Best SEO Blog of 2005!

You may already know this, but Search Engine Journal declared the winner in the “most likely to flame a spammer” category, and I beat Jeremy! Woohoo! I’m also very flattered that people rated me high enough to snag the Best SEO Blog of 2005. Thanks go out to everyone that supported my stab at trying something new this year.

Congrats to the other winners, including Search Engine Watch Blog (Best Search Engine News Blog), Search Engine Roundtable (Best Search Engine Community Blog), Technorati Weblog (News & Blog Search Engine Run Blogs), JenSense (Search Engine Marketing and Contextual Advertising Blogs), and the Official Google Blog (Search Engine Owned Blogs). Congrats also to all the sites that were nominated.

I can’t believe my site has only been live since August; in a lot of ways, I’m still getting my feet wet and getting the hang of things. I can’t wait for 2006; I’ll be trying a few new ways to give (and get!) feedback and advice this year. What would you like to see me try in 2006?

SEO Mistakes: Not checking your site

Gwen of faucetandsinkconnection.com writes in a comment:

november we had our best month ever! december we were dropped flat by google.. after speaking to someone they said we were link/google bombed! now we have no page rank (it was never above a 4 but at least we were ranked) and are not coming up in any of the google searches. we have never paid for links, we did searches for similar sites to link to & didn’t have a ton of them! suddenly we have 14,000 links! now down to 4,000 but most are things we’ve never heard about. this is our livlihood, not coming up in google can pretty much put us out of business so the question is… how do you convey to google (and get them to listen) when someone link bombs your site? how do we get reinstated? we were coming up on the first of second page for all of our major/base products until googles last spider. we need help and we need it fast!
it’s a bit frustrating to be dropped, to send multiple emails and never get an answer as to what we may have done wrong. the link bombing is the only answer we’ve gotten from anyone (not from google).
any help would be greatly appreciated.

Gwen, your problem wasn’t link bombing or anything else. Your problem was hidden text. Here’s what your site looked like before:

hidden text

See the yellowish text on the yellowish background that I’ve highlighted? (The dark blue text on a blue background isn’t great, either.) The text is visible now, so at least someone knew what was going on.

Just to review, here’s the life cycle of a spam penalty:

1. Spam
2. Get caught
3. Fix the spam.
4. File a reinclusion request.
5. Possibly get reincluded in our index. You need to convince us that we won’t see any spam in the future.

Gwen, you’re in the middle of step 3. Before you try a reinclusion request, check out the links you have over the text “Thank you for shopping with us, we look forward to your order.” Urls like http://www.faucetandsinkconnection.com/bathroom_faucets.html would look just like keyword stuffing to one of your competitors. And urls like http://www.faucetandsinkconnection.com/shower_heads.html
and

http://www.faucetandsinkconnection.com/pedestal_sinks.html

have the exact same content, except with a “click here to view” link to different pages. Those pages move from keyword stuffing into doorway pages: the same content is posted to attract searchers, with a single link to different pages.

Finally, it looks like you might also run hardwareandlighting.com too? That site has serious problems too. First off, on http://www.hardwareandlighting.com/bathroom_vanities2.html how does text like

Remodel or build your new kitchen sink sink kitchen faucet bathroom bathroom sink Jacuzzi room tub bathroom faucet lavatory faucet vessel bowl tempered glass mirror kitchen shelf bathroom shelf laminated sink double layers sink glass sink bowl iron cast wrought stainless steel faucet stainless steel vanity oak vanity table stainless steel pedestal wall bracket pop up drain p-trap above or over counter sink tile mount faucet wall mount sink granite sink marble onyx sink dark wood vanity table marble sink or stone sink here at faucetandsinkconnection.com

not count as keyword stuffing? And why are you dropping links on http://www.hardwareandlighting.com/bathroom_vanities2.html to sites like http://www.best-buy-and-sell.biz/ and http://www.cheap-buy-sell.com/ and http://www.smart-buy-sell.com/ in miniscule links? smart-buy-sell.com isn’t even registered any more–it’s dead. And on pages like http://www.hardwareandlighting.com/door_knobs.html there’s still hidden text links (e.g. “sinks faucets and more”).

To summarize, your problem is not that someone “linkbombed” you. The good news is that you have the power to fix your problems yourself. The bad news is that it’s going to take a lot of scrubbing before your site(s) are ready for a reinclusion request.

The SEO mistake I want to communicate here is to check your own site before assuming that someone else is hurting your site or that Google is making a mistake.

WMF vulnerability

Our Google quality guidelines include specific behaviors that can result in penalties or removal from our index, but the guidelines also include this message:

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…

In case anyone has doubts, pages which exploit browser security holes to install software (esp. malware/spyware/adware/scumware/viruses/worms/trojans) are outside our quality guidelines. Pages that use security holes to install software may be removed from Google’s index.

The Sunbelt BLOG mentions a new exploit of the Windows WMF graphics rendering engine that applies to Windows versions from 98 to XP. This is a pretty nasty exploit, esp. if you surf around scuzzy neighborhoods of the net (I sometimes have to for my job, for example). One thing you can do is to disable the DLL that is exploited. You’ll lose some thumbnail previews and such, but if you want to be safe until a patch is available, click Start->Run and then type “regsvr32 /u shimgvw.dll” to disable the vulnerable DLL.

Update: Note that if you disable this DLL, you’ll lose the ability to preview images with a double click. What to do about that? I’d install the excellent Paint.net program from Washington State University. Then follow this support page from MSFT on how to change your file associations to use Paint.net to open your images. You’ll have to do it once for each filetype (.jpg, .gif, .png) that you want to view.

Directory of home page widgets

Today was a good day. The presents were great and the food was wonderful. Several of us got together and gave a computer to my in-laws, which meant that I spent some time setting up the computer. By chance, we happened to be talking about the Google personalized homepage, so I gave them a demo. They really liked it.

Now I’ve got somewhere new to point them. Maybe it’s because of the holidays, but Google hasn’t updated its Google widgets directory in a few days. A couple sites have sprung up to fill the gap: Google Modules, by Philipp Lenssen and Alex Ksikes, seems to have the most widgets right now and the site includes an RSS feed. Meanwhile widQ.com has fewer widgets listed, but has them categorized and you can page through all the widgets.

Earlier today I only saw 5-6 widgets in the official Google directory. Looks like they just added another 5-6. Cool.

Update: There’s now a Matt Cutts module. That is just wrong in so many ways. ;)

Stop working!

I’m in Omaha with the in-laws, so I figure I’d try to clear out my email backlog while everyone else is asleep or on holiday. I can’t believe the number of replies I’m getting from Googlers! It’s Christmas Eve, for heavens sake–stop working, everyone, so that I can get some work done! ;) I can just imagine Santa dropping down a chimney to find yet another Googler trying to finish off just one more email or review.

This reminds me a lot of Google’s annual ski trip. Like four years ago, a co-worker stayed back at the GooglePlex and she said she got a ton of work done. So three years ago, I stayed back and got a fair amount of work done. Then two years ago, it seemed like several colleagues stayed back at the ‘plex. I didn’t get to go skiing, and my email load stayed the same. Last year, I tried being cunning and acting like I was going to go skiing and tried to get everyone else to go on the trip, then I bailed at the very last minute. My ploy didn’t work, because several people I know did the same thing.

All my past game theory plans have failed, so I give up. This year I’m skiing again.

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