Thursday, April 21, 2005

SEO For Dummies: Google Patent Application, Sandbox, and Banning

We continue to consider strategies for search engine opimization (SEO) for the blog. Recently Google applied for a US patent on its search algorithms. There is a certain amount of risk in doing that, as the patent process requires a company to publicly reveal the technology it is seeking to patent. For Google this loss of secrecy means:
  1. Competitors will learn what they are doing and try to copy parts of it outside the scope of any patent
  2. Web marketers will be sifting through the documents trying to learn how to increase the search scores of their pages
  3. Items 1 and 2 begin immediately, but it will be awhile before any patent claims are allowed, with no guarantee of allowance at all.
Wayne Hurlbert blogs commercially about commerical blogging, and he takes a look at the Google patent application at Blog Business World - Marketing, Public Relations, Search Engine Optimization and what can be gleaned from it:
"Google does apparently have a Sandbox filter effect. In effect, new sites are placed on probation to see if they last, or if they are only disposable get rich quick spam sites. Those spam sites break every Google guideline in the book, but rise to page one very quickly. The idea of spam websites is to glean as much revenue as possible, prior to a Google banning from their index. Google does ban them too. Don't worry about that one.

To prevent this sort of mischief, Google has instituted the Sandbox to keep the new sites lower in the rankings until they prove their worthiness. While the system might be unfair to new sites, it's a fact of life. There are also some ways of minimizing the damage caused by the Sandbox filter.

New links are held back in value by a fresh link filter. When first added, the new link doesn't transfer its full quota of Google Juice to the receiving page. Over time, the filter dissapates for the link, and all of the link popularity boost power is sent along to the linked site.

Bloggers are less affected because the links are from similar theme relevant blogs. Because the topics discussed are similar, the inbound links are given more weight faster by Google. The fact that links are often from within posts themselves help, as do permanent links from blogrolls.

Google is also rewarding sites that link out to other sites. Talk about another win for bloggers! Bloggers freely link to other blogs and traditional websites. This generous linking policy, shared by most bloggers, is rewarded by Google. Higher search rankings for the helpful blogger are the benefit. The reason for this benefit, resulting from linking out, is to encourage links to other people who provide useful and interesting content. Remember, Google is thinking like a seeker of information."
He includes a link to the patent application itself, if you really want to get down-and-dirty. The so-called Sandbox Filter is discussed further in another post on the same site:
Blog Business World - Marketing, Public Relations, Search Engine Optimization: "The Google Sandbox is an alleged filter placed on new websites. The result is a site does not receive good rankings for its most important keywords and keyword phrases. Even with good content, abundant incoming links and strong Google PageRank, a site is still adversely affected by the Sandbox effect. The Sandbox acts as a de facto probation for sites, possibly to discourage spam sites from rising quickly, getting banned, and repeating the process."
This page is also a perfect example of the SEO Holy Grail of packing the maximum number of repetitions of keywords into a page. He manages to squeeze in 71 instances of the term "Sandbox" in that page, including sticking it into many headings. We're not sure we're ready for that kind of commitment on this blog.

The take home message from the Sandbox is that about the only way around it is to wait it out, but use that time to gather good links (which also have to "age").

Another site, ez Search Engine Optimization, speaks about the value of reciprocal links and the dangers of relying on "link farms" to boost your site's rating. You can get the Google Death Penalty:
Why bother with reciprocal links? Can they really help?: "When search engines revealed the importance of inbound links to a site's perceived importance, link farms sprang up all over the place. A link farm is basically a collection of links on a web site - a place where you could add your site, after all, the more links pointing to your site the better, right? Wrong. Search engines like Google quickly began penalising sites that were listed in the most notorious link farms. Not only were sites PR ZEROD, they were oftern banned from the Google index altogether.

For the search engines, the only type of inbound link that is acceptable, is a link from a site with similar content to your own. So if you are selling inkjet cartridges, don't ask webmasters of clothes sites for a link. Keep your link requests to your own niche. the tighter you keep it, the more chance you have of Google (and other search engines) looking favourably on your site."

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