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Is Google God? Part 2

Rodger Jacobs
In Part 1, we looked at the power of Google and its Googlebot. Today, we'll examine PageRank more closely, plus the role of optimizers, and The Google Dance:

Your PageRank must be earned through your own blood, sweat and tears. Hard work is its own reward in the Google scripture, and any attempt to artificially inflate the PageRank of your website will be answered with wrath.

First rule: Stay away from optimizers.

For a fee, optimizers promise to alter websites so that they rank higher in the Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs), but their practices are often looked on with an unkind eye by Google.

"In general, optimizers make a living by guessing what Google regards as important," Josh McHugh stated in "Google vs. Evil" for Wired News in 2003. "The way [Google] sees it, the optimizers are co-opting Google's bond of trust with its users. [Google] regards optimizers the way a mother grizzly might regard a hunter jabbing at her cub with a stick."

Monthly Update
Every month, Google updates its mix and algorithm, shuffling web pages like a deck of cards. The monthly shuffle is known as the Google Dance, and it often wreaks havoc upon optimization sites and all of their customers.

"They rake a disruptive claw across the optimizers' systems," McHugh observed.

In plain language, if you paid an optimizer to tweak Google so that your page ranks on the first or second page of results from a search, the Google Dance can result in a painful downgrade to the bottom of the deck. The most effective way to regain your high SERPs is by getting links from other popular sites, as Google urges in its tips for webmasters.

Be aware, however, that your rank naturally will be affected by changes in the ranking of other sites. Know who is linking to you. This is vital. In the mad rush to increase site traffic by acquiring links left, right and center, you may end up being linked to by a site that is violating Google's terms of service. And when that site is forced to leave the dance, there is a high likelihood that you and everyone else who obtained a link from it will also be left out in the cold.

XBiz spoke to one webmaster who had links from only four well-traveled websites. During a recent Google update his ranking status dropped alarmingly.

"Before the update, my SERPs were through the roof. I practically owned the first five to seven pages of SERPs for the keywords that led people to my site," the webmaster told XBiz. "When the update hit, I was suddenly buried on the 10th page and further down than that. Someone linking to me must have violated Google's terms, and I ended up being punished in the process. From here on out, I pay very close attention to who links to me."

Second rule: Avoid link exchanges or "free-for-all" link programs.

"Linking schemes do not increase a given site's PageRank and will often do more harm than good," cautions Google in its Fact and Fiction statement. "Many sites that advertise link sharing programs not only offer little value, but will distribute your email address without your permission, resulting in an increased volume of unwanted mail to you."

Google also warns avoidance of "rank checking" programs. In fact, they are a stark violation of Google's terms of service. They use server resources that should be spent on answering user requests. Do not use rank-checking programs to check your position on Google.

Google maintains that there is nothing a competitor can do to harm your website ranking or have your site removed from an index. Your rank and your inclusion are dependent on factors under your control as a webmaster, including content choices and site design.

"Under your control" is the key phrase and cannot be emphasized enough. If you are considering adding Google's Ad-Words affiliate program to your website, read its prohibition policies and quality guidelines very carefully. They are extensive and occasionally vague, but they will help you avoid land mines that could have your site removed from Google's index.

Google currently does not permit web publishers to display Google AdSense — an affiliate program different from AdWords — on pages with adult or pornographic material, although the company says it may provide an option to do so in the future. Adult webmasters should not even think about submitting sites to AdSense. If you happen to be among the many who have fallen through the cracks and are running AdSense on your site, remove the program before you are discovered — or you will be evicted from Google's site index.

"So far, Google's business practices have been fair," James Siebert of PremiumContent.com told XBiz. "I don't see them as a monopoly; they are simply the current leader. Google has treated me well with my adult business. I have many more problems with Overture and other search engines trying to govern what I have on my sites."

As for those who dismiss the importance of positioning for Google, Rob Sullivan of SearchEnginePosition.com has just one question: What would the search engine landscape be like today without Google?

"Think about that," he advises, "while you are building links to outrank your competitor who has 1,200 more links than you, and then tell me if we put too much emphasis on Google?"

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