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SEO after Google's Florida Update
Last Updated: 2004-04-17 14:31:05
Google's search engine results are by far not what they used to be. Google built it's popularity by having a very fast and powerful search engine that indexed pages deep within a site. Results were said to be unbiased and ranked by popularity of the page across the entire internet. While Google still does what it used to do, competition for popular keywords has mounted significantly over the years. In addition, low quality webmasters and search engine optimization companies have come up with many tricks into fooling the popular search engine into ranking a page higher than it should be ranked. With the so-called Florida update of November 2003, Google attempted to crack down on efforts to boost the ranking of a site by unethical means.
The effect of the Florida update was much more far-reaching than this. Quality sites that had good ranking for years saw their rankings drop by hundreds or disappear from the result pages entirely. Small business and small e-commerce sites were especially hard-hit. Many sites that the update targeted had never used any form of search engine spam.
Why was this happening?
Over the years, Google's Adwords program has allowed the company to compile a huge database of the value of specific keyword searches. From this data, Google not only knows what's a popular keyword, but how much a click for that keyword is worth. What they have done is create a filter where popular keyword searches return altered results. These altered results tend to display .gov and .org sites above .com sites. To test if this filter is activated by a keyword, enter a search such as first aid kits, them try first aid kits -idsfawlfafowlf. The results are different. Why? The second search included the exclusion of a junk keyword. This turned off the extra filter that altered the search results. Clearly then, Google is now returning biased results. I see this as Google giving up the fight against spam by blocking commercial sites for popular spam keywords and replacing the results with .gov, .org, informational results, and well-known commercial sites. If a searcher wants to buy a first aid kit, they'll have to look to their right at the Adwords column and click there. And a click there means $$ in Google's pockets.
But it gets worse. Google's search engine results pages (SERPs) are now displaying high spam sites near the top of the list for many competitive keywords. We have done quite a lot of research on this and have found Google to be returning more spam-rich results than any other major search engines for keywords that are not affected by the filter mentioned previously. We have observed computer generated doorway pages of a site being ranked far above any actual content pages of a site. It seems now that Google is easier to fool with spam than it ever has been for keywords that are not filtered, so long as a site's home page has established a page rank of 5 or above.
Many internet searchers are finding it harder to find quality websites returned for popular keyword searches. Don't get me wrong, Google is still a very powerful search engine for finding strings of text, model numbers, full product titles, music lyrics, and any other specific phrase. But for popular keyword searches, filtered or not, Google leaves the searcher wondering... what happened?Many are now saying Google sucks!
Many webmasters and search engine optimization companies are also wondering what happened? The question is how do we now optimize our sites for Google? The answer is at best a guess for anyone at this point in time. True and ethical SEO companies have always had the policy to not use any form of spam to increase a site's ranking. This is what we have always recommended. Spam may allow a site short-lived gains, but in the long run hurts everybody... the search engines, the searchers, the customers, competition in business, and website developers.
Our suggestion on website development with search engine optimization is what it always has been. Create a well functioning site with each major idea on a different page. Have a lot of quality, relevant text on each page, maybe a link to a deep-page of an external site that provides related, relevant, quality information and a lot of text. Organize the site in a hierarchical format with clear navigational paths for both the user and the search engine. Use link text related to the title of the linked page. Anything that you can do with text to enhance your website for the user will also enhance it for the search engines.
Google has become a monster search engine, catering to big business and serving biased and spam results for popular keywords. I recommend alltheweb.com... providing a simple interface and excellent results.
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