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High Rankings Advisor: PageRank Mania - Issue No. 004

March 27, 2002
________________________________________________________

~~~IN TODAY'S ADVISOR~~~

*Introductory Comments:
---->   Time for a good rant

*Search Engine Marketing:
---->   PageRank Mania - Is it getting out of hand?

*This Week's Sponsor:
---->  Jaws PDF Creator

*Other SEO News:
---->   The Inside Scoop on Fast Search & Transfer (FAST)
---->   New Public ODP Forum

*Advisor Wrap-Up:
---->   Sharpening my spurs
________________________________________________________

~~~Introductory Comments~~~

Hey everyone!  I've got a great newsletter for you today.  The first
article is basically a rant on what I'm calling "PageRank Mania."
It's been a long time since I had a good rant, so I figured it was
time.  I'm interested in hearing your thoughts on this.  Do you agree?
Disagree?  Are you somewhere on the fence?  I also have some new info
on FAST and ODP, so be sure to scroll all the way through to the
bottom!

On to the good stuff! - Jill


~~~Search Engine Marketing Issues~~~

PageRank Mania - Is it getting out of hand?

I'm sad, I'm mad and disillusioned a tad.  (Do I smell a hit country
song on the horizon?)  I thought the search engine optimization
community had changed.  Silly me.  I guess I was fooled by the
discussions on the importance of good content cropping up all over the
place.  I actually believed that people had finally come 'round to
performing SEO with integrity and honesty, and were abandoning tricks
and manipulation.  I feel so dumb.  I should have known that as long
as there was a possibility of tricking or manipulating the search
engines, SEOs around the globe would figure out how, and not be afraid
to do it.

Let me back up here a bit, so you can understand what has me so hot
and bothered.

Why do you link to sites?  Is it because they're useful and
informative and might be worthwhile to your site visitors?  Or is it
because you hope you'll get a reciprocal link, which just might boost
your link popularity and/or PageRank?  Perhaps it's some combination
of these things, or other reasons all together.

Everyone likes having links to their site; that seems to be a given.
When they're from appropriate sites, inbound links often bring a lot
of high quality traffic.  In fact, the Web was founded on the practice
of linking, which is why it's called the "Web."  Without linking, I
guess it would be just a list.  Welcome to the World Wide List.
Blech.

As soon as people realized that search engines such as Google were
placing an emphasis on who's linking to whom in their ranking
algorithms, all hell broke loose as far as I'm concerned.  I'll never
forget the feeling of dread I felt when I read the first post in
I-Search many years ago that went something like, "Hey...I've got a
great idea!  Since the search engines are counting the number of links
to sites in their ranking algorithms, why don't we all link our sites
to each other?"  Whoohoo!  Witness the birth of the link farm.

It didn't take "savvy" Webmasters long to realize that they could
create whole bunches of sites for one company, and link them all
together to *artificially* inflate their link popularity.  If there's
a way to trick the engines, you betcha plenty of people will figure
out how to do it.  But this is old news.

In the past six months or so, Google has been doing its best to put a
stop to this sort of manipulation.  Many sites that were "optimized"
in this fashion have seen their PageRank scores vanish.  When this
happens, their backward links don't exist as far as Google is
concerned.  Without backward links, rankings in the search results are
basically nonexistent.  Oh what a cryin' shame.  NOT!  I say, "You go,
Google Girl!"  If Webmasters and SEOs have the need to vandalize
Google's PageRank function, then they shouldn't cry when they get sent
to their rooms without any supper.

Because of the Google crackdown, SEOs and Webmasters are facing other
issues.  Suddenly, there's a mad scramble to try and figure out "safe"
linking procedures.  Everyone is scared to link or get linked to,
because they may get the dreaded "PageRank penalty."  More and more
people are asking what the criteria are to safely link sites together.
The answer is simple - don't build bunches of sites for the sole
purpose of linking them together in order to increase your link
popularity or PageRank.  Just don't do it.  Don't, don't, don't.  Can
I make this any clearer?  That said, if you own multiple sites (that
weren't created for the purpose of link popularity), is it safe to
link them to each other?  My answer to that is if it makes sense to do
so, then sure, link them together.  If it adds value to the user to
have a link from one site to the other, of course you should do it.
That's what linking is all about.

I refuse to believe that Google or any other search engine is looking
for ways to make fewer sites show up in their search results.  They're
not interested in banning sites that provide great information.  They
*are* interested in maintaining the integrity of their search results,
however.  Therefore, I suggest you don't ruin an otherwise great site
by attempting to trick the search engines.  You may not get caught
today; you may not even get caught tomorrow.  Heck, you may never get
caught.  But if you do, you'll have to start over from scratch in
order to redeem yourself.

Another facet to all this PageRank mania is Webmasters who purposely
"hoard" their PageRank.  That is, they refuse to link out to any other
sites because they want to keep all of their PageRank within their own
site.  Sure, if you add a reciprocal link to their site, they might
link out to yours.  But is this what we've degraded to?  Doesn't seem
to matter that there might be a great page out there that could be
extremely useful to their site visitors.  This no longer enters the
equation.  It's all about containing PageRank.  (To read more about
how PageRank works, see this issue of Rank Write:
<http://www.rankwrite.com/archives/issue070.htm#seo>.)

Which brings me back to why I'm sad, mad and disillusioned.  It
appears that PageRank is beginning to drive how people link to each
other, and that is just plain wrong.  When an informational site or a
forum refuses to link to another site or discussion because it might
take their visitors away, and/or take away some PageRank, then we've
got a huge problem.  To me, links are not a commodity to be bought,
sold and traded.  I link to other sites and discussions when it's
appropriate to do so, and not with the caveat that I get a link back.
If it's helpful, it's helpful whether or not they link back to my
site.  As much as I like to think I know it all, in reality I don't
(you didn't hear that from me!).  Linking to other sites can fill the
gaps in my knowledge, and that's important to my site visitors.  Like
I always say, search engine optimization is all about making your site
the best it can be.  When we become so consumed by what sites we can
and can't link to, or even whether we can link at all, then we're not
making our site the best it can be.  We're letting other factors
dictate our site content, and that's just not right.

Jill

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~~~Other SEO News~~~

++The Inside Scoop on Fast Search & Transfer (FAST)++

Martin Schaedel, my search engine optimization colleague from Sweden,
recently conducted a telephone interview with Stephen Baker, Director,
Internet Business Unit of Fast Search & Transfer, and managed to come
away with some very interesting and surprising tidbits for you.  Take
it away, Martin!

The Index

It's been reported that FAST doesn't always update their index every
nine to eleven days as they state they do on their site, so I asked
Stephen to tell us a bit about FAST's indexing procedure.   He told me
that they currently update 30% of the index every seven days.  The
rest of the index gets updated approximately every 28 days, and
they're working to make that even faster.

They're also hoping to have 2 billion URLs indexed in the near future.
They currently have over 900 million URLs in the index, and have
validated over 600 million.   Right now they're working on crawling
more and more pages in order to validate them and find more data.
This new verified data will get put into the index soon.

Pay-for-Inclusion

FAST recently introduced their new InSite Select program in
partnership with Lycos.  I asked Stephen how the new pay-for-inclusion
program would affect their index and site owners.  He told me that one
of the things it will have an impact on is the indexing of dynamic
content.  Spiders generally have to be careful when crawling dynamic
pages, but with paid inclusion these are easily added because they can
be reviewed first, as necessary.  For Webmasters, they're planning to
release some new tools such as clickthrough and keyword reporting.

What about Graphics and Flash?

FAST has plans to index many new file types.  They're already indexing
.pdf files and some multimedia files at Scirus.com, and are working on
integrating these into their "normal search" results.  FAST also has
the ability to "read" the content in .gif files, and are already
utilizing this to a certain extent.  They've been in contact with
Macromedia about "reading" Flash files through some type of converter;
however, it doesn't look like something that will be happening anytime
soon.

The World

FAST is unique in that they have partners on every continent in the
world.  They started in Europe when they didn't see any "major
players" there.  Now that FAST has a huge presence in Europe, they'll
be focusing on North America, South America and Asia.  In fact, they
just announced their new partnership with Telus, one of Canada's
leading telecommunications companies.  There's a list of many of
FAST's partner sites here:
<http://www.webmasterworld.com/forum4/66.htm>.

Spam

Something often discussed by those in the search engine optimization
business is whether cloaking is considered spam.  I asked Stephen how
FAST felt about cloaked pages.  He surprised me by saying that cloaked
pages may be okay depending on their intent.  With their free
submission option, they can't tell the intent of cloaked pages, and
therefore they're likely to remove or ban them.  With their paid
inclusion option they have more flexibility, because they can
determine the intent of the cloaked pages.

If you see pages that you believe to be spam in the FAST search
results, you can report them to spam@fastsearch.com.  You can view
their spam policy here:
<http://www.alltheweb.com/info/spampolicy.html>.

Martin Schaedel, StarGlobe
[martin@starglobe.co.uk]

[Thanks to Stephen Baker and Peter Gorman from FAST (and of course to
Martin) for providing us with this great information! - J]


++New Public ODP Forum++

Having trouble getting your site listed at ODP (aka DMOZ)?  Applied to
be an editor there and got no response?  Why not post about it in
their new public forum!

Today, the Open Directory Project Meta Community announced the launch
of the new ODP Public Forum, sponsored by members of the ODP
Community.  Ettore R. Peyrot, an ODP editor, sent me the following
information:

"Our new suite of forums is an additional, channel of communication
where the general public can interact with ODP editors, and where
direct questions about submissions, listings, placement, becoming an
editor, and other dmoz questions and issues can be addressed. The
Forum is moderated by the ODP Meta Editors Community, and will require
a registration for posting messages, with specific acceptance of the
Forum Guidelines. The public can in any case read the Forum without
registering."

You can check out the new ODP forum here:
<http://resource-zone.com/ubbthreads.php>


~~~Advisor Wrap-Up~~~

That's about it for the SEO stuff.  I've got to go sharpen my spurs,
as my family is taking a mini-vacation this weekend to a horse ranch.
Should be umm...interesting?  My 13-year-old daughter, Jamie, is
totally psyched; this is a dream vacation for her.  Horseback riding,
an indoor pool and a shuffleboard court...what more could she ask for?
(She's already named all the horses pictured in the brochure!)  I'll
let you know if I survive the weekend with no computer.  Nothing like
1000 pieces of spam to come back to!  Have a great week, and say hi to
the Easter Bunny for me, if you see him! - Jill

 
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