All About Content

Over-optimization of a Wikipedia Article

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, February 29, 2008 at 10:39 am

Does an over-optimization penalty exist? And what counts as over-optimization? I came across this discussion on on the “950 penalty” on Webmaster World. They posit that too many internal links with optimized anchor text is what triggers an over-optimization penalty. And maybe they are onto something.

This week I was testing the effect of increased cross-linking on a Wikipedia page — by finding related articles and linking back to the target, by adding the target to more relevant categories — and I probably doubled the number of internal pages linking to the one I wanted to boost.

Instead of boosting the page in the SERPs, it appears this effort might have torpedoed the page. This morning it was nowhere to be found in the top 100 results anywhere. It’s not a competitive term, and none of the other results appear to have changed dramatically, so it seems reasonable to me to assume it was something about this page, not the results in general, and that there was a causal relationship between the links and the drop.

I’m not entirely surprised that “excessive” interlinking could hurt; I’m just surprised that (what I’d consider to be) a moderate amount of interlinking could get a Wikipedia page penalized so quickly. I truly believed pages on that domain were more robust and could stand up to that strategy. (After all, there is a ton of internal linking and all internal links on Wikipedia use optimized anchor text.)

Well, time to undo some of those links and see if it comes back.

Update: March 2
I removed most, but not all, the internal links and the listing came back rather quickly, though in a lower position than before.

On an upbeat note … I managed to get a Wikipedia page erased from Google, temporarily? Damn, how awesome is that?

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Category: Google,Link Building

2007 Search Statistics

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, February 7, 2008 at 3:36 pm

ComScore’s Year in Review press release seems to underscore the principle that the rich keep getting richer: Google, of course, saw more gains, as did Wikipedia (which some conspiracy theorists seem to think is in cahoots with Google somehow) and Craigslist.

Facebook traffic jumped 81% year over year to 34.7 million visitors, now that registration is open to non-students (including quite a few pets, if Stewie’s ever growing circle of Facebook friends is any indication).

The release goes on to say that “the top-gaining site categories in 2007 reflected trends in both the online and offline worlds. The politics category grabbed the top position, gaining 35%, as the 2008 presidential election and primary season kicked into high gear.” Not to be outdone by current events of any gravity, sites devoted to celebrity entertainment news, “from Britney Spears’ meltdowns to Anna Nicole Smiths death,” kept up with an equally impressive 32% increase in visitors.

In total — including all searches for Britney, Anna Nicole and even “poop porn” — more than 113 billion core searches were conducted in the U.S. last year, with Google representing a 56% share of the market.

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Category: Data,Google,Social Media,User Behavior

What Happened to the Supplemental Index (aka Google Hell)?

Posted by Melanie Phung on Thursday, December 20, 2007 at 12:26 pm

Breaking news: there’s more FUD about showing up in Google results!!! SSDD, as they say.

Google has announced they’re getting rid of the supplemental index, but I honestly don’t see what the big deal is. If your pages were crappy (or irrelevant or obscure or esoteric, or whatever gets them banished into the supplemental index), why would placing them into the main index make them any more likely to rank well? In other words, if your page is no good, what’s the difference between being in the supplemental index and being ranked #568 on some long-tail query?

“Oh, but supplemental results aren’t recrawled as often.” Right, but so what? No guarantee you’ll get crawled more often just because they combined the two indexes/indices now. “Oh, but my site didn’t deserve to be in the supplemental index in the first place!” But the point is that Google thought it did; and Google is still not going to think you deserve to rank well.

All the things you needed to do to get out of Supplemental Hell are the same things you’re still going to have to do to get found and showing up high in the results… and now you’re competing with that much more garbage in the main index.

The only stuff of mine I ever saw in Google’s Supplemental Hell was a lot of duplicate content stuff that I never wanted crawled in the first place. If anything, this change will make it harder for me to get Google to spend its resources on the pages I want it to be indexing. As far as I’m concerned, Google is just dumping garbage back into the main index.

Not an improvement for webmasters or searchers.

Original Google Webmaster Central post here:

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Category: Google

Google Limiting Subdomains in SERPs

Posted by Melanie Phung on Friday, December 7, 2007 at 5:38 pm

News from PubCon: Google is looking to reduce the occurance of subdomains in SERPs.

That doesn’t sound nearly as exciting as “Google is going to start treating subdomains like directory folders when it comes to deciding how many results to show per page” as is implied in a recent Search Engine Roundtable post, but that’s still pretty interesting news out of Vegas this week.

According to Matt Cutts, “in some circumstances, Google may move closer to treating subdomains as we do with subdirectories [sic].”

Either way, the characterization of this is a “filter” seems apt. Sites have long used and abused subdomains as a way to dominate the SERPs – rather than getting just 2 of the 10 spots on a results page, savvy webmasters have known that 5 subdomains on the same site can help you take up all 10 results on a page.

Time to start rethinking some strategy.

More on this in a bit…

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Category: Google

Paid Links Lose Value (Or: Google Says, I Told You So)

Posted by Melanie Phung on Tuesday, November 20, 2007 at 3:39 pm

Google has been warning the SEO community it would put the smack down on paid links. The message started coming in loud and clear earlier this year with the Google guys and gals talking at conferences about how the GOOG don’t like no bought links, and that sparked a lot of debate on all the forums: Just how would search engines distinguish paid links from “natural” links?

Then, in case you weren’t listening, Google started a de-PageRankifying campaign that was sure to get the community talking: first it dropped the Toolbar PageRank of paid directories (presumably those that had been created for SEO purposes) and then, more dramatically, it stripped major general-interest sites like the WashingtonPost.com of their precious green Toolbar pixels.

“You listen’ now, punks?” asked Google.

That, all the savvy SEOs knew, was just a shot across the bough bow, because does WaPo really care about how many green pixels it gets in the Toolbar? Does that change the economics of their business? No. But…with the holidays coming and Google having a reputation for making big, disruptive algo changes right before the big shopping season, I for one warned that sites utilizing paid linking as part of their link strategy would see the effects soon.

And in three… two … one:

Here’s are the Google rankings of one site for its top keywords and keyword phrases — check out what happened to that site’s rankings since Friday (I was out of the office on Monday, so it might have happened as recently as yesterday). [ed. I should note that none of the affected pages themselves lost any Toolbar PR, because the TBPR thing is only symbolic. It’s the rankings (and therefore traffic) that actually matter.]

Just eyeballing this chart, it looks like paid links were stripped of their link juice, but not that the buyers of those links were heavily penalized. In the example above, most of the rankings dropped only a page — that’s significant, don’t get me wrong, but it’s not as bad as the dread Minus 30 penalty, or an outright ban. Unlike the Minus 30 penalty, there isn’t going to be an opportunity to beg forgiveness. The links that were devalued can be removed, but that won’t help get your rankings back up. In fact, it’s entirely possible that Google isn’t done with this update yet and that further drops in these sites’ positions will occur.

But not everyone loses out in this latest rankings shuffle, obviously. Some sites — those that didn’t participate in detectable paid linking — get to move up a couple of spots. (Well la-dee-da, lil’ Goody Two Shoes.)

But, you knew the “buy yourself top organic rankings” strategy wouldn’t last in the long run.

Or maybe I speak to soon… also possible that this was a one time index clean-up and not a permanent change to the algorithm, in which case you could continue to discreetly buy links on other sites that haven’t been outted yet. hmmm…. I’m not saying that paid links are the best value for your money right now, but people tend to overreact to changes in the search engine landscape. I really wouldn’t advise you to pull the plug on every paid link you have out there; knee-jerk reactions to an algo shift aren’t going to help. There’s no way that Google figured out every single link that’s been paid for on the entire Internet … point of the hyperbole: some of those paid links might still be worth quite a bit. The trick is knowing which ones.

I also want to know how this is going to effect business of the big text link brokers. Are people going to stop buying text links now? I for one still think there’s plenty of opportunity there, as long as sites selling links stop being so frickin obvious about it. Like the WashingtonPost – they put the same block of paid link on ALL of their tens of thousands of pages. Of course that was going to be detected!

How ’bout you? Are you changing your strategy? And how do you hope to make up for the lost rankings now that the paid links aren’t boosting your position (assuming you paid for links, that is)?

Updated December 7: May I Have This Google Dance?
Less than 2 weeks after I published the post above, a funny thing happened. All the rankings came back to what they were before and have been holding steady since. I think they listened to me when I said “good things come to those who don’t panic.” (Paid links are dead! Long live paid links?)

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Category: Google,Industry Buzz,Link Building,Monetizing