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Why Google rankings are a bad joke

Why Google rankings are a bad joke

Talking about google rankings on a photo restoration website may at first seem a little odd but at Red Rose Photos we like to be topical and discuss the things matter and the way websites can get high in the rankings without actually catering for the customer is frustrating for all.

Red Rose Photos has been up and running for a few years now and over that time we’ve worked hard at developing the website and making it a user friendly experience for our customers. It’s easy when designing a website to get carried away with how you want it to look. However, the most important point if your website is providing a service, like photo restoration, is customer usability. The website must be obvious to the customer so they know what it’s about without having to read lots of information. The site should also be easy to use – for example, on our photo restoration page the call to actions are clear and the customer can load up their photos and send them to us instantly using our contact form.

Anyway, I digress slightly. As I’ve said above, we take care in our website and our proud of what it’s become over the last few years.

How Google rankings work

When it comes to google rankings, and I use google because like it or loath it google is head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to search engines, if you want your business to do well you have to have a presence on google. That presence means positioning your website as high as possible in the ranking for your specific keywords – for those not familiar with the term keywords, keywords are the words people use when they are searching google. So for our website we’d be looking to rank high when people search google for the photo restoration – photo restoration being the keyword.

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Despite some views it is virtually impossible to launch a new website and go straight to position one on google for your chosen keywords so what you should be looking to do is build the trust and usability of your website.

Using the keyword “photo restoration” our site steadily climbed the rankings in the first few months after it was launched and was positioned on the first page within that time. Like anything it’s about building slowly especially when you’re starting from scratch and I remember being really pleased when Red Rose Photos was making page one on google searches. Once that was achieved it was about getting as high on the first page as possible.

Over the last year, if we were take our position for our keywords as an average we’ve been pretty stable around position 2 or 3. That means if anyone in the country types in photograph restoration in to google our site will come in at position 2 or 3 on google. Quite an achievement when you consider that some of the websites we’re ranking with have been around a lot longer than us and google does give precedence to sites based on how old they are.

Why your Google rankings could drop for no reason

Based on that it’s fair to assume that from day one we’ve been setting up our website correctly because the site has moved up the rankings steadily.However, recently we’ve seen a drop off in our rankings and that is why I have entitled this blog, why google rankings are a bad joke.

As a website we’re still ranking on page 1 of google for our keywords but we’ve dropped down to position 5 on most of our key search terms. When we look at why this is happening there are two major considerations to take in to account when there is any drop in rankings. One, is there an issue with our website causing the drop? Two, are the sites that have taken our place performing better for some reason?

Dealing with issue one first, is there any issue with our site? Well we’re not doing anything different so the answer would have to be no. We’ve not added any new material or links that could make a difference to how google perceives our site so there shouldn’t be any reason for a drop in rankings. We therefore look at point 2, what changes have the sites that have moved above us made to increase their rankings? And it’s here where my faith in the google rankings system starts to falter.

When I look at the sites that are now ranking above us I can’t see anything obvious that differentiates their sites from ours. I’m not silly enough to link to them from my own site and give them exposure for nothing but if you look at the image below, which is a screenshot of a google search result for photo restoration you’ll see what I’m referring to. They aren’t laden with good quality content, exceptional photo examples or amazing usability. Now I’m not saying they aren’t good sites. If I’m honest I think they all look good and don’t have any major issue with the appearance of any of them. I just don’t think they stand out as being any better than what we are offering. On that basis you think deeper as to why a site that is on the face of it no better than ours is suddenly ranking higher?

How to manipulate your Google rankings

My opinion is that it comes down to two things. One being URL and the other being manipulation of the back link strategy to boost ranking. Dealing with the URL first, again many so called experts will state that the name of your website doesn’t have much if an impact on where you rank. However, if you look at the image above you will see the names of the websites – URL’s- that are ranking for the keyword photo restoration. Look at our site and you’ll see that our site Red Rose Photos doesn’t have the word photo restoration in it. Look at all the other top ranking sites and they all have either that term or terms similar to it in their website name – words like restore, photo, restoration. In my opinion this is helping those sites above us rank higher and personally I think it’s wrong. When we launched the site we could quite easily have registered the site with words in it like the ones above but we wanted to build a brand and customer experience that made us identifiable, hence Red Rose Photos. Rewarding sites with high rankings because they are creating website names with specific keywords in is manipulative in my opinion and google shouldn’t reward sites of that ilk. In a way Red Rose Photos is performing exceptionally well because we rank based on the quality of our site not because we have keywords in our URL.

The second thing I alluded to was manipulation of the back link strategy. Back links are quite divisive when discussing impact on rankings and I’d agree that recently it’s more about have a good website that a customer can use. However, some power is clearly still given to back links because a couple of the sites ranking above us have actually set up similar websites dealing in photography and then crammed each site with links to both of their sites. In essence they set up two sites in the photo genre and link to each other. Google then gives them credit for this because they assume that two different photo sites are linking to each other. In reality it’s the same owner with two websites manipulating the system for rankings. Again, it’s wrong that sites are ranking higher than those sites who create sites that cater to the customer experience and aren’t all about manipulating their way to the top.

Getting your site to rank well on google has always been a challenge and most website owners are happy to accept that challenge. But when there are still glaring errors in the system that allow manipulation to boost your rankings the system fails.

We’ll keep on doing things the right way and I’m sure it won’t be long before google rectify the above issues and make it a more level playing field. After all they are constantly releasing updates and they do take on board feedback from users. I’ve brought my concerns to their attention and hopefully they will implement change soon.

As a website owner and user of google when I click on a high ranking site I want to be clicking on it because it’s the best site not because the owner has used manipulative tactics to rank high.

Food for thought?

by Brent Di Cesare

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