: Search Engine Optimization
Bob Sakayama, SEO
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The Perils Of
High Ranks

Content Requirements

The Perils Of High Ranks

What could possibly be dangerous about having high ranks? Everyone dreams of getting their site's most valuable terms on the first page of the natural search results. Some have even bigger goals. Our clients know that the first page is not good enough - most conversions occur in the top 5, but are really weighted toward the top 3, with #1 beating out #2 by almost double. Being #1 in Google for a competitive term means dominating the huge amount of traffic associated with that term. Delivering the right message to that traffic can fuel an enterprise. And this is where the perils of high ranks come into play.

That #1 rank is coveted by not only your competitors, but also highly skilled "black hat" professionals who have learned how to trick the search engines and hijack your site's high rank. If you find this hard to believe, then you are among the most vulnerable. In recent months, 2 of my clients have gone to the FBI to report illegal activity impacting their web presence and their ranking legitimacy. As the Google penalty expert, I've seen very sophisticated, and successful efforts to manipulate the natural search, some ongoing.

In late October 2006, a national brand client, lost all productive natural search positions in Google to a site that hijacked their ranks by cloning the homepage. This client had previously been penalized by Google, had recovered and attained first page ranks for all their valuable terms, and held a #1 position for the site theme, which was very competitive. Now dependent on the search for sales, the marketing head called me on Thursday noting a slight drop. A check across Google's data centers showed only minor problems, which we always see day to day. But over the next 3 days, I watched the site fall out of every data center. By Sunday the issue had cascaded into the loss of their homepage - it was removed from Google's cache and replaced by a bogus implementation. In effect, an innocent site was penalized in Google because of the redundancy in its cache created by a mysterious entity.

It's important to note that this rank hijacking occurred at the start of this business' most important season - the one month that matters the most. Fortunately, I was able to reverse the penalty imposed by Google in just 3 days by pointing them to the offending site. But not without losses in sales during that period. When something like this happens, an innocent site is harmed twice - once by the perpetrators, and once by Google.

So the perils of high ranks comes from the financial dependency that naturally develops once those ranks are attained and held, coupled with the vulnerability inherent in owning something of value in a public space. Be watchful of your #1 positions - avoid the perils of high ranks.