Getting On The First Page Of Google
|By Brad Callen
|Search engines are very difficult to completely understand.
There are no complete explanations of how their ranking
algorithms work. But the very fact that the average person does
not intuitively know how to crack the search engine algorithms
leads to all sorts of questions; Usually variations of:
“How do I get my website to the top of the search engine results
Now if you have been following my newsletter, you will know that
search engine optimization is not magic or something equally
difficult to understand. Instead, I learnt it as a step-by-step
process and that is how I have always considered it. Nothing too
fancy; in fact, I could probably summarize it all in the
* An understanding of how search engines “think” .
* Knowing what search engines “want” .
* Learning proven optimization techniques .
* Applying your knowledge time and time again (experience).
Of course, SEO is not explained by those four sentences, but
what they do is that they give you a structure within which you
can learn and carry out SEO on your business with exceptional
results. In short:
Get it right, and do it better than your competition.
But what does this have to do with today's discussion?
Basically, when you have “followed” the SEO strategies to the
letter, and are still not seeing your website rank anywhere near
where it “should” be on a particular keyword, then you have one
of the following problems:
* Your website may have been sandboxed (specific only to
* Your website might be penalized or even removed from the index
by a search engine for going against a stated guideline.
* A search engine might “think” that you are spamming them.
In the first case, you will have to “wait it out” with Google,
while consolidating on your positions in the other search
engines by continuously building links and adding content. The
second case will never happen if you follow the advice given in
my lessons; if your website is penalized, compare what you have
done with what I have told you, and you will probably find out
that something has gone wrong.
However, like I said in the beginning, search engines are
notoriously difficult to understand – and sometimes you can do
everything right and still not be ranked correctly. Conspiracy
theories apart, this is the part of the equation that search
engines do not always get right. SEO experts usually term this
as over-optimization , and like many SEO issues this one has a
lot of debate on it in SEO forums about whether websites are
actually penalized for over-optimization or simply banned for
What exactly is over-optimization?
Over-optimization happens when your website is considered “too
good” by Google – either in terms of a sudden volume of
back links, or because of heavy on-page optimization. In other
words, if Google considers that your website optimization is
beyond acceptable limits , your website will be red-flagged and
automatically restricted or penalized.
There is a fine line between over-optimization and spamming, and
it is on this line that Google can appear to err. However, this
is not a mistake by the search engine – in fact, Google
calculates rankings by considering thousands and thousands of
different factors – and a lot of importance is attached to
average “trends” within the niche / keyword range that a website
is optimizing for.
The bottom line is that over-optimization is non-spamming search
engine optimization that is misread by Google as being beyond
acceptable limits, thus leading to a penalty in search engine
What criteria does Google use?
To understand why Google can consider certain websites
over-optimized, it is important to factor in the criteria that
Google uses to rank websites.
When fully indexing a website, Google does not just look at the
optimization of the target website; it also compares the website
with all the other websites that belong to the same niche /
category / keyword range. Through this comparison, Google can
then figure out the following:
* Is this website “way more” optimized than the current top
* In the past, have over-optimized websites been discovered as
* What are the trends / acceptable limits for well-optimized
websites in this niche/keyword range?
Since Google is automated, it cannot do what we do – look at the
webpage and determine if the purpose is spam or delivering truly
useful information. Instead, the search engine uses historical
trends to predict what the acceptable limits of
over-optimization are, and how likely over-optimized websites
are to be found out as spam.
In other words, your website may be red flagged as being a
potential spamming website even though your only fault might be
that you were “perfect” in optimizing your website while your
competition was left far behind.
Google takes both on-page and off-page optimization into account
when checking for over-optimization / spam, and as such it
watches out for over-optimization in all ranking factors – your
back links and your tag optimization (meta tags, title tags,
header tags) being most important.
A lot of what I am talking about becomes invalid if one tries
any overt search engine spamming technique , such as stuffing
your pages with keywords, white on white text (something I
talked about in the first few lessons) or back link spamming
(building too many back links with the same anchor text in a
short period of time.
But it is also possible that you have followed advice and still
have your website penalized for over-optimization. The real
question then is:
How can you avoid such penalties?
Avoiding the trap of over-optimization
As I mentioned at the start of this lesson, search engine
optimization can be boiled down to two simple steps:
* Getting it right and…
* Doing it better than everyone else.
In the context of over-optimization and avoiding unnecessary
penalties, this rings especially true. If you optimize your
website within search engine guidelines and according to proven
optimization practices, you have it right. While putting too
little time on SEO is a serious mistake, the search for
perfection within SEO is a time-wasting and fruitless effort.
Too much focus on getting the page structure “just right” can
divert attention away from the more mundane but equally more
important tasks – such as adding more content or monetizing the
The next step is to eschew perfection and find out what your
competition has done. Suppose that you are optimizing your
website for the term “landscaping”. Which of the following
approaches would you realistically choose?
* Go full-throttle on your search engine optimization, spending
as much time as necessary to get maximum value out of each word,
link and page in your website, so that you can get the highest
* Analyze the top 10 web pages for the term “landscaping” and
understand what optimization has been performed on them (natural
or artificial). Calculate the number of back links, check for
authority inbound links – and once you have figured out what
your competition is doing, and do exactly the same – only a bit
The first approach might mean that you are guaranteed a top
position on the search engines, but has two problems – you will
waste a lot of time and resources in this search for perfection
and more importantly, your website may be flagged for
over-optimization. On the other hand, the second approach does
just enough to beat the competition – without pushing you or
your budget to the limit.
Over-optimization is a phenomenon that is particularly difficult
to figure out – how does a SEO expert really determine whether
his new website is in the sandbox, penalized for
over-optimization or just doing badly in the search engines?
While trying to find out the real cause for your poor rankings
may satisfy curiosity, you would be better served by following
the “second approach” above.
Search engine optimization is a long-term, low-intensity
process. You keep building links and adding content, so that
eventually your website not only escapes the infamous sandbox
but it also starts to rank really well on the search engines.
And as for over-optimization – as long you follow search engine
guidelines and don't go too far above your competition, you will
|About The Author
By Brad Cullen.
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