freejung - 9:58 pm on Oct 28, 2010 (gmt 0)
Shaddows, I think you're on to something big here.
So here's an angle of meta-analysis that might be useful: assuming this is true, what do we do about it?
Put another way, suppose tedster is correct (that's often a good bet) that this idea explains several diverse problems we've been talking about lately. If you have one of these problems, how does this idea help to resolve it?
I'm willing to have a crack at mine -- the "traffic throttling," "why doesn't my traffic go up no matter what I do?" problem. This problem, as I've experienced it, is like this: your established pages rank well and their rankings are steady. New pages don't seem to rank as well as they should. If you do manage to rank for a new keyword or improve rankings for an existing keyword, you experience corresponding losses in other areas to make up for it.
According to this theory, Google is conducting complex cross-categorization of websites and user groups, involving multivariate testing, to try to match the user groups to the website categories correctly, right?
I think you could probably characterize the categorization of a site roughly along three dimensions: taxonomic category, user intent, and magnitude (overall size, importance, and traffic level).
So presumably if your traffic is unaturally stable (along with other metrics, such as particular referral strings, search traffic to each section of your site etc), what this means is that you've been well and definitively categoriezed along all three dimensions (and any others I'm leaving out).
The good news is that Google knows what your site is about, who your users are, and what they want. Google has decided exactly how much and what sort of traffic your site "deserves" to get. You can probably count on a steady stream of traffic and income despite the chaos going on all around you.
The bad news is... well, exactly the same as the above. You've been put in a particular bucket, and it may be quite difficult to get out of it. I can imagine three possible "escape vectors" as Shaddows called them:
1: Change your taxonomic category. Convince Google that your site is not really about fuzzy widgets, it's about the much more popular pointy widgets instead. Presumably this would involve switching out a lot of content and generally reorganizing the whole site, as well as its outlink and backlink profile. Sounds hard, and you might be better off just starting a new domain in the other category.
2: Change your user intent category. Convince Google that you're not really an informational site about fuzzy widgets, you're actually a fuzzy widget e-comm site, and you need to be sent people who are trying to find and purchase a fuzzy widget, rather than people who are just looking for information on how to use their fuzzy widget. This would probably involve removing some content or moving it to another domain, and developing the other sort of content more extensively.
3: Change your magnitude category. Convince Google that you're now a much bigger and better fuzzy widget info site, with more in-depth information on a much broader range of fuzzy widget topics, and you need to be taken to the next level of exposure. I'm going to go with this one, as it seems the most promising and I think in my case Google has me correctly categorized in the other two dimensions.
Strategy for #3:
A: Remove all potentially ambiguous signals related to taxonomy and intent. The idea is to solidify your existing categorization in those dimensions. Ruthlessly delete or move to another domain any content that doesn't fit strictly into the bucket Google appears to have put you in already.
B: Remove all potential signals of poor quality or spam. It may not appear that you are suffering from a penalty or filter, but these signals may be what is holding you back from being put into the next order of magnitude bucket. Audit your outlinks, clean up any sloppy coding and architecture, optimize your site speed, get rid of any spammy signals like keyword stuffing etc.
C: Most importantly -- add lots of new content. But don't just steadily add new content at a constant rate (that's what I normally do, and it's not working). Save up big chunks of content in one particular existing category or in a whole new category (still within your overall taxonomic space), and publish it all at once. Treat each publication like a product launch -- it should be accompanied by a strong push in social media, new links from your established partners, articles or blog entries or whatever you can manage, email to your loyal visitors if you can do that, anything to create "buzz" around the release of the new content.
The idea here is to remove any obstacles that may be standing in the way of moving to a new magnitude category, and then hit the Google oscillator with a series of sharp hammer blows in the attempt to shock it into phase shifting to a new vibratory mode.
Maybe all of that is obvious, writing it down helped me think it through, and I thought others might find the process useful as well.