Friday, May 9, 2008

When Algorithm Changes Occur

Your rankings will improve. They will also get worse. Many people rush off to change things right away when the algorithms change. Sometimes the search engines roll in new algorithms aggressively, and then later roll them back. They cannot fight off new forms of spam and determine how aggressive to be with new algorithms unless they sometimes go too far with them.

If you are unsure of what just happened, then you may not want to start changing things until you figure it out. Sometimes when algorithms are rolled back or made less aggressive, many sites still do not rank well because their webmasters changed things that were helping them. Nobody is owed a good rank, and just because a ranking temporarily changes does not mean that a site has been penalized. It is far more likely that the ranking criteria shifted and the site may not match the new ranking criteria as well as it matched the old ranking criteria.

One of the greatest SEO techniques is knowing when to do nothing at all. I had one client with whom I shared profit, but for whom I did not do much work after the first few months. Why? After I built his site up, he had a strong market position. I could have kept building many links, but it would not help him reach much more of the market. It would have added nothing but cost and risk. If you are too aggressive, it adds to the risk profile without adding much on the reward side.

Tim Mayer, a well-known Yahoo! search engineer, once mentioned that it did not make sense to bring a knife to a gun fight (when referring to how to compete for terms like Viagra). The opposite also holds true -- if you are using a shotgun, and the competing sites are using slingshots, then you stand a greater chance of being penalized.

All SEO techniques are just a balance of risk versus reward, and while you want to rank at or near the top of the search results, you probably do not want to use techniques that are exceptionally aggressive as compared to the other top-ranking sites if you intend to build a site for long-term profits.

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