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Our Google Ranking Experiment
internetheaven




msg:3889781
 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.

 

BeeDeeDubbleU




msg:3889810
 11:15 am on Apr 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

This is interesting stuff IH. Thank you for sharing it with us.

GoodKarma




msg:3889926
 3:09 pm on Apr 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

very kind of you to share this InternetHeaven!

I can't say I'm terribly surprised considering my own 12 years running an Internet business. back in 1997, I believe that your method number two would have been very successful. but today, competition is so fierce that a website that is not either engineered for link acquisition or the first of its kind to fill a real need is likely dead in the water...

Reno




msg:3889988
 4:25 pm on Apr 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Very generous InternetHeaven -- one of the most valuable postings I've ever read at WW, and that's saying a LOT, given the consistent quality of the info we see here... much appreciated!

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

merlin23




msg:3890188
 9:20 pm on Apr 10, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not surprised at this at all, I have had similar experience...

One question: "doorway pages", as this term could mean many things, can you tell us what you mean by "doorway pages"?

coopster




msg:3890299
 12:26 am on Apr 11, 2009 (gmt 0)

I understood that differently at first too but from the extended description/example given by internetheaven

i.e. pages on topics related to the widget being sold and wrote keyword full (not stuffed) articles.

... it was pretty clear that it signified landing pages.

dibbern2




msg:3891084
 9:53 pm on Apr 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thought provoking, indeed. A double surprise.

Sure, the "dark side" site's success is striking. But even more so is the poor results from such a strong business effort on site 2.

crobb305




msg:3891101
 10:48 pm on Apr 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Very discouraging news for those (like myself) who have plans of expanding their sites to include some of the valuable resources (blog, video, etc) that your site #2 has. On the otherhand, is it possible that G is being more watchful of bought or expired domains, maybe the proverbial "sandbox" phenomenon? I am just pondering/speculating on this last part (because I have recently thought about buying my first domain from a 3rd party, and am trying to gain some insight into this).

esllou




msg:3891106
 10:53 pm on Apr 12, 2009 (gmt 0)

Depressing but not at all surprising. The internet even as recently as 2002/3 was a different animal.

Where are we going to be in 2015? The whole kaboodle being run by the big guys with the big dollars?

:(

kidder




msg:3891169
 1:44 am on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

It sure looks like you need money to make money these days where Google is concerned.

Lowkei




msg:3891208
 2:30 am on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Nice share! Thanks!

Hmm..I don't really think it is depressing.

From the descriptions, the 2 sites seems to have 2 different purposes, site 1 is to sell while site 2 is to provide information. Am I right InternetHeaven?

I understand the result may sound fake or not natural, but have you guys thought that the people who are looking for widgets actually are more interested in buying widget rather than learning more about it?

And who knows Google understand the users need and show only the selling pages?

walrus




msg:3891350
 12:56 pm on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks for sharing that.

Anything notable about the SE traffic ?
Obviously Google would be the most, wondering if Ask was second , Yahoo third , and Msn was last.

nomis5




msg:3891597
 7:23 pm on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

Difficult to draw any conclusions, but thanks very much for posting the results.

I think there are too many variables here to be sure what's happening but one view could be this. The second site lost money in the first eight months then made a profit in the last 4, increasing to $3k a month.

Could it just be that the second site, going through a harder process to turn a profit, might end up the more enduring of the two in the end? Who knows.

Anyway, thanks again for posting the results, very impressive stuff.

elleyo




msg:3891633
 9:04 pm on Apr 13, 2009 (gmt 0)

First off, cheers for implementing such a well-thought-out experiment. What interesting results you got for your tenacity.

That said, I can't help but wonder if the true winner would've been a hybrid of the two strategies. The sentence that jumps out at me is this one: "any keywords in there were all naturally occurring, not aimed for." I've always found keyword strategy to be intrinsic to any search endeavor; it hasn't been any different as I've come to leverage the more "Quality" methods. After all, you're exerting all that effort to produce the content -- why not be targeted in your production?

Seriously, though, what an interesting experiment to've carried out. Thanks for the share!

AnkitMaheshwari




msg:3891815
 4:19 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks IH for sharing the info, its really appreciated.

firetown




msg:3891874
 8:11 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

My question would be if you were to keep both sites running and stopped working on either, would the gap close and the quality site eventually do way better?

gabriel_k




msg:3891915
 9:40 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

That is the worst news for any white hat SEO/webmaster!

As GoodKarma said
...today, competition is so fierce that a website that is not either engineered for link acquisition or the first of its kind to fill a real need is likely dead in the water...

tedster




msg:3891945
 11:05 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I think it's very white hat to reach out to people who might want to link to you, or digg you or whatever. Not with automated spammy emails but through professionally tailored, one-to-one communications of all kinds. That's the one part of the second site's program that I would have added.

firetown




msg:3891947
 11:09 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

tedster, I do agree with that. But if the content on the 2nd page was great, one would think that it would have been picked up thru the traffic they were already getting.

anallawalla




msg:3891958
 11:39 am on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

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.

Thank you for sharing. My definition of regular SEO would not include reciprocal linking with any random site and true doorway pages (not the landing pages you used), but it would include some of the "marketing" tactics you used for the other site. SEO is a buffet and one chooses which morsels to taste. :)

maximillianos




msg:3892003
 12:39 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Not surprising as we have seen many newcomers in our industry quickly climb in serps by spamming forums with links, stealing content from other sites and basically bullying their way to the top...

We keep on the straight and narrow path... but it is getting harder and harder each day to keep up with the folks who like to bend the rules for instant gratification.

Google keeps claiming these sites will get penalized and not rank, but we have yet to see it.

2clean




msg:3892047
 2:07 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

Thanks, not surprised though as you site 2 strategy had little in the way of strategy to bring users to the website. Blog, Video and RSS does not bring traffic on its own. Links and Doorways will if done properly.

It's always good to get reports, even if they can't be verified. Bear in mind that PR distribution services are shortlived...can you imagine the size of the archive that would need to be kept to store all that out of date news! If I got to another PR distribution website that tells me about their SEO service I will just power down.

2Clean.

Ps.
I hope you re-republshed Site 2 on a fresh domain!.

true_INFP




msg:3892120
 3:23 pm on Apr 14, 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?

nealrodriguez




msg:3892165
 4:05 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

We had no link building work, we relied on natural link occurrance (4,374 links as of yesterday) and natural anchor text.

i think this was the main difference between the two; links are the skeletal structure of the web; that's like speaking @ conferences and not leaving your business card, a site, or any point of contact for a call back. i think you would have to justify the use of 'actual business methods,' by adding link building efforts, some or all of which you included for site 1, even if you don't try to micro-manage the anchor text.

for one blog development should include the following:

- guest posts
- social media participation
- content rich comments linking back to your blog
- blog outreach, augmenting and responding to other blogger posts in your vertical.

essentially, i know the point you are driving for the 'content is king' purists. and thank you for sharing your findings.

Fiver




msg:3892214
 4:58 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

The real SEO secret here, don't name your recip link pages links.html

ahh the evolving web.

henry0




msg:3892243
 5:34 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

That's the one part of the second site's program that I would have added.

What was the reason for not to?
Thanks, great post!

apauto




msg:3892274
 6:02 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

site #2 could not have been ranking for a reason besides the ones listed above. It's a domain the OP purchased, so the domain might have been blacklisted before from Google. It's very strange for a good whitehat domain to not even rank for it's own name.

internetheaven




msg:3892275
 6:02 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

It sure looks like you need money to make money these days where Google is concerned.

Not at all, I think you've got my original post backwards. I'll break it down further to clarify:

Site 1:
- press releases are 800+ EACH depending on word count. We released 16 (15,425 in total in the end).
- two full time journalists.
- 4 competitions each with a prize of 500.
- part-time presenter for web videos (each video ran around 170).
- 1 part-time help article researcher.
- 1 part-time blogger/twitter/facebook worker.
- part-time programmer to develop new features for our users.

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:

- 70 doorway pages = 450
- 10 articles for article submission sites = 100
- 2 full time reciprocal link builders

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.

I think there are too many variables here

Which is why I'm trying to restrain myself from any conclusions, but the experiment seemed like something worth sharing anyway.

internetheaven




msg:3892291
 6:20 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

That's the one part of the second site's program that I would have added.
What was the reason for not to? Thanks, great post!

We wanted the links to one site to be totally natural (in relation to business which would include normal PR outlets), any other links would only occur if the user liked our content and linked to it. Natural links, natural placement, natural anchor text. The other site would have seriously controlled linking placement and anchor text.

For example, the "natural" links came from yahoo, reuters from PR circulation and then we got quoted by the bbc, google (<-that one I was quite excited about!) etc. -- even our competitors were linking to us in the end. THAT has never happened to me before!

The reciprocal links site was getting links from relatedwidgets.com/linkspage.php and widgets-somewhere-intheworld.biz/resources.html

Hugene




msg:3892340
 6:55 pm on Apr 14, 2009 (gmt 0)

I've noticed the same development as internetheaven has reported. My 5 year-old topic-authority site used to rank high (up to 2 years ago) for a keyword that has since become highly competitive. As the competition increases, we have been buried at the bottom of the page.

I've always relied on organic support for my site: no conscious keyword optimization, no link buying, no link creating, no keywords at the bottom of the page, no fake-content pages (like random blurbs with 2 sentences not making much sense).

For my key keyword I am still on top. For all other keywords, especially commercially competitive one, I have been heavily damaged.

I have been following this in real time for 2 years now, so I know it's happening. 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.

It's simply baffling, and very disappointing and scary.

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