SMM  Strategic Marketing Montreal

 
[Newsletter #28]
Blur or Beacon, Does your Company Stand Out from the Internet Crowd?
 

Google Under construction
– Will You Be a Winner When It’s Finished?

Introduction

Note that this newsletter is being written early in June 2003. The Internet changes rapidly at the best of times. There is astonishing turbulence at this time in the Google search engine world, as will be described. Contact SMM for a current update of the content of this newsletter.

The Internet has seen astounding growth during the last few years. Most Internet users are aware of the Search Engine Google, which can help track down websites of particular interest. A majority of Internet explorers are now using the results of the Google Search Engine. They may do this directly via www.google.com or a national version of this. Or they may use one of the other Search Engines now using the Google results, such as Yahoo, AOL or Alexis. There are two major reasons for this widespread use.

Relevancy

The major reason for Google’s success is its effectiveness as a Search Engine. Relying on parallel computing through a world network of computing sites, it produces results incredibly fast and the results are usually deemed to be highly relevant by its users.

Popularity

Google has also been very astute in its product development and its marketing. It has offered popular tools such as its free Google toolbar, which gives very useful data on websites visited. It was one of the first to offer a database of images on the Internet. Its News Headline service more recently has achieved a wide degree of popularity. Without any fees, it has created a group of sites that are widely respected and seem to be attracting new users exponentially.

 
 


The problem of success

The kind of success that Google has achieved may attract others who seek to profit from this success. If these others are unscrupulous, then this may cause problems for the principal, Google. This is now occurring.

Google's Strengths

It is interesting to review how Google has developed its technology through the years, in order to understand the present situation.

Indexing

The strongest feature of Google is its intensive spidering and analysis of web pages. Spidering is an automatic process in which the Google computers follow links in the World Wide Web to find as many web pages as they can. Its databases currently hold over 3 billion webpages.

The process until recently used two processes of spidering: the spiders or robots are known as Freshbot and Deepbot. Freshbot tries to find any new pages or pages that have been recently modified. If it finds a page that has been recently modified, then it may return soon to that page to check whether it has been modified again. Results from the Freshbot spider can be seen rapidly in the Search Engine Ranking reports for given keywords. However they may rapidly disappear from the lists if not confirmed in their placement by the other spidering process, based on Deepbot. Deepbot has a regular monthly cycle and will explore in depth all web pages it finds within a given website.

The intensity and thoroughness of these Google spidering processes is truly impressive. They are perhaps the key factor in achieving the high Relevancy and immediacy that Google delivers.

More page types

Google has also tried to extend the range of document types that its search engine reports cover. Documents created by Adobe Acrobat or pdf files are now included in the database. Documents are indexed in a large number of languages. Google searches can now be requested in any of 35 languages.

Avoidance of SEO Manipulation

The other area where Google has put major effort to keep its Search Results relevant is in avoiding any attempts by others to “fool” the search engine. Google wishes to evaluate the web page as it would be seen by a human visitor. Two techniques that were used and which are now automatically outlawed are “cloaking” and “using hidden text”.

Cloaking was a programming trick that showed a different web page to the search engine than that seen by the human visitor. Websites using this are automatically eliminated from the database. Only by removing the cloaking and making a request to Google can the website possibly be added to the database, but probably after a delay of some months.

Using hidden text is a way to have multiple keywords on a webpage that are not seen by the human visitor. The colour of the font of these keywords is set to be the same colour as the background. They appear in the source code of the page and thus are visible to the search engine. Again such sites are automatically dropped from the database. If the hidden text is removed, then the web page will be automatically added back to the database on a subsequent analysis round, say after a month.

These two techniques are not acceptable under the Quality Guidelines set out by Google. A summary of these Guidelines, taken from the Google website, follows:

Quality Guidelines - Specific recommendations:

- Avoid hidden text or hidden links.
- Don't employ cloaking or sneaky redirects.
- Don't send automated queries to Google.
- Don't load pages with irrelevant words.
- Don't create multiple pages, subdomains, or domains with substantially duplicate content.
- Avoid "doorway" pages created just for search engines, or other "cookie cutter" approaches such as affiliate programs with little or no original content.

These quality guidelines cover the most common forms of deceptive or manipulative behavior, but Google may respond negatively to other misleading practices not listed here, (e.g. tricking users by registering misspellings of well-known web sites). It's not safe to assume that just because a specific deceptive technique isn't included that Google approves of it.

People are encouraged to send what is called a Spam Report to Google if they find websites that are in violation of the Guidelines.

The Current Chaos

Nothing will appear amiss at this time to most users of Google. A search for given keywords will produce a highly relevant list of web pages and those at the top will be the most relevant. The only sign of something not right might be if the searcher presses the Function Key F5 to refresh the Search Engine report web page. For example a current Google search for the keywords – strategic marketing – showed SMM Strategic Marketing Montreal at #11 position. On refreshing the search page, SMM did not appear in the first 20.

This is the tip of the iceberg. Search engine experts talk to each other on certain website forums about such matters and there are a number of current concerns. The following information is derived from views expressed in the following forums:

Cre8asite Forum http://www.cre8asiteforums.com
Free Search Engine Forums http://www.ihelpyouservices.com
WebmasterWorld Forum http://www.webmasterworld.com/

Not the normal Google Dance

Up until May, there was an intensive process of recapture and reindexation of the web pages in the Google databases that occurred early each month. This was known among the experts as the Google Dance. This was a complex process involving the 9 major datacentres for Google. Usually the datacentres would all home in eventually on the same rankings. At that time, the dance was over. This has not occurred in May. Those interested in the technical details can visit a site, http://www.google-dance.com/ , where this is all explained. At that site, Google searches for particular keywords can be compared for the different datacentres.

Old algorithms with new indexes and vice-versa

Google is bringing in a new algorithm or mathematical formula to better rank web pages for particular keywords. The reasons for this are discussed below. During the month of May, there was much turbulence with some datasites using the new algorithm with old web pages, while other datasites seemed to be using the old algorithm with some newly updated versions of web pages. The casual Google user was probably not aware of the intense activity that was happening behind the scenes.

Cached pages over 2 months old

Early in June, anyone looking at a cached version of a web page in a Google Search Report listing would find that the page was probably at least two months old. What this means with respect to the web page used in determining the ranking is unclear.

The Current Problem

Google has been too successful

Part of the current problem is created by Google’s success. For certain businesses, a high Google ranking can be highly profitable. So people will invest a great deal of time and money in devising methods to “beat the system”, based on how they determine the current system is operating.

Spamming pays

The sad fact is that some methods of spamming the search engines do work. Google has an algorithm that depends a great deal on the PageRank of any given web page. Google describes PageRank as follows:

PageRank relies on the uniquely democratic nature of the web by using its vast link structure as an indicator of an individual page's value. In essence, Google interprets a link from page A to page B as a vote, by page A, for page B. But, Google looks at more than the sheer volume of votes, or links a page receives; it also analyzes the page that casts the vote. Votes cast by pages that are themselves "important" weigh more heavily and help to make other pages "important."

Some website owners arrange their own multiple pages to generate additional “votes” for their web pages. Although this may be against Google’s Quality Guidelines, it may not be spotted. A human spam reporting process will hardly be adequate.

Google wishes to expand even more

Google has stated that it wishes to expand the number of web pages covered from the present 3 billion to 10 billion within the next year. The present fluid situation is partly explained by Google’s attempt to put in place spidering processes that can cover many more web pages.

The Possible Solutions that Google is putting in place

When the Google system returns to some stability, it will likely incorporate the following strengthened features.

Better Spam Filters

Automatic methods will be in place to catch more instances of breaches of the Google Quality Guidelines.

Better evaluation of “back-links”

Again automatic methods will do a more intensive evaluation of the “back-links” that web pages have to ensure a more rational treatment of affiliated web pages.

Less frequent spidering

To be able to cover very many more pages, spidering will be done in a much more efficient process. Sites that change very infrequently will be spidered less often.

Competitive Search Engines will win

Google is under question

It will likely take some time for Google to institute and operate smoothly the major reforms they are putting in place. The search engine professionals are now questioning whether other engines may do a better job. For example, AllTheWeb has over 2 billion pages in its database and has many attractive features. Some searchers may change their search engine preference if they feel that the Google search engine is seriously deficient.

Google has the momentum

Most people use the search engine they are most familiar with. Google is very well known and still does a credible job. It is highly likely that, if the Google problems are resolved within another month, then most people will not realize there has been a problem. We are now entering the summer season in the Northern Hemisphere so many will be using search engines less frequently.

What you should do

Given the high likelihood that Google will emerge from this construction period as a much strengthened search engine, it would be foolish to switch horses. Thankfully that is not necessary. The best practices are remarkably similar for all the search engines, so what works for one will not go counter to the best practice for other search engines.

Design for the best practices of all search engines

This advice is no different from what might have been said 6 months or a year ago. In a sense, web pages should be designed to work well with all search engines. Only a few search engines still take any notice of the Metatag for keywords. However for those who do, it can be included. It is unlikely to be penalized by other search engines.

The advice for Titles, Descriptions and the Text body is remarkably similar for all search engines. No difficult choices are involved.

Avoid spamming practices

This is the area where the rules may change dramatically and will be enforced with greater thoroughness. It will be important to avoid anything that may be deemed to be spamming, since this will lead to exclusion from the Google database for an indeterminate period.

Conclusion

Google will continue to win

The likelihood is that Google will achieve its ambitious plans and will emerge from the current “Under Construction” phase a much stronger and larger search engine. Provided your website is constructed and linked as it should be then you will be a winner. The changes will likely downgrade or eliminate other websites that erroneously were given high rankings in the past. It will be easier for the reputable websites to stand out from the crowd.

Others will be stronger

Other search engines may strengthen their share of the search engine user market during this period whilst Google is getting its act together. The Google changes may also incite other search engines to adopt similar processes to keep up with the competition. Good practices by Google standards in constructing websites will prove to be effective for other search engines as well. So the reputable website owner will win on all counts.

Postnote

Since this newsletter was written, Google and the other Search Engines continue to improve and modify their search algorithms. If you wish to be sure that you will be a winner, contact SMM to review how well your website will perform under today's rules.

Our help can be configured to meet exactly the needs you have. Our strengths, experience, creativity and practical common sense can complement those of your company. So write us a Fast Message today, , on what you're looking for.

Barry Welford

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More Marketing? Oh, to be more like Schwartz's world famous smoked meat deli.
Blur or Beacon, Does your Company Stand Out from the Internet Crowd?
 


 
 

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Copyright 2003 Barry Welford, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Added to site 3 June 2003