Archive for October, 2007

The Mystery of Google’s Page Rank Punishment

Tuesday, October 30th, 2007

So, you know I wrote about the cuts in Google’s page rank and how it was hitting people who’d bought in links and were feeling the pain of Google’s ethical stance? Well now I’m not so sure.

Yesterday, Barablu — my latest SEO project — felt the sting of demotion too. Its page rank fell one point, from 5 to 4.

Yet (as far as I can see) Barablu has NEVER in the past operated any dodgy practices, especially link buying: I wish the same could be said for the competition. No, the loss of a PR point in this case at least must be more than a Google moral backlash.

As usual, Google are keeping tight-lipped about the reasons behind the recent PR massacre and to be sure there are many sites around who’ve suffered more than Barablu. Yet, what makes this whole adjustment even more puzzling for me is that I know for a fact that sites which don’t exist are maintaining their page rank!

Now I’m not talking about some dodgy blackhat technique: the site in question — which I shouldn’t name for confidentiality reasons — ceased operations back in July because the owner couldn’t afford (or couldn’t be bothered) to pay his site dues. It was duly decommissioned and all the pages deleted; if you go there now you get the usual 404 errors.

However, if you search Google for the site right now you’ll be told that it has 41 pages and a PR of 4, albeit with no backlinks! As they say, go figure!

Go Tell The Marines!

In truth, Barablu’s real problem is years of unwitting, benign neglect. It was first in its field — making free calls using a mobile phone — and it still out-features the competition but it languishes in the lower reaches of the search engine rankings on almost all of its keyword phrases because, until now, no-one ever said anything. A recent comment on an Italian blog summed it up: “Even if Barablu is not very visible — not advertised properly — the software offers some interesting services you should try.”

As I write, I’m waiting to unleash a new Barablu website on an unsuspecting world, but for now all I can practically do is to encourage everyone here that I can to blog their socks off about Barablu and its associated technological fields via the Barablu Blog (catchy name, don’t cha think!).

For you see, as I think I’ve been saying for a while now, Content is King! And even with the meagre resources at hand right now, Barablu’s SEO is actually improving. See you at the top … .

Google Reinforces the Content Route

Thursday, October 25th, 2007

Google has just dropped a bombshell on many sites who obviously thought they’d got SERPS licked. They’ve cut huge swathes off the PageRank scores of many big name sites including engadget.com, forbes.com and problogger.net.

In some cases the figure has dropped by as many as THREE places (remember PR is not a linear scale: a PR of 2 is not just TWICE as good as a PR of 1; it’s something like SEVEN TIMES better!)

Which begs two questions …

  • Why have Google done this, and
  • What does it mean for the affected sites?

Taking the second first, the answer is not entirely clear. PageRank has been a controversial issue for some while now; some even argue it’s meaningless. It’s usually summed up as “the number of good sites pointing to yours”, and although the precise PR algorithm has changed since the original Google patent, it’s still largely based upon “backlinks”.

Put very simply, the better the PageRank of sites which link to yours, the better your PageRank will be. Conversely, lots of links from poor sites can actually harm your page rank; that’s one reason why link-swapping campaigns are such poor value if your site is already doing well.

Incidentally, the PR you see in the Google Toolbar or other SEO tool may be misleading: Google calculates PageRank on a regular basis, but the figure it displays to the world is “out of date” by several months.

What’s behind Google’s recent PR raid seems to be a question over the validity of these backlinks. Of late, one of the tools of the professional SEO has been to sidestep the problem of gathering backlinks by natural, organic means — which usually takes a very long time — by running “backlink campaigns”. These exercises can often run into many thousands of dollars and consist of “buying” stories on well-placed blogs, and links from directories, forums and other sites. Sites like PayPerPost.com exist solely to put willing bloggers in touch with SEOs looking for another backlink.

Recently, however, Google announced a crackdown on websites and search agencies that were buying links in order to artificially ramp-up search position (you can see a fuller list of the sites affected here). This chimes in with the search giant’s stated aim of attempting to make web searches honest — if you search for something, they argue, what you should get is a list of the most appropriate sites, not those with the biggest SEO budget. Content, once more, is king!

This leaves me in a quandary. My day job is get the free mobile phone calls site Barablu.com back on the top of the heap where it belongs, and my weapon of choice is to improve the content of the site by writing more, getting more people to contribute and making the site itself more accessible, more usable and simply more fun!

However, one thing that Barablu lacks — mainly because, unlike the competition, it’s never bothered with SEO before — is backlinks. Barablu’s current PR is 5 and that’s lower than its rivals but (these days) suddenly higher than searchengineguide.com and seo-scoop.com. Suddenly, the attractiveness of a backlinks campaign is less than it was.

Besides, these days PageRank is just one of a hundred or so metrics used by Google to order web sites. Does that make it irrelevant? At the time of writing, this very site has a PR of ZERO, yet it still tops Google searches for some terms.

Yet on reflection, I still think PR is relevant. It still seems to have some bearing over just how often your site gets indexed and how deeply and there are many other differences you notice when your Google PR increases.

So I reckon backlink campaigns will continue, only probably much more carefully, and much less visibly.

Statistical Nightmares

Wednesday, October 17th, 2007

Just finished my first week at barablu.com and we’re all expecting that the results should be coming through soon.

Actually, it looks like the results are coming through sooner than we expected and in surprisingly good shape. Hopefully it’s not all a case of lies, damned lies and statistics.

There are a lot of things going on in the background at barablu right now which it would be wrong to discuss here at the present; however, my raison d’etre being content, I had to make some early moves to give the web site a taste of things to come and that seemed to be the Barablu Blog!

I didn’t start the blog, it’s been around since the beginning of the year but the postings have been sparse and sporadic. Indeed, the decision had been taken to remove the link to the blog because its age made it an embarrassment. This is a key factor in content; unless you are dealing with some sort of historical event, old copy is just plain bad. Even if you have no plans to add new stuff, you should give what you have the once-over now and again. One site I recently bumped into was talking about presidential visits which seemed fine until it became clear they were talking about Clinton. (And I know Mr Clinton is STILL President Clinton, this wasn’t talking about some book tour in support of the spousal Senator for New York’s electorial ambitions).

Anyway, every day since I arrived I’ve been regularly posting to the Barablu Blog about getting my old PDA to work with the software, the latest Nokia phone — the gorgeous N95 8GB and my quest for a new telephonic gadget and it looks like it is having some effect in the daily rankings. There is new movement in an upwards direction.

In fact, there’s been quite a bit of movement; more than might normally be expected.

Whether it will continue at quite such a breakneck pace is unlikely. The statistical nightmare is that the people who have taken me on may well expect the numbers to continue in leaps and bounds; that’s the danger of any statistical calculation based on a very small set of results.

Yet, all in all, it does show that even the smallest efforts can — and do — have some effect on SERPS and, if the first results from the blog are confirmed by continuous improvement, it also shows the power of content with the new search algorithms.

Helping the best to get noticed

Thursday, October 11th, 2007

’ve just taken up the post of Online SEO Manager for barablu.com, a leading light in the field of Mobile communications over Internet Protocol or MoIP.

Barablu have been around for around a decade perfecting VoIP technology which they then pioneered onto the mobile platform. Don’t think I’m saying this just because they’re paying my wages, but the barablu app is a marvelous little thing: Not only can you get crystal-clear phone calls for FREE via almost any Wi-Fi enabled device, you can instant message all day in circumstances where you wouldn’t normally be able to.

In fact, Barablu is an extension of the Bikini Effect, since it’s not just giving away 95% for nothing, the whole tool is free!

So, I hear you cry, why haven’t we heard of Barablu before. The short answer is that while the folks here have spent many years getting the technology right, they haven’t paid much attention to letting people know about it. As a result, the younger upstart, less-fully featured competition gets higher in the Search Rankings because they spent more time on marketing.

The upshot is this: Your site needn’t be selling the world’s best thing since the invention of sliced bread to outstrip the competition IF you take time to implement the very basics of good website design.

The bad news for the competition is Barablu is now on the case: in the coming weeks and months, I’ll be implementing as much SEO expertise as I can get my brain around to make barablu.com the market leader as well as the technology leader.

Watch this space — or failing that, watch the Barablu Blog