Prediction: The Future of Search Engine RankingsSearch engines . . . mysterious, frustrating, and unpredictable. Nearly every webmaster would love for their site to rank well in the search engines and have the staying power to last beyond the next algorithm change. Unfortunately, too many people try to get there using shortcuts instead of building for long term success.
In the past, that meant things like:
- Stuffing keywords into the page and source code.
- Content and article spinning.
- Automated mass link-building.
- Showing the search engine spiders content customized for them.
- Mass quantity doorway pages.
All those "tricks" worked at one time, but the search engines took action against every one of them, and they're still fighting web spam as vigorously today as ever.
Webmaster's whose sites are de-indexed or lost their rankings often cry foul, and then go right back to searching for more shortcuts.
One of the "in" ways to cheat now is to hide content out of site by using CSS to move it off the visible page. Those who use this trick don't realize the search engines have a large staff whose job it is to hunt down web spam in the search results.
And which sites do they check?
Sites that are reported, usually by a competitor. And . . . sites that start ranking well. That's one reason cheaters who make it to the top don't usually stay there very long. They have no reason to check sites that don't rank well, so they check the sites that do. As soon as a spammer thinks he or she the beat the system, the hammer falls.
And here's another newish dirty trick...
Have you ever went to a website and tried to click the back button and it doesn't seem to work? That's because some webmaster's are using redirects and other tactics to try to trap you on their page longer. Some of these guys will redirect you dozens of times, making it impossible to use your back button. Why? Because the time spent on a site after following a link in the search results is one of the ranking facters. The longer you stay, the better it is for the site.
The search engines will catch on to this trick, too, if they haven't already.
Do you see a pattern here? Webmasters figure out a way to cheat. It works temporarily, then the search engines catch on and penalize them. Then those who cheated look for more cheats.
It's a never-ending cycle, but there is a better way. First you have to know what the search engines want. That's an easy one...
They want to show the most relevant search results to their users, and they want the best of the relevant sites listed first. So ask yourself...
Why should your website be on the first page of search results?
Hint: It isn't just because you want it to rank on the first page.The answer, ideally, is that your content is the best, and that may be the case one day. Right now though, we don't live in an ideal world. There are other factors that do matter. Things like:
- Slow and natural link building using varied anchor text.
- Good intra-site link practices.
- A mixture of no-follow and do-follow links.
- On-page optimization.
- On-site optimization.
- Social signals.
- Page load time.
- Good keyword selection.
To show the most relevant search results to their users, and to show the best of the relevant results first. This is what the search engines have been working toward from the beginning, and it's what they will keep working toward. While the steps they take to meet this goal aren't always predictable, the goal itself is very predictable. You can count on that.
The seach engines keep getting better and better at determining quality content from spam. While the still have a long way to go, the effectiveness of dirty tricks will keep going down as they continue to make progress.
Why do I say that?
Two reasons. First, because the more parameters there are that factor into the search rankings, the less effective any one cheat will be. And second, the better they become at discerning quality content from junk content, the less effective ALL cheats will be. The first reason is more of a factor now, the second will become the most important factor in the future.
And with quality content as the historical trend and the long-term goal, that means we should create content that DESERVES to be ranked highly on it's own merit, rather than because we found a temporary shortcut. And that is the secret to long-term success.
If those who chased the quick tricks would have built for the long term from the beginning, they wouldn't have to keep starting over every time there's a significant algorithm change. They'd have valuable web property right now. They'd have a successful business or hobby site, whatever the goal is.
Yes, it takes time, planning, and effort—but that beats constantly fighting against the trend toward better content and the elimination of web spam. If you want long-term success online, you have to build it one piece at a time; short-term cheats won't help you build a sustainable web presence.
In the next issue, we're going to take a hard look at just what "better content" really is as far as the search engines are concerned.