Are You a Natural? Organic SEO

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A nice Q and A session with those in the know at SES San Jose shed some light on organic listings and the various methods that can be used to improve them. As site owners pelted the forum panel with questions, it became clear that a site’s best weapon is pure legitimacy.

Are You A Natural? Organic SEO
Are You A Natural? Organic SEO

Editor’s Note: Do you have suggestions or comments about drawing the line between your SEO tactics and spamming techniques? Are you too legit to quit? Discuss in WebProWorld.

The panel, consisting of Mike Grehan, CEO, Smart Interactive, Bruce Clay, President, Bruce Clay Inc., David Naylor of DaveNaylor.com, and Todd Freisen of Range Online Media, fielded questions concerning different issues site owners face on a day-to-day basis when dealing with organic listings.

The focus was mainly on Google and Yahoo! as MSN Search has yet to begin deep crawling of websites. And according to the panel, the two largest search engines are not as persnickety about site technicalities as people think. Primarily, whether or not your site gets tagged for black hat techniques depends upon the perceived legitimacy of your site architecture.

Yahoo! seems to be very proactive in correcting mistaken index removal. They’ve caught clean sites that have so-called “footprints” of spam sites, and have been removing them as a result. The panel suggested shooting Yahoo! an email if this has happened to your site. The most recent Yahoo! Index update has also been problematic for some as it has caused index pages to not rank as well. This is also expected to be addressed.

As for Google, if an index has been removed but not penalized, a simple resubmission can result in it being re-indexed.

Here are some of the more important topics covered in the Q&A session:

Link Buying: The panel said that link buying wasn’t a punishable offense as long as it is clear that the intention of purchased links advertising and not solely for search engine ranking. For example, a legitimate link like Yahoo’s travel.yahoo.com on SearchEngineWatch would not cause your site to be penalized.

But be careful where you purchase your links. If you are getting a link from what could be considered a “bad neighborhood,” make sure you don’t link back to that area and you shouldn’t be affected.

The Sandbox: Now here’s a popular topic as evidenced in this thread in WebProWorld. The panel was in agreement that there is in fact a Google sandbox, even if it is an inadvertent nether region created by the nature of how the search engine works. New sites with large amounts of links from the same IP block will appear unnatural and will not be weighted nor penalized. The site is thrown into the Sandbox because it will not receive any ranking benefit from these links and therefore will likely not be ranked very well for what they are targeting.

Duplicate Content: A lot has been made of penalties for duplicate content, but as long as it is judged to be duplicate content for legitimate reasons, there should be no penalty. You ask, what constitutes a “legitimate” reason? For example, if your goal is to expand from a US market and you want to target a new market in the UK, then a sister site with duplicate content and alternate spellings (color, colour, aluminum, aluminium) may be a necessary adjustment. It may be best to set these sites up with a region domain, expanding from “stuffyoucanbuy.com” to “stuffyoucanbuy.co.uk.” This would be considered a legitimate excuse for duplicate content.

Subdomains: Spam networks have left a lot footprints using subdomains and can result in penalties, especially if a spammer is trying to hide itself amongst the white hat sites. Subdomains can be an extremely powerful tool but have been so misused by spammers that many questions have been raised. If you don’t want to be associated with spammers, simply look at their tactics and don’t imitate them.

Again, this is brings us back to the legitimacy of subdomains. Subdomains themselves cannot be punishable as Google and Yahoo! use tons of subdomains like maps.google.com and travel.yahoo.com. The difference is that these subdomains are perfectly legitimate for business.

Danny Sullivan indicates that if your product has a legitimate reason for having a subdomain, then, by all means, make one. Just be aware of the potential penalties. If the subdomain can be a site unto itself, then it it’s legit. If not, you run the risk of search engine penalties.

So where’s the line?

“If you are unsure whether or not a site can support a subdomain on its own, it can’t,” Danny said.

Danny is also a big proponent for personalized search. The panel also felt that this was a method that Yahoo! and Google are using to refine their SERPs. This is done by mining the data from personal services. The panel expects this data will start to influence the results because the engines are concerned with how people search.

Finally, the panel said there was no correlation between traffic and ranking. None.

Search engine ranking of organic listings has a lot to do with the legitimacy of your site architecture and making sure your content is easily available to the search engine crawlers.

**This article contributed to and edited by Jason Lee Miller.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

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