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Reverse Engineering Search Engine Algorithms

November 2003

How did they do that? He who finds the solution first wins, right?

The Value of a Search Engine

Some people use abstract Mathematical concepts and ideas to describe the core value of a search engine. Although they are highly important, for this article we are going to ignore future implications, as the internet is a highly unpredictable medium. The one thing we will accept as a certainty is change.

At the base level the value of a search engine today is its distribution * frequency * average ad profit * ad clickthrough rate. Entropy is constantly trying to drive these large profit machines into financial horror. Google is the company who has these elements in the best balance right now so I am going to break down their current product.

The Components

None of the above components work independently of one another. With data organization on a mass scale, a small shift in any direction for one attribute can cause massive shifts in the other components.

Distribution is a rough estimate of popularity. Some companies such as MicroSoft have added advantages by incorporating their search within their operating system software bundle. Other companies such as Google aim to offset this with the use of tools such as the Google toolbar. In addition, if all the other components of the formula are favorable, 3rd party websites can play a major role in distribution through syndication.

With most search engines ad frequency is actually rather high. Most common web searches have ads near them. Recent expansion of ads via broad matching has allowed search engines to monetize many more searches. Many people still do not know how to search efficiently and search for extremely general terms which have ads. Broad matching is helping to cover more specific searches.

Average ad profit is a function of many free market components. First, interior company costs are figured into ad cost. Google relies so heavily on math because it allows them to keep a small flexible workforce. Google still has editors for its ads, but math and the natural selection process do most of the work. This is one of the main advantages Google has over other ad networks.

The sales price of the ad is determined by the price advertisers are willing to pay to use the ad space. Many advertisers fail due to misconceptions with the ad mediums. If prices fall then the medium becomes more profitable. More people advertise. It is a constant balancing act.

Ad clickthrough rate is a function of ad relevancy vs non ad relevancy. Recently the shift in Google's algorithm has made its core search product biased to not display as many commercial ads. If a person is looking to make purchases the ads will frequently have a higher relevancy than the free organic search product.

The Problems With Analytical Minds

If you can understand the things above at their basic level you can learn to play within their thresholds and profit. Your value is based upon what others think of you, your ability to adapt to change and your desire to learn.

Another value which can undermine the successfulness of the above balance is a highly analytical mind. For instance, I know that the new Google filter is based on the idea to remove commercial sites. Commercial sites sometimes achieve top web rankings by being over optimized.

How do I lower my optimization levels? If I know how to optimize, then I must also know how to un optimize. Thus I can make my sites appear as non commercial websites in the eyes of Google. How?

  • get quality inbound links which are not optimized (do not have my keywords in them)
  • minimized keyword density on the page
  • target keywords on pages other than the home page
  • spread keywords out so that the keyword phrase does not trip for your web site

Now with the high search engine optimization trip settings in place a very small investment is required to achieve top listings. If you react quicker than the rest of the web you can extract the profits as these organic web search results are not currently competitive. Many of those pages which were competitive fell flat on their face recently (I being one of them).

Expanding the philosophy beyond yourself

So after I achieve top rankings I think this change is amazing. How can I replicate this to maximize my profits? Well the goal of this process is to cause increased revenues on ads or to sell more products.

If you sell a product of your own that you manufacture, the factory which you own is baggage. I have read many stories of factories having to turn customers away due to unanticipated high demand. Though I have had no formal education or training, I now realize the abilities to learn and adapt to change are the two most important business concepts in the world right now.

Affiliate programs such as Commission Junction, LinkShare, Permormics, and ClickBank offer thousands of revenue opportunities. They have partners to match any and every idea you may have. But using them requires a decent amount of work on your behalf.

What are the odds that you will know what ads exactly match your content and your visitors intent? What ads will have the highest conversion rate? How much time would it take for you to find them? What if your third party shopping cart is broke? Why not let math and the free market find the solution for your!

Recently publisher ad programs have been introduced which allow the free market to determine what ads match your content. The ad programs are still rather new and may have some flaws to iron out, but the fact that all you have to do is write what you are interested in and ad a snippet of code makes them rather appealing, efficient, and effortless. Currently it would be fair to assume the Google AdSense program would be one of the most profitable ad networks to join. I also use and recommend the Amazon affiliate program.

There is nothing stopping you from also placing other affiliate ads within your content, but the Google Ads can do a good job of converting all by themselves.

Targeting Phrases

What phrases do you want to target? Most ad distribution networks are based on similar principals. You want people to find your site for ads which are highly searched for and have many ad clickthroughs.

Simply use the Overture search term suggestion tool (free) or WordTracker (free trial) to determine approximate web traffic for the phrases you wish to target. As you search for a targeted word, you can see what pairs are searched for and sprinkle its partner words throughout your text. This slight sprinkling will make your page seem optimized to the current Google algorithm.

Why This Article Sucks

All the above can be done to extract profits from the current Google algorithm. This algorithm will soon change though. All your work would be in vein if you exclusively focused on extracting profits versus creating long term relationships with your readers.

How to Not Suck

The goal of a search engine is to lead searchers to relevant information. As advances in personalization and local data clustering are incorporated it is important that you can step back and look at the big picture.

If you are making content exclusively for profits then you are likely to exist in the background clutter of the web. From time to time you may find ways to surface, but it will not last.

Without regard to religion, each day that passes is one less you have. If you truly seek out what you are interested in and actively pursue it there is enough chaos that you stand a good chance of rising above the clutter.

When you look at my home page my first search engine marketing tips listed are web design tips which read as follows:

  • Try to find something that you are an expert on. The internet is still viewed as a knowledge base much more than a commerce platform. Capture a niche and deliver it to the search engines, people will find it.
  • Intertwine yourself with your subject. Eat, sleep, and breath it!
  • Understand optimization results are not immediate, and high rankings can take months to be reflected across the web.
  • Do not change your whole site based on a single marketing recommendation without first understanding its effects. Look to see if there are other important changes that can be implemented at the same time. Evaluate your goals of your website.
  • It is not in your best interest to try and fool search engines. Even if you can fool search engines today, that does not mean that tomorrows algorithm will not catch you. Recently Google bit many webmasters in the rear.
  • Have a well thought out site plan prior to site construction. Realize that doing search engine optimization right the first time, while the site is being built is the best way to perform search engine optimization.
  • There is no magic pill; however, there are few platforms where hard work will pay off better.
  • Have fun, if you are not, then neither will your customers.

If you are doing something you are not interested in, ask yourself why you can't change the topic. The more you are on topic with what you were intended to do the less you will need to manipulate distribution. Own your domain :) Despite our abilities to reverse engineer, we work better when we work with the forces of nature. May we rise above the clutter!

- by Aaron Wall, owner of Search Marketing Info

 

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This article may be syndicated in whole are part. Simply provide a link back to the original article or http://www.search-marketing.info. Please note that I do not usually update articles over time and the date last modified on article pages is usually referring to a navigational change.

 

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