Companies live or die by their inclusion in that index. SEO is a nasty little cottage industry that benefits from the algorithmic monoculture in search.
On a somewhat related note, there is only one display advertising program that anyone cares about.
If you get banned from Adsense because a competitor hammered an ad on your site, say - you're out. Forever. With no explanation from Google. Just an unhelpful "you've violated one of our policies but we can't tell you which one" stock email.
I've been there. I tried the (token) appeal system, and failed. It's hard to appeal when you don't know what you've done wrong. Google won't tell you what you've done wrong because it might reveal part of their algo and thus help the bad guys.
So I forlornly moved on. Amazon ads are perhaps the next most profitable display ads for me - they generate less than 10% of the revenue that Adsense did.
I love Google for their excellent free services. However, I've come to depend on them, and that's dangerous because they're so ubiquitous, yet owned by a single entity with a single culture.
As geeks I feel we need to re-examine our relationship with Google.
Android fanboys and "Google Openness believers" could sleepwalk us all into the next dark "Microsoft" chapter.
If anyone is "sleepwalking" anyone anywhere then I think it's the people making big money from companies like Google, not consumers or openness advocates. That is, people like you before you found yourself unceremoniously kicked out of the club.
Microsoft competed with "closed" platforms of the day by releasing a platform that was (arguably) more open to developers, and could be installed on any hardware. Developers actually quite liked Windows back in those days. The PC clone wars ensured that Windows became ubiquitous, and it took years for people to realise just how sinister that was.
I'm not going to pretend that Windows was in any way open-source, but why aren't we drawing some parallels with Google's Android platform, and the any-hardware clone war it's waging with iOS and true open source mobile platforms.
That may be your perception, but I don't think it's universally true. Ask anyone who's tried to build a project on AOSP ...
Did you change what the OP wrote or did they after you copy/pasted it? They statements are pretty different (now). Here's what the OP says:
Android fanboys and "Google Openness believers" could sleepwalk us all into the next dark "Microsoft" chapter.
Could/are... very different.
That is, people like you before you found yourself unceremoniously kicked out of the club.
I think that's who he is talking about, btw.
I guess what I was trying to say is that Android users and openess advocates are not very relevant to the topic being discussed. Google's monopoly in search and advertising should be considered in relation to those who directly benefit and lose from it as these are the ones who will determine whether it continues or not.
Judging by the increasing earnings Google is clearly winning, so to all the lurking Google engineers, a hearty congrats! You beat them fair and square, just as IE beat all other browsers when Microsoft decided that it was the best and made it the default one.
That's not my new experience. I have found that Bing (and Yahoo, partially) ranks sites differently than Google. Google is quite competitive and thus it's hard to rank.
I tried ranking in Google, but even the second page doesn't help. I optimized for Bing and now it brings much more than Google. Certainly, my SE traffic is quite low (few hundreds a month) but I found Bing traffic to be decent and convert well.
In a way that's true, but it's also true that some companies make a choice about how critical search engine traffic is to their core business. Other companies live or die based on things like word of mouth, repeat business, critical reviews, protected niches, the whims of fashion, cronyism, whatever.
Every time I see people spend time and money on "SEO", it makes me wonder about what could have been if that time and money were spent on making the core product more awesome or indispensable or beloved or well-known through other means.
You only hire an SEO for one of two reasons: 1) too cheat Google, and 2) to compete with all the other sites that hire SEO's... There isn't an ethical element in this whole equation.
Where SEO is of value is in helping those who do not understand how the internet works optimize their sites to have them be more relevant. Perhaps a new term ought to be coined. Something like SRO (Site Relevance Optimization)?
Anyone with even a basic understand of what search engines are looking for (or trying to do) has come across sites that just make you want to cry due to the lost opportunities. A lot of these are smaller local shops that just don't have the tech and marketing horsepower to deal with it.
Being in the business of advising business owners on such things as posting content-relevant articles, carefully choosing titles and related tags, etc. is not evil at all. This is actually a good wholesome service.
SRO (or whatever) is what most sites should be doing. Ranking higher would come as a side-effect of SRO.
SEO people are like sports coaches. You have good coaches and bad coaches. Good coaches will help you with an effective training programs, and analyze the competition. Bad coaches will tell you to use drugs.
Good SEO people will help you win by improving your site and inbound links, bad SEO people will help you to win by cheating.
Nothing wrong with wanting to win, though...
I too prefer improving a site rather than gaming search engines, and I've argued against SEO consultants who want to do things like keyword-stuff urls, but now I sympathize with the pro-"bad"-SEO argument even though I prefer not to get involved in that kind of SEO.
Even with Google there are biases towards keywords in the title, url, or domain, even when it isn't relevant.
People needed SEO even when no one was selling it.
you could make the same argument about all advertising/marketing.
the best product should win on its own standards, without advertising, right? for example, wouldn't we all have better insurance rates if geico, progressive and esurance didn't have to spend their money on advertising?
But the truth is these insurance companies are disrupting old school insurance models that are less efficient and bringing value to more consumers faster with their advertising.
companies adapt, consumers adapt, markets adapt, search engines adapt. companies and people are going to work toward their self interest, and SEO is one way to do this. its called capitalism.
You know... marketing by itself is not unethical, though when you use tricks to induce people to buy something even though you know it's not good for them, the line is crossed. Like when a large fast food restaurant starts giving toys away if you buy their food... inducing children to annoy their parents so they buy unhealthy food just to get the toys. Or when you show sports people smoking a cigarrete, linking the image of smoking with a healthy life.
Of course, if all that matters is making money, then cheating the search engines (or peoples perception, in the case of marketing) is fine.
Subscribe to some smaller programming, math and technology reddits and tell me who has the better comments.
I'm glad you're trying to improve with each post. The way to get better at writing is to write.
Good SEO's are few and far between though, and generally wont reach 'mom and pops flower shop'. The SEO's these small businesses will probably be most exposed to are the cold calling scammers. The problem with a lot of these scammers is some of them don't realise they are scammers, they are just awful at their job and disguise it by charging a lot of money.
Bad SEO like the OP mentions can seriously damage your business (look up negative SEO for good example of how bad SEO's can shoot themselves in the foot). Before you buy anything expensive in life, it's worth doing your own research otherwise when you pick an SEO you're gambling.
A good resource to start is SEO Moz's beginners guide to SEO:
If you get to grips with the basics you'll find that you're likely able to do most of it yourself if it's something that starts to interest you. And it doesn't need to be a big time soak either.
In an ideal world (white hat) SEO should include things that make the site better for their users and search engines, and hopefully improve search rankings organically.
"Building" links in order to increase PageRank sounds like it's manipulating the system.
Spamming every website out there with useless comments containing your URL is more shady business and can result in a ban.
The illegitimate end of is is using hacked forums, wordpress blogs, etc, to post links with exactly the keywords you want to rank for.
But worst than that, there are many people in it just in it to make as much money out of people in the shortest amount of time without thinking of the long term relationship or the consequences for that business.
I wrote this so that the next time someone says, I'm thinking of taking on an SEO company, I can point them to that and they can at least think a bit more about what they expect and look closer at what the company is doing
It pollutes and subverts the web experience for everyone.
It's not the practices that are the problem, it's the whole idea.
[*]OK so I acknowledge that that's a simplistic/altruistic outlook on what the likes of google and bing do
And we're only talking about some pretty URLs, better content and some light backlinks from interesting sites.
I used to work in SEO and a lot of what we did was just common sense stuff that non-programmers/designers/html monkies don't know. Just like I don't know how to make a pretty bunch of flowers, they don't know how to make a more simantic website for google to parse
The best way would be to let the likes of google update their algorithm to avoid the crappy SEO sites. I appreciate that the best way for the flower shop to maintain its business is to go SEO, however they are then becoming part of the problem.
"And we're only talking about some pretty URLs, better content and some light backlinks from interesting sites."
I'm not sure what you mean about 'light backlinks', but for the rest, changing your own website to be more easily parseable by Google? Cool. That's your domain, knock yourself out. Filling the web with crap and linkspam? Not so much.
That's the reason why people like Matt Cutts exist. Of course, much of SEO IS dirty, and I am not sure if there is serious movement of "ethical SEO".
Competing for a ranking is pretty much a zero-sum game because no matter how much money you sink into it, only one can come out on top.
Compare and contrast with actually building stuff that makes people's lives better: there's still some competition, and winners and losers, but it's usually not a zero-sum game at all.
The rest is site structure.
I know people can and do still game the system, but that's not a good long-term plan and it's a flat return. Creating a good site with good information and a good product will keep giving you links and shares for a fair few years.
EDIT: In other words, I predict that the people who are practising bad SEO (and they do exist) will fall away like rotted wood over the next year, and the people who are genuinely trying to make interesting things which people like will come out on top.
Last year, Google annihilated directories, blog comments and article directories, as well as punishing unnatural-looking link profiles (lots of links from low PR sites, for instance).
They're continuing to refine and expand on this, including certain forms of blog posts in their devaluation net, but more importantly the industry is still catching up.
There are still people out there writing and selling long-form articles, there are still people charging companies to place their links on directories. There is a lag as companies and "SEOs" who are out of the loop fail to realise that their activities are no longer resulting in increased traffic - and then after that lag the SEO's business will collapse.
Many voices in the SEO community are looking at a new paradigm - "no hat" and "true black hat" for want of a better term. The "no hat" spirit is, crudely and generally, "If this wouldn't be useful if SEO wasn't a thing, I shouldn't do it." In other words, good SEO comes as a side effect of good implementation, site design, CRO, social media, content, etc. The "true black hat" meanwhile engages in criminal activities, fraud, hijacks websites and generally takes things on that are inCREDibly risky in an effort to turn a quick buck and disappear.
The old grey and black hats, and to an extent even the white hats, aren't squeaky clean enough for Google any more. At the same time, the loopholes they're trying to exploit are already known and closed (or closing rapidly). So this year, I think this type of SEO will fade away, possibly completely.
I believe that it's possible I'm completely wrong, of course.
Of course, making those problems go away is an AI-complete problem.
Ever looked at a SEO forum ? The amount of smattering and assumptions by self-educated "experts" is astonishing. Of course there are guys really worth their salt that can also code, but they are a minority.
Google pretended that it's going to affect a single digit of your search terms (check the blog post), but for me, it's from 70% to 90% on my sites (around 8 sites, same issue).
This is really the worst move that I have seen so far from the Search giant.
Here is a good blog post explaining the issue: http://www.infront.com/blogs/the-infront-blog/2012/12/14/key...
Every scenario is going to be different. As for slow, steady & honest winning the race? I certainly hope so, but it's up to you to define where the finish line is. Being honorable & operating a business that doesn't do nefarious stuff for short-term gain is one of my end-goals.. and it might hurt in the interim :)
We can do a lot better than lazy, vague, completely meaningless rambling.
If their business was that vested in their google ranking they should have learned a little more about it, and kept closer watch, asked more questions.
If someone offered to remodel your shop floor you'd be crazy to just let them do anything.
I'm seeing the same thing in the world specifically of Amazon search rankings, as self-published authors strive -- perhaps not wrongly -- for high Amazon rankings without knowing either how to get them nor how to measure their effects.
And some SEO types are clearly scumbags. Some stuff is clearly, unambiguously, bad.
So, how are naive users supposed to tell the difference between honest decent SEO types, and sub-optimal but not clearly evil SEO types?
The company who made it is on my shitlist. They got loads of "SEO experts".
Is there a way that person A could hurt competitor B?
We try really really hard to design algorithms that are
robust and resistant. Any algo that the search team has
done in the recent years, we do walk through those cases.
Can competitors harm ranking?
Google works hard to prevent other webmasters from being
able to harm your ranking or have your site removed from
There's almost nothing a competitor can do to harm your
ranking or have your site removed from our index.
If your telling the client your doing high quality link
building, then buying the cheapest package you can from a
link seller, that’s fraud and in todays world, you can
cause serious damage.
The webmaster guidelines are fairly clear on these matters:
Any links intended to manipulate a site's ranking in
Google search results may be considered part of a link
Ultimately, you are responsible for the actions of any
companies you hire, so it's best to be sure you know
exactly how they intend to "help" you.
(Google) search is not a black box most make it out to be. SEO is not magic. Make a site accessible and search bots have no problem crawling and indexing your site. Create quality content. Read the webmaster guidelines. Google wants your content to rank on its own merits. Align yourself: simply stop buying link schemes, start writing quality content, and EARN those links. Optimize websites for users (of which searchbots are just a subset). Try inbound marketing and website optimization.
P.S. I am sick of SEO scumbags too. I am also sick of the blind SEO hate on a start-up site (start-ups often need SEO, yet a lot lack it). Didn't patio11 used to give actionable, and much appreciated advice on these matters? Do we really want to eat the sour grapes from someone banned by Adwords or Google ("Because Google targetted them, because their competitor set them up, because they got hit by those bloody quality updates, because they are not social enough, because they don't buy Adwords, because they don't use blackhat SEO, $insert_other_excuse_for_why_Google_is_required_to_rank_them").
P.P.S: The good SEO's I know often have their own sites they work on, or join an agency to work on big traffic sites. They are not using a cold-call phone team to get their clients, or stay busy optimizing mom and pop stores. This may skew the experiences you have with SEO's in general.
At risk of sounding bitter, this is really not the best advice to share with any group of startup entrepreneurs who might believe it and stake their business model on it. As with many of us here, I've struggled with this issue for years, and the reality is that Google is a saturated distribution channel that is horrible at identifying quality content that is not heavily branded or pushed in mainstream media.
There are ways to tweak the signals, but it usually means having someone working fulltime on spreading word, and smaller teams building good sites often have better things to do than linkbait blogging (something I believe many of us would personally define as poor quality content). And even then this approach simply does not work in highly competitive fields where there is literally a decade of competition over search queries at this point, and competition from highly-funded startups and incumbents.
The advice I gave was sincere though. In practice I see many businesses aiming for links, when their content just isn't up to par. Quality content alone (without links) is enough to rank in many niches. If you get to the hyper-competative SERPS, sure, you can't escape link building or doing most of the work in-house. Droll: If you are about to enter a hyper-competative niche, you should already know what you are doing, else there is little chance you succeed.
For me, in practice, creating accessible content is still one of the best things start-ups can do. Blog about two times a week and you will rank for it, you don't necessarily need backlinks. If you got an inaccessible site with poor content, you need (probably to buy) backlinks to make a dent.
Disclaimer advice: Never stake your business model on uncustomized broad SEO advice. Especially when there are plenty of authoritative sources for sound start-up SEO advice like:
(1) Can you provide an example of a business with over 100k in revenues that has been founded in the last 2-3 years in a remotely competitive niche and is at or near the top of the search results for the most likely general search terms? How about a bootstrapped business?
(2) And can you honestly say that the mass of blogspam that regularly hits HN disguised as business advice is really high-quality content?
With some time, I could easily find better examples.
What you'll notice with these is that they are succeeding not by trying to rank for a handful of keywords, but hundreds or thousands of keywords. Organize and curate a collection of useful content of interest to your customers, and you will get Google to rank it. Most large aggregations of fill-in-the-blank are not well SEO optimized.
If I were building something, I'd look at a niche outside of travel, real estate, and employment, and create an aggregation around that.
Look at dogvacay.com -- launched in March 2012 ranked #1 for "dog boarding" in many markets.
I'm really not sure I agree. My sister in law is a french tutor in a small English town. She wanted a Web site and I suggested that she put something together using Weebly. I did some basics with her to ensure that reasonable keywords appeared in the page names, headlines and text etc.
A couple of weeks later and if you search on "French tuition in town-x" or "French lessons in county-name" she comes up as hit 3 in Google - I think that's pretty good service from Google.
Are any of the people you are pushing offering a win-win in these 6-7 figure payday, or are they just yet another asbestos law firm, that wants the same 1/3 as everyone else, and will fill out the settlement forms just the same as everyone else?
Some are totally 100% owned by big corporations who get the majority of the hits for that term and expanded phrases. Some might say that's legitimate because that big corp is the best result for that word. But there are plenty of other keywords that are owned by (formerly) regular webmasters who are now on top and fighting to keep it that way, with a sizable incentive to do so. These keywords are highly competitive and those webmasters will do anything it takes to keep the payday rolling in.
It probably also helps that few have the attitude that they are entitled to news coverage the same way they feel entitled to traffic. So we accept that it's capricious and that someone who knows what they're doing can get results. And that's OK.
Anyway, who cares about "blind SEO hate on a start-up site?" It ultimately gets punished by the market.
If you hate SEO, great. Make your site hard to crawl chock full of duplicate content and inscrutable urls; don't bother to get authority signals (links) deep and wide; don't make pages that satisfy search intent.
Your competitor who DOES will get traction, funding, a better team, and down the road you'll be yet another guy at a bar saying, "Yeah, I used to have a startup... tough racket."
If you are the company whose job it is to do whatever they asked for - build a website, see if anything can be done to help improve traffic, install a gas oven - it is your job to not defraud them. Charging them to boost their ranking temporarily, knowing full well it will fall again soon, is fraud.
I think I am in the wrong industry...
Google will follow, you shouldn't be chasing them. They are in the business of providing the most relevant results, make it easy for them to crawl you and the rest will come over time with trust.
Anything else may help in the short term but it all ends up falling over when the "All Mighty Google" rollout a "Panda/Penguin" update, luckily sites sell you "Penguin Proof SEO!".
I had to work with 10 RC's and almost 5 months from the third party developer to get FWI's new classified platform in a fit state to launch - and that snot counting the work to develop the redirect plan.
Moving your site
If you're planning on moving your site to a new domain,
here are some tips that will help you retain your site's
ranking in Google's search results.
and maybe http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l7M22teF3Ho depending on your circumstances.
And yet, I get contacted via email by at least one a day. What a waste of time.
Let's cut the crap , SEO is Google rank optimization.
It means there is no SEO since the only player that decides how SEO works is google. If tomorrow Google decides using the word "FLOWER" in your header improves your rank on its search engine, what optimisation are we talking about ?this is not optimization , it is following google's rules. It means google is in charge, and they are abusing their dominant position pretty well, and the whole system is a scam anyway.
If this is the scam, what's the alternative? An open search engine, perhaps, where development, ranking algorithms, etc. are completely out in the open. I'm not sure this is realistic any time soon though given the cost of hosting a search engine.
For example, one site I help with has just a few inbound links from low PR sites as far as Google is concerned, and gets a page rank of zero accordingly. In reality, it probably gets more inbound links via social networking in a single day on most days, and unsurprisingly those personal recommendations often drive more inbound traffic than any search engine.
Google's basic premise of ranking the importance of a site based on how many links it gets and where from is wildly inaccurate in the era of social networking. Normal people mostly don't run their own public web sites or blogs any more, they share stuff on sites like Facebook and often only with their "friends".
Personally, I think this is a good thing, because both as a visitor and as someone running sites I would rather rely on legitimate personal recommendations from people who are genuinely interested in a site than on some arbitrary algorithm running in a data centre somewhere on another continent. I don't think it's healthy for any one intermediary to have a dominant effect on whether interested people can find interesting content on the Web, and sites like search engines and social networks are merely intermediaries.
I'm not sure that I understand this point. I thought that Google wants to index Twitter (for example) but is prohibited by Twitter. So it's hard to see that their premise is wrong: personal recommendations on social networks are just inbound links from specific sites, just not sites that Google can index.
In other news, searching for things on Google increasingly seems to turn up large, commercial sites first and only to reach smaller, more personal, and often more informative/less biased sites several pages down. Meanwhile, posting a question to my friends on any private forum we share will often get better results within a few minutes anyway.
People use buzzwords like "going viral", but really this is just the same old exponential growth of word-of-mouth recommendations for good products, speeded up thanks to modern communication technologies and the social networks they support.
Obviously we still make our sites accessible to search engines. It's not like it's difficult to do that if you've got real content and a sensible information architecture, and after all, a bit of extra traffic never hurt anyone. Maybe, if an enthusiastic person finds us that way, it could even seed a new network of people finding us.
But I see this becoming less and less of a priority and dedicated search engines becoming less and less relevant for a lot of sites as people learn to use social networks to spread the word. In particular, I don't see cbeach's original idea of a "search engine that ranks mainly on social-graph recommendation" adding much value in that scenario, simply because the social networks will probably offer similar functionality without needing a third party anyway.
That's not true in Russia, China, etc. And even in the West, dominating the rankings for your segment in the competing search engines could be extremely lucrative.
Also, a serious business would be kidding themselves if they thought that targeting engines like Bing wasn't important. Reaching customers is important.
With that being said, Google is the biggest player in the game. This means they can make up whatever rules they see fit. However, one of the biggest SEO "secrets" has nothing to do with Google:
"Build for readability, good content that fits your targeted keywords."
Again, this is a general rule, and only a starting point.
You also might care if you get to #1 in bing. Sure it's nowhere near as well used as google in terms of % but it still adds up to several million eyeballs.
Being #1 on bing for some search term that is super competitive on google is likely to bring a huge amount of traffic.
On one day Google is close to dying and there are lots of alternatives out there and on the next day the very same people are writing that "SEO = Google pagerank ownage" as if Google was the one and only search engine which mattered.
So which is it? Are Google's days numbered or not?
People commenting here are allowed to disagree with each other, you know, and not everyone comments on every link.