The main secret to having a succesful, adsense revenue generating website, is “traffic”. I imagine this as a vigorous river of surfers flowing through my words, occasionally hooked by an advertisement, resulting in a click. Traffic is not the only factor, apparently the placement and look of the ads can affect the probability of the all-important ‘click’, but without peole the website is useless. It is not just a financial consideration, I feel pretty stupid producing floods of words which nobody will read.
So, I have been thinking intensely about how to make Google like me. Because it is really Google (and yahoo and Bing) that pour that vital, adsense giving, flow of humanity into some lucky websites, while starving others. I definitely get the impression that Google is quite fickle. It changes its mind (algorithm) often, and top strategies webmasters use to curry favour, suddenly no longer work. Right now there appears to be a lot of anger on the forums about a panda attacking livelihoods (I thought the pandas were safely contained in Edinburgh zoo, no?). But then I try to see things from Google’s point of view, its job isn’t to make life easy for adsensers obsessed with their site’s ranking in search pages.
Brace yourselves dear readers (if you exist al all), I feel the urge to philosophize. This phenomenon is not limited to search engines, you can find an equivalent thing happening in all areas of life. Everybody starts off with the most altruistic intentions, it’s all one big hippie commune where we’re just trying to build something cool, but then money is involved and all of a sudden everybody’s gaming the system, forgetting what the original aim was, fighting tooth and nail for the tiniest advantage. Ok the early work on the internet was done at DAPRA (Defence Advanced Research Project Agency), whose mission was to develop defences against a Soviet space-based missile attack after the success of sputnik, so not so hippie. However, when the management of the net was taken over by the National Science Foundation, in 1990, the new technology was used to connect universities throughout the US and then Europe. In 1992 the technology was commercialized leading to the explosion in intenet use which we see today. At first everything was lovely, websites were created for the joy of making them, to communicate, search engines were there to allow people to find the information they wanted. Fast forward to today were there is so much competition between sites on the same topic, the fight is to be listed at the top of the search pages. SEs try to rank sites so that the ones with most relevant content are at the top, and try to stay one step ahead of the various tricks people use to make their pages seem to be the most relevant.
I guess search engine optimization was quite simple once, you wanted to make it easy for the search engine to “figure out” what your site was about, so you used keywords. But Google et al are far less trusting now. They want to see your keyword all over the place to be convinced, in the filename, title, description and text. However it is bad to use it too many times in the body of the page, because people used to spam the keyword so they would be picked up (The logic was that if the keyword was “gecko”, then a page that had the word in it 100x was more on topic than a page that only had 20 “geckos”. Apparently between 2-4% is good for keyword frequency, more than that and Google becomes suspicious that it’s being manipulated.
Then there are backlinks. Google is impressed if it can find other webpages that have a link to your site, which makes sense. This quickly gave rise to link spamming and link farms (webpages with no content, just links), whose only purpose was to provide backlinks to the webpages to prove to Google that they were excellent. So our brave search engine changed its algorithm and only considered links from pages that it rates well. But, some of the pages that google holds in high regard are sites like facebook, diggit etc. So people started spamming social media with links to their sites. This obviously wasn’t very good for facebook et al. They have now introduced a “nofollow” policy, basically telling Google not to rate any backlinks coming from its pages.
This spamming behaviour is obviously morally repulsive, but… I need traffic. Who can I find to link to my lovely gecko site (which is still a work in progress but is going to end up being the definitive depository of all human knowledge on day geckos). Hmmm…..apparently article depositories and hubpages still work for getting backlinks, but I will write about that another time.
Just a couple of quick updates: I have made my first money from adsense! Google owes me $0.56. Ok this doesn’t quite buy a cup of coffee in the Institute canteen, but a journey of a thousand steps……….
Also I’ve had my first spammer! Yes this blog is now under attack. I feel so important! Obviously it wasn’t a very good spammer, I don’t think Google knows I exist but…….