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Why It's Hard to Rank Well in Google

By Virginia Lawrence

We all want our Web sites to come up on the first page of Google when someone searches on our favorite keywords. In particular, we want our site to be ranked in the top three for a search. But we have all noticed that some sites will appear on the first page of a search for a while, only to disappear later. What's going on?

Google is changing the ranking algorithm. Small changes are made constantly, while major changes affecting many, many sites are made occasionally.

I've just returned from the Webmaster World Search Marketing Conference where I had a chance to talk to technical people from Google about the current update. By the time this column appears, Google's most recent update of its search algorithms and the resulting search rankings will be in effect. We can see how our Web sites rank in this latest Google iteration.

Why Does Google Update its Search Algorithm?

Google's main focus is on improving the search experience for all users. At the same time, Google is working to eliminate the sites that are marketed by people using "black hat" techniques. Those people are gaming the system, and if they were successful, the search results on Google would not be the most appropriate search results for Google users. It's because of the "black hats" who are willing to try anything to rank well in Google that the rest of us must continually adjust our sites and our marketing to accommodate the latest Google changes.

What Can We Do?

Google provides some basic site optimization guidelines, but in general, the site marketer must experiment and evaluate the results. For example, as soon as the latest Google algorithm update is fully live, we'll evaluate the effect of the change on the rankings of the sites we're marketing. We'll see which of the sites still rank well, and we'll compare those to the sites that have slipped in the rankings. With experience, we can infer Google's new rules by analyzing the effects of those rules.

When we have a good picture of the new rules producing the latest Google rankings, then we can update sites to rank well. It's a constant test of marketing with significant rewards for the winners.

–© 2005 Virginia Lawrence, Ph.D. is a professional Web Developer and Online Marketing Consultant. She routinely places client sites on the first page of a Google search. Contact her at or visit her Web site at



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