Site Admin – The Circle of Life for Search Engines

As of May 1, AOL now draws it’s search engine results from Google. It used to get them from Inktomi. This means that three major portals, AOL, Yahoo! and Google itself all deliver results from the same database. More people using the Internet now get search engine results directly or indirectly from Google than from any other resource. This of course will put more pressure than ever on Google to maintain the outstanding quality of their results. However, a word to the wise. Inktomi used to be in a similar position 2 years ago, so who knows what the landscape will look like in 18 months? Both FAST and and Inktomi are making a resurgence. Altavista remains a dark horse, always there, with many national outlets that maintains it in a strong position. But let’s set all that aside, and look at the challenge facing Google.

Every time I speak somewhere people ask me about Google, about spoofing Google, and manipulating their search results through a variety of methods, most notably through an abundance of links. Google has always measured links in its weighting algorithm. What people link to and what they say in their links are major factors in how Google organizes its search results.

Links can be the deciding factor as to whether or not your site ranks higher than your competitors, in some cases. Link analysis is probably more important in Google than in any other engine in determining results because in many categories, very few pages have many links. In this sort of situation, even a few links can boost a page near to the top. The trap many website operators fall into is depending on links alone. More traditional measures, such as the content in the words, page format and the tagging on the pages themselves still count for a lot. How else can a spider, bot, or person know what your site is about?

If you understand this and also understand that most people don’t, you won’t be surprised to hear about people manipulating links to place high in the rankings in Google. Kind of like putting all your eggs in 1 basket.

It seems as though every week there’s a new scheme being passed along (pssst buddy wanna hear a secret…..) in newsgroups, in spam mail, and in local webmaster meetings. However, anyone involved in search engine marketing knows people and companies who have created entire networks in a variety of formats involving interlinked websites in attempts to influence Google, or to spoof its ranking algorithms. For every new initiative tried, (by which people try to scheme their way to the top) Google responds by identifying what it considers valueless link organizations and putting a downwards adjustment on their influence in the overall rankings.

So the moral of the story is, if you want to spoof Google, optimize your site so that there are no issues for the search engine to fight around and build real, valuable, reciprocal links for your site. Don’t join link farms!

If you want help from an outside source, great! Find one that uses a methodology similar to ours: use relevance when building links, and don’t accept just a bare bones link without any reference information attached to it. The other thing to remember is everything you do right for Google will probably be right for most of the other engines, and the other engines are still used by people too.

One last thing when worrying about optimizing for Google. June 1 may be the last day for Google’s contract to supply search engine results to Yahoo!. It has not yet been announced which company: Altavista, FAST, Inktomi, Google, or Teoma, or some other, may pick up the next two year deal. So don’t worry too much about using the latest greatest trick to spoof Google for a great ranking because you want Yahoo! traffic. Instead, spend your nights awake worrying about how to optimize your site for ALL the above engines. One month from now, Google will still be here, but it may not be powering the portal that made it famous. The circle of Search Engine Life continues.