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This post is going to create a bit of a stir, but before I get into the meat of the content, I want to make a few points. First of all, I know that building a search engine can’t be an easy thing. If it was, Microsoft’s billions pumped into Bing would have gave it more than a few % market share. Trying to create an algorithm which brings back relevant websites when everyone is trying to reverse engineer and ‘game’ the system has to be one of the hardest technical challenges for a business in the last decade. That being said, it amazes me that every SEO blog is preaching the same old things that they’ve been saying for years.
One person I was disappointed to see doing this was Rand at
SEOMoz. I won’t say his surname, as I don’t want this post to rank for his name (I don’t like ‘outing’, either). SEOmoz has been a website I’ve read for as long as I’ve been doing this stuff, back when Oatmeal used to be their CTO and Rebecca and Jane were regularly posting on the blog. I’m a huge fan, but what Rand recently advocated on his blog is just… totally misguided the total opposite to what is really working right now.
The only reason I mention Rand – and again I have a huge respect for how they run their business – is because SEOmoz is without a doubt the most trusted resource online for people looking to learn SEO. While I can understand that preaching “build good content, focus on growing your brand’ sounds great and it’s what people want to hear, for a HUGE percentage of search phrases, this is just no longer relevant.
I just can’t take anyone seriously who mentions these things anymore in 2013, and wonder if the SEOmoz / Rand content focus would be different if they still worked with clients and had to struggle to explain why crappy websites with no links are outranking them.
It was a little disheartening to see people thanking Rand for all of his insights on that post, when really – not for all, but a HUGE majority of phrases – this kind of stuff just isn’t relevant any more.
This is not only happening for me, but happening for my clients as well. I’m not very open about the fact that I offer SEO services (purely link building) and myself and Diggy only have six clients. Those clients do have close to 50 websites with us though. The fact is that even some of the sister sites we’re building for our customers and our own brands are easily outranking the websites we’ve worked on for years which have thousands of links which are all entirely natural.
As much as I wish that I could continue to preach ‘create great content, get connections, get links”, that simply isn’t the case in the vast majority of industries that I enter. I’m left with no choice but to build new sites, play by the opposite rules, and get traffic and links that way. I’ve received a few emails from some pissed off people anytime I mention anything “Blackhat”. If you’re likely to be pissed off, stop reading.
It won’t come close to when my sites which fit all the “Google rules” are outranked by 2 week old sites who have spammed themselves with SENuke or Xrumer.
I am pretty public about no longer believing in Whitehat vs Blackhat SEO. If you’re doing anything to try and get more links to move up the Google rankings, you’re ‘manipulating’ the algorithm one way or the other. I’ve got to the point now where I’ve just accepted the state Google is in this year and started following the crowd for what works. Myself and my clients have sites on both sides of the fence (old with a ton of natural links and new with very few links) so how Google swings doesn’t make much difference to me at all.
I put the majority of the blame down to Google’s hunt to become the freshest search engine, and they’re forgetting about legacy content which had been ranking for years. Many of which has thousands of relevant backlinks. Let’s start with something close to home…
Since we’re talking about SEO, I thought an SEO search result would be good to start things off.
Unless I’m searching for a restaurant chain and want a list of all their international websites, no one brand should ever have the first 5 results in Google. Especially not for such a diverse term as WordPress SEO where lots of people have great guides on the subject, cough.
I believe that Google is totally right in giving Yoast the top or even the top 2 spots – he has an amazing plugin which I proudly use on my other blogs – but 5 is a little overboard to me. Leaving that aside, the other results don’t really deserve to be their either in my opinion. There are far, far better results that are a few pages back, but they lack in the freshness stakes (a.k.a when they were published).
Finding people before they’re about to build a website online is hugely lucrative. For this screenshot, I did remove a ton of ads which were before the organic search results, but that still leaves a lot of money on the table.
I can accept that Google but Youtube high up in their rankings. Even if they claim they don’t have a bias in ranking their own web property highly, please tell me how many times you see Vimeo, Wistia or Daily Motion in the search results. Even ignoring the fact that it’s the same guy on two different profiles – meaning he’s clearly figured out what works – these backlinks just tell you the whole story:
Spam, spam, spam. To the top of Google I go for a phrase which could easily pull in 5-figures per month if you do it right. Web hosting commissions are absolutely huge.
I sincerely hope that I’m missing something fairly obvious here and someone makes me look stupid in the comments, but there are just too many examples on this site which are ranking highly with fresh dates, but the comments on the articles just don’t seem to add up.
You can argue how legitimate the truth about abs program actually is, but it has pulled in millions of dollars and been featured on Tim Ferriss’ blog, so you can’t deny it has some authority. The fact that it’s only on the second page of Google is mind-blowing. Even more so when entire first page is linking to them.
When it comes to health related questions, it’s even more worrying that Google are sending people to very new videos and sites, all focused on getting affiliate sales. Thankfully the keyphrase ‘signs of a heart attack’ still has quality results. I mention that phrase as it’s something that ex-CEO Eric Schmidt often uses as an example in why it’s important for Google to load search results quickly.
This is the only search result where I can kind of understand why freshness would be involved, but showing results from the last few days – or even just 20 hours ago – seems a little excessive. It’s almost like Google are disregarding that good search results might have been created in 2012, 2011 or gasp, 2010 and earlier.
I just wanted to add that I did remove one search result from this page so I could fit the last one in with one screenshot.
I hate the idea of “outing” search results and sites – honestly – so I didn’t want to put in too many examples here. Just enough to show you what I’m seeing on a daily basis. I live and breathe SEO, and I have clients which rely on me staying up to date with what is happening, so none of this surprises me anymore. As soon as I mentioned Penguin 2 and Neverwet on my last blog post, the rankings slipped overnight, despite that they had been there for weeks or months. I do apologise in advance if the sites in question receive some negative penalties as a result of this post. Hopefully Google will be more focused on the algorithm as a whole rather than handing out manual actions.
The reason so many people are seeing quick success with mine and Diggy’s Backlinks XXX program is partly down to this freshness algorithm being too far tweaked to the right. That and we do show how to get quality links a lot easier than the average Joe. While we do show a number of examples in the course of sites which rank highly with no content, we do still advise that your “money site” is a great site for end users. We also don’t do any spamming of links at all [insert my no such thing as Whitehat argument here]. If you do click the Backlinks XXX link, apologies in advance for the weird landing pages I have up. We’re doing some PPC split-testing just to learn more about cold (new) marketing visitors.
This does not go against what I posted about recently, showing how there’s a lot of money to be made focusing on events and upcoming products. There is a reason Google include freshness in their algorithm. When people do a search for the Xbox One, they don’t want to see results for the Xbox 360. And when a new book comes out, Google wants to show people exactly what they’re looking for. Google see’s totally unique search phrases every single day that have never been looked for in the history of their search engine. Just think about that for a second.
I’ve been talking about this kind of things for months now on my email list (enter your email in the yellow box below…the content is awesome I promise) so if you followed me a few months ago, at least your sites will have some domain age and a mixture of backlinks, so any changes to this algorithm would still be in a positive light for you.
Finally, for anyone who is going to comment that these tactics will only work in the short term, I’ve seen results like this for at least the last year. Even if some of the sites don’t stay up for long (a few months now for ‘how to make a website’), when you’re ranking for a lucrative term, you don’t need to be there for long to make a lot of money.
Not every single search phrase out there is being gamed so openly or easily, but there’s enough happening for me to comfortably say these are the worst search results I’ve seen in years.
Update: I’ve had two (literally only two) people question these examples and suggest they could be better. I just want to reiterate, I have dozens if not hundreds more of these. You can read the comments here or on Rand’s blog post to see pretty much every other marketer is seeing it. Don’t worry about these specifically, worry about what you’re seeing as a searcher every single day as well.
If you think these kind of search results are fine then don’t worry, Google does as well. But I’m not in the same boat with you…