When you’re an SEO you have to roll with the punches, but I have to admit I sometimes get nostalgic for the “good ol’ days”… you know, back when there was a Google dance once a month (no, not that dance), and when PageRank (then often-updated) was easy to game and a great predictor of rankings.
Of course many bloggers and prominent people in the industry rejoiced around 2004-2005 exclaiming ‘PageRank is Dead’, ’sitewide links will get you penalized’ and ‘only dumb SEOs bother with META tags’.
Well guess what? They’re ba-aack…
PageRank, Sitewide Links and META tags are not important for the same reasons they used to be (ranking, ranking, and ranking, respectively); now that Google has a two-tiered Sandbox, they matter because of the indexing portion of that Sandbox.
As I posted eight months ago at LinkBuildingBlog, these days your initial worry is getting everything indexed (and in the main index, not Supplemental). Only then can you even worry about rankings, because until you’re indexed you don’t even have a chance to rank… and staying out of Supplemental is not as easy as you might think.
I wrote a short How to: Escape Google’s Supplemental Index which got featured on Digg (and happens to be my most popular post traffic-wise, it seems a lot of people are having that problem ), and I think the advice I gave there still holds true a few months later. I just want to point out three specific “old-school” factors, which, despite what the SEO Hotshot may tell you, are not “dead”!
- PageRank: Right now the biggest determinant on how a page gets indexed (whether it gets indexed at all, how often, and whether or not in ends up in Supplemental) is its PageRank. How do you like that? Don’t believe me? Here it is from the man Matt Cutts himself (and that’s just two weeks ago). Now, I still believe that trusted links are the key to rankings, but I think brute PageRank is your primary worry if you end up in Supplemental (though gaining more trust certainly won’t hurt). *Please note that what you see in the toolbar does not necessary represent real PageRank.
- Sitewide Links: Well I was never a believer that sitewide links could hurt you (after all, what is more ‘natural’ and ‘editorial’ than being placed on someone’s blogroll?), but I do admit that once you have a link from one well-linked page on a site, you don’t gain a whole lot more trust juice from being linked to from every page. If however you throw indexing into the mix its a whole different ballgame; now that PageRank matters, the overall ‘weight’ of sitewide links from PR4, PR5, and PR6 sites is going to help you get that larger (100 or 1000+ page) site fully and consistently indexed.
- META Tags: Aaron Wall explained it well here, but the short version is: if you have a unique title tag and META description on each page, you have a better shot of staying out of Supplemental.
For the record I practice what I preach–I’ve launched several 100+ page sites in the past 4 months and, despite getting some high-quality editorial (”trusted”) citations (via link baiting of course), they had issues getting fully-indexed (non-Supplemental). But getting a few mid/high-PR sitewide links, and giving each page a unique META description solved all of their indexing problems right-quick. Makes me pine a bit for the good ol’ days… long live PageRank!
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