Does Google suck, or do you? Pic by Dean Hochman

How to suck at Google search

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Would you love to get completely irrelevant traffic from Google's organic search results? How about absolutely no traffic at all? Or zombie traffic that doesn't do anything?

Get rid of that pesky, high converting traffic that floods in via relevant keywords and drives revenue, builds authority and trust, and generally makes life easier. I can even show you how to have ad placeholder pages outrank your own site for a search on your own domain.

Sucking at search is super easy, and you can start right now without any practice. But don't take our word for it, check out the evidence...

Exhibit A: Content keywords

If you have a Google Webmaster Tools (sorry, Search Console) account, you'll be able to mosey on down there to check out a host of interesting metadata about your site.

One important feature shows a list of the most common keywords contained onsite. This is useful because, if it is way off, it could be a strong indicator that Google is not able to index your site properly - or you've been hacked.

Luckily for me, mine seems to be perfectly accurate:

Google Search Console showing content keywords

As you can see, SME Pals (a blog devoted to helping entrepreneurs and small business owners thrive online) has the following keywords:

  1. business
  2. marketing
  3. ideas
  4. ecommerce
  5. blog
  6. work
  7. ...

You, like us, might be fooled into thinking that given the above distribution of keywords we are a blog covering business, marketing, and ideas. Of course, Google's having none of this.

Exhibit B: Search analytics

A quick glance at our search analytics (also in Search Console), shows the keywords driving the most impressions:

Keywords driving the most impressions

Ok, so that's not really ideal. Google seems fixated on driving SEO software related traffic to us. Well, not traffic per se... impressions. In fact it's been this way for 2 years now.

I wondered how there could be such a huge bias to two relatively unimportant keywords, 'seo' ranking 12th, and 'software' (which doesn't rank in the top 20 keywords).

Exhibit C: Related sites

I used the related search operator to find out what sites Google thinks SME Pals is related to:
Google search's related operator showing similar sites

Uhh, ok; a bunch of SEO apps and software sites. That makes sense given the impressions shown in the search analytics report. Although, it doesn't really seem to gel with Google's own assessment of the actual content of the site.

It gets even weirder.

Exhibit D: Old domains

Over the years, the domain of this site has changed as the focus changed from supporting the tech books I was writing to talking more about business. Those old domains have since been snapped up by some enterprising domain squatter (so there are no lingering 301 redirects, etc), and now look like this:

Old domain being used by a domain squatter

Here's the interesting part. Up until about a month ago, if you searched for smepals.com in Google, that site (siteprebuilder.com) would appear in first place in the SERPs.

It took Google only a year and a half to start returning SME Pals in first place. I'll confess my disappointment that Google wasn't able to pick up this change just a smidge quicker. In fact, you can see a 3 month conversation I had with the good folks over at Google's webmaster help forums towards the beginning of the year (hint: click on the screenshot to read more):

Google Webmaster support forum thread regarding wrong domains in search

Let me be the first to say:

You have to really suck at writing if Google is going to stubbonly return an ad placeholder in first place for a search on your own domain.

Exhibit D Part 2: Old domains

Siteprebuilder wasn't the only previous domain we had over the last 7 years or so (trust me, I tried my best to find a good one that wasn't parked). Another domain name, WSM4B.com, has also long ago been parked by a domain squatter:

Old ad placeholder domain WSM4B

I guess I should be thankful that at least Google wasn't returning both the old domains above SME Pals, right? Sure, especially since Google still relates WSM4B with a host of great blogs and sites:

Ad placeholder domain showing high value related sites

Hmm. So being an ad placeholder means Google will automatically associate you with high value properties, for years on end without change.

So what's my point?

The thing is, I'm not even mad.

Google's treatment of webmasters is nothing short of astounding

This is not a gripe about lost traffic and earnings. This is a concern about Google's methods.

It may be that this blog genuinely sucks and that Google should avoid sending traffic to it at all costs. Fine, I'll accept that. But, what's not fair is the complete lack of transparency. I can't tell if the site is penalized, or if this is how Google should behave.

There is absolutely nothing we can do (and by extension, small businesses for whom things may be far less funny) to even begin to understand what the issue is.

We spent 3 months on the webmaster forums and got some great help (a shout out to Ashley who really put in some time and effort) to no avail. Ultimately, one of their top contributors kicked the issue upstairs (to whom we may not know) and that was that - nothing more came of it.

Under these circumstances, it's far better to actually be a spammer than a genuine blogger because at least a manual penalty tells you something; gives you a recommendation, a course of action. Anything's better than not knowing.

Should Google have to explain every little swing in their rankings? Of course not. But should they be able to give some clarity, some tiny nugget of information, to help businesses who may be trying their best? Probably.

In conclusion

After two years of this bizarre seo software organic traffic, we're quite proud of our accomplishments. I mean how many of you can say that Google likes ad placeholder pages more than your site?

And, once those domains have become ad placeholders, Google suddenly holds them in high esteem (for years on end), right up there next to authority sites in your own niche (Note: this is an advanced technique, so don't feel bad if you can't replicate it on your own site straight away).

If you'd like to learn how to optimize your site for search like this, don't hesitate to drop me a line in the comments. No doubt Google will melt your face off for commenting here and send your site traffic based on 'goat wrangling strategies' for the next fifteen years.

But seriously, if you've experienced something like this I'd be interested to hear your story. Not least of which because I assume that, like us, you've decided to try Google proof your business.

Share your tips and experiences in the comments.

Google places for business mess up with Google search

About two or three months ago I decided to have a quick look at what sites Google consider related to mine using the related: search operator.

To my horror I saw a list of SEO agencies - some of which were no more than a landing page for a paid SEO service (of no doubt dubious quality). Why would Google think this blog is an SEO company?

SME Pals' tagline is 'Start a small business today', and the focus of the site is to inspire entrepreneurs to find a business idea and startup as quickly and easily as possible. Sure, search is a big part of growing an online business, so I talk about it... but is this enough to cause Google to think this blog is an SEO service?

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