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   » Main Page » SEO » Paranoia as a SEO Survival Trait

Paranoia as a SEO Survival Trait

Are they out to get you?
Darn right they are.

With all the changes and enforcements being made to Google's linking rules, it will pay the site owner to be extremely careful in their SEO plans.

This particularly applies to inbound linking, but page construction, markup, loading times, page layout, duplication, over optimization and just plain changes to specific pages could trigger a Google penalty.

First let's look at links.

Good types of linking:

  1. Relevant links that build the information silo for the niche.

  2. Links that are intended to bring human visitors.

  3. 100% organic links.

Bad kinds of links.

  1. Off topic (non-relevant) links placed to pass PageRank.

  2. Non-relevant Signature links.

  3. Links on thin content pages.
    (Bad Neighborhoods)

  4. Drive-by links: (Non-contributing) Blog, Group, and Forum posts.

  5. Paid Links not using nofollow.

  6. Spam profile links.

  7. Linking Schemes:
    Link wheels,
    3 way 4 way linking.
    Paying to have links built
    to influence search results.
    Cross linking.
    Bump linking.

  8. Non-relevant reciprocal linking.

  9. Too many similar links in a short period of time.

  10. Duplicate content links. (Multiple posts of the same information).

  11. Link bait and switch.

  12. Link Farms.

  13. Over SEO

  14. Social bookmarking.

  15. Profile spam links.

  16. Site wide paid links.

  17. Too Many Links from One Source

  18. Google Bombs

  19. Broken links.

Google is in an all out war on links that are intended to subvert their results.

After years of issuing warnings and targeting specific types of non-organic links, in 2010 they quietly restructured their link evaluation algos, "PageRank", to be based on relevance rather than the original method of just counting/evaluating the number of links.

The strictly mathematical calculation of PageRank had the obvious flaw of allowing non-relevant links to influence the search results and a whole industry had developed to place these links.

Their attempt at giving the link placers an option to discount the PR of the links using "nofollow" failed miserably. As of late last year Matt Cutts reported that the amount of global nofollow links were in the "low single digit" range.

At the beginning of 2011 Google was ready to attack.
They had their ducks in a row.

  • Caffeine update had brought the necessary speed to their system. Results achieved their final positions within minutes of being crawled.
  • PageRank had been removed as a measurable influence on search results. We were told more than once that links had assumed less importance for SERPs.

  • The semantic web was a reality. Links were no longer needed to determine best sites for SERPs. Relevance had been substituted.
    PR was made a stand alone metric.
    Google tells us that links are "not an actionable metric".

  • The next step was thinning the herd.
    Every no-value (non-relevant) link Google visited and cataloged cost them money and processor time/space.
    Their answer to this was Panda/Farmer February 23, 2011

This was a major algorithm update that hit sites hard, affecting up to 12% of search results, (a number that came directly from Google).

Panda seemed to crack down on thin content, content farms, sites with high ad-to-content ratios, and a number of other quality issues.
Panda rolled out over at least a couple of months, hitting Europe in April 2011.
Panda has seen about 25 updates.
http://www.seomoz.org/google-algorithm-change#2011
This resulted in an across the board, global reduction in linking sites. Traffic was also reduced if the removed sites generated search traffic.

  • In March 2011 Google did tweaks to handling of anchor text.
    "This month we turned off a classifier related to anchor text (the visible text appearing in links)."
    Although they never stated which classifier, I strongly suspect that it was the predictive function of anchor text which used to intuit the content of the linked page.
    This was the only part of a link that could be spoofed.
    See http://seo-mentoring.ca/google-turns-link-analysis-function-a-10.html
  • A month later (April 2012), Google brought out the big guns and directly attacked the link builders.
    Penguin was a recalculation of a site's linking profile with non-relevant links as the target.
    For this event, PageRank's influence on SERPs was turned on so that the recalculations would correct the earlier influences of non-organic linking. PR was turned off once completed.
    Penguin has had 2 further (minor) updates.

    As well as recalculating PR, Penguin targeted the anchor text used on the non-relevant links and gave various level penalties. The stiffest of these follows the OWNER cross domain.

The SEO killer:

If clamping down on linking was an effort to stop spam and clean up the internet's linking profiles, a new patent was implemented that would identify and penalize sites that have SEO practiced on them.
The idea here is to identify, by algorithm, what looks like an attempt to manipulate rankings in a spammy* way. The patent details things like keyword stuffing, invisible text, link-based manipulations and so on.

*"Spammy" is open to Google's interpretation.

Rather than allow the rankings to respond immediately and directly to those changes, the patent explains a system that would change rankings in unexpected, counter-intuitive ways - while the rankings change from a first position through transition positions and to the final "target rank" position. In other words, significant changes in position continue to happen even though there is no change in page's ranking factors!


The kicker:

If these transitional ranking shifts are followed by what looks like a responsive action from the website, the URL or website which was previously only SUSPECTED as spam, might now be positively tagged as spam.

Other Minor Annoyances
  • Submitting to Google.
    A page that is submitted and not found for a link will be devoid of PageRank.

  • Building a SiteMap.
    On a site with fully functional navigation that is understood by the spider, it can lead to problems if there is any conflicts.
If you are doing SEO, do it correctly the first time.

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