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

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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.

Rank.

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,

Dan

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

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