Monday, 26 October 2009

They are at it again in Googleville!

Well, just when you thought it was safe to say that you were starting to understand Google and the rules around optimising your website for Google’s search engine results – Google have done a Britney with an “Oops, we did it again” single of their own.

I am Gonna be your #1

It all happened on a quite Monday night as I sat running up some Google search results for sites I had spent time optimising recently. Typed in “prepaid marketing” in to Google and was quite chuffed to see my site as the #1 result – rightly so too as I was competing with 1/2 a million other pages for the right to be up there.

Turning the focus away from my blog, I moved on to other sites which I had spent numerous hours on and lo and behold, when I did a search for one of the most popular keywords, my other site was ranked #1 again!!!!! Grinning like a Cheshire cat and doing a dance and a jig which can only be described as improper and inappropriate with a total lack of courtesy to my neighbours (Yes, we live in houses with paper thin walls) at 2:00 am in the night – I spent the next 10 minutes marvelling at what I had done right.

During this phase of self admiration, I moved on from the Firefox browser to Internet Explorer and to continue with the gloating and frothing, did the same search again and viola…. my world seemed to crash around me as my site appeared a measly #7 in the rankings.

Cue: Drama – I was upset, angry and seething at Google for pulling the carpet under my feet. How could they take my dream away from me so quickly…?

And then, it happened….. I did the search in Firefox again – I was #1, Internet Explorer – #7, FF- #1, IE – #7, FF- #1, IE – #7, FF- #1, IE – #7…… what the hell was going on and it dawned on me.

On Firefox, I was signed in to my Google Account and Google was serving up the search results taking in to account not only their natural listing but also my search history. They had been sitting in a corner observing my search behaviour and then served me the site that I usually visited every time I searched for that keyword – my site!!

On Internet Explorer, on the other hand, I was not signed in to my Google account, so they were just serving me unadulterated natural listings.

Is there a point optimising if Google is going to play with the listings??

Whilst my bubble had been burst, it also got me thinking about optimising for natural listings.

Whilst it is actually not a bad thing that if I have a preference for a certain site or result and click through to it 80% of the time when I search for that phrase or item, Google recognises that is what I must be looking for and artificially boosts the results slightly but on the other hand, here I may be optimising like crazy but not a chance in the world if some other user has in the past visited some other site which is ranked below my site, it is likely that the other site may be served first in their searches.

Wasn’t Google’s mantra never to tamper with the listings or results? Logged in or not, shouldn’t the most relevant result be served up?

Personally, I love Google to bits – Adwords, Adsense, Webmaster Tools and all the wonderful bits and bobs and given their stance on search, I just think Google have made a big “booboo” if this is how they are looking to proceed with search!

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