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21 October 2011

SEO Search Engine Optimisation

Search Engine Manipulation

In my own home town of Derby, there is a driving school named Aardvark. I know nothing about this animal and I have no idea whether it has any characteristics which lend itself well to good driving instruction. All I do know is that due to its slightly odd spelling, it appears very near the front of the Dictionary.

Taking the cynical view, it’s this relative position in word order which makes this particular driving school appear at the top of the list in Yellow Page (remember them?) and as such is best positioned to get enquiries from lazier searchers.

Manipulation of the systems of organising information is clearly nothing new. It’s a natural state of affairs and it results in weird idiosyncrasies such as obscure African mammals laying name to driving schools in a UK heartland town.

Fast forward to the new millennium and information is rarely accessed via the Yellow pages but by the web – most notably search engines. And so the game of information manipulation moves online but it's in no-ones interest that this should be possible becasue...

  • Users - Don't want to waste their time sifting through bad results
  • Google - Wants to look after users in order to keep market share
  • Businesses - Ask those who are at the top (on merit!) if they would like those below to maniupluate their way above them!

Google spends a huge amount of time and effort in making sure the BEST web pages appear in the SERPS. How they decide upon the best page is a big topic for discussion elsewhere. But ever since the first search engine appeared via our 56k dial up connections, manipulation of SERPs order has been rife - quickly followed by Googles response.

Google Algorithm Updates

If we happy to accept bad search results, we’d all switch to Yahoo. Google are so ubiquitous because they provide the best results (though Bing may argue that). The following is only the most general of guides as to some of the manipulation techniques used over the years and  whilst Google is always improving the way in which it determines rankings, there has been some major updates which have, in part, targetted specific SERP manipulation practices.

  • Keyword Density – Florida in 2003

  • Hidden Text/Links – Cassandra in 2002

  • Meta Tag “Stuffing” – Austin in 2004

  • Reciprocal Linking – Jagger in 2005

  • Link Farming – Panda in 2011

  • Paying for links – Jagger

  • Similar Content on multiple URL’s – Bourbon 2005

  • “Dubious” unnatural linking practices – Allegra 2005

  • Blog Commenting – Nofollow in 2005

  • Article Marketing – Attribtution 2011

    Google Algorithm vs Grey Hat

The list above is not exhaustive and only skims the service - if other SEO's want to change, amend or add to it, please comment below. What business owners need to take away from this, though is that when it comes to SERP’s manipulation techniques, the smart money is on Google winning.

Unless you can give a real reason as to why your site should rank highly for a given word or phrase, it is unlikely that Google will simply bestow that privilege upon you. Part of the role of a good SEO, is to help businesses understand how the search engines work and guide them as to how to improve their traffic and their conversions. What they can’t do is force the search engines to rank a page highly. But once a business has the right understanding and support, their marketing outlook is changed forever.

Personally, I enjoy talking to other traditional marketing managers about Search Marketing and encourage you to get in touch. What is certain though, if someone told you to change your business name to Aardvark to get ahead, you should chuck that idea on the same pile as bad "SEO".

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