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Our Google Ranking Experiment
internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 10:25 am on Apr 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

In the past, people have been kind enough to share their experiments on WW and some have been quite helpful to us. Thought I'd post the results of our recent work. Roughly one year ago we created 2 sites targeting different sides of the same industry and worked them differently:

Site 1: Bought a brand new domain name that was brandable e.g. "widgets4you.co.uk" (the 4u and RUs thing is very popular in the UK!).
- We built around 70 doorway pages i.e. pages on topics related to the widget being sold and wrote keyword full (not stuffed) articles.
- We bought paid links from directories (e.g Yahoo) and other high PR sites.
- We built a reciprocal (not three way) link directory on site offering link exchanges to anyone in any industry.
- We hired 2 people and had them work full time finding reciprocal link exchanges on other people's sites that were mostly related to us ... though sometimes the connection was tenuous!
- We wrote 10 articles and submitted them to article sites.
- Anchor text was therefore controlled and total links as of last month was 7,151.

Site 2: Bought a 3-year aged domain name on Sedo. The domain was a keyphrase i.e. bluemetalwidgets.co.uk
- We started off adding around 3 pages of unique and informative content a day aimed at our market, any keywords in there were all naturally occurring, not aimed for. After the first 6 months we reduced this to 1-2 pages per day. Again, each article was on current affairs, tips etc. for the industry, totally unique and between 400-800 words.
- We developed press releases and submitted a total of 16 over the last 6 months through PRWeb, PRNewswire and BusinessWire.
- We developed a blog.
- We developed a video news channel now showing 22 videos.
- We started a twitter service of main headlines.
- We started an RSS/email subscription service to our articles.
- We had no link building work, we relied on natural link occurrance (4,374 links as of yesterday) and natural anchor text.

The idea being that one would use regular SEO techniques (reciprocal link building, doorway pages etc.) whilst the other would use actual business methods (press releases, informative user-oriented content etc.) to see which did best.

Site 1: after just 3 months it was skyrocketing past some pretty hefty competition with traffic increasing well each month. The site was making £10,000+ a month for the last six months we had it and just sold for a rather nice figure.

Site 2: has struggled to rank anywhere, even for it's own name, and traffic has been stagnant since the outset - it made a loss for the first 8 months and made just under £3000 in it's best month which was last month.

I don't really want to state conclusions but I hope the information alone is though-provoking ... not least because the reciprocal and paid-link site was ranked in the top 3 consistently by Google (even above the 10 year old and government websites!) whilst the natural linked site never even got off the ground.

 

janharders

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:25 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

>The strangest thing is that some techniques that we always
>discuss on WW as being obvious SEO seem to actually be
>accepted and tolerated by G, and the sites using them are
>going up.

I've seen that alot and still do. Even stuff that would be easily discovered by automatic checks still works just fine. I don't know why google would allow that to happen - either they just don't care or there's more profit with the spam than without it.

kneukm03

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:42 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is kind of an aside, but can I ask how effective the press releases you did were? What kind of links did you end up getting? I've thought about doing this through PR Newswire but I'm not really sure what to expect.

wheel

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



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:56 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Hugene, you're getting outranked because you're doing nothing, not because low end link dev techniques have taken over Google.

You want to continue to rank, there's perfectly acceptable ways to build links.

I was just reviewing this very situation today. I looked at a site I built 100% white hat and aggressively went after top quality links. I got lots of .edu/.gov level links when I pushed. And I got them because of the content. A year and a half later with no link development there's been precious few new links pointing at the site - and none that were of the quality that I hand developed.

What we really need to understand is that Google isn't going to do our marketing work for us. You want something done right, get off your glutes :).

webdude

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 8:11 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

internetheaven,

I am confused. In the first post, you say...
Site 1: after just 3 months it was skyrocketing past some pretty hefty competition with traffic increasing well each month. The site was making £10,000+ a month for the last six months we had it and just sold for a rather nice figure.

Site 2: has struggled to rank anywhere, even for it's own name, and traffic has been stagnant since the outset - it made a loss for the first 8 months and made just under £3000 in it's best month which was last month.


And then in one of your later posts you say...
Site 1:

Total cost in the region of £70,000+ over the year and it's barely made any profit. Traffic from Google was 63.0% of total traffic but most of that was through Google News to our news channel, not product pages.

Site 2:

Total cost was around £20,000 and it ranked well, made great money and then sold for a good price. Traffic from Google was 92.7% of total traffic.


greenleaves

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 8:41 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

WOW, wow, internetheaven, thank you, thank you, thank you.

This is the single best SEO thread I have read from this forum in at least a year. This is awesome info. Thank you.

For those looking at this as white vs black, geeeesss people... have you though that life isnít black and white but a huge spectrum of colors in between?

[edited by: tedster at 8:57 pm (utc) on April 14, 2009]

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 8:55 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think everyone is missing the single most important point here.

The OP bought the domain for site #2, so we have no idea what kind of ranking it had before, or if it was even blacklisted.

For a site to not rank for it's down name, has to have a serious problem.

Fiver

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:04 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think everyone is missing the single most important point here.

I don't know, I think the reciprocal point is just as valid, that old school techniques are effective (regardless of viewing the effectiveness in comparison with another site).

True the second site could have been on a bad domain, but that doesn't make the first site's success any less interesting.

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:06 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Fiver... no offense, but what did he say about Site 1 that was revolutionary for SEO that you didn't already know?

The point of this thread is the comparison of tactics, but the comparison is invalid since on of the domains was purchased and has had a unknown history.

Fiver

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:17 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

apauto, no offense taken :)

My entire point was, in fact, that there wasn't anything revolutionary in the tactics used on site 1 - while a large portion of the industry considers the approach taken for site 2 to be 'best practices', inherently painting site 1's techniques as not-best-practices.

Site 1 is implementing older techniques which ARE STILL WORKING.

The lack of revolution is the point, and what was presented showed more than a comparison of techniques, it showed success of a particular technique in isolation (I would consider that more valuable information than what I will admit is a flawed comparison because of the old domain).

apauto

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:24 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Fiver,

My point is that he's talking about a comparison between two sites, and claiming success based on revenue. That's fine and dandy, but there are so many factors with revenue that are beyond the scope of just SEO.

Site 1 could have been much easier to navigate, had more compelling content for users, had a nicer design, better checkout process, more products, cheaper prices, free shipping, etc.

I would rather see how much traffic the site generated as opposed to how much it made, since it's strictly an SEO comparison.

Site 1 could have had one user that ordered $1,000,000 worth of parts, and Site 2 could have had 500 users that bought $500,000 worth of parts. Which is more successful?

We need to compare apples to apples, and I think this comparison lacks that.

Fiver

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:42 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

apauto - not going into specifics, as per WebmasterWorld's guidelines, I think the poster did a fine job of illustrating the success or lack thereof of each site.

after just 3 months it was skyrocketing past some pretty hefty competition with traffic increasing well each month

Site 1 saw SEO success, and made money off of Google traffic.

I agree that without more detail it's hard to draw conclusions about the comparison (which the poster notes), but it's easy to draw conclusions about the isolated techniques used on site 1 - which, even if you disagree, I feel holds a great deal of independent value (to reiterate, that value is not in new information).

tedster

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



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 10:20 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I'd like to highlight a difference between the two link development (attraction) approaches. Site 1 was active in one-to-one networking with other sites. But Site 2 relied mostly on relatively passive social, and hoped-for-viral, approaches.

For me, the main take-away is that "build it and they will come" works best in the movies. One-to-one networking is a powerful tool, both online and offline.

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 10:38 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

tedster: I don't think my experiment highlights any conclusions as to effective link building practices. Natural link building still obtained over 4000 links whilst forced link building got over 7000 ... though I agree that those that say "build good content and people will link to it" are not providing the full story on that approach!

Again, not trying to force out any specific arguments, but my surprise was more how low Google values the natural links compared to the non-natural when you compare the sources of the natural over the non-natural. They are always boasting the complete opposite.

webdude: I don't understand your confusion. Please elaborate.

tedster

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



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 10:51 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Understood.

You did get a Yahoo Directory entry for Site #1 - and a few other top-notch paid directories, too. That can be a more powerful factor than many are willing to acknowledge and Google has specifically talked about it as an acceptable practice. It's not what they mean by "paid links".

And second, reciprocal linking is not taboo with Google, especially as just one part of the overall backlink profile. It seems to have a cap on its effectiveness, but it is effective.

dublinmike

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 11:21 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

IH, thanks for this, I just ranted a few days ago on another thread about how a perfectly good businesses are being allowed to be blasted out of the water by MFA's and their ilk.

It's becoming a giant joke, Google have taken their eye off the ball on Search, and are busy with just about everything else in the this universe. All I can say is that I'm FURIOUS!

creeking

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 11:26 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

webdude, he appears to have transposed the numbering in the later post. swap the numbering and it is consistent.

btw, interesting post/experiment, internetheaven

firetown

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 11:48 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've seen that alot and still do. Even stuff that would be easily discovered by automatic checks still works just fine. I don't know why google would allow that to happen - either they just don't care or there's more profit with the spam than without it.

I believe that so many sites out there can be penalized and Google became realistic. It is not always the site owner doing it, but a company the site owner might have hired who takes it upon himself to give his client an extra push if you will.

Quite a few high profile websites included.

Mike

koan

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 11:52 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

How about the fact that most popular social media web sites have their links nofollowed? So this "viral" approach might bring some good referral traffic, while reciprocal links / articles directory links still pass Google PR juice and end up optimizing the site better for search engine traffic.

It's very hard to get natural, Google PR passing links these days unless you go to people. In a world where most spontaneous links from average joes come from web 2.0 sites and forums... it's hard to compete with those who acquired real links when it was easier.

firetown

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 11:58 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Koan, you have to look at different niches seperately. If you have a certain market-type of site, sure, you will not get too many voluntary links unless you come up with an exceptional tool or write a blog post making headlines.

I know however that my location-related blog gets links without me asking.
I make a post about celebs coming here, and voila, the links come in without me asking.
Sure, my main site is harder to get free links into, but that is why I have added the blog.

And the most powerful links I have gotten, about 9 out of 10 have been free and 8 of those without me asking for them and not even knowing without seeing the referrals in my stats.

[edited by: tedster at 1:42 am (utc) on April 15, 2009]
[edit reason] remove specifics [/edit]

nzmatt

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 4:38 am on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Great post, thanks!

Would be interesting to see the results of 3 new domains:

1. As with 1. above
2. As with 2. above
3. A mixture of both (not twice the effort but implementing all the strategies of 1. & 2. on a 50% basis).

I think this experiment would give very usable results for that particular industry in the uk...

Isnít 3, or all methods, what most serious WM would like to do given open resourcesÖ.?

incrediBILL

WebmasterWorld Administrator incredibill us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 6:33 am on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I hate to be negative about your post but there are simply way too many different variables thrown in randomly to draw any kind of conclusion based on the test itself as the evidence isn't conclusive whatsoever.

It's completely Apples vs. Oranges based on your description.

To draw any real conclusions you have to put up 2 nearly identical sites, fewer random variations between the sites. One gets manual link building, one with natural link building, run a PR for both and see what happens. I can guess which will rank better first but the only way to know for sure is do it in a more controlled experiment with less random factors to arbitrarily skew the results.

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:23 am on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

webdude, he appears to have transposed the numbering in the later post. swap the numbering and it is consistent.

Sorry! :(

I hate to be negative about your post but there are simply way too many different variables thrown in randomly to draw any kind of conclusion based on the test itself as the evidence isn't conclusive whatsoever.

I did say that about my own experiment. I don't want people taking the test as some sort of absolute ... but the variables were small enough for me to start the test with and the results were so far apart that I thought it might be interesting to post.

P.S. there were 4 domains in the test but it would be irresponsible of me to post the marketing methods and results behind the other two and they would not give or take anything away from the 2 I posted about.

2clean

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:32 am on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Greenleaves, welcome. There is no black. Just risk...and an army of failed editors looking for content jobs.

IncrediBILL, I'm with you. But it's always nice to hear a story every now and then, and I would add that after sometime in this field you do get a feeling about these things...but then those are the thing you rarely post right?

moftary

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 12:56 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

Great post by InternetHeaven!

The idea being that one would use regular SEO techniques (reciprocal link building, doorway pages etc.) whilst the other would use actual business methods (press releases, informative user-oriented content etc.) to see which did best.

I think the right tactic is a combination between both. Regardless than my opinion about the second domain having a bad reputation in Google, I can see that tactic working on the long run with more stability but then again without the first tactic you are not going anywhere.

driller41

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 2:42 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

When you say a reciprical link exchange - was that exclusively two way - ie if you linked to someone and they did not link back did you leave the link up or do you delete after a while?

Reno

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 2:49 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

I believe that so many sites out there can be penalized...

I agree with your observation, which to my way of thinking is all the more reason for G to penalize individual pages only, not entire sites. But that's another thread...

.................................

true_INFP

5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:02 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

The site was making £10,000+ a month for the last six months

How? Through AdSense or something like an actual widget e-shop? (If the former, given your scenario, I'd kind of find those figures too good to be true.)

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 7:24 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

To complete the test I was going to cancel all PR/natural link building efforts etc. and use reciprocal linking on Site 2 (the failing one) then in 3 months or so, if it jumps up in ranking and earnings, draw some conclusions.

Anyone foresee flaws in that method? (not in the method of link building practices but as a way to complete the experiment)

true_INFP Adsense is for MFAs, article syndication sites and parked domains. I've never even looked into e-shops. Personal business relationships and good affiliate partnerships will always bring home the bacon.

ogletree

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



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 8:55 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

The important thing about this test is that in step 2 he bought a site from sedo. The site was probably parked and may have had a history specially being a kw based domain. Somebody probably spammed the crap out of it. Check a sites history before you buy it. Both of those things would affect it. When buying a domain it is best to not buy parked domains. Find a real site that is up and they want to sell it.

blend27

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 9:02 pm on Apr 15, 2009 (gmt 0)

@everybody - you're getting outranked because you're doing nothing

by wheel

Brilliant!

internetheaven

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 3889779 posted 6:57 am on Apr 16, 2009 (gmt 0)

I agree with the general ranting sentence wheel gave, but a comment relating to this topic would have been nice.

What we really need to understand is that Google isn't going to do our marketing work for us. You want something done right, get off your glutes :).

May be a great sound byte for another thread where lazy people are complaining that their 12 link exchanges haven't got them to the top for everything. But here we're discussing 7000+ forced, sculpted, reciprocal links from lower quality sites completely outwaying the 4000+ natural links from high quality sites.

The site was probably parked and may have had a history specially being a kw based domain. Somebody probably spammed the crap out of it.

I've seen this come up a few times in this thread. It was a parked domain and it was one of those with a few hundred keyword parking pages on it. I used WMT to remove all the parked pages from the index and contacted Google under the re-inclusion link about 6 months ago to highlight it's history just in case there was some black mark. As far as I'm aware, 6 months is plenty of time for Google to have responded and removed any filter if there was one?

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