When Does a Google AdWords Advertiser Become a Can't Ban Whitelist Top Ranking Organic Search Result?

Aug 8th

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

Brand Strength:

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.

Ad Budget:

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.

Published: August 8, 2007

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Comments

Hamlet Batista
August 8, 2007 - 3:10am

They are afraid to lose large AdWords ad accounts. Look at how quickly Google backed down from eBay after eBay stopped buying AdWords ads.

Aaron - Now it seems they don't want to lose any accounts. Several months ago, when they didn't have any real competition, they treated us like beggars. You were lucky if you managed to get a non-canned response from your Adwords inquiries.

Recently, I've noticed a 180 degree change. Now, they seem to really care and are generally very helpful. I never thought I'd see this day. I love competition ;-)

August 8, 2007 - 2:10pm

A businessman i know was cold called by Google UK recently, they are offering a fully managed Adwords service for a limited time.

Setup and Ad creation/wording is all done by Google. The free SEO advice was also offered.

If that's not desperation, what is?

They followed it up by email, an email that i have a copy of. Very interesting stuff indeed.

August 8, 2007 - 2:30pm

This simply is great insight into the comparison between Google as a quality search engine for users and as a company financially responsible to shareholders, in my opinion. I hope people read this post and take note.

August 8, 2007 - 3:29pm

Can someone elaborate on the idea that buying websites can be construed as spam? What kinds of websites would fit that criteria?

August 8, 2007 - 5:03pm

I am pretty sure our main site would be classified as a small site when compared to sites like ebay or overstk. Although, we were doing auto generated seo and stopped because it was to hard to get unique human like titles, meta, content and link structures inplace. So, we have been doing it manually very time consuming but the results have been much better. maybe we just do not have the auto generated software or programming resources to do it right?

We also spend 5 figures on adwords and have seen a tremendous increase in customer service. I sent in a complaint last week and got a detailed 3 page letter of helpful info tailored to my campaign and seo.

Thanks for info I was unaware that adwords helped seo and was related to there opinions on organic presence.

Philip Silberman
August 8, 2007 - 5:52pm

It seems to me that sites owned by the same entity would only be considered spam if the sites are spam, meaning that if you own three sites that all sell the same product and all have very similar content, then that is spam.

If you own three sites, one of which sells a product, and the other two are informational about complimentary goods (all unique content), this cannot be considered spam in my mind--they are legitimate sites and could all add value to SERP's.

I also think there are some things you can do to ensure that Google sees the sites as unique, like host the sites on very different IP addresses, register the sites in the names of different entities, don't cross link the sites, link out to helpful content that you don't own, etc.

August 9, 2007 - 7:04am

Can someone elaborate on the idea that buying websites can be construed as spam? What kinds of websites would fit that criteria?

If you are a well known SEO just about anything you do is first judged as spam if they know you are involved with it.

It seems to me that sites owned by the same entity would only be considered spam if the sites are spam, meaning that if you own three sites that all sell the same product and all have very similar content, then that is spam.

This is the myth Google wants people to believe, but it is simply untrue in implementation.

Take a look at eBay's subdomains dominate Google's search results or some of the other large companies that are double, triple, and quadruple dipping.

ASA
August 10, 2007 - 9:44am

"If you are a large Google AdWords advertiser it is expected for you to buy sites and links at will with no risk. "

Aaron, when you say "large" how large do you meany? We spend a thumping amount on Adwords every month, but we don't seem to have any such advantages on SEO side from Google. I'm just wondering whether our budget is not large enough for that or, have we just ignored a great "opportunity" :-)

August 10, 2007 - 10:03am

The people I know were spending somewhere in the 7 figures a month range. Enough for Google to cozy up many different ways, but that is about I can say about it. It would be uncool for me to say much more than that.

ASA
August 10, 2007 - 1:20pm

I get it Aaron. Thanks.

On a different note, I had a doubt for a long time about this Google PPC thing against the SEO ranks. If a company(X Ltd) spend a large budget on PPC (Google), why should they (Google) favor X Ltd in SEO? I mean, if X Ltd gain higher SEO ranks, they would definately lower the AdWords budget (resulting lowered Google revenue). I know as a fact, most companies run after SEO, once they get tired of spending large marketing dollars on PPC. How would Google tackle this trend? May be this is not a relavant question for this topic, but hope you would make note of it. Thanks again

August 10, 2007 - 1:33pm

Hi ASA
I think what you have to realize, is that with the current relevancy systems just about ANY form of exposure builds your ability to rank.

Read this post about how I scored all kinds of media exposure (many newspapers providing direct HTML links) for under $1,000 ad spend, by buying AdWords ads.

The ad rankings and organic rankings are somewhat self reinforcing.

It is not an accident that their organic search relevancy algorithms favor large brands and companies with large AdWords ad campaigns. The search ecosystem is designed to work that way, but everyone pretends there is some arbitrary imaginary wall between paid and organic.

When search gets really dirty is when search engineers penalize your sites just because you own them, even if your sites are better than the #1 ranked result. That adds a whole new dimension to the search game.

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