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Search Engine Optimization Secrets

Matt Cutts

Google perceives SEO as Spam, and it is clearly to see Matt Cutts, Google's Director of Spamming for the Google Search Quality Group talking about SEO, Content and Spam. In this article I mentioned some of the secrets in the Search Engine Optimization Industry.

Domain and Page Popularity

There are hundreds of factors that help engines decide how to rank a page. And in general, those hundreds of factors can be broken into two categories—relevance and popularity (or "authority"). For the purposes of this demonstration you will need to completely ignore relevancy for a second. Further, within the category of popularity, there are two primary types—domain popularity and page popularity. Modern search engines rank pages by a combination of these two kinds of popularity metrics. These metrics are measurements of link profiles. To rank number one for a given query you need to have the highest amount of total popularity on the Internet. (Again, bear with me as we ignore relevancy for this section.)

Relearning How You See the Web

When people surf the Internet, they generally view each domain as its own island of information. This works perfectly well for the average surfer but is a big mistake for beginner SEOs. Websites, whether they like it or not, are interconnected. This is a key perspective shift that is essential for understanding SEO.
Take Facebook, for example. It started out as a "walled garden" with all of its content hidden behind a login. It thought it could be different and remain completely independent. This worked for a while, and Facebook gained a lot of popularity. Eventually, an ex-Googler and his friend became fed up with the locked-down communication silo of Facebook and started a wide open website called Twitter. Twitter grew even faster than Facebook and challenged it as the media darling. Twitter was smart and made its content readily available to both developers (through APIs) and search engines (through indexable content).

Using Time to Gain Trust

No matter how many links and pages your new website has, it will not be able to rank on the first page for any competitive keyword for a couple of months. This core principle of Google optimization nearly put me out of business at one time. It just didn’t make sense. I had great content and lots of links; why wasn’t my website even in the top 100 results? The answer: because in the world of Google, you just have to wait. I picture an old farmer sitting on the back of a truck, chewing on a piece of grass, saying, “Life ain’t fair, kid.” It’s just one of those rules.

The Sandbox
A mandatory ranking delay for new sites is the kind of SEO principle that doesn’t make sense for most websites but benefits the entire ecosystem. Google instituted the sandbox, or the waiting period that all new websites must incur before they can rank properly, to keep fly-by-night spammers out of the index. As mentioned, “The Five Ingredients of Google Optimization,” if you were doing a lot of Googling in the early 2000s, you might have noticed that there were many spammy sites in the search results. These sites were set up for the purpose of making money quickly and unethically, and then shuttering their online doors after just a few weeks. Using link farms, or vast, interconnected networks of low-quality links, these sites were able to rise to the first page quickly due to Google’s then-weaker algorithm. Many of them took a lot of money from people before Google discovered and banned them.

How to Measure the Value of a Link Based on Aging Factors

After discussing in depth the methods of gaining link, it might be helpful to explore using aging factors to help determine the value of a web page’s links. Because age plays a role in the amount of trust Google gives a website, we know that the age of a website relates to the value a link from that site gives.
Although it might seem that the most valuable sites are the oldest ones according to the whois database, keep in mind that it is not the age of the domain that confers TrustRank, but the age of the website that sits on top of the domain. So if you see that a domain was registered in 1997, don’t drop everything to gain a link on that site because it is possible that the domain was parked for 10 years before a website was built. Even if a website was built right from the start, if the website was later taken down and the domain was parked for any substantial period of time, Google will have perceived that the domain was transferred to a new owner and reset whatever TrustRank it earned in the past. So before giving a site credit for being well aged, you should ask, “Has a website been continuously running on this domain since it was registered?” And note that if a website has in fact been running, uninterrupted, for many years, it retains its TrustRank no matter how many redesigns of the site occurred; Google expects that. Google resets the TrustRank of a website only if the domain has been parked.

Link Aging and Link Churning

Whether you’ve built a website from scratch, diligently attracting links yourself, or bought a website that already has a high level of TrustRank, it is important to make sure that your links do not disappear. That is why it is a smart idea when purchasing an aged website to include a clause in your contract with a website seller that they do not do anything that could cause links to be removed. It is also why earlier I recommended that you make long-term link relationships. The longer a link to your site stays in place, the more Google trusts it.

Levels of Distrust

Link churning is equal only to overoptimization in its capability to cause Google to prevent a website from ranking in any significant way. Link churning can happen innocently to the assiduous link builder. Let’s say you acquire a bunch of links and then you don’t see a jump in rankings after a couple of weeks, or even after two to three months. You might conclude that the sites hosting the links are crippled or that the TrustRank being passed is just not enough to justify the compensation you are giving to the hosting sites. So it is reasonable to ask the webmasters who own those sites to take your links down, and furthermore to build a bunch of new links to make up for the empty space in your link-building program that you now perceive. And yet, this is the very definition of link churning. Done on a small scale (a few links at a time), this is passable behavior, but done on a larger scale (for example, more than 10 links at a time), this could trigger a penalty.

How to Find an Old Website Worth Buying

Unlike death and taxes, there is one way to avoid the sandbox, and that is by buying another website that has already gone through its probationary period. If you have never bought a website before, please do not be intimidated by the process. It’s easy. You do not need to purchase an actual web business to get an old website; you just need to buy the website itself. Therefore, you don’t have to worry about doing extensive due diligence. But let’s hold off on that for a moment. Let’s think, what is the real goal of purchasing a website for SEO purposes?

White Hat Versus Black Hat SEO

I want to pause for a moment now to orient you. By this point, you should know enough about Google optimization to be a force. And I hope that I have transmitted this information in an accessible way. But before going on to the more “advanced” subjects which cover the corners and angles that go beyond the basic, I want you to know what school of thought all of this knowledge comes from.
I am what’s known as a white hat SEO. Originating in the movies where the heroes wore white hats and the bad guys wore black, the terms black hat and white hat are used in the world of SEO to denote two separate optimization philosophies. White hat SEO is helping a website to rank at the top of the results using every advantage available except breaking the search engines’ rules. It includes things like building keyword-optimized content, formatting your site’s page titles in an SEO-friendly fashion, and building links organically by earning the attention of other webmasters. And it is the philosophy that underlies all of the advice in the Outsmarting Google’s book.

Last modified on 23 April 2013
12 April 2012
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