Ever since the Search Engines started to crawl and index the web content of the Internet, webmasters worldwide have tried to gain their share of the free traffic.
Since the early days, it has been a constant battle between the Search Engines trying to serve the most relevant content to their users, and marketers trying to game the algorithm of the Search Engines to climb in the organic rankings.
Everybody that works with Search Engine Optimization (SEO) knows that the best place to hide a dead body is on page two in Google – because no one ever looks there!.
The early days of web spam
In the beginning, it was effortless to manipulate your rankings, especially “back in the days,” where the Search Engines were mainly looking at your title and meta description.
Then it was just a matter of optimizing your title and meta description with your primary keyword.
It didn’t take a long time before that strategy died out, and the Search Engines started to look at the content and not only the title and meta description.
Then the spammers started to “optimize” the content for keywords – all kinds of creative tactics that could game the system.
One solution was to use the keyword as many times as possible (like adding the keyword a few hundred times in the text’s button and set the text color to white, so it was not visible for a real user to see what was going on.
Clever? Perhaps, but just like “peeing in your pants to keep warm when its winter.” It is a quick solution that might instantly solve your problem, but it is a smelly and messy solution that wouldn’t bring you much joy in the future.
When Google entered the Search Engine Arena
When Google entered the search Search Engine Arena, it turned out to be a game-changer. Many of the established Search Engines started to look like paid directories, and the search results were cluttered with spam – the hungry crowd of Internet users needed something new!.
With the minimalistic functionality of two buttons with “Google Search” and “I’m Feeling Lucky,” it was pretty easy to use – and it worked!
You were able to find relevant webpages using a Search Engine!
Pagerank – The Gamechanger of Search
One of the main reasons for Google’s almost instant success was that they seemed to determine if a website was relevant.
They did that by using a system called Pagerank, and it counts external links as “votes” for websites.
The more votes (links) a website has, the more popular it is. So if you were making a website about “Dogfood” and you would have a lot of other sites linking to your website using the link anchor text “Dog food” Google saw your website as highly relevant for the term “Dogfood.”
Google was even so friendly, so they made a little plugin that showed the Pagerank(PR) score (0-10) of any website you visited.
If you were able to get links for websites with a very high PR, you only needed a few links to rank well in Google.
If you could not get links from very high PR sites, you had to build a ton of links from low PR sites to equalize the score.
Google updated its visible PageRank several times a year, and it was always interesting to monitor if your website has gained PR (then you would know that it would be easier to rank higher).
SEO software automation kicks in
Most humans are lazy by nature, and if it is possible to gain a quick win (without hurting anyone or robbing a bank), it sounds pretty good, right?
So when webmasters found out that Google loved links, then why not give them links? Right? And if you could use a piece of software that could build a couple of hundreds of links every day, that would be a quick win, right?
So instead of chasing high-quality links with high PR, webmasters started to use SEO software.
These programs were able to create profiles on forums with a link back to the user’s website, publishing articles on article directories, automatic directory submission – everything that could be automated and generate a link!
The real lazy even used other people’s content. All they needed to do was to copy an article into an article spinner. Then, the spinner would create a unique article by replacing the synonyms in the original article (that often not reads very well!)
Google battle against webspam
Google needed to react if everybody with a shoestring budget could purchase a piece of software, and spam their way to the top of Google no matter what kind of crappy website they put live.
Google came up with a webspam team, and Matt Cutss became notorious (and feared among spammers).
Google has done all kinds of things to prevent webspam. Many people hated it when they switched off the visible PageRank because it made it harder to find the right websites to target for a juicy backlink.
Google started to look for patterns in spamming, and in some cases, it was straightforward for them to spot those who were able to game the algorithm.
Some of the early steps were looking for low-quality links using the same keyword as anchor text.
If you try to rank for “Dogfood” and all the links pointing to your websites using the anchor text “Dogfood” it is pretty obvious what is going on – it is not a typical link profile.
A typical link profile would be a variation of links using anchor text like your brand name, related keywords, or simple phrases like “read more,” “click here,” “more info,” etc.
Google is smart enough to realize that a link from a Poker forum is not topically related to your site about “Dogfood.”
A contextual link from an article that is topically relevant to your niche is way harder to get than a forum link or a free web directory.
Google puts a lot of data power and AI into understanding the user behaviors behind a search query and the meaning of content.
Can you beat Google when it comes to SEO?
The short answer is yes, but if you want to participate in that game, be prepared for setbacks!.
Think about the amount of data Google has access to millions of Android devices searching on Google, millions of users using the Chrome browser (and Gmail), or the websites that are using Google Analytics.
They have millions of data points showing them the exact user journey from a search carried out, to the actual visit on the web page.
How do the users react? Do they bounce when they hit the web page after Google sends them to you? Do they read through your content, or do they click on a link?
Google has access to all those data.
Can the Algorithm still be manipulated?
Yes, people would always see if it’s possible to game the system – free traffic is money, and you are only chasing the free organic traffic and use a “churn and burn” strategy.
There are systems built for sending fake search traffic to websites, so it looks like a lot of users are finding what they are looking for – and the rankings of the website increase.
Affiliate marketers can pull in a lot of money if they can rank for a high competitive keyword – even its a short period.
Then they move on, rinse, repeat their process, and start all over using another domain.
If you are serious about your business and rely on organic traffic, this is not the route you should take!
It is like riding a brand new sportscar; sure, you can put it to the metal and drive like a maniac just because you can.
If you are being pulled over by the police, you risk a fine or perhaps your driver’s license.
If you do the same with your website, Google might kick you out of their index.
So if you are building an online presence and a brand for your business, you better stick for quality over quantity.
Focus on your core business, not about ranking a bunch of low-quality websites – that is like being a “Jack of all trades, master of none!”.
Is all SEO software evil?
Not! SEO software is, for most parts, highly useful if you use them the right way.
It is just like a chainsaw – it’s a fantastic tool to chop down trees, but if you apply them on humans, you are in serious trouble!. (Please don´t do that!)
Why should you not examine your competitor’s content and determine where they get their backlinks?
If you can write a better piece of content, answer the user’s questions, and provide a super user experience and gain free organic traffic from Google, why not do it?
If Google uses AI to serve the best search experience, why should you not use AI tools to help you generate the content the users and Google wants?
The difference in the approach is if you are trying to refine and improve your content, rather than solely manipulating Google.
I use a lot of different SEO tools for various purposes – and I love to test new tools as well.
SEO tools that promise quick rankings overnight are usually not on the market for a long time – when a loophole has been closed, they tend to vanish.
The tools that provide insights and value seems to stick – and you will find several tools that have been tested and used by SEOs and webmasters for years.
The future of SEO: Authority
It is always hard to make predictions – especially about the future.
When it comes to SEO, there is no doubt that we would keep seeing algorithm changes, and there would still be marketers that would try to manipulate the SERPs.
SEO is like having a kitchen garden – if you want to grow some vegetables, it takes time, and you need to nurse your garden.
If you are too lazy or too impatient growing your vegetables, you can buy them at the supermarket – that is the difference between SEO and SEM.
If you focus on your users, needs, and behaviors, you are already doing some level of Search Engine Optimization.
There is no doubt that Google focuses hard in the future to determine if a website is a legit company, individual, or individual or just a webspam entity.
If you study Google’s quality guidelines, you might have stumbled upon E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).
So if you use your website to give expert advice about “how to cure cancer,” Google needs to verify that you have the expertise and authority before they even consider ranking your site.
As a business owner, you need to look like a business. Create social profiles around your website, show your address and phone number, and be transparent.
Instead of chasing after the next shiny object that promises to rank you “overnight,” focus on your business and your customers and create fantastic comments.
If you play by the book, you should not be affected of any future webspam algorithm changes in Google.
Keep your site fast, mobile-friendly, easy to navigate with lots of useful content.
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