In October Google updated toolbar PageRank values at least 3 times to scare people away from buying links. Sites that had their PageRank values appear penalized did not lose any traffic. After complaints from webmasters, Google restored PageRank values of some sites that were penalized, which showed the alleged penalty had no teeth.
NONE of the announcements about Google penalizing sites are on official Google sites, such that they can control people through fear and have the media spread misinformation.
What Google Can't Obfuscate
Your rankings and traffic: If you rank you rank. You might get filtered sometime for some core keywords, but if your traffic is generally up your site probably is not penalized and/or in any danger. If you use web analytics tools and/or track general web trends (using Google Trends) and site specific trends (using Compete.com or Google Webmaster Central), you would know if Google has any issues with your site.
Your ad prices: increasingly ad relevancy and algorithmic relevancy scores will overlap. Google AdWords click costs, and thus quality scores, hints at site trust. If you can send the same ad to a competing site or to Amazon.com only to find they get the clicks cheaper then you have issue with site trust.
Indexing trends: You can see how quickly your content is getting indexed in Google and what parts of your site are getting indexed by using date based search filters.
Trusted traffic streams: they can't take away your RSS subscribers or other traffic sources. As many business become more reliant on Google a key strategy for growth will be relying less on Google.
Passing link trust: you can test if a page passes reputation by adding a unique related word to the link's anchor text on that page. After the link gets indexed search to see if the target page ranks for phrases containing that word.
What else do you think Google does a good job of obfuscating? What do you think they can't hide or obfuscate?
Keyword density as a measure of relevancy is at best limited. If pages have too high of a keyword density and are too focused they may have suppressed rankings or may get filtered out of the search results, plus dense copy does not read well, does not convert well, and nobody will link at it.
If your content is emotionally charged then it does not need to be as optimized to rank well. If people respond to your content by linking at your site then you gain authority and will rank better.
Conversion rates and value per customer are far more important than keyword density. If your content converts you can always afford to buy traffic and/or sign up affiliates.
Great usability is a key to converting. Read Steve Krug's Don't Make Me Think if you are new to the concept of usability. Make sure your pages are structured with headers, subheaders, and bulleted lists.
You should actively drive people toward conversion using text links in your content. Cleanly segment the page into small easy to read chunks using headings, subheadings, and bulleted lists to make the page easy to scan. Use textual formatting and other visual cues to call out the different audiences or the different reasons people would buy your product or service. Dan Thies does a great job of this on his SEO Research Labs website.
Work on improving on page optimization and conversion rates of your most important pages first.
Ensure you have some trusted quality inbound links. Start with a few trusted directories if you are starting from scratch. No matter how much on page SEO you do, you are not going to get much exposure or rank for competitive terms until AFTER you have some trusted inbound links.
Mixing Things Up
Search for your keywords on Google and look at the text from top ranking pages. They are defining the local language set. Make sure you include some of the words and phrases that are common in those pages.
Use tools like Quintura and Wordtracker to find modifiers to include in your page. After you are done optimizing the page, you can enter your URL in the Google AdWords keyword tool to see what they think your page is about. If they do not select the right topics that means they might not be certain what your page is about.
Mix up the order of words and phrases in your page. If your page title uses farm insurance in it, then include something like insurance for farmers in your h1 heading. Also mix up how you use phrases throughout your page where it makes sense, but stay clear of using language that doesn't make sense, like butter peanut.
Instead of paginating, it typically makes more sense to keep some pages longer in nature. Glossary pages and other text heavy pages rank for a wide array of keyword phrases. Using various word counts depending on sales needs, content requirements, and topic selection is a better strategy than writing every page to match a specific arbitrary length.
When the web was younger is was less spammy. When the web was less commercial a larger percentage of sites were created out of passion, and those who spammed generally were not link spammers. Most new websites are spam.
When search was less sophisticated people linked out of necessity. Now that Google AdSense has commercialized links and search is more relevant, more webmasters require payment (ie: cash, building their ego, sharing and spreading their bias, etc.) to link to your site.
Older sites are owned by webmasters who had enough time to forge social relationships, and build a natural link profile composed of quality organic links.
Many people who own websites value them as their babies, and want far more than their fair market value for them. Quality websites are nowhere near as liquid in nature as links or content are.
Newer websites can outrank old sites, but they have to be more remarkable or add more value to outrank older sites. This adding of value (through things like better formatting, more in depth coverage, more bias, more interactive content) adds value to Google, making their search service more useful.
As the standards for information quality increase, Google can arbitrarily decide that they don't like you or your business model. Thus the web is a game of constant evolution. Today's marketing leading content site may be a thin spam site by 2010 standards. Today's average content site might be thin spam by 2008.
Given that new content creation is largely dominated by blogs and social media, new links are largely a proxy for the strength of your public relations campaign. Thus, currently Google's search results are dominated by old sites and sites that are controversial and/or buzzworthy.
There is an information pollution side effect caused by the growing competition for links, but currently Google does not factor that into their view of the web. If you buy a link you are bad. If you lie for a link and get an organic citation you are good. I am not sure how/if they ever intend to address this side effect.
In the URL they place as_qdr=w as_qdr=d (day) as_qdr=w (week) as_qdr=m (month) as_qdr=y (year). You can also search for multiples of these units, like search for pages indexed in the last 2 weeks by placing as_qdr=w2 in the URL string.
If you change your content management system or add new sections to your site you can see how quickly they are getting indexed, and look for any duplicate content issues as the new pages are getting indexed by looking for pages indexed under multiple URLs.
If you have never checked your site for duplicate content issues, but recently published content, that might also show any content duplication issues or Google indexed pages that you do not want in Google's index.
Many marketing and advertising costs are recurring. Re-registering domain names is a minimal cost, but many domains (especially .com names) get type in traffic worth thousands of dollars a year. Some get type in traffic worth thousands per day. And this traffic stream is defensible from search engine algorithmic swings.
In addition to the defensibility issue, there is a large synergy between great domain names and SEO. Domain names containing your keywords as part of the name make it easier to get your keywords in the anchor text when people reference your company by its official name. This is true even if the domain has hyphens and/or additional words. But domains with hyphens in them are harder to market than domains without hyphens.
Exact match domains make people more likely to give you targeted anchor text when they mention your website. In some cases a strong domain name also makes a site appear more trustworthy and linkworthy.
Meta description tags may appear in the search results below your page title. Descriptions should be formatted in compete sentences so they read well to humans. Google displays about 150 to 160 characters from meta description tags in their search results. If your description runs past 160 characters they will cut it short and add ... at the end of their listing.
Each meta description should be unique on a per page basis. If you have a large website you can automatically generate descriptions using formulas to include things like item price, shipping details, or any sales offers. If your site is smaller it is best to edit each meta description by tag, especially on your key pages.
Meta descriptions should compliment your page titles by helping you differentiate from the competition and appeal to your target audience using similar touch-points.
Your descriptions should use slightly different word orders and keywords than what you use in the page title. Some examples:
If a page title uses the plural version of the word the description can use the singular version
If a page title uses an acronym the meta description can use the full version of the phrase
word order should be changed where it makes sense
If SEO Book was in my page title my meta description might include something like leading book on search engine optimization
If you do not have a meta description tag or your description is irrelevant to the search query search engines may grab a snippet of text from your page to describe your listing. If you do not like the snippet they grab you can either create a meta description tag or edit the part of your page that they are inserting into the search results. After their next crawl of your page they should update your snippet.
Google shows the first 60 to 70 characters in the search results. Make sure your important keywords occur early in the page title for scan-ability. If your title goes beyond 70 characters Google may cut off the title before 69 characters and display ... at the end of your page title.
Rather than making your page title just the keyword and/or starting your page title with the keyword, sometimes it helps to add in a descriptive modifier before your core keyword. This helps ensure your page is less likely to get filtered out of the search results (and thus makes your rankings more stable) while helping you rank for additional terms.
Page titles are used to draw in clicks from search results amongst many anonymous competing offers, thus they present an opportunity to differentiate yourself from the competition and qualify prospects to your offer.
Good titles evoke an emotional response, ask a question, or promise something (that the landing page fulfills).
Since the page title is one of the few elements search engines can show searchers before sending them to your site, they place significant weight on the words in the page title. In addition, some people link to pages using their official page title as the link anchor text.
Overlapping modifiers in a reasonable and readable way allows you improve your relevancy scores for an array of keywords, but they still need to read well. Rather than loading up page titles with a keyword list it is better to write a clear compelling offer that contains your keywords and describes your services.
Qualifying the wrong prospective clients with a bad offer will lead to a low conversion rate, or wasting time servicing non-clients. For example, if you sell something that is high end you wouldn't necessarily want to rank for your keyword with modifiers like cheap and discount, as servicing those people will waste your time.
Page titles should be differentiated from page to page on your site. Unless limited by the size and scope of your site, it is best not to have all your page titles follow the exact same formula across your site. You also should not use the same keyword at or near the start of every page title.
The format, order, and word selection of the words in your page title should be (at least slightly) different than the words in your meta description and on page headers.
If you have a strong brand you may want to place it at the end of your page title. If you have one of the leading trusted Internet brands (Amazon, eBay, etc.) then it might make sense to place your brand at the start of the page title. In most cases the page title should still be more focused on the page copy and searcher's intent than on your brand.
Yesterday I created 9 SEO videos and posted them to YouTube, but so far I only have about 5 YouTube subscribers, including my wife, mom, dog, and self. Can you give a few videos a look, and subscribe if you like them to help me increase that number? If you think they could use some improvements please offer those tips too. :)
Should I make individual post pages for each video on SEO Book and offer texual background like I did on some of my past videos?
I think I am getting a bit better at doing the speaking part of creating videos, and am getting better at keeping them succinct, but could greatly improve at the visual formatting part. For some reason the end format looks ok on my monitor, but the stills are fuzzy. Many people made video suggestions here, but I still have to get to doing about 100 more of these real quick...hopefully after I figure out how to make the still look cleaner.
Cory Doctorow spoke at Google a few months ago. His speech covers IP protection, copyright law, DRM, and international trade laws. It is well worth a listen for any web entrepreneur, especially those considering getting published.