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Q: New Google Ranking ( Answered 4 out of 5 stars,   2 Comments )
Subject: New Google Ranking
Category: Computers > Algorithms
Asked by: jtuggle-ga
List Price: $20.00
Posted: 18 Nov 2003 20:44 PST
Expires: 18 Dec 2003 20:44 PST
Question ID: 278087
I have been optimizing my web site, according to
the guidelines that Google outlines for their PageRank criteria, and
had been slowly moving up in the listing rankings to number two (last
month) for the key words "Charlotte Real Estate". However, with this
most recent monthly update, my web site has fallen into oblivion.

I stopped searching for it after the 500th listing. By the 500th
listing, the web sites had very little relevancy to "Charlotte Real
Estate" anyway!

I checked the PageRank guidelines again, but I didn't see where Google mentioned
that they have changed the ranking criteria - What happened?
Subject: Re: New Google Ranking
Answered By: robertskelton-ga on 19 Nov 2003 14:00 PST
Rated:4 out of 5 stars
Hi there,

Google is constantly refining their algorithm. Last weekend it changed
- we had what is known as a "Google Dance". Consequently a lot of
rankings changed.

Some people at WebMasterWorld suggest that Google has downgraded the
importance of keywords within internal links.

Does Internal Link Text Count Less Now?
"Looks to me like this has fallen off steadily for months. Sites with
pages using the key phrase linking back to the index page have damaged
thier rankings. Anyone seeing this?"

"Google's relevancy system is based on votes by pages for other pages.
If a page votes for another page by linking to it, then the receiving
must be important in the voting page's eyes.

Generic internal links to home pages are not votes in the same way -
they are just a way of getting to the front of the site again. So I'm
suggesting the Google doesn't want to count such generic links as
proper votes, and that they have tried to deal with it in this update.
But it's just my theory. It would account for the disappearance of so
many index (home) pages and a few domain URLs too. And it may also
account for what people are reporting regarding link text."

"I think PhilC is right on the money, that G is trying to demote
generic links back to the home page. I can't be bothered to look, but
I bet you'll find a lot of sites that remain in the index use "Home"
as their link home, and not keywords. What annoys me is that before I
started using keywords to link home (ie I used "Home") I was ranking
ok for the term (nothing special, but ok) now I'm just totally off the
map. "

PhilC: "And I don't think it's anything to do with 'punishing'. I
think it's to do with discounting certain links so that they are
nowhere near as effective as they were. "

At the bottom of pages within your site are a number of internal
links. There are links called "real estate charlotte nc" and
"Charlotte Real Estate Enter" that point to index.html, and another
called "charlotte north carolina real estate" that points to
home.html. Presumably these links only exist to influence Google
ranking. The normal text to use would be "home".

Google's webmaster guidelines state:

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings... Another
useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if
search engines didn't exist?"

The only instances of the exact phrase "charlotte real estate" that I
could find within your site were links pointing to index.html, plus
once on this page:

To optimize your site for a phrase, the best places for it to appear are:

- general text (i.e. within a paragraph)
- title
- H1 tags
- URL of the page
- link text

Try and optimize different pages for different pages. This page has the right idea:

The phrase "things to do" appears in the title, H1 tag, general text,
links to the page and partially in the URL. A Google search for:

charlotte "things to do"

...finds that page in the top 10.

It appears that the only reason your site was previously ranking well
was keywords found in internal links. Webmasters are reporting that
Google has downgraded the value of such links with its latest update.
By placing your target phrase in all the right places, and waiting
until the next update, your ranking should improve.

Best wishes,

Request for Answer Clarification by jtuggle-ga on 19 Nov 2003 19:37 PST
I understand what you are saying, but that does not describe what I am
doing with my web site. It's true that I have a site map at the bottom
of each page, but only two of the links go back to the index page.
Every other link goes to another page on the site.

And the words "Charlotte Real Estate" DO appear in the text of the
index page (in the mouseover of the treasure chest), and several times
within the text of the home page:

"Welcome to Charlotte, NC! You'll find plenty to do and see in the
city founded 250 years ago by Scots Irish immigrants at the crossroads
of two ancient Indian trading paths. Charlotte NC real estate has
flourished since then, and the surrounding Mecklenburg County towns of
Davidson, Cornelius, Huntersville, Pineville, Mint Hill and Matthews
now possess an independent spirit of their own. Lake properties at
nearby Lake Norman and Lake Wylie offer you a resort lifestyle with
easy access to Uptown Charlotte. Even closer in are the historic homes
of Dilworth and Myers Park, Charlotte's first neighbor-
hoods. Finally, you may prefer the more rural communities you'll find
in the outlying areas like Cabarrus, Union, Iredell and York

If what you were saying was true, then my "home" page (as opposed to
"index" page should be coming up for the search terms "Charlotte Real
Estate", (the site map only has one link back to the "home" page) but
it's not coming up either.

Robert, I'm not using trickery by inserting (two) links in the site
index that go back to my index page. I think if you look at the top
ten sites that are listed in Google now, you will see that they also
have site maps at the bottom of every page with at least one link back
to their index page, too.

I am in the business of helping buyers purchase real estate in the
Charlotte area. Doesn't it make sense that the keywords "Charlotte
Real Estate" should link back to my index page, after all?

Like you, I have also read all the postulating from the posts on the  forum (including the posts from GoogleGuy) about
what people think Google is doing to try to prevent folks from trying
to circumvent their search engine algorthims. Is your explanation your
best guess from reading these strings? Or do you know a plumber inside
Google who told you that?

If you know this for sure, please pass along to your Google contact
that by removing the index pages of small business sites like mine
where ALL the pages work in concert to support and inform about only
ONE thing, (which in my case is "Charlotte Real Estate") they are
seriously hurting folks like me who have done nothing more than spend
years to build a genuinely informative (and very local) web presence
only to have it vaporize because Google got the wrong idea.
- Julie

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 19 Nov 2003 20:58 PST
Hi again,

By phrase I mean the precise phrase "Charlotte Real Estate", not
"Charlotte NC Real Estate". You will find that a search for the
latter, as a phrase within quotes, has you ranked at about #35.

A Google search for the three words charlotte real estate finds
2,990,000 pages. Of those, 102,000 have the exact phrase present on
the page. All other things being equal they would all rank higher than
your site. You have an advantage of a PageRank of 4, but you still
need to have the exact phrase you are targeting appearing on the page
- especially in an industry as competitive as real estate.

The top 10 results for "charlotte real estate" (not as a phrase)
include only one site with less than PR5 - and that site has another
site linking to it with the phrase in the link text.

You have three ways to have a chance of reappearing in the Top 10. 

1) Optimize the page as best you can. Ideally the exact phrase should
appear several times in the text, precisely in the title, precisely in
an H1 tag, and in the URL.

2) Get other sites to link to yours with the phrase "charlotte real
estate" in the link text (perhaps ask to have your existing links

3) Get more quality links pointing to your site, so that your PageRank improves

If you look at the search figures at Overture, you can see how
targeting the phrase including NC wouldn't be a bad idea:

Most webmasters aim for the most searched for phrase, and to avoid all
the competition it can be a smarter move aiming for a less searched
for phrase. It is much better to be on the first page for 1500 queries
than the 3rd page for 3200 queries.

I wish we had contact with the Google Engineers, but alas, we have to
answer questions like yours on our own - based on personal experience
and what we can discover online. The secrets of Google's algorithm
remain secrets unless GoogleGuy decides to give us a clue.

I'm definitely not saying that you have done anything against Google
guidelines - well not anything worth penalizing. As webmasters we have
the right to have whatever words we want in the link text. I have been
using keywords in internal links for my own sites for quite some time.

What I am saying is that, unfortunately, a Google search for
"Charlotte Real Estate" had you ranking well purely because of the
keywords within internal links. Having those keywords there was smart
optimization. But Google have seemingly reduced the importance of such

I was always surprised that Google took notice of internal links,
which is, in effect, a vote for oneself.

Request for Answer Clarification by jtuggle-ga on 20 Nov 2003 15:06 PST
Thank you for your comments regarding the key phrase "Charlotte Real Estate". 

My concern is that if that were all it would take to get listed again
in the top ten for the key phrase "Charlotte Real Estate", then at
least my page page should be coming up
for the key phrase "Charlotte NC Real Estate". Because the key phrase
"Charlotte NC Real Estate" already appears in my meta tags, title,
text and in text links on the www.charlotte-eba/home.html page. But
that page is not coming up either in the first 500 listings for that
key phrase search. And that is supposedly a "less searched on" phrase!

You stated that page was ranked as number 35 when you put "charlotte
nc real estate" in quotes. I wasn't able to get that page to come up
for me even then, but it doesn't matter, because almost no one
searches by putting quotes around their key word search phrases
anyway! :-(

Are you saying that my ONE text link to the
www.charlotte-eba/home.html page was also enough to take me from the
top ten for the key phrase "charlotte nc real estate", to
non-existent, even though I already had this particular key phrase in
my meta tags, title, and text for that page?

My concern, Robert, is that it appears that in addition to my index
page, the page isn't being indexed by
Google anymore either. Because at least with that page, I was already
doing all the things you suggested with the key phrase "Charlotte NC
Real Estate", wasn't I?

PS: I'm not sure I understand what you mean by putting the key phrase
in the url. Are you saying that the url for the home page, for
example, should be changed from to

- Julie

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 20 Nov 2003 18:54 PST
Although has the phrase
"Charlotte NC Real Estate", appearing in links on the page, it doesn't
appear in the text of the page (and by that I mean regular text, not
links). In fact the words real and estate do not appear in the regular
text at all.

Link text describes the content of the page that the link points to.
You need to have the targeted keyphrase in the regular text of the

Google gives preference to pages that have the search keywords
appearing as a phrase, in the same order and with no other words in
between. When the keywords are as popular as the three you wish to
target (2,999,000 pages have these words in the text), then for SEO
purposes it is critical that they appear as a precise phrase within
the regular text at least once. Twice would be better for the amount
of words you have on that page.

Previously, Google was giving that page a high rank, because other
pages were saying, via the link text, that it fitted the search
keyowrds exactly. Now that Google isn't considering internal link text
to be of much value, your site has dropped dramatically.

Without a higher PageRank, the only way you would have a chance of
making it back into the Top 10 would be to place the keyphrase in
every place I have detailed earlier (Meta tags make no difference).
What helps the best is a higher PageRank.

Yes, I believe, with the absence of the phrase appearing in regular
text, the link text made the difference between your page ranking
well, and not.

Your page is still indexed by Google, try this search:

"Southern Living at its finest with Carolina Buyer's Agent"

Keywords in filenames seem to make a small difference. See:

A small difference is better than nothing. The best way is to use
hyphens between the words, like charlotte-nc-real-estate.html

Although your page was ranked as number 35 for "charlotte nc real
estate" in quotes when I conducted the search, it no longer is. The
Google Dance must've still been occuring on that day. Apologies for
the confusion.

New Information!
Today's Search Engine Journal has an article that describes what may
have happened to your site:

"Google recently introduced a new keyword phrase filter during its
most recent update. Some phrases were unchanged, but many highly
optimized and highly competitive phrases were drastically altered.
Some webmasters saw their sites drop from top listings to not being in
the top 1,000 sites. Unlike other filters, this spam peanalty does not
affect a page or sites overall perceived value. The end effect is
lowered rankings for various specific searches for that page."

I would consider "real estate" to be a "highly competitive phrase".
The writer believes that by searching for your phrase with hyphens
linking the keywords, you can see your non-filtered position.

I did a search for charlotte-real-estate:

and guess what? Your site is at number 32. 

compare the results with:

"Charlotte Real Estate"

Although the other points I made are still accurate and valid, this
new information is probably a big reason for your site dropping so
drastically for a search phrase containing "real estate".

Obviously other siteas and pages still rank well for a search
containing "real estate". My guess is that, for phrases that Google
consider have been abused by webmasters, Google has devalued the
importance of link text.

Request for Answer Clarification by jtuggle-ga on 20 Nov 2003 21:20 PST
Thanks, Robert - 
Looks like I have a lot of work to do to climb back up into the top
ten for "Charlotte Real Estate" -

And I just wanted to check back with you about this: 
"Ideally the exact phrase should appear several times in the text,
precisely in the title, precisely in an H1 tag, and in the URL."

Would you recommend for example, that the url for the home page be
changed from to

- Julie

Clarification of Answer by robertskelton-ga on 20 Nov 2003 21:34 PST
Yes, but with hyphens. That way Google will see them as individual
words, rather than one big long word that means nothing.

I believe that Google will keep giving weight to anything that is a
one-off. Web pages can only have one title and one filename. Websites
can only have one domain name. Therefore whatever the webmaster puts
there is quite likely to accurately reflect the content.
jtuggle-ga rated this answer:4 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $15.00
For a moving target, (the Google algorithm), you provided the best
explanation I have seen, and I appreciate your willingness to continue
to present suggestions for how to improve my ranking by the next
update -

Subject: Re: New Google Ranking
From: robertskelton-ga on 24 Nov 2003 15:39 PST
Removing the Filter
I don't really understand how it works, but by adding -mt-tb.cgi to
your search query, you get the unfiltered results.

The information first appeared at The Register, before the latest
update, and referring to the filtering of blog content:

So, with the filter removed, you are at #2 for "charlotte real estate":
Subject: Re: New Google Ranking
From: jtuggle-ga on 24 Nov 2003 17:19 PST
Good work, Robert! Now that's a juicy tidbit!
- Julie

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