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Why doesn't Google trust us? Why is it near impossible to get my brand new website ranking for the keyword phrases I want?
I’m sure the question has been asked by many an SEO or webmaster ever since Google first started to show signs of becoming the search engine in which we trust.
The problem that faces all new websites is that they’re starting from scratch and are therefore unknown within the global marketplace that is the worldwide web.
It’s pretty much the same in the real world, where a fledgling business obviously doesn't have the same clout as a more established rival. People find security in familiarity: Recognised brands; service providers they’ve used before; recommendations from friends and colleagues. This stems from human relationships in general, and the initial distrust we have towards strangers, change, and the unknown. Of course, this is simply a basic defence mechanism that although instilled in us by our parents for good reason, is probably also a part of our genetic make-up, harking back to the time we walked the earth in packs (ape or otherwise) and outsiders were seen as a threat to our food supply and the continuation of the family line.
Everybody’s wary of the new kid in the playground. It’s his or her first day at a new school and nobody knows where they come from, what they’ve done, or generally what their game might be. What if they were the bully at their last school, or the classroom thief? They may have been the teacher’s pet, or the school grass? It isn’t until some of the more confident kids make an approach and set the trend that the distrust begins to fall away and eventually the new child faces acceptance.
Obviously it doesn’t always play out like this, but in general a great deal of the human race has evolved to eventually accept outsiders.
Google has applied these rules to the internet and the way it ranks web pages for specific terms.
There is something called the ‘Google Sandbox effect’. This is a catch-all term for what is most probably a number of filters within the Google algorithm that have the effect of keeping a website that is targeting high volume keywords, low in the search engine rankings for the initial 6 – 12 months of its online existence. High volume keywords specific to your website's niche, services, products, etc. are what the vast majority of end-users out there in the real world will be using when searching for what it is your website offers. e.g. "SEO services" for an SEO website.
This is to root out any fly-by-night website that’s looking to engage in some deceitful practice or other, and in turn fool Google into ranking it up there with the high-flyers.
Which takes us back to the real world and the common or garden shopping precinct; those concrete Mecca’s to consumerism spawned in a time when the ease of online shopping was a mere pipe-dream and people still communicated via the spoken word. You’ll have seen the oft-empty premises that open up every now and then on short-term leases, usually with CLEARANCE SALE plastered across the windows and assorted tat on offer within.
Now would you buy a widescreen LCD television from one of these outlets? Or a brand new, top of the range laptop? Would you put your faith and hard-earned into the hands of one of these proprietors? Of course you wouldn’t. But there are plenty of people out there that would.
Whereas we have the presence of mind to regard something that looks “too good to be true” as being just that, there’s always somebody that’ll fall for the ruse and end up with a box of bricks when they were expecting a new TV, or a laptop that blows up and burns the house down after one month of use.
Google saw how other search engines were ruthlessly manipulated by spammers and conceded that (to paraphrase the great Pete Townshend of The Who) ‘They Won’t Get Fooled Again’. Hence they appointed themselves as the guardians of the internet – though some might say they’ve become an over-zealous secret police – and sought with their algorithm to remove the unreliable shyster and the slippery spiv from their indexes.
Such a noble intent means that Bill Smith sitting at home searching for the best deal on a Corby Trouser Press is less likely to be confronted by a page of results trying to force erectile tissue disfunction remedies down his throat. Which in turn saves him from a handbag to the cranium when Mrs. Smith happens to peer over his shoulder. Ergo: Bill Smith uses Google again because:
And maybe the next time he’ll click on one of the Sponsored Links that border the results page - the source of Google's fortune.
So a factor such as domain age plays a part in Google’s ranking – and most importantly long-term ranking - in a bid to keep the spam monkey and the part-time chancer – who may deal in underhand methods in a bid to get their site ranking in a very short period of time - at bay.
Obviously this hits every site and is a case of punishing the majority for the malpractices of the few. You can have the cleanest website going, remaining completely accountable and employing no techniques that are deemed untoward, and you’ll still not pull a respectable rank for big-money search terms.
Whether this is fair or not is another matter and not one for the here and now, although it is reasonable to say that the thinking behind it can only be a good one for Mr. Smith. That it’s Mr. Smith and all the other end-users across the world that keeps Google in profit shows that as well as ensuring they deliver the best possible user-experience, they are also protecting their investment.
As a supplement to this, a link from one of the top-level trusted websites such as a National newspaper or the BBC, if containing the term you’re targeting within its anchor text, may allow you to bypass the sandbox filter, but such a link to a brand new website is highly unlikely to materialise.
So trust remains a constant factor in search engine optimisation and website promotion, even after the initial year of a website’s existence. Trust continually maintained by incoming links, the quality of these links; website content and its regular update. A website should be seen as a long term investment and become as important to your business's marketing campaign as any other advertising channels you may pursue.
For anybody planning to commission a website, or having just had one built, the long and the short of the matter is that it's not just the real world where trust has to be both earned and upheld, but the virtual world too.
Please feel free to add any thoughts or comments below...