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April 16, 2007

Gerrymandering Google Search Results

According to Wikipedia.com, “Gerrymandering is a form of redistricting in which electoral district or constituency boundaries are manipulated for an electoral advantage.”

Most states in the US redraw their electoral districts at least every decade. In 36 of the states, the state legislature is responsible for drawing the new districts — in principle to account for shifts in population — and the governor is required to approve those changes.

With nearly every redistricting, the party who is out-of-power generally screams foul. The argument is always that the political party in power adjusted the lines to improve their ability to win elections and control the electoral power structure.

The entire process of redistricting is a good analogy for the Google algorithm changes. The people in power (Google) redraw the lines, and the party out-of-power (the webmasters who dropped in ranking) cry foul, threatening lawsuits and other actions.

Something Right And Something Wrong

Of course, the same webmasters screaming about having dropped in Google’s search results did not have a problem when Google allowed them to climb in the search results previously.

The truly funny thing about it is that when people were on their way up in the Google search results, they told all of their friends that “they” did something right. When they are on their way down, “Google” did something wrong.

Shaky Foundations For Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Problem If the website dropped out of Google’s top 1000 results, then I am willing to bet that in nearly every situation of this type, the webmaster had done something wrong in the last few years, and Google has just now caught on to this infraction.

For example, in years past, link farms were utilized by webmasters and accepted by Google. Then Google began to consider link farms to be “bad neighborhoods.”

Link farms are the kind of thing that can be easily recognized by human and search engine alike. So, the link farms were tagged as “bad neighborhoods” and their values were discounted to zero, and the websites linked from link farms got a minus points for their participation in the link farms.

It was a bad practice that the webmaster had participated, and Google finally got around to penalizing the websites whose rankings were supported by these shaky foundations.

SOLUTION: If you try to put yourself into the shoes of the experts at Google, and you wanted to improve the Google search results, what would YOU do? Before you answer this question, remember that you work for Google and not for yourself. What would you do? What would you do different?

“White hat” and “black hat” SEO methods are an analogy of Search Engine Optimization techniques that refers back to the old cowboy classics, where the “good guy” always wore a “white hat” and the ‘bad guy” always wore a “black hat”.

“White hat” and “black hat” SEO methods are an analogy of Search Engine Optimization techniques that refers back to the old cowboy classics, where the “good guy” always wore a “white hat” and the ‘bad guy” always wore a “black hat”.

While you are working for Google, take a look at the SEO technique you are thinking about using for your own website. Chances are that if you deem a SEO technique to be “gray hat” (something in between ethical SEO and unethical SEO), then chances are that someday that technique will be deemed “black hat” by the Google engineers. And if the SEO technique is “black hat,” it will likely be targeted for discount by Google at some time in the future.

If you delve into “gray hat” or “black hat” SEO, you may be able to rocket to the top of the Google search results quickly, but you will not be able to hold that position for long. Google will eventually get wise to your gimmick.

If you can “white hat” your website to the top of the search results, your future ranking will likely hold its ground for many years to come.

Your Competition Out-Played You

PROBLEM: If a website dropped a few positions in the Google search results, I am willing to bet that in nearly every situation, one of the website’s major competitors out-performed them in the search results.

There are certain things that you can do correctly, to elevate your own listings in the search engine results. Because you have the capability to do these things, your competitors also have the capability to do these things.

Well guess what? Your competitor did what you should have done. They set up marketing systems to ensure that they could climb in the search results, and they climbed enough to pass you by.

SOLUTION: Do those things that you know you should be doing. And more importantly, do them consistently. Your competitor wants your placement in the search results, and they are going to do what it takes for them to get there.

So, it is imperative for you to keep moving forward in the process of building your ranking in the search engines. When you stand still, resting in the comfort zone of where you reside today, then you are bound to be overtaken by someone who wants to be where you are, a little bit more than you do.

Stir That Pot

PROBLEM: If a website dropped a few pages in the search results, the cause for the drop may have been caused by a combination of the two above-mentioned problems: shaky SEO foundations, and hungry competitors.

SOLUTION: Keep your eye on the big picture. You know what you have done to strengthen your website in the past. Keep learning and keep growing.

If you find that something you had done in the past may affect your website negatively in the future, implement “white hat” SEO techniques to strengthen your position, and make plans to eliminate your reliance on “black hat” SEO systems before Google does it for you.

Don’t Make The Mess And You Won’t Have To Clean It Up

Some may think my approach to housecleaning is an indication of laziness. I consider it to be an indication of good time management. I prefer to reserve my time for things that are more enjoyable.

My theory towards housework — and I try to teach this to my kids often — is that if you don’t want to clean up the mess, don’t make the mess in the first place. If the house is not messy, you don’t have to clean it. So, don’t make the house messy.

I utilize the same approach to my websites. If I do it “white hat” and above-reproach the first time, then I won’t have to go in and fix my rankings everytime Google changes their algorithms.

Stop Standing Still

Do remember that for most every search term you compete to rank for, there are probably another one million web pages competing to rank for the same keyword phrase. Getting to the top of the search engine results is a process, not a destination. You must keep competing to maintain your spot at the top of the search results.

If you want to get to the top of the search results, you will have to take positive steps to get there. And, if you want to maintain your top position in the search engines, you need to keep doing the things that put you in that top spot in the first place.

Author:  Bill Platt has been involved in article marketing and link building since 1999. If you are looking to have someone build keyworded anchor text links to your website, using interesting and relevant content as the foundation, then Bill’s team can help you: http://www.LinksandTraffic.com. Bill Platt can be reached by phone at 405-780-7745 between 9am – 6pm CST, Monday through Friday.

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