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Search Engines' Stance Against SEO Is Shaky At Best
agerhart




msg:232665
 6:23 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

It is an ongoing saga, only known by those that are either on the side of the search engines or the side of the search engine optimization professionals. On one side, you have the SEO professional, whose main goal is to work hard and do whatever possible, ethically is desired, to obtain higher rankings within the search engines. On the other side you have the search engines who's job is to provide their users the highest number of most relevant results. Somewhere along the line (long before I came into the picture I assume) the relationship between the two professions went sour. Why did this happen? The search engines see SEOs as spammer's.

The first case that I saw of this was back in September, when Brett Tabke found the Inktomi Spam database. This caused quite a stir within the SEO community, and with due reason. Inktomi had compiled a database of over 1 million URLs that were blacklisted from the Inktomi database, and classified as spammer's for one reason or another.

So, what was Inktomi trying to accomplish with this Spam Database? Inktomi was trying to clean up their database, eradicating spammer's, porn sites, spam domains and sites, affiliate sites, and SEO companies. It is conceivable that Inktomi did not wish to eliminate all SEO companies, but only the ones that were spamming the database heavily. During this crusade Inktomi would identify a site that they considered a spammer, according to their guidelines, and would ban that site as well as other sites that were within the same Class C IP. Inktomi was attempting to eliminate all sites that were produced by each detected spammer.

Let's remember that Inktomi's algorithm was based on older on page criteria. The algorithm weighs title tags, description tags, some on-page content, some keyword density, and link popularity. With an algorithm of this nature, it makes it very easy for the search engine rankings to be manipulated.

What was the outcome of all of this? One thing that happened, whether it be a good thing or bad, is make SEO companies and professionals more alert to the fact that they need to be careful on the Internet. Thousands upon thousands of sites were banned from the Inktomi database, and all banned as a result of what guidelines? None. Sites were being added to the blacklist of websites from outside sources. So, what happens to the site that has been on the Internet for years, has accumulated a number of domains, tons of links, and other things that Inktomi is using as criteria for the blacklist? You go on one of two lists: blacklist or whitelist. The blacklist is the spammer's list, and the whitelist is the untouchables.

You are probably wondering why I am brining up this stale topic. Stay with me.

Another situation has arisen lately, not to the same magnitude as the Inktomi Spam Database incident, but one of the same relation. Over the past few months, Google has been testing a way of penalizing web sites that are over-optimized, or just plain optimized to rank well. Google. The "king of search engines", the search engine that was supposed to be so "webmaster friendly". So, how was this discovered?

GoogleGuy, a member at WebMasterWorld and Google employee, recently stated in a thread [webmasterworld.com], "Let me address that point a little more directly. We tried a new way to detect site optimization. It nabbed plenty of bad guys, but it also caught lots of smaller people who read SEO boards. We're slowing backing off some of that particular penalty now……….There is an important message here though, especially for the smaller web master. Let's define that as: you manage a single-digit number of domains, or you read here to promote your own personal site, or you don't do SEO for a living. The message is pretty simple, and it's one that full-time SEO's should already know: SEO can at times be dangerous to the health of your site. Please be careful out there on the net, alright?"

Google admits to hunting down optimized sites, sites optimized by SEO companies, and although this Google representative did not imply it, probably SEO company's websites. Then Google admits that during their hunt for optimized sites that had an edge over their competitors, innocent bystanders were caught in the crossfire. There is one thing that differentiates the Inktomi hunt from the Google hunt: Google was not only going after spammer's and porn sites, they were going after legitimately optimized sites. While the Google representative declined to offer information into what techniques exactly they were looking for, the techniques could not have been overly complex if ordinary webmasters and legitimate SEOs were caught in the hunt.

At WebMasterWorld, new member after new member appeared wondering what happened to their website. Why was their PageRank taken away? What happened to their links? What happened to their rankings? When Google implemented this new technology to detect optimized sites and nab "bad guys", many innocent web masters and companies that have hired SEO firms were hit with the same penalty.

Why does history repeat itself like this? Why do the search engines feel the need to hunt down optimized sites?

Compare two companies. Company A and Company B are in all aspects the same. Company A does not pursue a search engine optimization campaign, or any online or search engine marketing campaigns for that matter. Company B, realizing the potential, decides to hire a search engine optimization firm for their optimization campaign, as well as their online and search engine marketing needs. The search engine optimization company only employs ethical practices, focusing on the site's content, the web site structure, obtaining quality links, and reworking the titles and keyword density of the pages. Company B's website then gets hit with a penalty from Google, while Company A's website goes untouched on the 20th page of the search results. Why? Would this happen in offline marketing or advertising? Would Company B get hit with a penalty of fine for pursuing a traditional marketing campaign?

The answer is obviously No.

What is the solution to these problems? In the Inktomi case, the obvious and easy solution would be for Inktomi to review sites more carefully or to have a stronger algorithm for indexing and ranking websites. In the Google case, the solution is a bit more difficult. One thing that Google could have done to prevent the situation was narrowing the scope of their target. Instead of targeting web sites that are properly optimized according to search engine and browser standards, why not solely target the web sites that use spam techniques? Another solution is for Google to change their indexing process. The latter solution would be much more difficult, and would involve either implementing paid submissions or some new technology.

I have an even more simple solution that would have applied to both situations: realize that SEO is an important part of every website and marketing your website and company on the Internet. Lately there has been a trend of the term SEO changing to SEM, or search engine marketing. Why the change? There are not many free search engines left on the Internet, and is being replaced with paid-submission, paid-spidering, and paid-placement options on the search engines. Let me break it down: SEO = SEM. Let me break it down any further: offline marketing company = SEO or SEM company, and the marketing avenue (magazine, newspaper, etc.) = search engines.

Copyright 2002 Top Site Listings [topsitelistings.com] - First usage rights donated to WebmasterWorld.

 

IanTurner




msg:232666
 7:03 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

This deserves a considered reply, so here goes.

From a search engine point of view:

1 They are looking a providing relevant results. Relevant results = more users.

2 Paid listings do not necessarily provide the most relevant results. Companies with larger marketing spends can dominate the listings, even though their product is probably outside the price range of most of the people searching for the product. (Consider searching Overture for what you want against searching Google for what you want.)

3. SPAM is a problem, people are trying to get less relevant sites into the top of results listings or trying to get sites with little or no content into the top placings.

4. SCAMMERS are trying to make a quick buck by getting their sites noticed by the gullible punter. (I don't know of any problems with SE's listing fraudulent sites but I could see it cropping up sooner or later)

Any site that undergoes SEO from creation could potentially fall into the SPAM/SCAM category. Therefore a heavily optimised site must be looked upon as being suspect.

From a marketing perspective:

If you are getting no search engine hits then you have very little to loose by optimising. Why not get yourself banned trying it is a no lose situation.

The risk comes from trying to get more hits - you are gambling what you have for greater gain. If you are making a living from the site this can be considered very risky.

All marketing techniques are valid. It is just a case of evaluating return on investment for each technique.

From my point of view as an SEO

I think the search engines should crack down on SPAM techniques. If this brings down a few people who don't understand the business then that is their lookout.

I would like to see definitive statements about what will get a site banned available from the search engines. (But I do see that this may give away too much in regard their algorithms.) Though there should be plenty of room between optimised and spamming to allow some leeway. Most SEO's have a pretty good iea of SE algorithms anyway so publishing the SPAM criteria may not be that much of a loss anyway.

As to the future I have been moving away from pure SEO into Internet Marketing as a more general field (rather than SEM). SEO is just one aspect of this and may not suit all sites. Some sites will suit banner exchange programs some will suit webrings and many other techniques also have validity.

From a webmster point of view the ideal is to get quality traffic to your site which will convert into $$££ in your bank account.

Brett made a point a while back about putting all your eggs into one basket in the reliance on SEs as a traffic source - this is exceptionally valid and while the SEs go in for SEO crackdowns is worth bearing in mind.

circuitjump




msg:232667
 7:05 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Great post agerhart,

My question is, when you pay for submition into a search engine, can you still get banned for optimizing?
The way I see it is that companies that pay to have there web sites indexed are most likely gonna be optimizing there sites. This is also assuming that they are not spamming. So are they still at risk of getting banned?

agerhart




msg:232668
 7:06 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

So are they still at risk of getting banned?

You better believe it. If you pay for submission to Inktomi, Yahoo, and all others, there is still the risk of your site being removed.

circuitjump




msg:232669
 7:13 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

That's a bummer.

I mean if I decide I'm gonna dish out some cash to get submitted, you better believe that I'm gonna optimize. I don't think anyone wants to pay with there hard earned money and see minimal results from the SE you just made richer.

It's like college. If your paying for it, your most likely gonna wanna hit for some A's.

paynt




msg:232670
 7:31 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Bravo Andrew, well said.

We specialists on the web who help sites find their positioning so they can succeed are penalized and forced to find new ways to conduct business. I know I branched out from my early days as a SEO, and in many ways that’s been good for me because I like theory and research so development is what I’ve worked into. Optimization for search [not just search engines] along with themes is the base on which I build my strategies so any flux in the search industry can be a real headache, particularly when we spend three months worrying about something that ‘shouldn’t have’ happened.

Along with legitimate SEO companies may designers have been faced with understanding the search industry to better serve their clients. It can be sink or swim with the sharks. For others, especially the lone webmaster working really hard to learn it all, the impact of a 2-3 [what we now know was not the intent but was the result] month ban on Google can actually ruin a business. With the economy as it is, with folks losing jobs it might just be the small business owners, on and off the web who act to support the whole. Yanking their chain and destroying their chances for success as a whim to catch the big fish is unfair and could be in the long run more harmful than we can only now imagine.

I agree Andrew, there should be more cooperation. Hopefully your thoughtful post will contribute to that result.

Eric_Lander




msg:232671
 7:50 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

> 1 They are looking a providing relevant results. Relevant results = more users.

I don't believe this is the case at all. I haven't heard the Yahoo! yodel or seen Lycos' dog running around my TV screen all that much recently. It is obvious that the engines, as an industry in general, got scared a while ago and really needed to find a way to make a buck as opposed to spend it. So, advertising is not a way to go. As a result they are not exactly out to get more visitors as they are to obtain repeat visitors.

While this is solely my opinion, and I am sure there is much debate for my view, I see the engines struggling to obtain a position within their markets that enables them to obtain repetitive use as opposed to the use of new users.

Consider this. You go to Go.com because your corporation has been using it as your default homepage for the past three years. You search for information that will assist you in applying a new yet random programming technology. After weeding through endless amounts of paid placements, you still have nothing except a dozen contractors you can call to help you.

One visit and search on Google though, yields exactly what you want.

The results are painfully clear. Engines develop and maintain a user base that is dictated by those who favor the continuous usage of their indexes.

Paid listings do not necessarily provide the most relevant results. Companies with larger marketing spends can dominate the listings, even though their product is probably outside the price range of most of the people searching for the product. (Consider searching Overture for what you want against searching Google for what you want.)

Perhaps the most relevant results are in fact those that are paid. Searching any engine is nothing more than giving it a random string of characters it cannot understand as humans can, and asking for the most relevant results.

Why would a company want to pay for listings for a given string of characters unless they could make money by doing so? My guess, is that the term they are targeting IS in fact relevant. Then again, maybe they're using the funds for taxation purposes. Not likely though.

Furthermore, if Overture (the largest PPC modeled engine available to searching "consumers" - and also the one used in your example) is now reviewing their listings with a fine tooth comb to ensure that their listings are relevant. It seems to me that cheating or "scamming" your way through is being dealt with at face value, even by the most susceptible sources.

I am not saying it cannot be done. But, I am saying that there are two sides to every coin.

SPAM is a problem, people are trying to get less relevant sites into the top of results listings or trying to get sites with little or no content into the top placings.

You are absolutely right. I was looking into buying some Banana Republic clothes, and went over to Google for help on how to find their site by searching for their brand name "banana republic" [google.com].

Boy was I glad to see that their site isn't even listed until position 42! After all, they have a front page with so very little content that they don't deserve to rank well for their trademarked brand name. Right?

Again, two sides to every coin.
Who am I kidding, the ALGO's must be perfect. No one deserves to rank for their own registered, trademarked brand name if they don't have content to support it!

- Eric

john316




msg:232672
 7:53 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>and do whatever possible, ethically is desired<<

From what I've seen, many in SEO have ethical boundaries that are totally at odds with the SE (or non-existent). When google announced their CPC program, I saw porn ads within hours in SERPs that they never should have been in.

The operating theory is really *Do whatever possible*, forget ethics.

I happen to think that google should just delete all porn. My guess is that it is the source of 90% of all the spamming issues, and when they fire up a filter to deal with it, the other guys get socked.

Maybe they could just break it off into a separate engine and run it with no spam filters and a public algo. At least then the spammers would be doing all the work and not the engineers.

About the only thing I like about Overture is that they don't participate in it, maybe they know something the others don't. Can you see a bunch of engineers sitting around all day trying to determine if this site or that site is spamming porn...Yikes! What a waste.

chiyo




msg:232673
 8:00 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

I was surprised with googleguys posting, that unexpectantly suggested that google was not so interested only in catching spammers, but also in those who "optimize" sites. Suddenly, we were being told "don't optimize" because you might be seen as a spammer. I was surprised that GG's statement didnt get more comment until today.

But then it struck me.

What a great way for google to discourage optimizers who are making money that should be really going to them. Pick one of the more influential webmaster forums, and the word will get out. Im sure Im not the only one, even though as an educational site we are probably not even close to Googles spam filters, who has been busy de-optimizing their sites since Googleguys bombshell. :) Removing cross links, reducing keywords, like crazy!

What a great way to discourage optimization and get people to pay for AdWords..

Aha .. a pigeon among the cats...

Its simple business really. From the perspective of the Search Engine, why do they want an industry which has become very lucrative for many to get the filthy lucre for getting top rankings, rather than the Search Engines to get their hands on the money directly for various listing, click charges etc.. Besides they invented search engines, invested in it and created a spin off industry.

SEO is only a spin off industry that owes its very existance to Search engines, yet search engines are finding it hard to make a buck, while some SEO's have made a nice living.

SEO was an opportunistic industry that had a limited life span just because of these simple business economics. Who is "right" or "wrong" is a moot point. The SE's have always owened the industry and have invested in it. SEO's merely invested in the windown or opporyunity that soomer or later would shut as SE's built up their databases and business models well enough to sell listings or advertising.

SEO IS dead. Googleguy was right. And im sure he is correct in saying that if people weren't spending so much time jiggling around with word counting, linking programs, and the like, Search Engines would find it much easier to come up with relevant SERPS.

SEM, or Internet marketing. That's the key agerhart, and thanks for the great post. SEO was yesterday. Usability, concentrating on content, smart design, building great communities, and new ways of presenting original content is tomorrow. Time to move ahead...

I M (very) H O

OK.. shoot me...

On the other hand..

Im seeing the start of a move towards the "decentralisation" of the Web. Rather than massive search engine databases and ad programs dominating the Web, Im seeing a new Web world of vortals, specialist and respected sites in your own area of interest, and a burgeoning Weblog movement. It's possible that the mega Search Engine model too, is at it's highest level of influence right now.

Think about marketing on a Web without Search Engines.

Seriously...

just for two minutes..

Its an interesting, creative, and hopefully liberating exercise....

(edited by: chiyo at 8:09 pm (utc) on Feb. 26, 2002)

toolman




msg:232674
 8:07 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

[webmasterworld.com...]

I bet "fresh tags" will be the next thing for sale.

IanTurner




msg:232675
 8:27 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Eric

Boy was I glad to see that their site isn't even listed until position 42! After all, they have a front page with so very little content that they don't deserve to rank well for their trademarked brand name. Right?

If you think about British Colonial history then no they don't deserve it. A Banana Republic is a nation with a single commodity economy.

Perhaps the most relevant results are in fact those that are paid. Searching any engine is nothing more than giving it a random string of characters it cannot understand as humans can, and asking for the most relevant results.

I disagree company A spends $20 million developing a fantastic product and $1 million marketing it where as company B spends $1 million developing and $20 million marketing. If searching for said product which is the most relevant to the user.

I have a question for all the experts - what percentage of the money that s spent on paid listings in search engines is paid by SEOs acting on behalf of their clients.

I propose that without SEO there would be little money to be made in paid listings and therefore no large cake for the SEs to share out.

digitalghost




msg:232676
 8:28 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

I've taken considerable heat in other forums and in email for insisting that "search engine optimization" isn't the correct route to take for long term results.

Content development in conjunction with "site optmization" has been quite effective and I think will remain effective for some time to come.

Clients requesting SEO work are sometimes put off when I ask, "what about content development"? I simply won't work on sites now that refuse to develop quality content and expect to get high rankings in the SEs. The end result of optimizing for the engines and ignoring the surfer is counter productive and ultimately results in frustration for everyone involved.

The Google Question article by Matt Cutts in Search Day prompted a discussion that resulted in the following:
<snip>
Just read the latest Search Day and Matt Cutts, a software engineer from Google wanted webmasters to ask themselves a few questions. One of them was,
"Would you perform an optimization strategy if the search engines did not exist?"

My knee-jerk response was an immediate, "NO." After giving the issue some thought, I realized that most of the optimization tactics I use I would still use if the search engines suddenly vanished.

Keywords allow you to focus on the page topic. Stray too far from your keywords and you're walking your readers down a path they didn't choose.

Titles? Since elementary school we've been trained to look for them, we expect them. They also happen to make good sense.

Okay, H1 tags might be a bit of a stretch but headers are needed to break the page information up, give it structure.

What the SEOs call "internal linking structure" most users refer to as Navigation. Putting the same navigation structure on every page makes good sense.

Using keywords in hyperlinks. Yep, I'd still do that because "Read Crypto Article" is much better than "Click Here".

Getting inbound links? Sure thing. Long before people were worried about link popularity they wanted links from other sites to get more traffic. Relevant links make more sense. People surfing a c++ site are already interested in that topic, it's a small leap to offer them more.

Breaking long pages into smaller ones does more than just give you another page to optimize for your targeted content, it keeps people from scrolling, puts the information in their face.

Not displaying all your pages in a new browser window. SEO tactic? No, user-friendly tactic. using a NBW disables the back button, the one thing a user counts on to get them out of messy sites, sites that spawn pop-ups, etc. To the inexperienced surfer, suddenly having the back button disabled can be disquieting.

Before I ramble on much further, I guess what Google is getting at is, design your site with good content, make it user-friendly and put the surfer first, hopefully, the rest will follow. After all, the search engine just gets them there, your site has to keep them there.
<snip>

My original position on SEO has changed considerably since I started optimizing sites a few years ago. I'm not comfortable with the SEM acronym either. I prefer to target the surfer, not the engines and Search Engine Marketing leaves out the target market, the surfer, which in the end is what the sites are being optmized for, aren't they? I have yet to have a search engine purchase a product from a client site or from one of my own sites.

DigitalGhost

(edited by: digitalghost at 8:33 pm (utc) on Feb. 26, 2002)

mr_dredd2




msg:232677
 8:30 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

i'm glad this thread was started. i was starting to think that those of us who think all this "google-praising" is totally mistaken were doomed to life on a desert island!

as i've always thought with google, its not about ethics, its about having something to float publically.

they are totally crazy, even if they are 50+ phds (and how many marketing?), to think that one could ever have an objective index. When googleguy posted that phrase that agerhart quoted, i commented, but couldn't beleive that more people didnt see the significance. ie. not spam, but optimisation.

think about all the scare stuff and advice they have given us on a non-offending site?

hidden text (what no div menu popups?), cross-linking (telling us who and how we should link to?), over-optimisation (how many words on our own pages?), link structure (what kind of navbars we should have?).. i mean, its ridiculous. really, think about it.. its ridiculous.

of course, the point is, its their search engine, they can include what they want. and thats why, if they don't sort out their relationship with SEO, they WILL go like altavista.

you know, google is the in thing at the moment, but i bet you, making a good living on the net DOES NOT, even right now, have to include google presence as a top priority. inktomi pages, good conversions, yahoo, overture, and the up and comings (wisenut, teoma etc)..

people come to us, and their marketing departments want to be top on google, because all the other marketing departments have caught the press buzz of "google". thats why. ok, googles good for informative sites etc.. but they are not as vital as people seem to think, and i reckon teoma and wisenut, in fundamental terms, have just as good/better search technology.

remember altavista!!!! it was top and within a month..

Brett_Tabke




msg:232678
 8:36 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Awesome article Andrew.

quick note: I split off some of the misc topics [webmasterworld.com]. That's the way it is with seo discussions, it always sparks new directions.

...working on a reply.

agerhart




msg:232679
 8:40 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>>>What the SEOs call "internal linking structure" most users refer to as Navigation. Putting the same navigation structure on every page makes good sense.

This is incorrect. The internal linking structure of a website has much more to it than its mere navigation. Think PageRank dispersion within your site.

>>>>of course, the point is, its their search engine, they can include what they want.

Alright, they can include the sites that they want to........but are they an advertising engine, like Overture. No, they claim to be a "free" search engine, and within the free search engine, all sites, regardless of being optimized, which is a legitimate marketing and promotion medium, are free to be listed.

GoogleGuy




msg:232680
 8:46 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Folks had a pretty good discussion of this a while back:
[webmasterworld.com...]
There was also the interesting thread a while back with toolman (can't find it right now). I think I said something like Google and webmasters and SEOs are on the same side as long as webmasters/SEOs are honest.

I think that there's a lot more discussion between engines and webmasters now than ever before, and I think that's a really good thing too.

digitalghost




msg:232681
 8:51 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

NOTE: Key words there are MOST USERS, most users don't think about "internal linking structure", they are concerned with getting from point A to point B. Navigation. If the user can visit every page of the site from every page of the site, the internal linking structure has been covered and spiders should have no problem following the links either unless someone decides using a Flash or dynamic navbar is expedient.

I don't worry about PR either. I want quality inbound links and relevant content. PR seems to take care of itself if those two considerations are met.

DigitalGhost

mr_dredd2




msg:232682
 8:54 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

>> I think I said something like Google and webmasters and SEOs are on the same side as long as webmasters/SEOs are honest.

respectfully googleguy, i think that is absurd. "honesty" is defined and judged by google, not by us. how can we be on the same side if there is an uneven power relationship between us where we are getting judged?

honesty is not the word. otherwise, you wouldn't be going for "optimisation" - you'd be going for the worst excesses of "spam". (how many newbies on this forum have been saying "what have i done wrong?")

its play by your rules. if we don't like it, we'll have to play somewhere else.

thanks for the participaiton though (honestly!!)

circuitjump




msg:232683
 8:58 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>I think I said something like Google and webmasters and SEOs are on the same side as long as webmasters/SEOs are honest. <<

GoogleGuy, does this mean that if your honest about cloaking (no spamming and letting Google cache the cloaked pages try your best to make a simple version of your site), Google won't mind it at all?

Or does Cloaking mean dishonesty with Google? No matter what you try.

My apologies for throwing the cloaking ingredient into the mix.

Brett_Tabke




msg:232684
 9:10 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

Nice roundup of the issues Andrew. I tend to wince when these topics come up. A couple of points from the original article:

I think Ink has cleaned up their system on the issue a great deal. Having changed their model of operations, they aren't so aggressive at removing sites now. They now have the two pay-for-play systems in place that control spam to a degree due to the review process.

The problem with the two pfp programs, is that they are themselves producing a sort of "spammers rights" situation for Ink. we paid for the url and that gives the customer certain rights (whether real or perceived). That in turn has led to some pretty suspect pages ending up at the top of search results in many cases.

There is also the fact that Ink really doesn't have to worry about it's "spam visibility" as much as they did in the past. Let's be honest here - all the Ink partners are running Overture first, followed by Ink's results down lower. We all know that people don't click to the second, third, and fourth pages as much as they used too. Ink's "spam exposure" has never been less. If they can get it out of the top 5-10 listings on a Kw - then they are ok.

Lastly, Ink's latest algo has done a pretty good job of getting rid of the kw stuffed doorways. They've done quite a bit of work since last year. A year ago when the pfp programs were kicking into gear, it seemed like Ink was suffering some growing pains. There were a few big advertisers who looked to be dumping whole databases of urls into the system. That's not there any more, even under the big time keywords that we know are being sold.

Google: Like alot of people have said, I think Google's anti-spam crusade is some huff & puff, and some is very real. If Google were going after "optimized" sites in any sort of numbers, we'd hear screaming from every corner of the net. That's not happening. Don't let a handful of vocals convince you otherwise. So far, the problems have been minor, few, and very far between.

In talking with SEO's I can't find but a few that complain about Googles spam fighting efforts. The algo takes care of alot of it, and the rest are hand checks.

> Why do the search engines feel
> the need to hunt down optimized sites?

I don't know if you took the time to look at some of the urls in the spam db, but there were some that definitely were not only deserving of a ban, they should have their ip's jerked. Truthfully, the only ones in that db I had a questions about were all the ones marked DNS spam. Some of those sites couldn't optimize their way out of a paper bag, let alone "spam" the mighty Inktomi. It was simply a case that they had been fed that type of domain setup (wildcard dns) and didn't know it.

That's not to say wildcard dns spam isn't a serious issue. In 97-99 there were seo's who pumped out the third level domains based on inbound keywords by the millions. joe.com/free became free.joe.com/ for seo purposes.

Much of that did work for awhile to attain awesome rankings. The problem is, that it screwed the community over since then. I don't blame the se's entirely for wanting to protect their investment in the face of that. However, there has been too much baby with the bath water syndrome going on. I don't know if se's really appreciate how much time goes into some sites before they get the boot for whatever reason.

> I think that there's a lot more discussion
> between engines and webmasters now than ever before

That has gone a very long way. Special thanks to Fast/AllTheWeb, Google, and partially Looksmart for opening up a dialog.

brotherhood of LAN




msg:232685
 9:27 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

I read the 1st article, which was excellent, and feel i have to reply directly to that one.

You have to sit back and admire the size of the google database. There is a web page in google for around 1 of every 2 people in this world.

We know that Google recognises spam as a serious problem in wrecking valid quality SERP's.

However, the opinions stated in these forums are usually the voice of experience, i.e. you have been "optimising" a long time.

In perspective, there are countless sites that have little or no optimisation applied at all.

To mirror both the honest SEO and the non-optimised site, you also have people who deliberately "spam", actively trying to manipulate the results and effect more 'naturally produced' results by the supposedly secret algorithm. Its worth pointing out that technically you aren't meant to know anything about optimisation from the SE's view ;)

However the SE's need to target the spam to maintain quality. But like I said, their database is huge. Any change to the algorithm is going to "scalp" some of the sites that perhaps didnt deserve a penalty.

If Google has 2 billion pages, and a new penalty affects a million sites, who do you think would get the boot from the SERP's?

1. The SE Optimiser
2. The Spammer
3. The non-optimised site

While 2 will most likely get penalised, there is still a possibility that some falling into the SE optimiser category will be booted out the SERP's too. Perhaps thats why Googleguy is saying some of you will pop back into the SERP's (those of you with the PR0 symptoms). It may be google will have a 'corrective mechanism' to differentiate between the true spam and the well optimised site

I wonder how many PR0 crew in WWW will get PR back next dance......

Eric_Lander




msg:232686
 9:37 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

IanTurner,

>> If you think about British Colonial history then no they don't deserve it. A Banana Republic is a nation with a single commodity economy.

How true, how true. But then again, I suppose you wouldn't want to be known as as a designer of an insect's living quarters, right? But, I tend to think you would want to be found for "web design".

>> I disagree company A spends $20 million developing a fantastic product and $1 million marketing it where as company B spends $1 million developing and $20 million marketing. If searching for said product which is the most relevant to the user.

Well, if a company spends money on anything, especially of that size and stature, it's probably solvent based on a business plan. Furthermore, if company B in your example chooses to spend more in online marketing, then yes, in my opinion, they deserve the traffic.

After all, who says the amount spent on anything immediately makes it more _anything_ than another? Ever hear of Pets.com?

>> I propose that without SEO there would be little money to be made in paid listings and therefore no large cake for the SEs to share out.

As the wise man Brett Tabke once said. Those who cannot play, pay. SEO earns rankings and traffic. Overture earns... frequent flyer mileage if you use the right credit card?

scareduck




msg:232687
 10:29 pm on Feb 26, 2002 (gmt 0)

To me, Adwords provides Google a messy opportunity. I suspect there will be a temptation to sacrifice relevance for revenue, ultimately. The problem is the similar to that of running a gym, namely, the revenue stream doesn't scale with their costs. With a gym, the signup fee is a one-time deal usually, but the cost of operating the equipment (leases) is a monthly expense. With Google, Adwords may or may not scale in terms of what they can sell, but the cost of providing their "relevance" results must scale by something they can't control -- the number of pages available to crawl on the web.

IanTurner




msg:232688
 12:04 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Eric, I was not commenting on who deserves the traffic. More on the fact that finding the best product for the job is most important to the user.

Well, if a company spends money on anything, especially of that size and stature, it's probably solvent based on a business plan. Furthermore, if company B in your example chooses to spend more in online marketing, then yes, in my opinion, they deserve the traffic.

As for the comment on paid placement, any kind of ranking inspires people to attempt to become top. Once a search engine was invented SEO was inevitable. Paid placement was just as inevitable

Crazy_Fool




msg:232689
 12:26 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Suddenly, we were being told "don't optimize" because you might be seen as a spammer.

the trouble is (IMO) that optimizing a site involves rewording the content, adding keywords and so on ... the more we optimize, the closer we get to spamming. the line between optimization and spamming is a very blurred line.

i read googleguys posting about the spam filter catching some SEO people as well as meaning "don't over optimize or you risk being caught up with spammers".

is SEO dead? IMO, no. people just have to be more careful. SEOs need to work differently - maybe stop the heavy optimization of a handful of sites and concentrate on basic optimization of a number of sites. deal with more sites but spend less time and effort on each.

sites can still rank extremely well with just basic optimization - ie, adding suitable and relevant titles and meta tags and ensuring plenty of good quality, relevant content. there are plenty of sites out there without even this basic "optimization". is it "optimizing" or is it "building a site correctly"?

and what about those sites with dynamic URLs? there is a wealth of information tucked away where search engines can't reach. SEOs could turn their hand to making this readable by spiders. there are so many ways a site can be "optimized" that the SEO will never be out of work providing that they can change their focus.

i'm not an SEO expert by any means, but i've got several sites ranking very highly including many top spots in many engines simply by following a few basic rules learnt here in WmW. i don't analyse my own sites or those of my competitors, i just build (or rebuild) sites following those few basic rules and leave it at that.

IanTurner




msg:232690
 12:37 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

Thats the 80/20 rule in effect Crazy_Fool 20% of the work gives you 80% of the result the remaining 80% of the work gets you that final 20% - if you can make a living only doing the first 20% of the work (which is all it takes on many sites) then it seems like a good way to live to me.

brotherhood of LAN




msg:232691
 12:44 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think the general rule is if you try to get more of the cake than you deserve, the SE's may bin you for a while

skibum




msg:232692
 3:01 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

>>Before I ramble on much further, I guess what Google is getting at is, design your site with good content, make it user-friendly and put the surfer first, hopefully, the rest will follow. After all, the search engine just gets them there, your site has to keep them there.<<

While, historically that hasn't always been the best way to get traffic and rankings, IMHO, it is the best long term strategy and always has been. Often with Google, that is really all it takes to get rankings, traffic, and business.

The strategy outlined here:

[webmasterworld.com...]

is not only sound business strategy, but will result in Good rankings and traffic from Google.

From my experience Spam or "over optimized" sites that may be banned from Google result most often from an SEOer having to work with a client who expects to top the charts without creating content or making any modifications to the site that would make the site easier to spider, most relevant for various queries, and most of all more user friendly.

agerhart




msg:232693
 3:14 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think that everyone here is making great points.

One point that is reocurring within this thread is that if a webmaster or SEO focuses on content and then optimizes based upon this, the site will be fine. The problem with this is that it is pure guess and speculation, as we have no hard proof or examples as to what Google, or in the future any SE, was and will be using for criteria when seeking "spammers" and the sites that they have created.

What if the SE in question is seeking sites that use more than 3 heading tags within a page? Surely a webmaster or SEO that has a site that is rich in content will get caught in this filter. This is purely an example, but the point is made.

In my original post, I compared the search engines as an avenue of marketing or promotion for a website.....which I believe is a perfect comparison. If the owner of a website decides to pursue this avenue of marketing, and the site has content that the user would be interested in, than is it right for that website to endure 3 months of less business as a result. For some online businesses that can mean the difference between making $500 a month and $20,000.

I do believe that the search engines have the right to rid their databases of spam, as it clutters their search results, and in turn tarnishes their image and branding relationship with each user that encounters endless spam. But, what is the most efficient way to do this?

Is it fair to say, I have 2 billion websites in my database and I would like to eliminate 500,000 spam sites, but if I remove an additional 1,000,000 unjustly as a result of this, it is okay? I tend to disagree with this.

paynt




msg:232694
 4:11 am on Feb 27, 2002 (gmt 0)

I think that there's a lot more discussion between engines and webmasters now than ever before, and I think that's a really good thing too. -Googleguy

Yes, that’s true and I agree it’s a good thing. In fact, with you visiting and sharing here at Webmaster World it’s probably opened us all to new understandings and ideas where search engines are concerned. I’m afraid though that I look at much of what you say as I would a politician who is counting on votes. PR [page rank] = PR [public relations] and I mean this with no direct offense intended. It’s probably because I am one of Google’s biggest fans that I feel ok in expressing my feelings regarding their practices.

We must remember that the big guy still needs to look out for the little guy. Who used the tuna fishermen and the dolphins caught in the net analogy? Or clear cutting forests versus, well the other might be mine [coming from Oregon]?

What I suggest and I think Andrew was suggesting is, there’s a bigger picture here.

the more we optimize, the closer we get to spamming - Crazy_Fool

Not! I do not agree. Either that or we have to come up with another term for optimization. I tried to get to the over optimization issue from within our ranks in the discussion I started at Define Over Optimization [webmasterworld.com] . Googleguy, you did not respond.

It’s like Chyio and digitalghost have both expressed and I couldn’t agree more – content. But there is so much more than content to making a good site become a great site and that should be rewarded. It’s navigation and as Andrew stated:

The internal linking structure of a website has much more to it than its mere navigation. – agerhart

Right to it Andrew! Good job.

We are becoming more about what were when we were just SEO. We are becoming more about what we can be. I try to marry what chyio suggests, coming from an education/information perspective, with what I learn from toolman [as one example] coming from a sales and making money perspective. It seems to be that to be successful you need to pick up a bit of this and a bit of that and put it together into the package that works for you. This is true if you are an individual site owner or someone like me who is only trying to help individual site owners succeed.

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