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View Poll Results: Is SEO worth it these days?
Yes, I spend a lot of my time on SEO for my site. 18 64.29%
I only worry about the basics. 8 28.57%
I couldn't care less about my organic listings. 2 7.14%
Voters: 28. You may not vote on this poll

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Old 07-09-2006   #1
tonerman
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Is SEO on Google worth the effort anymore?

I have run an ecommerce site since 1997. We have about 250 product pages and our site is heavily customized to make it easy for shoppers to buy on our site. Things like saving the customer's shipping info if desired and automatically filling out the order form for them (except credit card data - we don't save that anywhere online).

For quite a few years (maybe 3-4) our product pages were usually on the first page of Google SERPS. Then the Florida update came along and we disappeared for awhile. The we suddenly popped back up to our prior SERPS.

Later we had some product pages with a reasonable SERP position, but others faded into the wilderness. We didn't react to any of these ups and downs trying to improve our results, it seemed to much work for to little return. Let's face it, organic listings do not convert anywhere nearly as frequently as PPC page entries.

A seemingly billion years ago Danny Sullivan made a comment something along the lines of "why bother with SEO now that PPC is available?" I am not trying to mis-quote Danny, but his comment was something along this line and it was made shortly after PPC was created by Overture. I started doing PPC on Overture at the time because that was the only way for me to sell on AOL.com since they had stopped using their prior search provider where I ranked well.

Now that Big Daddy has occurred all of our individual product pages have disappeared. Most of our general site pages are still there, and the top of our product listing pages are still there such as "Baby bottles" showing all the Baby Bottle products with links to the product page. I'm using "baby bottles" as an example - we don't actually sell anything for babies! Finding a product we sell on our site by model number, part number, etc with Google organic results is impossible right now.

My industry does not typically have sites with high PR's. 5 is about it and there may be only one with a 5. We've been a 4 forever. Our site, however, is the number two listing in the Google directory for our product catagory.

When Analytics came along we jumped on it immediately and implemented Google analytics. Analytics isn't 100% accurate, but it helps a lot. When we implemented Analytics there was a minor bug in Analytics that caused the tracking cookie to lose the session if the user moved from a link with www. in the URL to a page without the www. in the URL.

Because we were hungry for Analytics to work for us we did a search and replace on all of our site links and web pages and took the "www." out of all the links. We did it with a permanent 301 redirects and server level mod rewrites for incoming "www." page entries that stripped the "www." off the urls and served up plain-jane pages like "//anysite.com/index". Remember, we were dealing with a bug in Analytics that may be fixed now - I don't know.

We probably should have gone with all www. links - Google had the highest page rank assigned to our home page (PRO 4) and it was in the Google index as "www." also. Same for the Google directory listing. Hindsight is 20-20 isn't it?

When sitemaps came along we implemented Google sitemaps. Our shopping cart system creates session and shopping cart ids whenever a shopper is traversing our site and Google had indexed our pages recently with these shopping cart and session ids in the URLS and that wasn't good. It had never happened before. So we thought that Sitemaps would help. It gave plain jane html links to every page and the pages display without session data in the URLS. It didn't help. After we implemented Google sitemaps we had even fewer deep product pages indexed than before.

I pass all this along to put some perspective on my remarks. We decided to focus solely on managing our PPC programs instead of worrying about SEO roughly 2 years ago. Now Big Daddy comes along and makes me happy I made that decision. Thousands of decent, straight HTML web sites with high page ranks have suddenly disappeared from Google. What was the point of all that past hard work and observance of the "rules"? Right now for a lot of people and web sites its NOTHING.

Is this post about Big Daddy? No, it's about Google continually rewriting the ground rules and causing immense anquish for businesses and web sites that depend on organic results to make a living. It is also about SEO. Hence my question "Is SEO worth it these days?" Please vote.

Last edited by tonerman : 07-09-2006 at 09:01 PM.
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Old 07-09-2006   #2
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*.. it's about Google continually rewriting the ground rules..*

To be honest I see it less as changing the ground-rules, as more being able to "police" the original ones....
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Old 07-09-2006   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glengara
*.. it's about Google continually rewriting the ground rules..*

To be honest I see it less as changing the ground-rules, as more being able to "police" the original ones....
Interesting comment. Care to expand on that a little?
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Old 07-09-2006   #4
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Let's take the apparent post BD formula where linkage quality determines depth of indexing and which seems to have particularly hit sites that were over-relying on reciprocal links.

To some of us, promoting sites through recips fell into the "links scheme" area, but because G seemed unable/unwilling to act on them, promotion through recips became an "accepted practice" that now appears it never actually was.

Last edited by glengara : 07-09-2006 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 07-09-2006   #5
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Despite the fact that Google's little oopsies sometimes cause SEO to become a game of crapshoot, it is still worth it. There's nothing like the feeling of seeing a #1 ranking that you've been striving for. And, often, that feeling is followed by a heaviness in one's pocket, caused by increased revenues. That's a good thing too.
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Old 07-09-2006   #6
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However lately it seems there is no rhyme or reason to their results. Strangely my main site just came out of supp hell with this last update but others I know report the opposite. I did nothing to cause this. Don't get me on the idiocy of the number of links being a factor in how much of a site is indexed if at all. And the stupidty of crawling pages and then not indexing them is even worse, considering you're allowing Google to use your bandwidth.
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Old 07-09-2006   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by glengara
Let's take the apparent post BD formula where linkage quality determines depth of indexing and which seems to have particularly hit sites that were over-relying on reciprocal links.

To some of us, promoting sites through recips fell into the "links scheme" area, but because G seemed unable/unwilling to act on them, promotion through recips became an "accepted practice" that now appears it never actually was.
I don't completely understand reciprical links I guess. I thought a reciprocal link was where you went to another site and exchanged links - either a worthy competitor or a complementary site. While we have no reciprocal links on our site whatsoever, and no paid inbound links either, I always thought the smart people had reciprocal links. Please explain to me what is wrong with reciprocal links from a SEO and search engine viewpoint?
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Old 07-10-2006   #8
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*Please explain to me what is wrong with reciprocal links from a SEO and search engine viewpoint?*

With G the First Commandment has always been "Do not participate in link schemes designed to increase your site's ranking or PageRank.", problem was interpreting what was meant by a links scheme.
These ranged from the strict one of only "link farms" were included, to the broad one that would have had cross-linking and reciprocal/exchanged links in the mix.

About six months ago around the time of the rel nofollow and the big push against bought/paid links by G, in an answer too a webmaster I noticed "exchanged" and "paid" links used in the same sentence, it raised a flag as to my knowledge it was the first time "exchanged links" had been specifically mentioned by G in a negative context.

Add to that the relatively new additions of "relevant" and "industry-specific" to the "When your site is ready" guidelines on linking, and the Matt Cutts "Timeline" blog entry.

So IMO the present position is that there's nothing wrong with recips/exchanged links when done in moderation and on topic a la academic paper citation, but when off-topic and done for promotional purposes, there may very well be.
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Old 07-10-2006   #9
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Discerning motivation is a key, but to what can extent, if at all, can that be done algorithmically, except by crunching numbers on percentages?
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Old 07-10-2006   #10
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*Discerning motivation is a key..*

IMO there are a number of linkage indicators that can point towards a potential links scheme, from inflated internal linkage to interlinked domains; the more of these that show up on a site the clearer becomes the intent....
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Old 07-10-2006   #11
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I'm with Donna on this one. For most websites, the number of visitors referred by Google is so large that you've just got to try to figure out how to at least tweak those numbers upwards.
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Old 07-10-2006   #12
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>> We probably should have gone with all www. links <<

Yes, that is very probably what you should have done.
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Old 07-10-2006   #13
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I was wrong about the www thing - not really a factor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by g1smd
>> We probably should have gone with all www. links <<

Yes, that is very probably what you should have done.
Funny that you noticed that remark. Actually when we made the change we used a mod rewrite directive to send a "moved permanently 301" in response to a page request as well as the path to the new URL. I asked our hosting company today to double check all the 301 code we wrote to make sure we followed all the comments in Matt Cutt's blog, as well as another blog he pointed to by another Google employee about 301 redirects using mod rewrite. They confirmed we are squeaky clean and have been since we made the change months ago. We are on an Apache Server B VPS and we have full access to the server for mod rewrite.

We also implemented Google site maps to aid Google in spidering our pages and the URL changes. All of this was done sometime back in early March (Didn't Big Daddy start sometime in March?). When I checked today with the site: parameter on Yahoo they had all our pages indexed properly without www's. Even MSN had about half of them updated properly. Google has 36 indexed properly and another 200+ that are still indexed under all the old www URL's. The www ones are probably in supplemental hell and just haven't been reindexed.

Our url's without www have 36 pages total indexed on Google months later. When I added the old www. site to our google sitemaps today it immediately provided craw and index data on a zillion of our old www pages.

Just demonstrates you can do everything right site design and SEO-wise and it might not make any difference at all. Pass me a black hat will you?

Last edited by tonerman : 07-10-2006 at 09:00 PM.
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Old 07-10-2006   #14
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If Google was mainly listing www pages, and it was www pages that had some visible PR, then by redirecting everything to non-www you effectively told Google that you were moving to a new site... and since Google is
1. using the age of a domain, a page URL, and its content as ranking factors,
2. good at spotting some forms of duplicate content,
3. very stubborn about forgetting about content and URLs that it has already seen,
you have unwittingly shot yourself in both feet, both legs, and half your arse - and it is going to take a very long time for Google to get it right (we are talking years here) for your site.

A redirect to the www version of the site would probably have seen all the www pages fully indexed within 2 months, most of the non-www pages dropped out within another 3 or 4 months (except for anything marked Supplemental - anything cached before 2005 June would have dropped out in 2006 May, and the rest would have probably hung around for another 9 months to a year tops).

Last edited by g1smd : 07-11-2006 at 08:20 PM.
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Old 07-10-2006   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by g1smd
If Google was mainly listing www pages, and it was www pages that had some visible PR, then by redirecting everything to non-www you effectively told Google that you were moving to a new site... and since Google is
1. using the age of a domain, a page URL, and its content as ranking factors,
2. good at spotting some forms of duplicate content,
2. very stubborn about forgetting about content and URLs that it has already seen,
you have unwittingly shot yourself in both feet, both legs, and half your arse - and it is going to take a very long time for Google to get it right (we are talking years here) for your site.

A redirect to the www version of the site would probably have seen all the www pages fully indexed within 2 months, most of the non-www pages dropped out within another 3 or 4 months (except for anything marked Supplemental - anything cached before 2005 June would have dropped out in 2006 May, and the rest would have probably hung around for another 9 months to a year tops).
Not bright enough to argue with you except to tell you that we worked with a Google Analytics Partner when the change was made and they told us Google did not penalize the pagerank of any 301 redirect. I think Matt Cutt's blog said then same thing - no penalty.

If you know better I can't argue with you. Whatever.
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Old 07-10-2006   #16
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I don't know for sure.

I can just say what I suspect would happen based on what I have already seen happen to many sites that have set up, or not set up, 301 redirects in the last 2 or 3 years.
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Old 07-10-2006   #17
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Quote:
we worked with a Google Analytics Partner when the change was made and they told us Google did not penalize the pagerank of any 301 redirect.
I don't know what that means! "don't penalize the pagerank" is something I just don't understand. Do theyt mean that the 301 redirect will pass all the PageRank through to the new page? Do they mean teh 301 redireceted page will still have its PageRank?

Quote:
I think Matt Cutt's blog said then same thing - no penalty
Again, ??? Me confused!

I think people confuse a penalty with something that looks like it. A penalty is when you have a mark against you. There are other things that can happen aren't penalties, but rather are just not working properly, but that look and feel like a penalty.

Think of it like tax. Having to pay tax isn't a penalty, although it sure as @#$% feels like one! Cheating on your taxes can, however, get you a penalty. Receiving a massive tax bill isn't a penalty, and often we receive an extra large bill or miss deductions (or in my case have to pay an unexpected Uni bill...). Again, these aren't penalties, they are just the way the game works. But cheat on your taxes, and you'll get the full bill and a fine most likely. That, the fine, that is a penalty

With 301 redirects, I don't really think that it is fool proof, and works exactly the same as leaving old pages up, at the very least in te short term. That isn't a penalty, but just the way it works.
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Old 07-10-2006   #18
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Is SEO on Google worth the effort anymore?
Seeing that statistics show that 80% of searchers click on organic listings while the remaining 20% click on PPC, I'd have to say and astounding "yes!"

Hey if one can focus on PPC alone and still make good profits, all the more power to them. But honestly I have yet to experience the trouble some people do with their sites jumping in an out of the Google SERPs. I don't know if that is just dumb luck, trying to play "by the rules" the best I can or just simply due to the fact that we try to make every site we market the best of its kind. But at any rate, Florida, Big Daddy, etc., has never been a concern to me because it has never had a negative effect on any sites we have ever marketed.

I've had more trouble with specific AdWords campaigns then SEO whether that be due to performance of ads, landing pages or simply fighting bidding wars without enough of an arsenal (budget).

I actually believe both SEO and PPC are vital. I want to target 100% of the market, not just a slice of the pie.

So I vote yes that SEO on Google is still worth the effort. As long as I can see my own sites and client's site positioning well and drawing traffic from the organic SERPs, I'll continue to put forth the effort of SEO.
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Old 07-10-2006   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by projectphp
I don't know what that means! "don't penalize the pagerank" is something I just don't understand. Do theyt mean that the 301 redirect will pass all the PageRank through to the new page? Do they mean teh 301 redireceted page will still have its PageRank?


Again, ??? Me confused!

I think people confuse a penalty with something that looks like it. A penalty is when you have a mark against you. There are other things that can happen aren't penalties, but rather are just not working properly, but that look and feel like a penalty.

Think of it like tax. Having to pay tax isn't a penalty, although it sure as @#$% feels like one! Cheating on your taxes can, however, get you a penalty. Receiving a massive tax bill isn't a penalty, and often we receive an extra large bill or miss deductions (or in my case have to pay an unexpected Uni bill...). Again, these aren't penalties, they are just the way the game works. But cheat on your taxes, and you'll get the full bill and a fine most likely. That, the fine, that is a penalty

With 301 redirects, I don't really think that it is fool proof, and works exactly the same as leaving old pages up, at the very least in te short term. That isn't a penalty, but just the way it works.
I left your whole post in because it asks a question and it makes an observation. The question was: "Do they mean that the 301 redirect will pass all the PageRank through to the new page?". Answer: Yes, the pagerank should pass through - that was my understanding.

Your observation that using a 301 redirect may not create an actual "penalty" for your site on Google, but it does have a negative impact is correct! The cause for this penalty is not using a 301 redirect per se (that is the correct procedure according to Google), but the amount of time it takes Google to straighten out their index afterwards.

In my case Yahoo had no problem with it - they reindexed us quickly. Google is obviously having problems with it (cleaning up their index for a site following use of a 301 redirect). So be it. I spend thousands on PPC and I spent thousands implementing Google Analytics for my site. Unless I went all one way or another I was going to get nothing out of Analytics. If I have to choose between Analytics data or organic listings I am going to go with Analytics.

Secondly, someone earlier said something about how much organic traffic they got. I run a product-related ecommerce site - we sell stuff for money. The bigger issue for our site is conversions. PPC entries convert dramatically better than organic page entries. About 8-10% of my PPC entries convert on average. My organic entry conversions are miniscule in terms of conversion percentages with one exception.

A lot of our organic clicks are past customers returning to our site to reorder or purchase a new item. They come back by searching on various versions of our company's name which is three words X X Corporation.

I am not here to promote my company so I listed my company name as X X Corporation. Most people search for us just using the first two words. Some put the first two words into one word. No matter how they look for us we rank #1 and in that regard our PageRank is critical for the various search terms. So far, even with the time lag on the 301 issue we've run into on Google, there's no problem with our home page.

Last edited by tonerman : 07-11-2006 at 12:24 AM.
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Old 07-11-2006   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Wallace
Seeing that statistics show that 80% of searchers click on organic listings while the remaining 20% click on PPC, I'd have to say and astounding "yes!"

Hey if one can focus on PPC alone and still make good profits, all the more power to them. But honestly I have yet to experience the trouble some people do with their sites jumping in an out of the Google SERPs. I don't know if that is just dumb luck, trying to play "by the rules" the best I can or just simply due to the fact that we try to make every site we market the best of its kind. But at any rate, Florida, Big Daddy, etc., has never been a concern to me because it has never had a negative effect on any sites we have ever marketed.

I've had more trouble with specific AdWords campaigns then SEO whether that be due to performance of ads, landing pages or simply fighting bidding wars without enough of an arsenal (budget).

I actually believe both SEO and PPC are vital. I want to target 100% of the market, not just a slice of the pie.

So I vote yes that SEO on Google is still worth the effort. As long as I can see my own sites and client's site positioning well and drawing traffic from the organic SERPs, I'll continue to put forth the effort of SEO.
I don't have any problem with anything you said except I question your remark about not have the PPC budget you need. If you can make a 10-15% profit on all the money you can invest in something, how much should you invest? ALL YOU CAN GET YOUR HANDS ON! There is no such thing as a budget with a successful PPC campaign. If it works spend every dollar you possibly can.

Now in our case because we sell products that are paid for with credit cards and the money from a sale is in our bank account in 1-3 business days depending upon the type credit card the buyer used - we buy all the clicks we can get as long as the clicks make us money!
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