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Explaining the Recent Yahoo/Google Changes

By Jill Whalen, 10/30/2002


From: Clay Crosland

Jill,

I'm very displeased with Yahoo's new way of listing sites. I would
think they would be shooting themselves in the foot by listing their
directory matches second. Why would anyone want to list their sites
in their directory (and pay them $300) if no one will see them? I'm
sure some people will, but I'd guess that they'd be losing over 90%
of traffic to their directory listings.

I guess this just means that we'll have to really start working hard
to get ranked high on Google for all of our sites. Which leads me to
my question to you.

Did Google make a change on or about the 28th of September? We used
to rank quite well on several of our sites for several keywords, and
have now fallen off the planet for most of them. They all seem to have
done this right around that time period. I'm not sure what to do to
try to reposition us high in Google, as I have no clue what kind of
changes they have made...any ideas?

Clay

 

~~~Jill's Response~~~

These are great questions as they discuss two very important issues
that are happening in the SEO world right now: Yahoo's recent switch
to "all Google, all the time" and Google's recent "algorithm change."

In case you haven't noticed, a few weeks ago Yahoo stopped showing
their own directory results when a search is made. They're now showing
results that come straight from Google's database, and they are ranked
(for the most part) according to Google's ranking algorithm. The major
difference between the Yahoo results and Google's own results is that
if a site is listed in the Yahoo directory, the Yahoo title and description
will show up instead of the information in your page's title tag. The
directory-listed pages are also designated by a little red arrow.

There are many implications to these changes -- all for the better,
in my opinion. Yahoo is now a worthwhile search site once again. Before
the change, their results were so spam-filled that they were essentially
useless. Unprofessional SEOs had taken all the top spots for their clients'
sites by creating fake keyword rich company names, and purchasing domain
names to match. Now this trick is worthless. (Yay!)

As to Yahoo's reasoning behind this change, all I can guess is that
they were tired of losing visitors to Google. If you can't beat 'em,
join 'em! Perhaps they decided that $299 per listing didn't amount to
much for them if they couldn't sell people on their other services while
they were there. Maybe they needed a good reason for people to come
to them and stay with them. Google has proven that having relevant search
results can make you queen of the prom. Perhaps Yahoo hopes to be king?

So the big question remains -- should you pay $299 a year for a Yahoo
directory listing now? I certainly see no benefit in doing so. In fact,
I would even say that you might be better off *without* a directory
listing. Some people say that it's worth having Yahoo's nice short title
and description showing up in the results for your site. But to me,
that's a bad thing! Why would I want Yahoo's yucky title and description
when I can have any title and description I want, simply by putting
them on my page? Okay, so that's not totally true since I can't actually
choose a description with Google, because they use "snippets." However,
I like snippets, because they show that the site is highly relevant
to the search query by highlighting the keywords. Yahoo's title has
to be the company name. For most unknown companies, this is not a benefit
to their listing.

It's true that there's still the "link popularity" benefit that a
Yahoo listing supposedly gives you. But is it worth $299 a year for
that? Plus, aren't we supposed to refrain from getting listings for
the sole purpose of boosting link popularity (or Google PageRank)? Besides,
there are plenty of other directories that will list you for free. Try
GoGuides, JoeAnt
and Gimpsy for starters. (There's
always DMOZ, but as most of us know, getting listed there these days
is like pulling teeth!)

Of course, these changes also mean that a good Google listing is even
*more* important than ever. (Bet you didn't think that could ever happen!)
Along with the Google search engine itself (which is gaining in popularity
by leaps and bounds), Google also powers AOL, Netscape, IWon, and now
Yahoo. That's a huge reach. Should you be scared of this? I'm certainly
not. Although I do wish that other search engines would somehow miraculously
become popular because it would make things a lot more fun, I don't
see it happening in the immediate future. All this means is that doing
SEO in a professional manner is more important than ever.

It's very simple to get high rankings in Google, although it is nothing
that can be done overnight. You've heard me say it a million times.
Create a great, content-filled site which naturally uses your keyword
phrases, and optimize the HTML code accordingly. This will not only
get you high rankings in Google (and its partners), but in every spidering
search engine out there!

So what happened to Clay's Google rankings around the end of September?
Well, it's hard to say for sure. But there was definitely a big shakeup
at Google after the last "Google Dance," which was right around that
time. Many pages that had been highly ranked for years suddenly dropped
out of sight. It appears as if Google made a major change to their algorithm
in their continuing effort to fight spam. Anytime this happens, some
sites inadvertently get dropped. For the most part, my clients' sites
did not have any problems, and in fact, most of them went up in rankings.

If your site is having problems in Google this month, here's what
I would suggest. First, you know whether you're using any unprofessional
SEO techniques. Just because it may have worked in the past doesn't
mean it's okay to use it. So, be honest with yourself. If you felt a
little scummy when "optimizing," chances are that's what your problem
is. Fix it, and wait until next month's reindexing. If you have honestly
assessed all your techniques, and are positive that you have behaved
in a completely professional manner, PLUS, you know that your site is
as fully optimized as it can be, then I wouldn't do anything just yet.
Trying to tweak your code for any possible algorithm changes will only
drive you crazy. If you're confident in your work, then there's nothing
more you can do. When that happens to any of my sites, I chalk it up
to the search engine being wrong -- not my site! And you know what?
Eventually the search engines work out their little problems and my
site is once again at the top where it belongs. If you try to change
things each month, you'll never really be able to tell which of your
techniques work. Have faith and ride it out. If after a few months there
are still problems with your rankings, re-evaluate everything once again,
and make changes as necessary.

Jill Whalen is the owner of HighRankings.com and moderator of the free weekly email newsletter, the High Rankings' Advisor. She is also known for her moderation of the critically acclaimed, Rank Write Roundtable. 

 

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