9 Things You Didn’t Know About Ranking In Google after Panda (That Experts Can’t Tell You)

9 Things You Didn’t Know About Ranking In Google after Panda (That Experts Can’t Tell You) post image

If you are interested in ranking #1 in Google, be sure to tune in to the Lifestyle Business Podcast (iTunes link) this thursday. We’ll be discussing this topic in detail.

Over a few beers the other night, I turned to DCer Travis Jamison and asked him to estimate how many Americans knew more about SEO than him.

When he answered “500” I didn’t cough in my beer. I didn’t laugh.

I nodded and ordered another round.

*  *  *

Travis doesn’t blog about SEO. He doesn’t consult people how to do SEO.

He finished development on his product (in a prominent fitness niche) over two years ago. His website was live on the web. At that point, he only had one thing to do.


And rank he did.

A lot of SEO guys spout theories and talk shop. “Panda this, and panda that…”

Travis opens up his laptop and points to some ridiculous rankings and says “that’s me.”

By being pitted against some of the most powerful competition on the web (health companies) for years, Travis has developed an innovative approach to SEO that is miles more sophisticated than the standard: “buy market samurai” “be an expert” “guest post” “get anchor text links” “develop authoritative content” “create viral content.”

Yeah yeah yeah, we get it.

There are a few reasons why you don’t hear about this kind of stuff from internet marketers and prominent SEO personalities. Many of their experience comes from contract work with clients, which generally involves more white hat approaches. When they do use grey stuff, they can’t out their clients by writing about it.

I also think there is a huge liability to advocating grey-ish tactics for bloggers and internet marketers, especially if you are providing SEO services. Oh well… I find this shit fascinating. Take it as a grain of salt. Experiment on domains that don’t make you money. And don’t take our word for it…

If a tactic is highly effective and easily duplicatable, you won’t read about it (sorry).

Travis looked over this article to ensure I didn’t mention some of his most innovative tactics (many of which are stupidly easy to implement). Despite being one of the most helpful members in the DC, I know there is a bunch of stuff he won’t let out of the bag. For obvious reasons– once Google gets wind of this stuff they are more likely to make updates.

Don’t put your trust in Google, even if you are doing everything according to their terms.

For all the worrying people do about aggressive grey-hat tactics (like buying links, for example), most everyone I’ve met who’s had their business taken away by oblique Google dings, or who have been wiped out by an algorithm update were ‘innocent,’ and did everything ‘right.’

Many of Google’s terms of services and best practices serve more as marketing copy (or propaganda in the nicest sense) than actual representations of how the algorithm is working. The purpose of Google’s official rules is to get you to behave well, not to accurately describe their process. In fact, if Google were to expose how ineffective their algo often is, they would be cutting in to the core of their brand. If they were to encourage webmasters in any way (or even expose that you could) take advantage of loopholes in their system, it would be the ultimate branding disaster.

Google can still be gamed (like, really gamed).

I’ve seen first hand– if you can get your hands on some cutting edge information, or even just taking some off bets you can achieve some results that SEO writers and the Google propagada machine would have you believe are impossible. So many writers are saying things like, “after the Panda update you can’t just [insert lame tactic] anymore.”

Fair enough– invisible text won’t get you ranked anymore (damn!).

Dear Excite search engine, please make me the best website for online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing online marketing. Your friend, Dan! 

Ok that’s a joke.. but from what I’ve seen, there are plenty comparably simple tactics that are working now.

Update your marquee sites (even static landing pages) everyday.

Even if you have a landing page that sells one product, include a small /blog link at the bottom and make sure you update the domain everyday. Even if you can only afford low quality or nonsense articles– from what I’m seeing — anything is better than nothing.

Domains with authority often get helped by spammy links instead of hurt by them.

Many web publishers avoid buying high quality links (say… from, ahem, private link networks) because they don’t want to be docked by Google for having a shady link profile. The irony here is that once you’ve got some authority in Google’s eyes (read: you’ve acquired many diverse high PR links pointing to your domain) you become insulated from penalties for having spammy links. In fact, Travis has found on his authority sites that spammy-ish links help his site.

On page optimization is more important than ever.

I’m not just talking about optimzed H1 tags and URL slugs. As a rule– the more words, the better. Keep your users on your site for a long time. Give them a lot of high quality text to read on your key pages. Keep the engaged, scrolling, and clicking if you can. You’ll have to play with this one… Travis won’t let me elaborate. (This is another reason why bloggers don’t venture here often, you look like a dick).

White and grey are the most powerful cocktail.

Most people frame up SEO as an either/or game. If you are going for spammy affiliate stuff? Grey! Black! Authority blog? White!

It turns out the most potent combination of all is all the classic white hat stuff with a bunch of grey to go along with it. That’s the case with our earlier example– high quality paid links in combination with white hat authority tactics can work to obscure your spammy dalliances. Doing all the right things can put you in a better position to push the envelope.

Link out to authority sites in your on-site posts and link building articles.

When you link to authority sites like Wikipedia or Webmd from within your posts, pages, and articles posted at 3rd party sites like Ezinearticles, it demonstrates (we think) to Google that whatever information that you are sharing is valuable, relevant and organic. This is speculation (as are many things in this article!), but it’s reasonable that if all of your blog posts only link to your own site that would be a negative algorithmic factor. Travis said he aims for 1 citation link for every 2 links to his own site. As a rule– keep the word “diversity” in your head for all of your linking efforts, this includes all links, anchors, etc.

The way to consistently access this type of information is to have your own.

SEO pros build systems into their business to constantly test sites and tactics. This can be done relatively cheaply and building a data-driven marketing testing team makes a ton of sense if Google rankings, or any other type of online marketing optimization is important to your business.

By testing assumptions you’ll learn a ton, gather proprietary data, and earn the confidence of others who are doing the same.

*  *  *

These points are pulled from the experience of a few guys and a limited number of domains. Experiment yourself, and if you’d like, do send me your best tips via email :D

If you want to see how deep the rabbit holes goes, feel free to contact Travis. He does provide click-of-a-button services that could change your business. (I am a client). As is the rule with this stuff, I won’t elaborate. 

Cheers and thanks for dropping by today,


PS, if you’d like to hear directly from me you can just toss your name in to our mailing list:

Time to get to work! Boss socks don't come for free...

Published on 11.16.11
  • When we talked about this a couple weeks ago, I admitted that I didn’t bring this stuff up to my members let alone to my show listeners.  I think I’m doing a disservice to my members by not showing them how to do the grey-er tactics.  December needs to be grey hat month.

    Still not sure about mentioning some of it to my listeners because some techniques if used wrong can bomb a site quickly.   

  • Tom

    I can’t shake the feeling that I need to work on my URL length…

  • I agree with you Tim. Grey-hat can be 99.9% completely safe in the right hands, and it is BY FAR the most effective tactic to increase search rankings, but it should be left up to those who know how to properly use it. 

    An example I use is comparing a fighter Jet to a car. A jet would get you to your destination faster then anything else, but it can only be handled by someone trained to do so. Everyone else should stick to driving a car.

  • Dan

    My current understanding is that ideal is 3-6 words after the “/”


  • Great post, this is one of the problems I’m facing running an SEO service for clients. You can’t really openly advocate grey hat tactics but there’s no doubt that in some cases it will be impossible to rank without them. It’s so much more fun just doing SEO for yourself!

  • Totally true, especially about the good stuff not being talked about. One problem is that everyone says the same stuff about SEO, so everyone’s doing the same stuff. 

    Keep this stuff coming, I’m loving this focus on SEO.

  • Fantastic post Dan! My favorite line was this: “By testing assumptions you’ll learn a ton, gather proprietary data, and earn the confidence of others who are doing the same”. Words to live by in this biz.

  • Very nice.
    ““after the Panda update you can’t just [insert lame tactic] anymore.””
    So true. SO true. 

    Man.. the amount of things that have been “dead” not just since Panda.. but for years.. I have just gone back and tested them for the heck of it and the effectiveness has been off the charts! My link building tactics break pretty much every rule SEOmoz has yet my rankings go up.

    SEOmoz beats the drum for Google and harangues people who advocate ‘grey hat’ linking practices. They talk about paid links as if they are some form of heinous immorality. Sorry to break it to you, white-hatters, but Google is just a publicly listed company trying to protect their own self-interest by trying to scare people into following them. Nothing else. To describe grey or black hat tactics as “illegal” as some do is beyond laughable or as “immoral”…. pathetic.

  • Dan

    Very cool Matt.. all this stuff is very eye opening to me because all my approaches so far in business have been extremely orthodox… I think that’s because our stable of sites was always very small and focused on our key products.. not that we are getting more in to the digital side of things, and just increasing the breadth of our portfolio in general, these things make WAY more sense to us. Your last paragraph made me laugh out loud. True.

  • Dan

    Thanks for that comment Cam! Based on your feedback, I broke that sentence off the paragraph above it :D This post is now an official collaborative effort! 

  • Dan

    Thanks man, you’ll likely enjoy EP81 of the LBP… think we’ll have it up in 4 hours or so.

  • Dan

    WORD. I think it’s a great idea to develop a little test infrastructure… like a personal “skunkworks” and just send some sites out there to do some crazy shit! Something might hit!

  • Dan

    Interesting tension here. Seems the choices are to risk dying in obscurity or in a fireball. 

  • Dan

    Solid metaphor sir! 

  • Speaking of collaboration. I just read a great post from my friend James Tauber (@jtauber) about the need to build organization level access management into collaborative web apps. http://eldarion.com/blog/2011/11/16/if-your-website-teams-implement-organizations/

  • Wow, this post is like fresh water in the desert!
    High quality stuff.

  • Dan

    Thanks! Enjoyed learning and implementing this stuff myself. 

  • Dan

    BTW, we discuss many of these points with Travis on this audio: http://www.lifestylebusinesspodcast.com/ranking-for-lucrative-keywords/

  • Constance Hammond

    Thanks for the article.  Curious — what % does overall community/followers/visitors play into ranking high?  If it does play into it, is it just site visitors or will google look at overall klout? social media community?  Appreciate your thoughts.  btw: love the boss sock graphic.

  • A decent article. I’ve hired Travis myself for some link building.

    For people who know SEO really well and are in very competitive niches (like me) this article is very SEO 101 in a way.

    For those that follow the crowd and regurgitate whatever SEO blogs say, then I guess it’s of value.

    Obviously nothing against Travis here, but “link to good sites, update regularly, have good on-page seo and use some white/grey tactics” isn’t much different from what 1000s of other SEOs say.

    Again this isn’t against Travis, I really like the guy. It’s just that it’s all very simple stuff and to succeed in good $ markets, this all should be a no-brainer.

    I’d suggest becoming friends with some very good SEOs to improve your game better.

    I hang out with guys like Michael Martinez from seo-theory.com and Randy Ray who is a moderator at SEOBook and runs pokerseo.org.

    That way I’m discussing SEO issues with people who know what they’re talking about, and not following the latest crazes on blogs.

    It also makes me better at SEO and I can make more informed decisions for my business.

  • Complete rubbish my man.

  • Dan

    haha … Matt Cutts sent me a note saying the same thing.

  • Melzor

    Anyone know if using tabs or collapsable DIVs to hide content is bad for SEO? I’ve heard you should limit the amount of text, or that one specific language can be better than another for SEO; JS vs AJAX vs ‘insert other language’. 

    I want to do so, just to keep my post page nice and clean. Would I be shooting myself in the foot?

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