Google Webmaster Guidelines > Tricks and Manipulation
This Google guideline leaves alot of people scratching their heads, if we aren't supposed to try to get better ranking then what are we supposed to do? The answer Google would give is that we should create quality content, but many have created quality content and still find themselves ranked abysmally on Google. How realistic is it to expect anyone not to try to change our ranking?
Unfortunately many people have been told ways to improve their rankings by SEO consultants, friends or articles on the net that used to work for people but now have stopped working. Because of this "collected wisdom" of how to improve your ranking, many people are now using "tricks" without even knowing it.
The goal of my website is to help people find ways to follow the Google webmaster guidelines, but I have to admit that I couldn't wait to make a good, clean website that was following the guidelines and see what happened. I avoided "tricks" when making this website. I avoided everything Google recommends to avoid. I followed the guidelines. I almost expected that this website wouldn't do well in Google because in my attempt to "be clean" I did not do many things that are considered by SEO "experts" as good ideas.
Here are a couple of things I did that were specifically against what most SEO "experts" are saying, but are recommended by the guidelines. These things are "tricks of the trade", but in the case of this website, didn't end up really mattering.
Things I did that were against conventional wisdom, but are recommended by the Google webmaster guideline "Make pages for users, not search engines".
Domain name - most people say keywords should be in your domain name.
My domain name is "feedthebot.com" - It has no keywords in it at all.
I owned "googleguidelines.com" but chose not to use it because it would violate the trademark of Google. I owned "webmasterguideline.com" and chose not to use it because it is long and cumbersome. I thought of a shorter memorable name and decided upon "feedthebot".
When choosing my domain name I thought of users. Is it memorable to people? I did not think of search engines.
Word Usage - Most people say to have certain keywords in certain positions or certain percentages or to repeat your keywords a whole bunch of times within your content.
As I wrote my web pages, I did not write it or change one word of it for what search engines "want" I wrote all my pages
in the same way I writing this one right now, with users in mind. If me explaining how to follow a guideline does not require
me using keywords then I will not add them just because search engines "want" them. It is more important that I explain the
guidelines well then it is to rank for various terms in Google or any other search engine. I want people to find this site
useful. If they do, they will tell their friends, or recommend it to others. (By the way, if you find this site useful -
tell your friends!) A website - ON ANY SUBJECT - that is useful and recommended by people to each other will become more
successful than a "perfectly optimized for search engines" website.
When writing my web pages my goal is to useful to people reading it, not to search engines.
Are those "tricks"?
Choosing your domain name wisely and the way you use words within your website are common examples of where virtually
everyone (including myself sometimes) thinks of search engines over users. I am not stating this is good or bad, I am just
saying that a great amount of people think about search engines first when making decisions about their site.
According to Google and this guideline - they are tricks. (I don't think they are, but this website is about the guidelines...)
This first sentence of this guideline states -
"Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings."
If there is a technique you are using that is intended to improve your search engine ranking, Google is pretty much saying that you are using tricks.
That seems ridiculous
Yes it does seem ridiculous, I agree. Why follow the Google webmaster guidelines then, is that a trick too? I highly
doubt you are here because my writing is so entertaining to read, if you are researching these guidelines and reading this
page it is likely that you are trying to discover ways to improve your ranking in Google. The common goal of almost website
is to increase it's ranking in search engines.
Google knows this, just like you and I know this. Google attempts to give their users relevant search results, in order to do that they have to rank possible matches to a search query based upon something.
If there were only ten websites about "hotels" for example, it would be pretty easy for Google to give the best ten results for a search query of "hotels". Since there are over 370 million web pages that mention the word "hotel", Google has some very real challenges to rank all those pages into some sort of order. But they do. (side note: when I just searched Google for "hotels", only half of the top ten results used the word "hotel" in the domain name.) In order to give good results, it must determine what sites are the most relevant. The process it uses is complex, but it is based upon the things that are explained in their guidelines.
The Google webmaster guidelines spell out what an "ideal" website is (and how it acts) in the eyes of Google.
In their opinion it would seem, a website that is concentrating on quality content is better than a website that is concentrating on search engine results.
There may seem to be some fundamental problems with the above sentence. For example, what if someone who is concentrating on quality content creates a bad or inaccurate website that sucks, and another person creates a great website that is better but also concentrates on search engines? Wouldn't the better website be, er.. better?
Yes the better website is still better but...
Google finds certain actions that websites take undesirable, not because they care what your website says, but because they are seeking ways to reach their goal. Their goal is to provide relevant results. Since there are billions of web pages they must seek large scale trends to help them identify what sites are relevant.
If the website is "better" than it can be identified as "better" through the other factors that Google uses. No one guideline is a complete picture. Google uses over a hundred different factors in "judging" a websites relevance.
Why tricks stop working
Every technique that has ever been used to manipulate Google search engine results has gone through the following process...
1) Someone discovers an action that increases their rankings in the Google index
2) Other people notice and start using that action on their websites
3) Google notices and devalues that action rendering it useless
4) Google applies filters and penalties to websites using that action - THOSE WEBSITES ARE NOW IDENTIFIED AS USERS OF TRICKS
5) Someone discovers another action....
This circle of events will occur every time a manipulative technique is introduced to the web (some work longer than others but they all get identified eventually)
The evolution of a trick - Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train
Let's say that someone discovers that if you make your page title "Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train" and make your description "Online poker site that is bunches of fun" then it will achieve top ranking for the key words "online poker". At first the person who discovers this will enjoy the top ranking for online poker.
His competitors will ask themselves "Hey, Why is my competitor out ranking me for "online poker" with a title like "Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train"? They will say, well if it works, I am going to try it. They then change their titles and begin ranking well too. Soon the top ten results for "online poker" each have the title "Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train"
Then it is discovered that that title will work on other subjects too. The people who have experimented with this are people who are actively finding ways to manipulate rankings. They charge other people to give advice like "make your title say 'Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train'".
Others who notice this write articles like "How to boost your search engine rankings through "Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train"
Now, someone like a friend, an SEO consultant or an article tells you to use that title and it will help your ranking.
You change your title. It works for a while.
Google catches on and devalues that trick.
You and thousands of other people get mad because your web pages are not ranking the way they should.
"How can this be?", you and thousands of others will exclaim, "My website is great and I did everything I was supposed to do, like making my title "Potato Daddy Poo Poo Train" and all the other things I have done to make my webpage great."
By using that title, you have not only lost your rankings now, you have also associated yourselves with pages and techniques that are attempting to manipulate search engine results. You are now "less trustworthy".
The only guidance that Google has provided as recommendations are the Google webmaster guidelines.
The best place to get information about is Google is Google itself. The information Google has provided is their webmaster guidelines.
Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you'd feel comfortable explaining what you've done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, - Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?
This article was written by Patrick Sexton, who has been helping webmasters with the Google Webmaster Guidelines and other issues since 2005.