Google has made some major changes in the last two months. Normally, there is what we call a “Google Dance” every month. This lasts about a week, and it occurs as Google integrates new sites into its database. Google also tweaks its algorithms during this period, so most sites move up and down in the search results.
A side effect of this dance is the spread of the Google Dance Syndrome — a disorder that causes search engine optimizers and webmasters to pull out their hair and chew their fingernails while waiting for this algorithmic game of musical chairs to stop, so that they can see where their site ended up. The Search Engine Watch has more details about the syndrome.
The Big Shake
This May, Google did a major overhaul of its database, which contains over 3 billion web pages. They dropped a lot of sites, and they played with a lot of spam triggers. A spam trigger is a part of the algorithm that triggers a spam penalty for a site. For example, they have made the trigger for hidden text more sensitive, so that if you have a small amount of hidden text on your site, you will get penalized.
These spam triggers have caused a lot of headaches in the SEO world, but Google seems to be correcting any over-sensitive triggers that they create (although it will take two months or more of lost traffic before the correction is implemented).
The bottom line is that if your site has been penalized, or even removed from the database, don’t panic. Just send a nice letter to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining why you think you were penalized, and what you have done to amend the situation. I have found that you get a reply about 50% of the time, and that it usually works about 50% of the time (sometimes you will get a reply that is unhelpful, and sometimes they will correct the penalty without a reply).
What To Do
Here is something for you to do while you are twiddling your thumbs: try submitting to other search engines. Google after all, is not the only kid on the block. True, it represents 80.7% of the market (Google, Yahoo!, & AOL), but MSN still has 9.6%. So make sure you are in MSN by submitting to Zeal and/or Inktomi. You may also wish to spend time submitting to Dmoz.org (Open Directory Project), the Yahoo! directory, and exploring any industry directories or associations that would consider listing your site. Lastly, consider starting up a pay-per-click campaign with Google or Overture. In my research, I have found that Google’s AdWords have a higher rate of return than Overture, so I would recommend advertising with Google.
Global average usage share
All numbers are an average of the last two months, from OneStat.com.
One final note… There is a lot of speculation that Yahoo! will be using Inktomi, or a combination of Inktomi and Google, in the near future. This means Inktomi will be taking the lion’s share of Yahoo’s 21.7% of market away from Google. So make sure you are listed in Inktomi, so that you don’t scramble when the changeover occurs.
Next issue, I will update you on other changes in the industry.