For anyone who has ever agonized with prospective victims waiting to be axed in American Idol,
or the many other reality shows, welcome to the
web version, where your sites can literally make
or break during 'The Google Dance.'
The Google Dance, simply put, is the term given to the monthly update of Google's search index. Small changes occur every day, but once a month, the whole index orders itself, absorbing newly scanned sites, and removing obsolete ones.
It is simultaneously eagerly awaited and dreaded by web professionals to see if the many changes they have implimented on their client's sites have made the cut.
It may not sound much like an edge-of-the-seat drama, but it really can be unnerving, especially if a business relies solely on Internet traffic for income. For these people, even a slight downward movement on the most popular search engine on the planet, Google, can spell disaster.
As I have mentioned in previous articles, the search engines are a law unto themselves. They need to be carefully studied, nurtured, understood, and treated with reserved terror. They can be your best friend one day, and your bitterest enemy the next. Your position can change with no justification other than you didn't keep up with the program.
Search engines are constantly adding and removing pages. That is only common sense when you consider the global nature of the Internet. It would not be unrealistic to presume that 1000 sites, in direct competition with you, could suddenly appear between each update.
Let's play a numbers game. Let's play a numbers game. If even 2% of those sites were developed by professionals who formulated their own search engine optimization (SEO) systems, and each had only 15 pages (average), that still leaves 300 results that could potentially banish you to page 30 in one swoop.
This is the one area that most web designers fail purely because it takes so much hard work and patience to keep up with. An even more frustrating element is that as soon as you have a strategy worked out, the dance rules change, and they perform sweeping changes to the algorithms used to scan and rank pages.
There have been two such cataclysmic Google overhauls recently, one in November 2003 and most recently in January 2004. Both were very major events aimed at removing scam sites that use unethical techniques, such as hidden pages, invisible text, misleading descriptions, affiliate link programs, and page redirects, to try to fool the searches to get higher placements.
In the traditions of hurricane naming, these overhauls, Google's 6th and 7th, have been named the Florida and Georgia updates. As with any disasters, these two house-cleanings resulted in the removal of millions of pages previously listed on Google.
I am sure that many smaller sites got undeservedly
axed because a solid SEO system was not
implemented or maintained regularly.
Did these updates achieve anything ? Yes and no. I must admit, it's nice to search and get only a few results that are totally irrelevant and misleading. I am sure that many smaller sites got undeservedly axed because a solid SEO system was not implemented or maintained regularly.
Looking to the future, obviously these changes can not be revoked without letting the scam sites back in. However, I am sure they will be tweaked to allow some of the innocent bystander sites back into the index once their designers comply with the new rules.
Did this reshuffle set back all the hard work companies like us have put into SEO? Not really, it was aimed at bad SEO techniques and affiliate programs. Although it did cause a few ripples and sleepless nights for us, we're still standing, and so are our clients.
Next month - Post Georgia - a new Internet opportunity?
Terry Young is the founder and CEO of Internet Marketing and Design,
the award winning web and multimedia design agency in Chesapeake.
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