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Before making changes in your website ...

 7:22 am on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Every time there is a major update some sites tank, go missing or drop in the SERPS and webmasters rush off to “tweak” their sites, thinking they have to do “something” right away! After all, we are all human beings and subject to fits of panic ... particularly when it comes to our financial well being. Right?

I truly understand the wish to “fix” whatever you may perceive to be “wrong” as soon as possible, but I would caution you to understand one simple theory. The absolute best way to confuse webmasters or lull them into a false sense of security is to install a lag time between a “fix” and actual search engine results.

Lets just say that I am a Google engineer, completely fed up with webmasters bent on being first in the SERPS for their “keyword” and I am determined to foil every manipulative attempt made to gain position through all the various SEO tactics known to man ... which, after all, are openly frowned upon by my superiors and myself. We don’t WANT our results to be manipulated by anyone but us!

Soooo ... I sit in my office, hour after hour, intent on solving my dilemma ... which is “how do I stop them?”, ... while repetitively and mindlessly throwing an Indian rubber ball against the wall, catching it (almost robotically) by making minor adjustments in my hand movements to ensure I catch it.

After a little while, the path the rubber ball takes becomes intensely boring for me, so I bounce it from one corner of the room across a short distance to the next corner and then back to my hand position. It doesn’t take long until I get that rhythm too and can do it almost robotically as well ... and without even paying a great deal of attention to the the ball!

Suddenly, my problem (and solution) begins to take shape! That silly little Indian rubber ball is the answer! I start finding more complex yet mathematically inevitable paths the ball must travel while still ending up in my hand! I realize that I can bounce that ball off the walls any number of ways and any number of times ... yet I can still make it end up in my hand or very close to my hand!

Now lets apply the same theory to search engine results!

Remember that I am a Google engineer and my job is to stop webmasters and SEO “experts” from manipulating our results. I theorize that if X = nearly perfect results ...or as close to perfect as a robot can get given my incredibly brilliant algorithm and fabulous filters ... then I don’t want to stray too far from “almost perfect results”. How do I do that and still manage to shake off the fleas who are making me scratch every little itch?

I perceive myself as the victim of thousands of serial stalkers (SEO’s/fleas) and in order to go “home” safely, without having to scratch those itches ... I must find a random path which constantly changes but always takes me back to the same “almost perfect results” without fleas/SEO’s on my tail!

Enter rolling updates!
Enter time lags between algo changes
Enter filters used as time bombs and calibrated to go off whenever I wish! Lets say 3 updates after your last change to any given page!

Filter changes I initiate this month will not affect the SERPS for 3 months, or 53 days or 79 days or 26 days ... Whatever I choose! But one filter I decide I want to try out might take affect immediately. After all, I am the guy behind the curtain who throws the swithches. I can do whatever I want, whenever I want!

So you change a page on your site today and as soon as the next update rolls around, you find your page is doing just great ... just as you thought! You scoped it out perfectly! Your number 1! You are bloody brilliant! Google is soooo easy to manipulate!

You make no changes and the site is raking in money for three months ... then it suddenly tanks and the site is listed URL only ... for no “apparent reason”! Google is evil!

The Google engineer sits back, bounces his Indian rubber ball against the wall whilsts gleefully chugging a beer and waiting for the threads at WebmasterWorld start to appear before his very eyes while saying “take that you jackasses!” ... “Think you are smarter than me, do you?” ... “Bwaaaaaahahaha”! :)

My point is that there is no longer any way to know what Google is doing at any given point in time. The ability to initiate random filters and algo changes with a fixed or floating lag time is the perfect solution to keeping SEO types running around in circles ... perpetually.

Their may be absolutely nothing wrong with your site! Leave it be and wait several months before doing anything at all. Update what needs to be updated and leave it alone!

In my opinion, the only solution to these random changes is to do nothing unless you need to for business purposes. Take a hiatus from checking your logs, add as much quality content as you can stand and then go as far as you can in adding content until it makes you want to puke! Write like a normal human being while keeping in mind that robots are dumb and need to be told what you page is about, then cross your fingers and hope for the best.

My belief is that SEO is dead. Content is king ... long live the king!

By the way, a friend of mine stopped over and I’ have to admit to having had more than a “few” drinks ... so take all of the above for what its worth and with a large pinch of salt! I’ve never been known for my drinking stamina! :)



 3:20 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Nice post Liane!

"Do nothing", at least in the short term, is often the best advice.

Making immediate changes based on what you see during an update borders on suicidal in my opinion.

Even after an update has settled, I think it's wise to let things lay where they are for at least a couple weeks, and preferably until another update has passed.

That doesn't mean not making any changes or additions to your site. It just means don't make any update related changes, unless you are fixing something you know to be your own fault, and even then you need to wait to be sure of the effects you are seeing during an update.

You have to keep in mind that you aren't the only webmaster out there with sites in your category. some of those other webmasters may well go nuts messing with their sites based on any given update.

You might as well let them do their thing and wait to see how their efforts affect the serps. My observations are that this often works in your favor.

Also, let's not forget that Google isn't the only player on the field. Probably as important, if not mores important, are webmasters themselves.

I can't remember making a major change related to an update that didn't have it's roots in something I had done to my site before the update.

It's all to easy too blame Google, when in fact it might very well be something we did that caused the problem.

Then there are the other webmasters vying for those top 10 spots. The more competitive the sector, the fiercer the competition.

The fiercer the competition, the more carefully you need to plan your immediate actions, and careful planning takes time. While you're at it, be sure to give some thought to a backup plan.

And when it comes to new sites or pages, it's reasonable to expect, that if you pop up on the first page, the other sites on that page are going to notice, and very likely take action.

Add their actions to yours and Googles and the game is on! It also gets pretty confusing.

So, who to blame?


 3:55 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

My belief is that SEO is dead. Content is king ... long live the king!

I hope this is true. That's where I'm staking my bet.

Also, in regards to making changes, I believe in always optimizing and tweaking your website if you're using best practices. Whether or not your up or down in the SERPs, a good webmaster should be continually aiming for the best code and layout possible for their site. Best practices to me means thin pages, an easy to read layout, web standards, and using headers and other HTML elements correctly.


 4:36 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I have made a few small changes to my site(s), but that is mainly because my dialogs with other webmasters (as a result of this update) have pointed out several technical mistakes that should be have been corrected long ago/ never made in the first place (mostly .htaccess stuff). I don't really expect this to make a change in the Google SERPs, but I'm glad I corrected them neverthess - it makes my site more secure and improves the technical end. I am mulling over more major changes (switching to a new domain, etc.), but it seems useless and perhaps dangerous to do anything big until Bourbon has totally been sussed out.

As for the hypothesis of Google engineers who are out to get webmasters and SEO experts, where does that leave an honest writer and editor, who only wants to get her content out in front of people who will benefit from it, and who wants to be able to live on the income the website produces so that she can continue writing, editing and publishing said content? Somebody somewhere, I think, is forgetting the real purpose of seach engines - to find requested information. People who are requesting the information I have to give are not receiving it from Google at the moment.


 4:44 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

>> I hope this is true. That's where I'm staking my bet.

I'd hedge on this one.

I would not bet my xmas05 sales / affiliate income on one strategy in isolation... a number of strategies used in moderation still seem to work really well.


 4:48 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

If you want to change your website...

This morning I busied myself creating a dozen or so cute Yahoo logos for webmasters to feature on their pages. Sticky me. They're fun!


 6:04 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

As for the hypothesis of Google engineers who are out to get webmasters and SEO experts, where does that leave an honest writer and editor, who only wants to get her content out in front of people ...

I would imagine you have nothing to worry about ... just keep writing! ;)


 6:23 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Oh, but I am worried, because if I no longer have an income from that site, I have to figure out another way to make money, which means I no longer have time to write on this topic for this site. Basically, Bourbon is killing this information-rich website... and, from what I gather, many, many others.


 6:24 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

One point on making changes that I am convinced about is that Google treats something changed differently to something already existing.

A major one being KWD, lifting KWD to match an established page that is beating you can get you dumped within days for example, hence older pages with 20%+ kwd riding high in the serps.

SEO is, I believe, behind nearly all the tales of woe you hear after an update.
All my sites and those who compete with me are never hit.
But then most know nothing of canonical issues etc etc!

I believe, now more than ever, the old mantra original and useful content written for readers not spiders is the best (and safest) way.


 6:45 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)


Your hypothesis may be right, but don't forget about all those content-rich white-hat sites that have been dumped by Google. Google may not care (plenty more content where that came from), but "do nothing" may not be the best strategy for the webmaster who got dumped.

May not be the best strategy for Google either ...


 7:07 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

"do nothing" may not be the best strategy for the webmaster who got dumped.

But that is exactly my point! If these are "white hat" sites, (I hate that expression) ... there may be nothing at all "wrong" with the site, so why change it? Wait a few months, you may be surprised. Cream always rises to the top.

I have had several pages that tanked for "no apparent reason" after this update or that. They always seem to bounce back "eventually". If you keep changing things, you will never find out if this is true or not and you are more than likely going to experience penalties if you change the wrong things.

In addition, what happens if your changes adversely affect your rankings on other engines?

By creating more quality content, you spread the wealth (as it relates to your site) around and provide yourself with more opportunities to be found. All the time and effort people put into "tweaking" would (in my humble opinion), be better spent developing content for engines like MSN or Yahoo and let Google do whatever Google is going to do!

Oh, but I am worried ...

In that case, see the caveat at the bottom of the original post and do whatever you think is best!


 7:09 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

You are right Liane!

I think that Google uses the same tactit used against "mouses".

Since mouses are "intelligent" animals, to fight them you must use "intelligent" poisons.... Mouses should not have the possibility to correlate poisons with their dead....


 7:19 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

In that case, see the caveat at the bottom of the original post and do whatever you think is best!

Waaaa! That won't work either because I don't drink anymore. ;-)


 7:40 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I am the guy behind the curtain who throws the swithches.

Liane - are you the Wizard of Oz with a lisp? ;)



 8:19 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)


How do you write that noise that Scoobie Doo makes when somebody asks him a question?

Jeeeze, I said I had been driking! ;)


 8:35 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Good advice Liane. I usually take a vacation from doing anything other than maintanence on a site during or immediately after major changes/updates.

Good time to unwind while my competitors torment themselves with hourly serp watching. I notice most of the longterm senior members here go dark as well in these google related threads.


 8:43 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I made some changes after Allegra as I got hit hard. I have an education site linked to by tons of .edu/.org sites but I had let the site get a bit messy.

So February, I spent some time clearing out code bloat, making whole site more css dependent, getting rid of deprecated tags and making whole site standards compliant too with a doc type declaration. Got rid of non-www problem too and put absolute links across the site too.

Basically bringing into 2004/2005....as opposed to 2002 where it was stuck to be honest.

And then Bourbon hit and it sank even further.

So I decided to just leave it. I know it's a good site and it will eventually come back. I have to get other traffic sources. I can't bow and scrape to every Google whim. I am in this for the long term - Google will sort themselves out. I have to get on with other sites and other projects.

I will not do anything more to that site for, as far as I'm concerned, it's fine now. 500 individual sites linking to me as a great education resource can't be wrong even if some of them rank higher than me just for the fact my site name is on their page.


so...in short Liane, I'm with you on this one.


 8:55 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

>I can't bow and scrape to every Google whim. I am in this for the long term

especially since there is no way of knowing for sure what those whims are.


 9:17 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Agreed here too. Make the changes you would have made anyway (links, content, shaking off 302s etc.) -Larry


 9:20 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

My belief is that SEO is dead. Content is king ... long live the king!


I agree that if there is nothing technically wrong with one's website, the best thing to do at this point is to leave it alone.

I qualify my agreement with you on the point that content is king...bourbon has a strong hint of Hilltop, google's ultimate weapon against SEO. Study the serps of top ranking sites in the aftermath of bourbon. With almost any broad catagory kw, DMOZ, Yahoo, and Google directory links reign supreme. As you may know, Hilltop relies on the basis of "expert sites"...so dmoz, yahoo and google directory listings are king.

With the announcement of the google evaluation lab, I suspect they are coming up with another list of "expert sites" to add to the hilltop algo.

I may be way off here, but it seems that the sites which were hit hardest with bourbon are those which would be targeted by a hilltop algo...crosslinking schemes, canonical issues, etc.

Yes, seo is dead and content is king only if it earns you an inbound from an expert site.

Google has won the war.


 9:39 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Great post Liane :)

I really like that rubber ball example. As i've always said: There are always more than one way to do it.

I should really add that updating one's site isn't exactly harmful, afaik.


 10:10 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

I've been tracking down the few important pages that are still out of the index and found whole paragraph(s) copied by several other websites.

I have given up on DMCA requests, given up on email requests and have decided to re-write the content.

Kinda sad that 4 year old original content goes to be owned some scraper site now. But 30 mins of work saves hours of painful chasing and followup.


 10:31 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

>My belief is that SEO is dead. Content is king ... long live the king!<

Classic SEO is dead..Dynamic SEO is King.. long live the king ;-)

msg #: 306

msg#: 312 & 314


 11:00 pm on Jun 13, 2005 (gmt 0)

Yes, seo is dead and content is king only if it earns you an inbound from an expert site.

Google has won the war.

Yup, they basically have, and no doubt lost a lot of people who didnt like seeing the weird results and went to MSN or Yahoo instead, which is the case with my site even though it is in the top listings. From Lianes post it's almost as if the person really doesnt care that some people basically relied in part on google's so called good results to get some more hits in and therefore more cash.

Now those folks who are in here seeing there hits down are TOLD to wait as there business goes down? Yeah, well maybe Google will eventually lose out to MSN once Bill Gates pulls his finger out and relaunches it and Liane will lose his/her job. Not unless Google wants to wait as there profits go down and there shareholders start screaming LMAO!

Poetic Justice i call it.


 1:44 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

nice post.. however with this update i have been noticing more than ever that content is not "king" as such, but links for google still is and still remains.

the sites that have been doing alot of linkage over the past 6-12 months and have came through this update, and are simply dominating.

there content isn't that great, they just go hard at the linking.


 2:01 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Content is king only when optimizing for MSN...this is an undisputed fact.

nice post.. however with this update i have been noticing more than ever that content is not "king" as such, but links for google still is and still remains.

Google "beats around be bush". On page content has little to do with ranking well on google. They started out with page rank thinking that votes from various and sundry sites in the form of link to's would tell them where the quality content was to be found. Then the idealist geniuses at the plex got slapped with reality when they discovered their fabled Pagerank algo was a sitting duck waiting to be shot by any two-bit gamer out there.

Now they are falling back on hilltop...which is another beat around the bush algo. For the life of me I cannot understand why they are so fixated on off-page factors. It's sorta like they don't want to read the book...they want somebody else to tell them what it is about.


 3:10 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

I agree. Why can't Google just focus on quality, original content, frequency of visits, repeat visits, and length of visits.

All this pagerank and trustrank can be easily manipulated.


 3:26 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

i don't have a problem with how they are factoring in incoming links if the links are on-topic and of quality.

to give credit to some competitors, i have seen a few of them doing a good on-theme reciprocal link strategy over the past 6-12 months & i knew it would just be a matter of time before they start to rank in the results.

whether or not Google likes off page optimization via on-theme reciprocal links is there choice.

i would personally prefer if they decrease the value they put on overall links (mainly recip links) & same anchor text used over and over.

they could focus a bit more attention on the on-page content.


 3:33 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

Five years ago the concept of content is king could get you by. Today the internet market is not so simplistic.

It takes a combination of technical, marketing, management, creative, business, and financial skills, to make it in the long run.

However there is a place for the individual who understands where their strengths are and is willing to partner with a group of individuals that make the whole or join an company that needs their assets.

The wildwest of the net is fading fassst.

Adversity Sure Fire

 5:01 am on Jun 14, 2005 (gmt 0)

------"with this update i have been noticing more than ever that content is not "king" as such, but links for google still is and still remains. "-------

Yes, i have seen a site ranking in top 10 for very competitive term(s) and using black hat technique - invisible links using background color.

Google, It's not fair at all. :(

This 35 message thread spans 2 pages: 35 ( [1] 2 > >
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