In a handful of high-profile cases that have made waves in the SEO blogosphere, Google’s webspam team has recently penalized a few big-name websites for bad SEO practices. Most recently, several eBay pages dropped off Google search results and eBay lost search rankings for many keywords and phrases. While there was initial speculation that this was part of Google’s latest Panda update, various sites later reported that the shakeup was the result of “manual action” taken by Google’s webspam team.
The online auction giant lost rankings on a variety of seemingly-unrelated key phrases such as “fiber optic Christmas tree,” “tongue rings,” “Honeywell thermostat,” “Vermont castings,” and several others. According to in depth studies of the ranking data done by RefuGeeks, the pages that lost rankings were almost all “category pages.” That is, pages that were designed specifically to target search engines, and that a customer would never normally reach while navigating the site. Exactly the kind of stuff that Google’s webspam team watches out for.
Back in March, Google’s team took action against the self-proclaimed “hugest guest blogging brand out there,” Ann Smarty’s MyBlogGuest.com. The hit, which was announced via Twitter, was presaged by several posts from Google’s head of search spam Matt Cutts in which he decried the use of guest blogging as a way to gain links. While he was quick to emphasize that guest blogging was still a legitimate vehicle in many instances, he said that it had too often become a tool to sell links that pass PageRank, which he says is a clear violation of Google’s quality guidelines.
PageRank—named for Larry Page, one of the founders of Google, though the name could just as easily have been describing its function—is the algorithm that Google uses to rank websites in search engine results. Much of the function of good SEO work is to improve the page ranking for your company’s website in specific search results. Unfortunately, as with anything, there are good SEO tactics and then there are bad ones.
Opinions in the Internet marketing community have been divided about these moves by Google’s team, but they do make one thing clear—bad SEO practices won’t pay off for long. Even if you get some short term gains by paying for links that pass PageRank or using other questionable SEO tactics, Google and other search engines are constantly on guard for such shenanigans, and the short term gains will always be outweighed by the long term costs of their punitive actions.
Your best bet to improve page rankings and get more traffic for your company’s website is always going to be investing in quality original content, PPC (pay-per-click) campaigns, a better presence on mobile devices and social media, and other legitimate SEO tactics from respected marketing agencies.