Google Like it – Promote your site in your SERPs

Here’s an interesting little thing.

This button (fig. 1b) will move the result to the top of the page and add this orange marker (fig. 1a) next to it so you can easily recognize it. The result(s) you promote will appear at the top whenever you search for the same keyword(s) in the future.

Maybe it’s old, I haven’t seen it previously. Looks like one of those personalization of SERP features  that allows you to manipulate your own returned search results.

At the moment it seems like you need a Google account to use the thing, which may be a sign that they’d like to use such signals to affect SERP outcome. Not to mention user demographics, behaviours and all that other track your movement stuff.

What I’d like to know is whether or not they will be taking such factors into account long term. If a lot of people continually push a result to the top, does this mean that it’s a great result, or does it just mean that some group of SEO’s have found a way to cut in and mimic a few natural behaviours? How many Google accounts do you have? 😉

Meanwhile in a search engine vortex oft 53rd street..

Very soon, you’ll no longer have to confess to being a sinner in order to use Googles re-inclusion or reconsideration request ( I suspect it’ll be called the take me off the naughty list next week, being xmas and all that)

This is a good thing, a small thing, but a good thing nonetheless. Anything that allows you to challenge without putting you on the back foot from the off, can’t be bad, can it?

Whilst Google are probably of the view that it’s an easy thing to do and even almost a no brainer for them to implement, you do nonetheless find yourself wondering why they employed the whole nasty evil language approach from the outset.

Still, at least now if you find yourself with a white bar or an inability to rank, you can just toodle along to the webmaster tool page and make a bit of a tool of yourself and ask to be let back in, without admitting guilt! Yay! Um…they’ll probably ignore you or leave you where you were at, but at least you get to ask without fessing up! 😀

Seriously – it’ll be a good thing if people get feedback, like ‘no dude you have a paid post on blogpost number 234 of your 1500 that you’ve made’ …don’t you agree? Shouldn’t it be a two way process?

I suspect that there’s a strand of thought that runs through the plex of ‘aaaargh, it’s one of those evil bastard spammers asking for some feedback on their evil wicked spammy ways’, and that this might just contribute to a view of ‘let em stew’. But hey, I’ve been wrong once if not a thousand times. I’m sure I’ll be wrong again. 🙂

Don’t ever bank on free traffic, build on it

Maki wrote a good blog post today that for me spoke about marketing and creating things of value that have the efffect of creating converted users; that’s, people who will buy into whatever it is you do or are trying to achieve.

Be it via a comment, a hit of a subscription button, an add to favourites action , a credit card transaction or a link through to what you wrote or advertised, the bottom line is that without any of these sorts of actions, the likelihood is that you are either writing for yourself or selling something that is overpriced and overvalued or just not worth discussing.

Don’t rely on search engines

Free search engine traffic is great. A most welcome bonus that if used correctly, can help build a following, but that’s where it stops. If you are obsessing about building your rankings then your target sight is off kilter, you are looking at the wrong part of the equation.

Posts like the ones from across the blogosphere today and in the previous weeks regarding PR and paid links should be a wake up call for anyone who is serious about earning a living from a website online. If you remind yourself that your free traffic is very likely to be a transitory thing, if you tell yourself everyday that your free search engine generated traffic is likely to disappear tommorrow, then you’ll be doing yourself a huge favour.

Search Engines are not automated non policed systems, they do employ people to look at certain things and do take actions against people as and when they see fit.

You can complain until the cows come home but at the end of it all, rightly or wrongly they can do whatever the hell they like, when they like and how they like. There is no court of appeal, you can’t storm parliament, go on strike or sit out in the road, neither can you chain yourself to a fence either, if they kill your site and you care about or genuinely need or rely upon the traffic they send to you, then as harsh as it might sound – without a plan or loyal following you might as well just shut up shop, or get used to talking to yourself!

Yeah yeah, so what’s the plan then smarty arse?

Well…but of course there are positives, you don’t have to sit around burying your head in the sand hoping that you are never hit, you can at least try and adopt a meritocratic world view and build real traffic, *your* traffic, people who visit you because others have discussed you in some way because you are doing something or selling something or just saying something that adds value to the world and the playground in which you are kicking your ball around in. Be it via word of mouth or some href piece of html.

Take a look at these blogs here, all of whom have seen a reduction in their visible toolbar PR

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Then look at their webstats and their site metrics, look at their published subscriber numbers. Look at their Alexa, compete and technorati numbers. Look at the people who are commenting on their stuff, look at how well they are linked to and on what sort of terms. Then ask yourself why that is, I tell you what, I’ll save you the bother with the answer, as the answer is simple – All of the above are quality resources with something to say, it really is that simple.

Maki’s right

Google is an factor that is outside of your control. Sure, you can follow their rules or adjust your behavior to fit in but that still doesn’t put Google within your palm. What do good entrepreneurs do with uncontrollable factors? They create what-if contingency plans to accommodate for possible loss

Sigh – I’ll leave you with this little Portishead track, cos it kinda has a few on target lyrics, ‘you don’t get something for nothing, gotta try a little harder’

Does Google have anything to fear from the blogosphere?

Not another paid links post (groan)

The whole paid links are evil for Google idea has been around for some time now. This isn’t a rehash of those. I want to pass comment on how lately that there’s been a lot of Google ill feeling going on, with an increasing number of prominent people speaking out against them. I say ill feeling as hate is too strong a word. Practically all of it is related to the whole paid links and nofollow thing.

What’s particularly interesting for me is how this whole thing seems to have grown legs and started to spread tentacles. It’s almost as if Google needs a new target and that, that target is the blogosphere. Not content with having made it’s SERP’s a tenuous we might kill you at any time place to inhabit, they now seem intent on saying to anyone in their index or who want’s traffic from them, ‘Do as you are told or we will kick your arse’. I won’t rehash any positions that have been expressed previously as these and variations on the theme can be read elsewhere.

History does repeat itself

I think its’s noteworthy to recall that there once was a time when I’d read at WMW and see accounts whereby people had been banned or penalised.

WMW had its constituents of Pro Google – Google is great, Google is great, Google is great brigade all chanting from on high like Sadaam Hussein in some pre Jihadic rant and they too had their opposing voice of anti Googles’, speaking of Google in terms of it being the great Satan and what not. All of which was handled in magnificent form by that omnipresent soother of words GoogleGuy. A curious beast who seldom put a foot wrong, often coming up with double entendre statements that neither denied or confirmed any number of theories. It was ok, a game, a fun one even that I played and enjoyed reding between the lines looking for inconsistencies and clues for what he was trying to debunk versus promote.

A little look at the state of play today and one might be forgiven for thinking that Mr GoogleGuy has been cloned and put out there in the field parroting similiar double speak crap designed to shroud and confuse. Ha! There’s a funny thought, can you imagine a FUD meeting and the discussions arising?

Let’s face facts – Words that could destabilise a multi-billion dollar cash cow are not just going to be left to the whims of one or two individuals playing some fun filled game of lead webmasters up the garden path. There is a strategic approach and right now it’s being executed with stone cold precision.

Has the blogosphere got any balls?

The thing is though, what, if anything can or will the blogosphere do about it? Will everyone just roll over? Will those A-listers getting heaps of nice monetisable Google traffic just keep quiet and say nothing? Or will they take the lead and address the issue for what it is – Which so happens to be a serious and concerted attack on a group of individuals and their right to monetise their works – Heck maybe that great opportunist Calacanis will see a crusadery angle and buy in, or is he too just waiting the Google $ for his Mahalo project?

Why is everyone so scared? Is it really about biting a hand that might feed you, or staving off an attack from something that might kill you? People like Michael Gray and Aaron Wall and John Andrews seem happy enough to tell it like it is, they aren’t too bothered, they don’t stand for the nonsense, why then should any of us?

Harsh – Far fetched a description even?

It’s debatable for sure, you’ve got to choose where to sit in one way or another and if you straddle the fence for too long you’ll be likely to get piles. My “not worth the screen pixels it inhabits maybe” opinion, is that in this instance on this topic, that Google has gone too far and is engaging in behaviour which is reasonable to label as arrogant bullying.

The Google of old would not have come out with guns blazing, nor would it have had the balls to tell people so forcefully, “yes we kicked your arse and we’ll kick it again too if you do that again”.

I was always taught to stand up to bullies. I was taught that if you succumb to their attacks, if you don’t get up there and hit them back smack right hard in the mouth, then they’ll keep on coming back at you, time after time. It might well hurt to do so too, but overtime they’ll get tired of fighting with you and either reconsider their position or move on to different pastures and pick on some easier target.

Maybe some at Google have read too much B F Skinner and decided that a positive reinforcement of the negatives inside the box that is the blogosphere might be one particular way to slay this threat to their income stream.

What is that I hear you say – Paid links are not a threat to their income stream, there really is enough to go around already – they really could have just quietly circumvented the effects without so much brouhaha? Perhaps so, or perhaps they decided that wackamole just isn’t a scalable solution.

Wackamole costs money

Maybe its the whole game of having to filter out the paid effect. Perhaps someone somewhere decided that spending a few million dollars each year on snitches and paid reviewers could be better spent on some big concerted “do it again or do what he did and we’ll kill you” approach. Yet, even if this were the case, they surely can’t be so naive as to think everyone would just say “Oh right, ok then Google, you’re the boss we’ll stop that right now and do what you tell us” Google has to realise that it has no right to a monopoly on making money.

It’s as if there is this obsession within them that seeks at all costs to clamp down hard on anyone who is visibly gaming them. Yet when you look at that whole ‘gaming’ word and look into what could be construed as gaming then you’ll appreciate that the ground becomes very shakey if not like quicksand itself. Where is the line drawn? When do the very creation of properly structured content that uses H tags and relevant keywords, that attracts links from other sites suddenly cross the line? Bah phooey.

Don’t do evil

The recent attack on sites that discuss blog monetisation are one very obvious example. A number of excellent blogs have had their visible PageRank reduced. Interestingly all of these blogs talk about how you can earn money from blogging or how you can best monetise your blog or website. Practically all of them simply observe and comment upon what works and what doesn’t. All of the ones to which I allude have written comprehensive well considered pieces that offer a perspective on how people might like to prosper with their blogs. The message from all is clear – hard work, quality, consistency – anyone who’d suggest that within the grand scheme of the idea of making money online, that these didn’t add considerable value would need to go and get their reality checker fixed. Yet for Google, if their Pagerank meter is adjudged to have any merit or meaning at all, it’s clear that to them at least all of the sites penalised in this way are of low merit or value.

Oh well, I’ve vented my spleen now, and said my bit. I’m kinda tired of railing against the machine, for a machine is what Google has become, a machine that has way too much power and influence that I as an individual can do very little about.

Damn, its 330pm, time to cook that Sunday lunch.


Google penalizes for paid links and promoting yourself

I was going to post this in a comment at Sphinn, but decided to blog it instead.

It related to Google and how they apply penalties to sites who talk about or do things in ways they don’t like. Some people think Google doesn’t penalise for paid links, I disagree, as the evidence seems to suggest otherwise.

Anyhow, this post isn’t completely about paid links, its more about the whole penalty process and the culture that allows it to happen and how it’s just very dificult to challenge or do anything about even.

Two people recently have seen some kind of negative action from Google.

AndyBeard’s visible toolbar drop and David Aireys ranking penalty.

Davids’ has been reversed, whilst Andys’ might not even be a long term thing, so might be a little early to call.

Both of these got me thinking about the whole power and responsiblity theme. Google have lots of power yet at times seem to behave in ways that aren’t the most responsible. Whether they like it or not we do hold them up to greater standards than most, the reasons behind which I couldn’t really do justice to. That said, there is no harm with at least putting a few ideas out there nd see what others think at least.

Transparency is the way forward?

I’d love to be able to read a ‘process’ document on this whole we are penalizing your arse thing. Google have a process. It’s called the reinclusion process. Basically, you check a little box and admit to being evil, they then read what you have to say and restore you if they agree or ignore you if they don’t.

This clearly sucks arse and I don’t doubt has more than pissed offor frustrated a person or two.

Anyhow, I was wondering. Do all ‘quality’ reviewers have the power to instantly penalise, or do they have to justify their position and have 3 or 4 other people agree on their interpretation. If so, is this process fair, should there be more feedback, perhaps a communication of some form? Or is it really ok to just leave people twisting in the wind?

The rules are the rules are the rules…

I know that it isn’t a legal thing, but it is a rule thing. It’s about breaking the rules ,or in the case of Google ‘the guidelines’ and of course it’s their subjective interpretation too. We all know they are a private for profit company, free to do what they like to people who in their opinion who have crossed one of their lines.

Yet it does need to be said that they do have a massive responsibility, yet seem to pay little public heed or acknowledgment of this fact, at least within the microcosm of dealing with individuals.

They might well run around in their $ fuelled PR mobiles postulating how much of a wonderful company they are, they might well be seen to be the fantastic tax generating, profit generating force for good that they are for so many people, and in lots of way there is no disputing that at all, on balance they do a hell of a lot of good things. Yet, that doesn’t mean that the little guy contributing 0.000000000001% to any bottom line shouldn’t matter or in any way count. Doesn’t he still deserve his day in court? His right to reply, his chance to dig his hole deeper even?

Respecting your roots

Whether we like it or not, thanks to many of us (talking them up in the early years) they are now the defacto gateway to the net, a massive percentage of individuals see google and search as synonymous.

Accepting the aforementioned, is it not fair to suggest that when they take action against sites for transgressions, that these actions should have some kind of universality?

Why is it that sites like Davids’ can be hit hard and quick, yet other sites using similar tactic are not? When no action is taken against the big boys for the self same thing then perhaps its no real surprise when people begin to question the integrity of the processes within.

Are they so surprised that if this perception exists that we then put their processes under a greater degree of scrutiny and question their very right to behave is this way? Some might ask, where is the natural justice!

It’s supposed to be a democratic fair world

In the bricks and mortar world of hyper reality, if you are stopped by an officer of the law and accused of breaking a law then you have an option of arguing your case in an open court of law.

2 possible outcomes – guilty, pay the cost, innocent, walk free.

If you are found guilty then whatever way you look at it you suffer, you pay a price; monetarily you suffer. You can appeal too of course, and where so you get the opportunity to hear the reasoning behind any judgement.

If we apply that analogy to Google then we see it falls down somewhat, simply because their business status allows them too. They can hide behind their ‘right’ to act like any other for profit. It’s funny because microsoft once thought they could do the same, justice caught up with them eventually too.

Think about it though, can you imagine a world where you were pulled off the street, muzzled, dismissed from your job, thrown into some padded cell where very few could hear you? How crap would that be! Yet this is the very thing that Google can do to site owners today, acting like some errant bully able to do what it likes and to whom it likes.

Don’t like what we did? Sue us…, we got more money than you and can hide behind the complexities of our proprietary systems and concepts of free enterprise.

Monoply sucks, especially when you lose

The bottom line is that in law or society there is no recognition of their almost monopolistic status on this search stuff, and no apparent will to really do anything about it either. It’s just too easy to hide behind ideas of algorithms and editorial rights and private enterprise.

Yeah yeah, I know a governmentally controlled SE would probably be as bad if not worse, but hell at least we’d be able to hold individuals up to account, examine the decisions, debate the reasons why.

I don’t think it really washes too well to say things similar to , “oh, you know, we’d love to say more and share more with webmasters when we encounter things that we aren’t too comfortable with as to do so would reveal more about our algorithm and processes than we would be happy to share..”, simply because people should be told more, people should have the right to know why some 800lb Gorilla is slamdunking them in the mush and obliterating their voice.

Hit the are you feeling lucky button

David Airey is a fortunate guy. Very few people receive similar treatment. Most are just ignored to the hinterlands. I don’t wish to appear to be mean to David when I say this, but the fact is that Davids’ good fortune is more related to the collective discussion that ensued around his penalty. A less plugged in blogger, IMO, might have struggled to achieve the same outcome.

People can get knocked out of the SERPs just like that. It happens for all sorts of reasons too you only have to be on the wrong end of a conversation before kaput, your 10 year labour of love is suddenley dying in a ditch with little hope for resuscitation, shouldn’t this all be a little more open?


Ghosts in the Google Machine and Seeing Double

David over at science text alerted me to a story that I missed regarding Google and some strange accounts of ‘indexed’ websites that don’t exist installing malaware and viri on Google user machines.

  • Some searches (very specific phrases, and I won’t list any of them right now – Google knows which they are) return results with a large number of .cn (Chinese) sites.
  • The .cn sites are often scraped content from legitimate U.S. websites
  • The legitimate sites are being ranked below the scammed .cn sites for these competitive keywords.
  • Just another hijack story?

    Nothing so new there, we’ve all read accounts of scraper sites outranking ‘legitimate’ sites for their content often by use of a 302 ‘hijack‘ . It’s pretty easy to scrape content and slap a few ads around it here and there, and in fairness to the engines it’s not the easiest thing to eliminate, especially in a world of rss and syndicated content.

    I’m going to be a little lazy and summise that those clever so and so’s use a little commonsense and hook up with the various ping services that blogs like wordpress use when publishing new content. This would you’d think give them a good way of being able to establish who published what 1st where and when. Grab the timestamp , put it into a database and bob’s your uncle. This way, any duplicate content that followed wouldn’t be classed as the original source and would be ranked beneath that of the original.

    Don’t trust the authorities…

    Ok so not every website out there has a ping script installed so perhaps the above scenario is indicative of a problem within the Google ranking machine with its reliance and trust in link data and authority scores. If site A happens to have a higher trust level than site B, and Site A decides to use content from site B, then in a scenario where Site A is indexed more frequently than say site B (because of its higher authority score) then there is a very real chance that Google will decide that the rightful owner of the content is Site A and not the original publisher site B.

    Google advise people who syndicate content to embed a link within it so that its googlebot sees a link back to the original source and handles it correctly.

    Syndicate carefully: If you syndicate your content on other sites, Google will always show the version we think is most appropriate for users in each given search, which may or may not be the version you’d prefer. However, it is helpful to ensure that each site on which your content is syndicated includes a link back to your original article. You can also ask those who use your syndicated material to block the version on their sites with robots.txt.

    Whilst this may well work fine and dandy for people who are behaving themselves, it’s clearly inadequate for those who are not.

    It doesn’t take too much effort to strip an href out of a piece of html. Web scripting languages come complete with all manner of string functions that enable a person to do all manner of imaginative things with some text or HTML. A person looking to rank higher with someone else’s content can rank higher up in a SERP and deprive the rightful owner of both kudos and traffic.

    Has this aspect of their systems contributed to this problem? Is it soley attributable to this particular flaw in their algo? I doubt it, but at the end of it all it sure looks like its contributing.

    List my non existent domain please

    The amazing thing about the story from the site calling itself googlewatchdog is that it appears that someone has managed to fool the googlebot completely, getting it to list domain names that do not even exist.

  • The .cn sites don’t appear to be hosted ANYWHERE. They are simply redirected domain names. How they got ranked in Google in such a short period of time for fairly competitive keywords is a mystery. Google’s index even shows legitimate content for the .cn sites.
  • It appears that the faked sites are redirecting the Googlebot to a location where content can be indexed, while at the same time recognizing normal users and redirecting them to a site that includes the malware mentioned earlier. This is an obvious violation of Google’s guidelines, but the spammers have found ways to circumvent the rule and hide it from the Googlebot.
  • These sites are numbering in the millions for many different keywords and phrases, and appear to be developed on an automated basis. Because of privacy laws, it’s hard to track down who owns the domain names – Google has the power to do so, but there has been about exactly zero information from Google about the problem so far, and even many SEO experts and webmasters are not picking up on it.
  • I’m sure that this has made quite a few people sit up and think hmmn how mad is that. How did they do that then. People can spoof user agents and redirect people or bots all over the shop. They can cloak content and have in the past confused the Google technology into believing that an indexed page resided at one place, when in fact it resided elsewhere. This commonly became known as the 302 hijack a phenomenon that Google stayed silent on for some considerable time, refusing to concede its existence. There were literally hundreds upon hundreds of posts at places like Webmasterworld and the busier webmaster and SEO forums from people complaining about how their content had been replaced by other domains using it as some kind of bait and switch tool.

    Yet this one seems different. Very different indeed in that somehow they’ve managed to get around all the accepted safeguards causing Google to output stuff that was at best inaccurate and at worst decidedly harmful to the recipient computer.

    There is of course always the possibility that the people concerned are unaware of an errant piece of scumware that is simply hijacking their browsers and taking over the Google SERP from David’s piece quoting Dr Jenny Oliver

    “I can’t remember what I put in to search with,” she told me, “as I was idly surfing last night, my Mac was suddenly very busy for several seconds as if installing a program.” She rebooted very quickly after that, but her net connection seemed to have become ominously slow.

    Yet this was after she had clicked and not before. Perhaps she was already infected is a chorus I hear from behind, yet David does go on to say that he too saw it with his own eyes on his own pc, seroundtable also provide a screenshot and a little more background and it seems that the Spam team are aware of the issue too.

    If it is true, then its a big step up from the conventional means of manipulating the Google index. To get into the results for such well known keywords is a bit of a blackhat coup de force and of course a huge headache for the Google technology team too.

    How long before this is plugged? God knows. It’s fair to draw the conclusion that we are very unlikely to hear Google say “Yeah, our index isn’t impregnable, spammers can get right on in and do what they like” It’ll either be bluntly denied or dismissed as some kind of browser hijack. We will no doubt see… Interesting nonetheless 🙂

    Does the Google Algorithm rank pages fairly?


    What do you think? What factors should, in your opinion be counted most in any algo. Is there too much emphasis on link pop? Are authority scores poorly arrived at? What, if anything would you do that would improve it?

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