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Has Your Website Been G-Slapped?

Aug 17, 2007
Getting to the top of the search engines has never been easy and the bad news is that it has gotten even harder, especially if you are trying to peak Mt. Google

Recently, with respect to information quality, Google raised the bar even higher with another algorithm tweak that effectively reshuffled (and in some cases evaporated) page rank across thousands of web pages.

Thus if your website's PR (or that of its inner pages) recently stole quietly away in the middle of the night with nary a goodbye take consolation in the knowledge that you are not alone; this calamity has befallen countless others.

The latest Google algorithm tweak/update has been pretty widespread and non-discriminatory in nature, targeting both new sites and well established veteran sites too.

In the good ole days it used to be that a gray page-rank bar was indicative of a website/web page that had been banned from the Google index but that seems to no longer be the case. Lately it would appear that being grayed-out merely reflects a webpage/website that is under probation (of course in certain cases a gray PR band could actually reflect a banned website/web page).

So what does this all really mean?

Google Web Paradise

Understanding Google's goals and objectives is fundamental to search-engine optimizing your website effectively and correctly within their guidelines. The first thing you need to appreciate is that online search is a business. Google is Top Dog in the search engine business for two very simple reasons:

1. Google returns the most accurate results for any given search query.

2. Of all the search engines, Google has the fastest retrieval rate for almost all queries.

Being number one for both the above listed parameters obviously has major advantages; it ensures that more people flock to use your search engine and, as has been proven time and time again, where the crowds gather the advertisers hover not far behind.

Advertisers want to get the best bang for their buck so they will naturally tend to spend their dollars where they can get the greatest percentage of targeted and relevant eyeballs; which means advertising on the major search engines (of which surprise, surprise) Google is the leader!

Google's domination of online search is a tangential derivation of the saying "The Richer Get Richer," because as Google gets better and leaves the other search engines floundering in their dust, more and more people (and advertisers) will naturally tend to gravitate to them!

The New SEO Horizon

The first thing that should be understood is that the debate about the existence of the Google Sandbox has been laid to rest once and for all. It exists and has become even more expansive as well as having gotten more rigid!

As of January 2005, Google had over 100,000 servers with which to store data in its cache index. The cache index is where Google stores a copy of every page that the googlebot crawls on the internet.

Those web pages that eventually make it into the Google Primary Index (the index that displays the resulting listings in response to a query) are the pages that have been evaluated as most relevant and qualified for that particular query.

Web pages or websites that Google evaluates to be comprised of largely duplicate material that is already in its index are relegated to the supplemental index (the backburner). The supplemental index contains web pages and/or websites that Google considers, for all intents and purposes, to be irrelevant.

In other words you do not want your website to end up in the supplemental index because nobody will ever get to see it!

In 2006 Google suffered a very major server-overload crisis. Since then they have acquired several more servers, but this new algorithm tweak/update tends to suggest that they are leaning much more towards the principle of efficiency-and-quality versus volume-and-quantity.

In essence it appears that Google is adopting an approach geared towards maximizing efficiency of storage and organization of data. This by its very nature means restricting the amount of content that gets crawled, cached and eventually indexed (i.e., saves server space) as opposed to trying to accommodate every single piece of data that is drifting across the internet.

This certainly may go some distance explaining the zeal and passion with which they executed operation "gray band" that affected thousands of websites and web pages.

Recovering From Being G-Slapped

If your website/web pages have recently been demoted (loss of page rank) or now shamefully display a grayed-out PR bar where once a shimmering green existed, then your website has indeed been Google slapped!

So where do you go from there?

There's a saying that states "understanding the nature of the beast is the first step in divining its true intent" (which is just a fancy way of saying: if you know what makes something tick then you'll be better able to predict its future actions."

Keeping that in mind, it is possible to deduce the following aspects from the May 2007 Google update:

1. A gray PR band will be the norm for all new websites and web pages; in other words think "probation period." The length of time the PR bar remains grayed-out for any particular website/web page is dependent upon a number of factors which include:

a) How unique the content on a web page is. Pages that boast highly original and unique content will tend to be released from the gray zone quicker.

b) A web page that has a lot of unique traffic will have a shorter probation period (note that the origin of that traffic is something the search engines factor in to rule out sneaky play by individuals attempting to game the search engines).

c) Links! Links! Links! Yes, when it comes to SEO it is impossible to ignore the link factor. A page that "naturally" acquires a good number of topically related links will experience a shorter probation period.

d) Greater link activity will increase the importance of the destination page whereby such a web page will tend to attain higher PR quicker. This makes sense because a hyperactive links denotes popularity (websites that are popular are so because people find them useful).

e) The amount of time people spend on your site is also an important parameter that the search engines take into account. People tend to spend more time on websites that they find useful and the search engines can determine that fact through the use of sophisticated tracking scripts.

Bottom line: It is becoming increasingly difficult to game the search engines (the use of blackhat techniques) as their algorithms get smarter and more sophisticated.

The May 2007 Google update amply illustrates that Google is aggressively gunning for its vision of Web Paradise which by necessity means smacking down hard on websites that offer little useful function to that vision!

Simply put, if you wish your website to advance up the SERPs you need to make it user oriented. Visitor use and appreciation of a website appears to be the single strongest factor in determining that website's eventual position on the SERPs in Google's brave new Web Paradise!
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