June 4, 2012
Wow. I’ve been gone for a while. But I’m back, and I’ve got a Penguin on the brain. The Google Penguin.
As an SEO enthusiast, I’ve watched Google closely for many years. If you’re reading this, you’re probably aware of Google’s most recent attempt to fight web spam. They call it the “Penguin” update. And I have some thoughts about it.
What’s most interesting to me is that prior to the release of the Penguin update in late April, I had been thinking about writing a much different post about Google. A post defending them. I’m glad I never wrote that post. Why? You’ll have to wait till next time to find out. Today I want to discuss Google’s search results.
But first I have to provide some personal background. For about 15 years I owned a small graphic design firm. Website development was a significant portion of our business. During these years our company launched two e-businesses. One that failed (an online apartment guide). And one that was successful (a promotional products website). With our successful online business, we drove our traffic from a combination of per per click advertising (PPC) and organic search results (SEO). I have a good eye for design. I know what makes an effective and efficient website. I’ve been successful in the promotional products industry. And I’ve spent years studying SEO.
As you can imagine I’ve followed my competition closely for years. I know who the players are in the industry. I know how much business they do. I know their websites. And I know how well they rank for the most competitive phrases in Google.
Not trying to pat myself on the back. I just have a somewhat unique set of experiences and insights into a variety of subjects that all culminate with an understanding for what should rank well based off of the website, the company, and the search. I do need to use a bit of caution as I move forward with this article, so excuse me if I’m not as specific as I could be. My goal isn’t to take shots at my colleagues in the industry, but to take a shot at Google.
When you have a diverse product line with thousands of products, there are tens of thousands of keywords and phrases that are used by people who use the search engines to find these products. But there are only a handful of phrases that offer high search volume, and that are very specific to our industry. If somebody is searching for these phrases, they’re searching for companies that do what we do. These are the holy grail of keywords. The most coveted words that will drive the most traffic to your website if you are lucky enough, and smart enough, to rank highly in Google for them.
To be clear, I was never that lucky, or that smart.
For many years, if you searched in Google for these most coveted phrases, you were rewarded with high-quality results. A who’s who of the industry. The most successful companies with the best websites. If I had hand picked the top ten results for Google, we would have routinely agreed on seven or eight of them. And I would have had few disagreements with the others. Occasionally a website would pop into the top ten that probably didn’t deserve to be there, but it never seemed to stay there very long.
Now enter the Penguin. Google has a legitimate fight on their hands combating what they call web spam. Companies create backlinks to their websites in order to rank better in Google for specific keywords. Many of the methods that are used to create these backlinks conflict with Google’s terms of service (TOS). Why do companies do it? Because thousands, and sometimes millions, of dollars are on the line. Google spends a significant amount of time and energy updating their algorithm in an attempt to deliver the best results for the searchers, while attempting to make sure that companies don’t game the system by building tons of backlinks to “artifically” rank higher in Google’s rankings than what Google would deem appropriate. The “Penguin” is their most recent attempt at fighting web spam.
What exactly does the “Penguin” do? That is still open to debate. And something that we’ll need to cover another time.
As I mentioned, for years Google’s results were amazingly good for the most coveted phrases in our industry. But no longer. For the most sought after phrase in our industry, the big companies are gone. Completely removed from the first page of results. Some have dropped so far they’re hard to find. Out of the current top ten, there’s only one left that I would have hand-selected for the top ten. Two that I know are quality companies with decent sites that I would never have included in the top ten. Four more that I have no clue how they got there with well below average websites. And three sites that do the searcher no good at all — a trade association, an industry supplier who doesn’t sell directly to the public, and a wikipedia page. Junk.
It’s enough to get my to try other search engines. I use Bing periodically, and have started using DuckDuckGo.com. Compared to Google? Bing is delivering eight results, six of which I consider high-quality sites for the same search. And DuckDuckGo is delivering eight high-quality results in their top ten! Google is on the verge of losing a loyal searcher. And if the message boards and forums are any indication, I won’t be alone.
Author Bio: Lee Eldridge is a writer, musician and marketing consultant with more than 20 years experience in customized promotional items. Lee writes for several blogs, and has launched a new site focusing on niche promotional products called Love Promos: http://www.lovepromos.com/.