When Does a Google AdWords Advertiser Become a Can't Ban Whitelist Top Ranking Organic Search Result?
Question: I am reading your book. On page 53 you mention using different search engine optimization strategies for small websites and big websites. How do you classify a site as small or large?
Answer: There are two big things that sort the classification of a site as large or small
- whether your optimization is manual or algorithmically driven
- whether search engines consider your site as spam when it ranks
Within those two ideas I think there are 4 big things that separate a small and large website
- brand awareness, and search engineer's perception of your brand
- ad budget, and how a search engineer will perceive your ad buys
- inbound link profile
- number of pages
The more well known your brand is the less likely a search engineer will be to penalize your site for doing shady things. When BMW was caught cloaking they were removed from Google's index for only 1 day. Google also has a whitelist of sites that should not be penalized based on human review:
Here is a non-exhaustive "white list" of the sites whose pages are not to be rated as Offensive (nor as Erroneous):
Kelkoo, Shopping.com, dealtime.com, bizrate.com, bizrate.lycos.com, dooyoo.com;
Notice that not only is Bizrate whitelisted, but so is a Bizrate subdomain on another site. Simply put, big brands should spam.
If I buy a link, Google is likely to view it as spam. If I buy a website, Google is likely to view it as spam. If a large established site sponsors a conference or buys other ads that tend to have links in them then they are more likely to get away with it. If a large corporation buys a site and slaps a network-wide footer link to it then Google is fine with that.
A large AdWords ad budget allows you to buy links indirectly. Beyond that, if you have a large Google advertising budget, Google may also offer you the following perks: free SEO advice (this is rarely talked about outside the corporate world), take your feedback on search quality (this is rarely talked about outside the corporate world), and they are more lenient with what you can do to rank (robotic content, anyone?). They are afraid to lose large AdWords ad accounts. Google backed down from eBay after eBay stopped buying AdWords ads.
If you are a large Google AdWords advertiser it is expected for you to buy sites and links at will with no risk. People like me, who do not spend heavily on AdWords, are branded as spammers if we follow those techniques. Going forward, a large AdWords ad budget might be the #1 SEO tool.
Inbound Link Profile:
The cleaner your link profile is the more dirty stuff you can do. The more link equity you have the more pages you can get indexed and the better they will rank. It is all about ratios.
Keep in mind that if you are branded as an SEO, a Google engineer may decide to wipe out your site on principal, even if your content quality is greater than the top ranking website, and you built almost all of your links using non-spammy marketing.
Number of Pages:
As you build authority status some search algorithms will become more lenient. For example, it is easier to rank new content based on site trust (some news sites even get immediate inclusion at the top position) and easier to get around duplicate content filters. If you have many pages (like a large product database) then some of your SEO strategy will need to be automated and formula based. With a smaller website you would create hand crafted content for most of the page titles, meta descriptions, page headings, and on page content for almost every page.
Google's official stance is that they do not want to index search results, but if a site scores decently on the brand front or it gives Google reason to fear forms of blowback they can also be more aggressive with creating automated low value content.
In some cases a small content website that builds a strong brand and amazing link authority can bolt on an offers section, and have that portion of the site treated more like a large site while the day to day brand building content is still treated as though it is a smaller website.
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