Google Ranking

Google Giveth, Google Taketh Away

You may think it’s a stretch to imply Google operates in a similar way to God. But to those who lost 90% of their top rankings overnight due to Google’s new algorithmic update may justifiably feel they must have “sinned.”

To them, I say, I feel your pain.

SEO experts agree, this is a big one.

Many also concur we may still be in for more surprises as Google attempts to reduce rankings for low-quality sites. Google’s official position is this: “sites which are a low-value add for users, copy content from other websites, or sites that are just not very useful will be penalized with reduced rankings, so that high-quality sites–sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on gain the coveted better rankings.”

Is Google Playing God?

Some website owners might be forgiven for thinking Google has unfairly punished them for some unknown transgression. Some might even claim it’s illegal for Google to knock them down in the rankings.

But consider this: Google is a publicly-traded company that gets to decide the value of each page of your website. You don’t decide that, they do.

Google, like other search engines, constantly improves their algorithms in order to serve up the most relevant results based on a users search term. And from time to time, they will make changes that penalize websites that deliver “low-value” content.

That may seem unfair if you’ve just lost a top ranking.

But it’s not like the top positions no longer exist. It’s just that now others are“blessed” with high rankings instead of you. You don’t hear an uproar about that, do you?

How I Learned To Give Google What It Wants

I’ll never forget the day in late December 2004 when dozens of my most profitable affiliate sites started disappearing from the top positions they had occupied for years.

This became known as the “Jagger update”. Like now, Google felt the need to eliminate “low value” content. And, like now, there is going to be collateral damage.

Right or wrong, my sites were gone.

After a few days of self-pity (why me, Lord?) I made a determination to only publish content that was well researched, well written, and properly formatted and had anchor text smart backlinks embedded in articles of a similar high quality published only on sites already trusted by Google.

This is what Google wants. And it’s what I’ve been teaching students of my online affiliate marketing trainings for over 6 years now.

Winners And Losers

Legitimate link building processes are now as important as ever. These tactics, which I’ve been teaching for many years and have talked about often in my affiliate marketing podcasts have not been negatively affected at all.

If fact, we publishers who take the time to do it right will inherit rankings forfeited by others with less foresight. Many have now learned the hard way that publishing “drivel” (crap content) across multiple platforms (content farms) is now a big no-no.

Listen here to an interview about this recent Google algorithm update.

About the Author

James Martell lives in White Rock, BC with his wife Arlene and their four children. James is a pioneer in the affiliate marketing industry and was successfully profiting with affiliate websites as early as 1999.

James Martell is an Internet pioneer who discovered the lucrative world of affiliate marketing in 1999. He is a self-taught Internet entrepreneur and a leading expert in affiliate marketing training, outsourcing and natural search engine optimization. James is also the host of the "Affiliate Buzz", the first and longest running affiliate marketing podcast in the industry (since 2003). Google+ James Martell


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{ 40 comments… add one }
  • Hamiduzzaman December 6, 2011, 12:47 pm

    We build a website very hardly but often google knock our blogs or pages.One of my site’s pr was two.I was continuously building backlinks.But google made it Page Rank 1.I do not know why.

  • jessica October 21, 2011, 10:40 pm

    I think its Google’s way of cleaning its own house. It is trying to produce more relevant content for each search. It is one step forward. We can all agree that its still not perfect. But atleast Google strives to better itself. We just have to move forward in the same direction if we want to benefit.

  • Selina April 28, 2011, 7:14 pm

    Very thought provoking. There is another post on this site, http://www.famousbloggers.net/analysis-dominate-google.html/ that should be coupled with this post.

    Google is HUGE and could be very dangerous in the wrong hands.

    I am glad for Panda since it is to increase the quality of the SE results.

    I have two daughters that I want the Internet to be a safe place for but power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.


  • Kimi April 13, 2011, 3:48 am

    Hi James,Indeen in the end, the low quality sites are gone, eventhough great in the beginning but at the end, it will be fair. It is just a matter of time.Just do everything nicely and give the best of providing our own contents, and we are good to go, I guess.Thanks.

  • R.O.M.E.L.O. April 13, 2011, 12:13 am

    My blog writing may not be the best but I do try very hard to come up with originally written content for my blogs. Anyway, Google is still a weird beast. If you think you got it figured out then it will suddenly do something completely out of the ordinary.

  • Maria Pavel April 12, 2011, 3:46 pm

    People often make the mistake to take Google for granted. They got so used to it to the point where they believe Google works for them to fill their pockets. The sad truth is Google doesn’t care for individual web owners, it looks at the bigger picture and kills whoever stands in its way. And who are we to complain? We can only comply if we don’t want to die with the rest.

  • Allison Duncan April 11, 2011, 8:38 pm

    I’m curious what you mean by ‘across multiple platforms’. Does this include syndication? I am a smaller blog that was really only just seeing a real increase in my site hits and numbers. Whatever Google did around the week of March 25 suddenly whacked those numbers and it was mere weeks after I began to be syndicated.

    Any chance this is the reason?

  • Jeremy April 4, 2011, 2:29 pm

    I have been reading about this Google Panda update for a while now and it is funny to me to see how rare it is that websites that suffered from this algorithm hit couldn’t figure out why it occurred. It sort of seemed like many of them expected it to come, but just hoped it would take longer to implement. I am so glad that Google and others constantly find ways to encourage quality content.

    • James Martell April 8, 2011, 6:57 pm

      Agreed. I think many do know they’re skirting the line so to speak. Sometimes they step over the line by accident — other times Google moves the line.

      It pays to stay away from the line.

  • Ray March 28, 2011, 3:09 am

    I can kind of see it both ways. Those for it and those against it. Where to you draw the line, what makes google the judge and jurry? I don’t know. I guess they need to draw the line somewhere and do some weeding out. They will never please everyone. I never did notice any major change, but I do not check search results daily or hourly like some do. Any search engine will likely be manipulated somehow. And after this change, I’m sure people will figure out another way to take advantage of things. They just adapt and change their ways and tactics. While the little guy/gal site just hopes for the best.

  • sarah March 28, 2011, 2:49 am

    Its their search engine so they can do whatever they want. If we aren’t satisfied, we can build our own SE and put the sites we want on top for every keyword we want using our own algorithm. Just like you said we play by their rules, we get rewarded. If not , we get slapped.

  • S.S. Medley March 27, 2011, 11:16 am

    I’ve been wondering how this change affected new bloggers.

  • Karan March 27, 2011, 10:02 am

    Wow, I have seen a significant improvement in my rankings.

    And as far as low quality content is considered, I had an online experiment going on with spam blogs and I was surprised to find an overall increase in rankings and traffic on that spam blog.

    So, I guess it is really not clear what Google’s intensions are ?

  • Jan Husdal March 26, 2011, 2:07 pm

    Google changed their algorithm. Some lost, some won. So what?

    Google is a search engine and they have a every right to design their search engine they way they want. The day the don’t display useful results any-more people will stop using it, end of Google.

    Google may be the Microsoft of the Internet, but there will always be competitors and in the long run I think we will see the development of specialized search engines catering to specific topics or kinds of users. And as others have stated above, Google is not the only source for traffic. Maybe for traffic from the big masses,yes, but for quality content catering to certain readers there will always be other options.

  • Alex March 26, 2011, 9:33 am

    Google isn’t doing anything illegal, they can actually make your website disappear from their index without giving your a real explanation, or they can tell you that they don’t like you and that’s why they deindexed your website.

    People don’t realize that Google isn’t a public owned company is private, owned by a couple of people who collect the money, and they can do whatever they want with it.

    But the fact still remains that we gave and are giving Google the power, if we just stopped using Google, they would be forced to be more user friendly and be more sympathetic with their users, publishers, webmasters etc.

  • Mani Viswanathan March 26, 2011, 1:48 am

    Yes Google is the Big Daddy (currently) But I guess SEO is quite over-hyped. One needs to understand that Basic Quality content will fetch you the results.

    • James Martell April 8, 2011, 7:00 pm

      Agreed, SEO is over-hyped. It is also often mis-understood. I still see some referring to “keyword stuffing” as necessary. Quality content is the only way to go!

  • Kavya Hari March 26, 2011, 12:16 am

    James, great article:) Thanks you so much for given great post on here. Today, google needs unique article and so on. It will be helpful to rising your page ranking.

  • Peter Markovic March 25, 2011, 9:44 pm

    Many of us are webmasters, not surprisingly we tend to see things from a webmasters prospective.

    Google prioritizes the needs of the user by adjusting its algorithm to serve up the most relevant information determined from a few (sometime just one) keywords!

    Not a job for the faint hearted as the algorithm must change as the needs of the user changes, partially now as new social networking considerations are stronger than ever.

    If the internet was a religion, then Google is God!


  • Alexis March 25, 2011, 4:23 pm

    Hi James,
    Google might not be God but his actual online dominance imply that marketers must listen to what they want. It’s a waste of time to complain or cry but anyone should just adjust to changes.

  • Thomas March 25, 2011, 3:15 pm

    Hey James
    I think Google wants good quality content ranking good and people that try to be a little smart or a little fast a bad ranking. Sometimes someone fines a hole in the Google algorithm and of cause Google need to close that hole to keep the best sites with the best content at the top. That is only fair I think.

  • Cosmin Stefan March 25, 2011, 1:41 pm

    Hello James!

    Google is not playing God. Everyone is free to do whatever they want on their site.

    Of course, Google will do the same with their search engine and provide users with the most relevant and valuable information. If we provide solutions for users, Google will like us.

    At least, that’ how I think.

    All the best! Cosmin.

  • Jitendra Singh March 25, 2011, 1:10 pm

    yeah, well said. So conclusion is – be honest with your content and google wont forget you 🙂

  • Justin Germino March 25, 2011, 11:02 am

    Content scrapers that were previously able to gain better SERP than the original articles in some cases will no longer be the case. This helps level the playing field and ensure more people write unique original content instead of doing vast copying of other site content to try and build up their own sites.

    I have also seen a huge influx in the number of people wanting to guest post on blogs since this change went into effect, everyone is jumping on the ‘let me give you an article’ in exchange for a link to try and improve their SEO and SERP.

    • James Martell March 25, 2011, 3:59 pm

      It’s interesting to here about the influx of people wanting to guest post. It’ll be up to the guest blog owners to stringently maintain their quality standards. I would think the ones that do, will do well. The guest blog owners who get greedy and drop their quality standards will in the future run into troubles.

      • Justin Germino March 25, 2011, 4:45 pm

        I agree with your statement, the blog host not only must ensure quality but must use copyscape to make sure article is original or it will provide little value reprinted a duplicate article.

  • David March 25, 2011, 9:43 am

    In the end it does not matter what you do,
    I would add: don’t run adsense on your site because if the adsense quality control views your site and doesn’t like it they will de-index it. in the end you should not depend on Google to get your traffic, there are a lot more ways to get traffic.

  • Erwin Konig March 25, 2011, 8:15 am

    I think this is the first article I read where someone underlines the fact that is up to Google to decide what results to show. If they decide to change their algorithm they change their algorithm… if you dropped because of the change you live with that or adapt to the new algorithm.
    Google is a business, and if you base your own business on them (that you can’t controll) you must be aware from the beginning that you are at high risk.

    • James Martell March 25, 2011, 3:53 pm

      Hey Erwin,

      Agreed. We all get to come up with our own rules for our sites. It would seem to me that Google has every right set-up their own rules.

  • Fisayo Sanyaolu March 25, 2011, 7:17 am

    Great post James. Thanks for sharing your experience with Google Jagger update.

  • James Pruiit March 25, 2011, 5:48 am

    Thats a great Post James. a couple of years ago (don’t remember what they called that one) I lost all my rankings, and swore it wouldn’t kill me like that again. I started focusing on getting more direct traffic through all my link building efforts, and since then every update, my rankings have only improved.thanks for sharing, and great podcasts by the way.

    • James Martell April 8, 2011, 6:53 pm

      Hi James, thanks for the kudos on the podcasts. Much appreciated.

      Your story sounds similar to mine. The quality of my content early on wasn’t so good plus I relied heavily on link partners for backlinks. When we got hit it hurt but turned out to be the best thing that happened because it forced us to get real.

  • Ash March 25, 2011, 5:16 am

    James, you have it completely right and it googles eyes my website had sinned! My page rank did take a knock, which was quite distressing at first. Now the real question, is how can this be amended??Ash

    • James Martell March 25, 2011, 4:04 pm

      Hi Ash, I am sorry to hear about taking a knock. It can be quite distressing as you said. I would suggest having a real good look at your site and tidy up anything you feel may be causing the problem. The timing for your questions is good.

      Matt Cutts from Google just discussed in the video on my site. You can see the link entitled “Google SEO Tip 109 – When Are Site Penalties Lifted?” to it below. I would suggest having a listen.

      Keep your chin up.


  • semmy March 25, 2011, 4:41 am

    Hi James this is really nice article!! It’s happen to me also. I’ve bunch affiliate sites. just only a review site with no content, suddenly my website is drop. I agree with you, just give google want. Good quality content and good backlinks.

    • James Martell March 28, 2011, 3:03 pm

      Yes, agreed. I find it a lot easier these days overall. I guess much of the challenge in the early days of Google is as good as they were, they were not very good a ranking real content. Today it’s a whole new ball game.

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