, make sure they can be spidered
• focus on the content some more
For some reason, that seems to be more true today than yesterday. Pages that do all of the above -- nothing more, nothing less -- rank well. They ranked well before 'Florida', and they still do. And, they probably always will.
Is the competition gone? No, it's tighter than ever. But your tweaking skills will no longer determine your ranking. Instead, your content will.
>Instead, your content will.
Ahh..Life is simple again :)
good post, DrDoc...Go G!
>Pages that do all of the above -- nothing more, nothing less -- rank well. They ranked well before 'Florida', and they still do. And, they probably always will.
Sigh... more blanket generalities in the face of numerous examples to the contrary.
|numerous examples to the contrary |
Examples of what? That OOPs ranked better before 'Florida'?
If you read some of GoogleGuy's posts you will see that the pre-Florida behavior was never intended by Google.
|According to Norvig, Google is "always making changes to its index, and it measures the quality of results before and after." One explanation for the current hue and cry, in Norvig's view, is simply that "Google went for a period of several months with no major changes, and some webmasters got complacent about their search rankings to the point where they felt deserving of them." |
Along DrDoc's lines..
OK but now look at it like this.
Suppose all your content is correct, user friendly and VERY good for your visitors. Lets say you have pages and pages of 'good' information for your visitors.
Lets say you tweak and tweak but still your 'content' is king. If what you are saying is correct then the filter should just be ignoring the highly optimised sites, highly optimised part of the site.
So with that being understood, the filter would simply ignore the highly optimised part of your site and you would compete quite evenly. - That is NOT the case.
How can you have great content (the best in fact), have a highly optimised site and then go from position 2 in the rankings to nothing. I mean I personally went through 500 positions on both Google.com and Google.co.uk and found not one single trace.
I did this twice and manually went through 2000 results and I was still invisable. If it is a filter, it should act like one i.e. filter out the part that comes under the 'highly optimised' heading. Now take my optimised part out the equasion and my site is still king and should still be able to compete. This is why I think we still are not seeing the true picture. Either that or it is bad timing and Google's bot had a problem accessing my site, at the very same time the Florida update hit all the SEO'd sites..
So instead of the filter maybe taking my site from position 2 to say position 20 or 30 it removes it completely (if it is not an access problem). Sounds like a penalisation rather than a filter, so now a site with less relevant content has the 'unfair' advantage. Also if you have worked hard on a site, I see the rewards for your hard work a 'fair' advantage, looking at the old saying 'what you sow you reep'....well that seems so not true at present, I will remain in no judgement until I analyse all the results and see the FACTS for what they are.
Sitting anxiously, waiting for information to analyse and digest...we will know the full picture very soon indeed.
Though you believe that Google is penalizing for over optimization, it is actually much beyond this. Google is penalizing those who even slightly target a money term. When I say target I mean mention the phrase 2-3 times on their web site. If you look at the real estate industry it has been virtually wiped out. Their are hundreds of thousands of agents of which over 90% know very little or anything about SEO, yet their sites are gone. The industry is freaking out. Those who support Google in such an action are misguided and don't realize their industry could be next.
The problem is sure some of us will figure out how to get in the serps but what about all the others?
[edited by: allanp73 at 7:14 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2003]
Then, maybe your site triggered a penalty filter?
On that was severe enough to not just ignore the over optimized content.
Or, maybe there's yet another bug in their OOP filter.
It might be loosened a bit soon.
Still, I maintain that we do, in fact, compete more evenly now -- for better or worse.
Yes, I realize that money terms have been hit very hard. In fact, they now tend to return results that are not relevant at all. But, I was talking a more general sense.
Don't take my post as a 'one size fits all' religion. I was just reflecting on what I had noticed from fairly deep research across a wide variety of terms and businesses.
Great post. However, I don't agree completely. What you are saying seems to be the case for some serps/industries. I am not one of the people saying that Google is trying to scam us, but in my industry things are terribly wrong. The sites on the first couple of pages are completely crap....way less useful than the 50 or so sites that got dropped 100s of pages.
According to MANY other people here at WW, this seems to be the case across many industries.
I will be the first to say that many serps/industries are perfectly fine after florida. When I am searching for some things, I get great results.
The point is that we can not generalize the findings of one industry to the next.
Lets not create an ecological fallacy and assume that what we may find with our particular data is true for everyone.
|Ecological fallacy - The mistake of assuming that where relationships are found among aggregate data, these relationships will also be found among individuals |
Yes but that is just the point, I wrote to Google and they responded in writting telling me that my site had not been penalized in anyway at all.
They told me that it is probably just a temp. problem and should be restored next month.
Also I quote from Google's information pages:
The Google index contains two types of pages--fully indexed and partially indexed pages. Your page is currently partially indexed, which means that although we know about your site, our robots have not read all the content on your page(s) in past crawls. This does not adversely affect your PageRank or your inclusion in our index. It does mean that we don't 'know' what to call your page, so it gets listed with the URL as the title and no description.
We appreciate the frustration this causes webmasters who work hard to make their sites accessible to users. We are working to increase the number of fully indexed pages in our search results to alleviate this problem.
Also info here:
3. Other reasons
If your page does not appear at all, here are some other possible explanations.
Your site may not have been reachable when we tried to crawl it because of network or hosting problems. When this happens, we retry multiple times, but if the site cannot be crawled, it will not be listed in our current index. If it was a transient problem, your site will likely show up in the next index, which will be completed in a few weeks.
A technical glitch on our side may have caused us to 'miss' your site. In crawling more than 3 billion pages every few weeks, our system experiences hiccups from time to time. Again, this is a transient problem, and your site will likely show up in the next index. Please be patient with us during this period, as we are not able to modify our index by hand to add sites missed in this way.
Is this just bad timing? Could I be the lucky one, even though my site is highly optimised (that is the nature of a competitive market) - I don't see any changes to the SERPS in my industry only a few new commers, so is there more than one explaination?
I am back and forth on the penalized theory. One of my conpetitors pretty much copied my SEO techniques word for word. His title is the same, META tags are almost 100% the same. He has the same kw in his content. The density of said kw's are almost identical to mine. Thing is, he is not only still in the top but he has risen 3-5 spots across the board.
|What does this tell us? For some reason, there is no longer a difference between one of those 'highly optimized' and a plain 'optimized' site -- they fight about the same SERPs, and are ranked on the same level. |
If this was the case, then the sites that were top ten pre-florida would not be #600-#700 now. I would assume that they would be closer. At least top 100.
Example: Before florida, my competitor was number one (and had been for years) and is now #600.
This competitor has 88 banklinks listed in google. ALL of these 88 sites are listed BEFORE my competitor now. The only relevency that these sites have is that they have the link text "black widgets" buried on their link page. That doesn't make these 88 sites very relevant to the phrase "black widgets". Not when my competitor is sitting at #600 with hundreds of quality pages about widgets.
If only the industry I refer to was affected then it would be too much and cause for concern. However, there are thousands of other industries affected and damage is considerable. Do not bother defending such results. The focus of current SEO talk is to how to fix the damage.
This can be done by:
- Reducing Google's position as top search engine (by promoting other search engines)
- Discourage clients from purchasing Adwords
- Determining what causes Google's filter and make public ways of circumventing it.
- Force Google to reconsider its lastest update.
|Don't take my post as a 'one size fits all' religion. |
The man had said it all. Would you please leave the specifics/conspiracies to other florida-update-mess threads?
[edited by: Chndru at 7:25 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2003]
Can we drop this "penalisation" term. We all know what it is supposed to mean - but it isn't a penalisation, it is a change in emphasis: a relative 'downgrading' in something that used to be important.
The history of Google updates indicates this - do old timers remember the 'semi-penalisation' ideas from earlier updates?
If Google's algos are working correctly AND SENSIBLY, explain to me why adding additional keywords to a search could/should cause relevant sites on which the additional keywords are to be found to drop from first page to nowhere.
I have not seen this problem myself but I don't believe that there are oodles of bare-faced liers hanging-around WW simply to cause trouble.
Whilst there are other problems being reported, I consider this problem to be the best clue to what's going on. The most likely explanation is that Google has redefined spam so that detection is based on search terms. It could also be explained by a dictionary of complex phrases being used to penalise sites but I don't buy that.
Amen, superscript ;)
I'm not talking about OOP. Im talking about sites that were designed just as you said they should be.
One of the frustrating aspects of these threads is the broad generalities and all-in-compassing theories put forth, when what has really happened in this update is incredibly multi-faceted.
I am seeing some of the best spot on, spam free results I have ever seen in Google. At the same time, I am also seeing results that are just so dramatically different (please notice that I didnt qualify the quality) than pre-florida.
Well designed, content rich, topic specific sites that have existed in the top 100 for long periods of time are now buried. In one example, 'city widget', 88 of the previous top 100 results now gone. The top 5 are different, but still 100% relevant and I could never argue otherwise.
The mystery is what happened to the rest and why were they replaced with directory types, many which exist solely to game Google on PR? Even more frustrating is that while most 'any city widget' search delivers directory type results, a few that should show the directory types are basically pre-florida.
I cant find rhyme or reason for the contradictions. What my analysis does show is that the results arent based on OOP or SEO of these sites. Writing more content for the sake of more content is not the answer with these particular searches.
While I'm sure Google targeted spamming as they probably try to do all the time, I tend to lean toward the analysis put forth by claus with regard to broad match, stemming, etc. I am just weary of the "content is the solution" mantra. These "directory" type sites that are now showing up are a poor example of good content, so I doubt that is the answer.
|I have not seen this problem myself but I don't believe that there are oodles of bare-faced liers hanging-around WW simply to cause trouble. |
It would be a strong accusation!
But the idea of a penalty implies something discontinuous, i.e. a cut-off point. Go beyond this point, and you suffer!
Now, algos aren't equations, and are permitted these 'cut off points' (discontinuities I guess) and so needn't be continuous curves.
But nothing in Google's history has ever suggested this behaviour - it is simply not an elegant solution, and it is not ethical, and I honestly believe Google to be ethical.
If you read all these posts, and put them through the meat grinder, the solution to this mess is pretty simple.
GG keeps saying it, but he's cautious. You have to look at what is being said at face value - it has been staring us all in the face!
edit: a couple of additional thoughts; if I am correct about what Google is doing, they are spot on, but it will take months for SEOs to catch on - and perhaps produce a new breed of SEOs. But the concept is still open to abuse.
p.s. I don't like this 'Junior Member' concept either. I've been in this sector for a decade. I understand the 'number of posts' concept, but this would always make a novelist superior to a poet, if based on number of words written. :)
<edit: a couple of edits to clarify things for skim readers!>
[edited by: superscript at 8:27 pm (utc) on Dec. 5, 2003]
The only thing I'm missing is that which is obvious - my face aches from looking!
What is it?
"I am seeing some of the best spot on, spam free results I have ever seen in Google. At the same time, I am also seeing results that are just so dramatically different (please notice that I didnt qualify the quality) than pre-florida."
It very simple what I am seeing. Its a retrain of the "Google User"
Main search results - About the entered search
Adwords - Buy searched word here.
Retrain with a few twists.
If you are looking for "build computers" then this is great, you could have "About building computers" in the main search, then books about building computers in the buy area.
Now Im not in the golf business but when I looked for "Golf clubs" I didnt want to know where to join a "Golf CLUB" I wanted to buy golf clubs, and sure enough Google got the Adwords right, oh you bet they did, all kinds of places selling golf clubs, but the main search was addresses and where I could find a Club, and the lavish setting of the Golf Clubs.
As a user this is not what I wanted.
Typical user will still click Adwords, they may go through the regular serps first then click the adwords, or visa versa.
But when Google starts to think for the user in terms of google best interest and not the users best interest is when google is not google anymore.
When such a radical change is implemented upon a company whos values were aimed at the user, then the company will radically change as well. Most likely for the worse.
Yahoo does not like these changes, Im #20 on Yahoo now, and past #120 on Google, Yahoo Im sure has been putting up a fuss. If I were Google I would have to ask myself a question "why is Yahoo against this new strategy". The answer would be, its good in the short run, but might be fatal in the long run.
Watch Yahoo (based on Google) results in the coming days, you will see what I mean, you can all ready see it.
In Yahoo UK results, I am top again but with an old index page. Worldwide results look like the current google serps to me...
|Now Im not in the golf business but when I looked for "Golf clubs" I didnt want to know where to join a "Golf CLUB" I wanted to buy golf clubs, and sure enough Google got the Adwords right, oh you bet they did, all kinds of places selling golf clubs, but the main search was addresses and where I could find a Club, and the lavish setting of the Golf Clubs. |
As a user this is not what I wanted.
It may not be what you wanted. Someone might want to look at general sites/reviews/places where they can use golf clubs/history of golf clubs/what kind of golf clubs are used in Tunasia/ etc...
Adwords simply have one intention - some products to sell/services. But general serps with a generalized term like golf clubs could be for anything.
If your intent is buying golf clubs, you would be putting "buy gold clubs".
Good point "buy golf clubs" works a lot better!
|"I am seeing some of the best spot on, spam free results I have ever seen in Google. At the same time, I am also seeing results that are just so dramatically different (please notice that I didnt qualify the quality) than pre-florida." |
LOL. OK, disagree, but it doesnt change what I see. Take for instance backpacking gear instead of golf clubs(no vested interest here). IMO these are as good as a user would expect to get. Now take a look at just about any major US "city real estate" with and without the $cr@@gle filter. Let me know if you dont see dramatically different results.
As for retraining users, that is a mighty task and perhaps a bit out of Google's fields of expertise.
>Watch Yahoo (based on Google) results in the coming days, you will see what I mean, you can all ready see it.
Yahoo's algo has been different to Google's since about May '03. Nothing new in what Yahoo are doing, they have been filtering the Google results for months.
The filter only works on the default 20 results, set it to 100 results per page and the Y! filter is disabled.....don't ask me why, I've been curious about it for months.
However, Florida may make Yahoo finally leap and switch to one of their own engines. I have also noticed in the past when Y! & Google are potentially going to split/join is also the time Google does something radical with its algo....could be coincidence, or could be pressure from Y!, or could be pressure from Google management to try to impress Y!. I doubt they are too impressed by the publicity this update has received.
>any major US "city real estate" with and without the $cr@@gle filter
Kirby, Try it for columbus real estate (w/o quotes) and you tell me which one is better. Me thinks, current G's SERPS has a dmoz listing, yahoo directory listing, HER realtors (the biggest in this area), areaguides.net listing, realtor.com listing, digitalcity listing.
What more better source could a enduser ask for, when s/he is looking for real estates?
Now, look in the other -oogle filter and compare urself.
i hate putting specifics, and since i am from columbus, this current G results <atleast for this kw> are simply outstanding! And nope, i have nothing to do with real estates/websites.
Kirby - Another thing, Im going to be building a new web server soon. So Im looking for reviews on a certain motherboard and could only find 2 on Google, yet 5 on Alta Vista, and believe me the reviews were critical for me.
A few other searches same thing. So I disagree, Im personally not getting spot on results with google, and have actually found 90% for what Im looking for, better results on Alta Vista.
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