Website owners and webmasters are always looking for ways to improve their site’s visibility in the search engines, but 2011 became the year the media pulled back the curtain and revealed to the public how many companies were improving their search rankings through some questionable SEO tactics.
In early February the New York Times printed a story about The Dirty Little Secrets of Search. JC Penny was caught gaming Google’s search algorithm by purchasing links on thousands of irrelevant sites across the web to manipulate their search results. Google took immediate action and manual adjusted their organic listings to an appropriate position earned.
Later that month Google’s Panda update to their search ranking algorithm targeted sites that provide shallow or low quality content. Many of these sites were specifically built to just rank high within the search engines and often pulled or “scraped” content from other sites. This crack down on low value content sites affected about 12% of the US search results. Websites that are seeking high rankings will have to ensure the content found within pages of their site are relevant and deliver value to visitor.
May once again brought to light the issue of websites purchasing links on other sites around the web. Trying to Game Google on “Mother’s Day Flowers”, was a news piece written about how some of the top flower retailers were engaged in link-buying campaigns to improve their search rankings. Specific rankings were highlighted for one flower retailer; in which a ranking improvement from No. 7 to a No. 4 position in the search results was gained just shortly after a link-buying campaign began.
The news of unfair SEO tactics continued in July with an article titled, Picking the Lock of Google’s Search. The article shares how a local locksmith is at a competitive disadvantage when customers use a search engine to help them find a locksmith located in Seattle. A search on Yelp reveals there are 3,000 locksmiths in the Seattle area, most of which are no located nowhere near Seattle. Most of the companies listed are lead generation sites who have duped the search engines into thinking they are a legitimate locksmith when they are going to sell the lead to another service provider.
The most common ways these companies are able to rank for local searches is by hijacking a local address or by spreading around their NAP (name, address and phone number) on sites all over the web with only partially correct information.
Google is aware of the scary SEO tactics being used today by companies across the web to help improve their rankings and they are always changing and improving the factors that contribute to how websites are ranked within their search index.