Category Archives: Google

Understanding Search Engine Penalties

A friend of mine contacted me asking my opinion on why Google isn’t loving Celebrity Cowboy. Celebrity Cowboy is a celebrity blog that should be ranking well for a variety of terms is, for some reason, continually under-performing for its niche.

Celebrity Cowboy

I told him that I would take a look at it, and while my speciality isn’t really search engines, I did notice a few things right off the bat.


One of the first things I noticed about the xhtml generated by the theme used at Celebrity Cowboy is that the blogroll is near the top of the page, with more than twenty items linking out to other sites. While this is only on the front page of the site now, it wasn’t always like this and could have lead to a black mark for the site.

Then there is the content, and then the list of internal links to each one of the more than two dozen categories. Could Google be penalizing the site for having so many outbound links at the top of the page of code, and so many links near the bottom? Could they see this as an attempt to effect search engine rankings by stuffing links in a site?

Things like this have happened before and Google has always been harsh on such things. The flip side though is that all of these links are relevant. Google doesn’t penalize for relevant links, do they?

With Google’s war against paid links, I would be surprised if a few sites got caught in the crossfire, and with these links being site-wide, Google may have mistaken them as paid links.

No doubt they would like sites to make sure to no-follow their blogrolls and other external links that aren’t part of the normal daily content, despite being relative.

The theme that Celebrity Cowboy is using doesn’t validate. Google has proved time and time again that if you don’t work hard on making your code valid, you can cause yourself to drop in the rankings, and even sometimes to be marked as a “bad” site.

Sometimes sites get listed on just because their JavaScript doesn’t work correctly, or advertising doesn’t load properly. I have seen this happen to more than a few sites.

Fixing up as many validation issues as possible, could help remove the penalty placed on the site, as Google’s indexing bots might then be able to index the content more efficiently, and without error.

One of the things I first noticed was that there is an ID used more than once, something that probably doesn’t effect the Google search bots, but something that is not correct in xhtml. Classes should be used for repeating items, not ID’s.

Correcting such things should also improve how various browsers render the site, which could have the side effect of increasing traffic, page views, and even links to the blog.

Just Plain Strange
There was one more thing about the coding of the site that really got me scratching my head. It seems that the header image is displayed via CSS, and so rather than showing an image with the proper hyperlink code around it, the coder chose to use JavaScript to make the div that the header is shown thanks to, into a clickable item that uses location.href to bring the visitor back to the index page.

To me this seems like a very bad way to do this effect, and probably not one that Google looks highly on. Continue reading

Originally posted on January 9, 2008 @ 9:36 am

AdSense Video Ads Coming to the UK, Ireland and Canada

If you have been waiting to get a slice of Google’s video advertising units, then your wait is almost over, at least if you live in the UK, Ireland, or like me, Canada.

From Google’s Inside AdSense blog:

Following their success in the U.S., we’re rolling out video units over the next several days to English-language publishers in the UK, Ireland, and Canada. If you’re not already familiar with video units, they’re embedded, customizable video players that can enrich your site with relevant video content while enabling you to earn extra revenue from the relevant, non-intrusive ads that accompany the videos.

With this new launch, publishers in the UK, Ireland and Canada will be able to show videos from our YouTube content partners and choose those videos by category, individual YouTube partner, or have video automatically targeted to their site. Based on publisher feedback, we’ve also just added a feature which lets you choose individual videos to be displayed in your video units.

I am not sure how well these video units do, but I bet a bunch of people will be using them over the course of the next few months. Are you excited about this release, or if you live in the States, do we, in Canada, have a reason to be excited?

Originally posted on November 20, 2007 @ 8:58 am

Feedburner Frustrations: Google FeedFetcher Dropped Again

So for the second time in less than a week, Feedburner is showing about half of my normal subscribers. There is nothing like seeing a little green bar being half as high as you expect it to be to get your heart racing. For a second the thought that I had done something wrong and made you all leave, and then that moment passed and I realized it was Google messing with me, just like they had for Saturday’s RSS subscription numbers.

What really bothers me about all of this is not only that the reporting has gotten worse, but also that they don’t attempt to fix it, thus making my stats look really messed up, with huge dips in performance.

How does Google mess up so bad when it comes to reporting RSS subscriber numbers from its own service?

Originally posted on November 9, 2007 @ 9:46 am

PageRank: Dragging Google Down?

So people are still reeling over the whole PageRank fiasco we had recently, and some are wondering when the next update will be. That is the biggest problem with creating a complex ranking system: keeping it up to date. PageRank epicycles are chinks in the Google armor. It allows others to work on creating ranking systems, and it allows people to exploit their PageRank for upwards of four months. If you build up a great site, all the way to a PageRank of six, you could then for four months abuse that by adding every advertisement under the sun, and basically selling your PageRank. This could line your pocket with a fair bit of money before Google comes back around and updates things (most likely penalizing you for the “horrible” thing you have done).

Are you already planning for the next PageRank update? Are there any other metrics that are now considered more accurate to the quality of a site? Let me know in the comments below.

Originally posted on November 11, 2007 @ 6:59 pm

PageRank Madness

Everyone today is absolutely buzzing about the recent manual adjustment of some very high profile sites. It looks like and are just two of the sites hit with a two point drop in their ranks. has a list of sites being effected in a post entitled, “Google Changing the PageRank Algorithm?“.

One thing that I find odd about this whole thing is Google’s selection of sites as it doesn’t seem to just be high level sites, but a bunch of smaller ones as well, if you read the comments on various blogs, you will see it extends beyond the dozen or two blogs that are well known and rightfully concerned about this shift.

Many bloggers have also come up with theories pertaining to the reduction in PageRanks, and they are all spreading some fear, uncertainty and doubt around the blogosphere. It would be nice to know the real reason for these penalties, but I doubt Google will share that information.

I think this is the push that bloggers, and advertising systems needed to remove Google’s PageRank from their valuation systems. Now is the time to come up with a more complex formula to decide a sites advertising worth. Take their unique visitors, add in their RSS subscribers, look at their growth, and factor in a dozen other pieces of information, and you will come up with a system that hopefully, can’t easily be gamed.

Keep watch on your blogs PageRank, and the traffic that Google is sending you. Hopefully, this is just Google stirring the pot, and will settle down soon.

Originally posted on October 24, 2007 @ 4:08 pm