Sitedeals15? Released! (I’m in)

I’m trying my luck in a Dutch SEO Contest – the goal is to rank nr one on Google.nl for the query “sitedeals15 released”. I’m late – it started a month ago and runs just 3 more weeks. In despair, I ‘ll plaster my entry on top of both my index page and my RSS feed :-). Read further on some funny aspects of the game (language, tricks, search engine comparison) or skip to my Ipod Shuffle giveaway right away.

Language

Google Search resultsThe evaluated search query runs on Google.nl, the localised Dutch version – which makes it sensible to write in Dutch and to link from Dutch-language pages (localised Google versions favour pages in the corresponding language – even your location partly determines the search results). But the second word is English (not sure whether Google recognizes the word “sitedeals” in the proper noun “sitedeals15”), which makes it sensible to write in or at least to link from English language pages (since they’re more relevant to the keyword “released” – see the explanation on “multivector pagerank” at Sitepoint).

Strategy

At first sight, the top current positions seem to follow 3 different strategies:

On-page optimization

Using keyword placement and frequency in the URL, title, and links, and applying “meaningful markup” such as headings, emphasis in the body text. Examples: Sporthumor, Vrollie.

Blogging

Regularly adding fresh and relevant content to the page: Sven Bergiers, Pebbels, the Telenet blog and Bart’s blog,

Backlinks

Making sure to gather as many links to the page with the keywords “sitedeals15” and “released”: some huge link factories like startplezier and opishop perform surprisingly well. Surprisingly, because it’s contrary to Google’s own propaganda they value quality (relevance) over quantity (such as site-wide or domain-wide links at the bottom the startplezier link pages – nothing wrong with that BTW, but Google pretends to weigh this kind of links a lot less). And notwithstanding the publicity the crackdown on “black hat” techniques got (such as the BMW ban), some tricks still seem to pass under the radar, as this experiment showed.

Another surprise is that “fresh” domains, such as Bart’s .be domain (registered on the day of the contest launch), or svenbergiers.be make it to the top 10, despite the “Google Sandbox” (BTW: I’m doubting it is helpful to have a URL with the concatenated keywords sitedeals15released – using hyphens, slashes or %20 separators seems to make more sense – or am I wrong?).

Behind the scenes

Ask.com search resultsIf you try the same query on ask, (the forgotten AskJeeves search engine that is desperately – though with a lot of money – trying to recapture its share of the market), a lot becomes clear. The former butler is so helpful to show the referring pages instead of the referred pages (hey, what a coincidence they’re only fourth!), and shows us goodbuy.be, Multiwave.nl and vakantielokaties.nl (pointing to startplezier.nl, but from different IP addresses, so that the sites seem independent to Google), belg.be, pointing to Pebbles, winprijzen.be and winprijzen.net pointing to svenbergiers.be, tijd.net pointing to lvb, Bart obviously points to himself. The lesson: venturing on the web is like venturing in real estate: it takes patience and long work to build up a portfolio, but once done that, you can harvest the fruit of your labour for a long time to come. No high rank in SEO games if you cannot rely on plenty of “virtual real estate”.

My bets

I still believe in Google. I still believe they’re trying to optimize their algorithms in such a way that trusted sites, who patiently built their reputation, win over link gaming. That is why it is not a coincidence Luc’s entry and Bart Noppens’ blog posting shot up so quickly in the results, after their late entry in the game (Feb 27 and March 6 respectively). Both on sites with high pageranks (they didn’t make the mistake – I think – of quickly creating something new). Both have  some impressive virtual real estate (blogium and Brussels Journal – you’ll have to search in the noscript tag at the latter) or Pagerank-rich friends. And if the first Bart 301’s, his blog into a subdomain, or even better a subdirectory of netlash.com, I ‘d wager he has even better location (pagerank) and backing (referring sites)! May at least one of you catch up with the Dutch link factory :-).

Watching the engines

Being the prime target of SEO, Google is protecting itself to such an extent it makes their timeliness suffer: new sites tend to show up earlier in msn search, for example. So it’ll be fun to watch how msn, yahoo and ask differ from Google. I don’t know anything of engine-specific optimization, if you have ideas and resources, please share them in the comments.

And finally…

Technorati ChartBut hey, wasn’t I going to stage my own attempt to storm the SERPs? Wasn’t I going to try the impossible with almost two thirds of the race run? Of course I am!
So, if you:

  • enjoyed at least one of my posts and regretted I don’t have PayPal
  • want to prove that even sluggish search engines like Google cannot ignore fast-linking bloggers
  • want to fight Flemish and Dutch Big Online Media with the help of the blogging masses
  • sympathize with desperate causes…

… then copy this link in one of your postings: “sitedeals15 released”. You will not only show up in the nifty Technorati graph (get your own here), there’s more:

You can win an Ipod Shuffle!

Sitedeals15 ReleasedIndeed, if I win the contest, you can have my Ipod Shuffle… if you post on Friday March 24th at the latest (that is in 2 weeks) and on April 1st show up highest on this Technorati support list (of postings referring “sitedeals15 released”, ranked by authority). OK, I know it’s not the V7ndotcom Elursrebmem $4000, but at least it is something!

So start linking and enjoy the contest, I’ll post follow-ups as comments to this posting, you can subscribe to the comment feed!

PS1: none of the links in this posting has a rel nofollow – ain’t that generous :-) ?
PS2: if you didn’t notice “tongue-in-cheek-mode” of last paragraph, please note that none of this posting bears any moral judgement. I do not state that this or that technique is to some extent “unfair” or “wrong” – search engines have created a playing field and you have to play by the rules of the game…

25 Responses to “Sitedeals15? Released! (I’m in)”

  1. Bart Noppen Says:

    That’s a very nice write-up about the current state of the contest.
    Good luck !

  2. LVB Says:

    It is indeed very interesting to compare the SERPs for “sitedeals15 released” from different search engines.

    My preliminary conclusion:

    1) Ask.com does not list the “link collectors”, but linkers that are in class C IP ranges which are different from the link collectors (e.g. lvb.net and brusselsjournal.com have the same IP address, but tijd.net is on another IP address which makes it more important to ask.com). In my opinion this gives you the least relevant results. Perhaps an original approach to be “as different as possible” from Google. An alternative search engine, to find things you won’t find on Google?
    2) Yahoo.com lists the “massive linkers” like BVLG, considered to be good “starting points for further exploration” on a specific subject. Not bad: the BVLG article is a better starting point to learn about the subject than the current number 1, an almost empty blog at wordpress.com.
    3) MSN search is the fastest to reflect new incoming links. Which makes me very optimistic, because MSN search puts me on top at the moment.
    4) Google … well, we all know how Google behaves, don’t we, otherwise we wouldn’t be winning :-)

  3. LVB Says:

    My point 2 should read: “a better starting point to learn about the subject than the current number 1 in Google.com, an almost empty blog at wordpress.com

  4. BVLG Says:

    My two cents.
    Being a “massive linker”, I am surprized to see that Google puts the RSS feed by Feedburner of my blog before the actual URL. Anyway, in current lists of results by Google these two appear very low. I am not very good at SEO …

    By the way, is putting links in the noscripts area of several websites an acceptable policy ?

  5. Pascal Says:

    Wanted to post the first comment but some people got up earlier – or stayed up late :-)

    I put the page online on Wednesday evening, and inluded it in the navigation. Although I pinged the Googlebot with my sitemap, msn bot and Yahoo passed by after just 2 hours, Googlebot passed by 12 hours later.

    I still have to include it in my RSS feed, but it got late already yesterday :-)

    Oh, and thx BVLG, for the first link!

  6. Bart Says:

    My starting point in this contest was: I’m trying to rank a new site. Because if you want to find a good SEO’er to optimise your site, you want him to be able to optimise your URL – not a subdomain of his own.

    Of course, with fierce competition that are using their own sites, I may have to cave in.

    BTW, nice write-up as always, Pascal !

  7. Bart Noppen Says:

    Ik wil er even op wijzen dat MSN search gewoon slecht is: het mooiste voorbeeld: sitedeals15 released percept.

    Zelfs met het keyword ‘Percept’ in de search zitten ze er nog kilometers naast … dat ze dus het snelste nieuwe links oppikken is mooi maar ze moeten ze dan ook wel gebruiken om de ranking bij te stellen!

  8. Pascal Says:

    @lvb: thanks for the explanation – it made me add this “Class C checker” to my “SEO investigation” tool set : http://www.webrankinfo.com/english/tools/class-c-checker.php

    @bvlg: Links in no script tags are not a bad practice per se – on the contrary, you should provide them sometimes to your javascript-disabled users (such as search engines) as an alternative. So you can’t be punished for it. As far as I know, Google and other search engines follow them, but do not add a lot of weight to these links. And if used excessively, it might be considered link spam. (The same applies for links in “noframes” tags I noticed some people use :-)

  9. Pascal Says:

    @Bart Noppen (on the difference between msn search versus Google’s): my impression is that msn search is not only faster than Google’s, it’s more sensitve to keyword frequency, whereas Google relies more on (quality and link text of) incoming links. Anyone sharing this impression, and are there more noticeable differences?

  10. LVB Says:

    @Pascal: I doubt if this class C thing has any influence on the Google ranking. If it only influences the Ask.com ranking, I think we can disregard this whole class C thing.

  11. Pascal Says:

    Status update:
    1 my own entry is showing up in the top 10 in msn and this blog posting is showing in the Yahoo top ten (I’m using the Dutch localised versions).
    2 I think my blogpost profits from the link in referers list of Brusselsjournal.com, maybe even more than Luc’s entry does from Brusselsjournal.com (which I find very galant on his behalf :-) )
    3 In Google, the blogpost is in the 10-20 range; the entry itself doesn’t seem to be in the index (duplicate content might be the problem!). I’ll have to find another trick to boost my “sitedeals15 released” entry compared to this blog post…
    4 The Google and Yahoo bot have passed twice, msn bot seems to come in two versions: 1.0 passed by 2 times, 0.9 passed by 3 times

  12. Bart Noppen Says:

    Pascal, you are right about the fact that MSN puts more weight on keyword-frequency but the results are clearly not what they’re supposed to be. Anyway, Yahoo and MSN are practically useless when it comes to generating traffic to a dutch website so it’s not even worth checking them.

  13. "Sitedeals15 released": Direct-link versions of Digg feeds Says:

    […] why this page is a bit different from the rest of my blog? I optimised it for the keywords “Sitedeals15 released” since I’m participating in an SEO Contest organised by this Dutch webmaster forum (andstartpagina): if you help me to win by linking here with the words “Sitedeals released”, I’ll pass on the prize, an Ipod Shuffle :-)! […]

  14. Sitedeals15 released Says:

    Nice information. Hope you will accept this post.

  15. Pascal Says:

    Only 10 days to go and it doesn’t look I’m going to win :-) . Unless some people really want that Ipod and start linking :-)
    Wat I did so far:

    • switched the original Dutch text to a mixed entry: an intro in Dutch (displayed in the right nav thanks to the magic of css – I would be really surprised if Google detects this automatically?) and an English-language blog post I hoped would gain some backlinks from blogs (only 2 so far…) – a bit of an overt linkbaiting attempt. **
    • internal backlinks in navigation, and on frontpage, thx to a WordPress plugin
    • posted an entry in Google base (not sure if that helps…)
    • posted the page in Tailrank, del.icio.us, reddit, Digg, and put a backlink in the RSS feeds I submitted at Feedburner (again: not sure whether this really helps, only when it would get picked up by a lot of other people)…
    • in the last 5 days: some backlinks from Pagerank 3, 4 and 5 Dutch and English language sites (not always in a kosher way, but hey, I’m only going for the short term and I assume the Google Bot doesn’t read css :-) ).

    Lesson learned: Language is crucial:

    • On Dutch msn, the page /sitedeals15-released (with the old Dutch-only text) is placed 11 (or about), it’s first on msn.com (with the updated mixed Dutch/English text).
    • Same in Yahoo: around place 35 for on the Dutch localised version (nl.yahoo ads a “translate this” link, so it considers the page to be English!), hovering between 1ste and 2d place on yahoo.com
    • Google: First place on Google.com (*) for the blogpost , somewhere between 10 and 20 on the Dutch version (which it was all about of course). The actual page /sitedeals15-released is nowhere to see on Google, and its old version is still in the cache. Is Google just slow, or did it not accept a mixture of Dutch and English, or has the page been banned :-) ?
    • BTW: being the first on the English result pages isn’t really worth bragging about, since almost all of the competition is all in Dutch, this almost empty Googlepage (Bart’s?) is almost evenly successful.

    * Depending on your browser, and more in particular the “accept-language-header” it sends (test here), you’ll be served the English or Dutch (or other language) results for google.com, so I’ve added the “hl=en” part here to make sure the language is English.
    ** Update: I omitted the bigger part of the posting meanwhile (will post it separately), and maybe the page will be considered Dutch text again.  That doesn’t help most of the backlinks come from English-language pages 

  16. Startplezier dude Says:

    Nice story. I enjoyed reading it. :)

  17. Sitedeals15 released Says:

    Me too. But you need to come on place 1 at the dutch version of Google?

  18. Pascal Says:

    Game over since last week, and I didn’t win, so no Ipod Suffle to give :-)

    The result on April 1st was basically the same as on my first overview, though I had to cede my first on msn.com to lvb. I removed all of the backlinks on April 2d, but since Google is the slowest of all in updating its results, I’m still first on Google.com (at last with the /sitedeals15-released page, not with this blogpost!), but nowhere near that in the actual contest on the Dutch version.

    Not only language does matter, also the country TLD: percept-Bart was first on Google.be on April 1, only second on Google.nl.

    So, here are my conclusions on what you need in an SEO contest:

    • content in the language of the search query
    • some on-page optimization can help, but is not really necessary
    • place your content on an already established domain with a high pagerank, preferably the same TLD as the search query
    • get backlinks
    • with the search keywords in the anchor text
    • from high pagerank sites
    • from pages in the same language as the search query
    • quality is more important than quantity, although quantity doesn’t hurt

    Note that real SEO still is far different from a short-term contest on a newly invented (often nonsensical) search query… In real SEO, you’ll have to promote (your client’s) new domains, you ‘ll have to optimise for a wide variety of existing search terms, and the context of the backlinks becomes crucial. Meaning: you need to get backlinks from sites that already score high for search queries in your domain. And the best way to do that still is… with good content :-).

  19. LVB Says:

    Pascal, in my browser, you are still the first on Google.NL !!! If you don’t believe me, I can send you a screenshot. That’s because in my browser settings, English is the preferred language. So, it doesn’t matter if you check at google.com or google.nl – it’s the language setting of the browser that determine the language weighting of the search results.

    But of course, you are right, the language of the content is very important. Which leaves me with this question: is it the language of the page, or the language of the site, or both. If the language of the site itself matters, than non-unilingual sites (like LVB.net, which has Dutch and English pages) would always be handicapped in relation to SEO.

  20. Pascal Says:

    Luc,

    I had noticed that Google.com results depend on the Accept-Language header sent by the browser (see footnote of a previous comment). On my PC, IE7 sends "nl-be" (the Windows regional settings, even if the browser build en the specified language in IE is English), and Firefox sends "Accept-Language: en-gb,en;q=0.5" (as specified in Tools… options… advanced… edit languages). Results of a "naked" request like http://www.google.com/search?q=sitedeals15+released will depend on this header, but if you add a parameter "hl=" for the interface language, you should be able to control the results: http://www.google.com/search?hl=nl&q=sitedeals15+released and http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=sitedeals15+released give Dutch and English results, irrespective of browser and headers sent.

    I haven’t been able to see this dependence for Google.nl – are you sure there’s is no hl=en parameter sneaking into your query? That would depend on the Google preferences (cookie) not on the headers sent?
    Do you still get English results if you add "hl=nl", so for the http://www.google.nl/search?q=sitedeals15+released&hl=nl query?

  21. Pascal Says:

    for the language question:

    only Google knows exactly of course, but my guess would be it is the page that counts, not the site/domain. However, if you have two languages on the same site, you might want to have a look at the internal link structure: for a Dutch-language search query, links from English-language pages will probably count less (and vice versa), so I assume you better have two separated navigational structures per language – but that ‘s only natural, unless you assume your entire audience is bilingual!

    On lvb.net, English and Dutch link structures are separate, except for the upper navigation. On my English-language blog on the other hand, the site-wide link in the navigation to my sitedeals-released page probably didn’t really help for a Dutch-language query, even when the page itself was (partly) in Dutch.

  22. LVB Says:

    Yes, a “hl=en” is automatically sneaking into my query in Firefox. And yes, you are right, that has probably nothing to do with the Accept-Language header, but with the Google Preferences.

  23. Startplezier dude Says:

    Me is number 1. :)

    I agree this contest is something else than a real SEO for you’re client’s.

    I disagree with this conclusion:
    – quality is more important than quantity, although quantity doesn’t hurt

    I think al backlinks doe mather! You have to find a mix of it. I would say:
    quantity: 80%
    quality: 20%

    I disagree with dis conclusion:
    – place your content on an already established domain with a high pagerank, preferably the same TLD as the search query

    I started a new startpage.

    -some on-page optimization can help, but is not really necessary

    I think it is! Most of the people didn’t use META tags. I think is IS necessary to use them. Why shouldn’t you?

  24. Pascal Van Hecke Says:

    On quantity versus quality:
    With quality I mean links from high-pagerank sites. It is assumed Pagerank is roughly logarithmical: 7 ten times more important than 6, hundred times more important than 5, etc… So 1 link from a Pagerank 7 site values more than 10 links from Pagerank 5 sites (without taking into account other factors such as the link text, keyword relevance etc…). Yes, every link is valuable, but if you have limited time, it’s probably not worthwile putting a lot of energy in obtaining links from obscure sites.
    (BTW: the factor ten is both an exaggeration and a simplification, see these pages for more detail)

    On domains:
    You have put your page on a subdomain of an already established, trusted Pagerank 5 domain: startplezier.nl. Nothing wrong with that! It would have been a lot more difficult to obtain good results if you had registered a new domain. It is assumed Google puts new domains in a “sandbox”, a quarantaine period, before letting them weigh high in search results: http://www.webpronews.com/ebusiness/sitepromotion/wpn-3-20040826WhatisTheGoogleSandboxEffect.html

    On meta tags:
    They’re important because they help you to determine the way your entry is presented in a search results page. But Google ignores meta tags for ranking. And has been doing so for years:
    http://searchenginewatch.com/webmasters/article.php/2167931

    I know it’s a bit weird I’m arguing over this since you have won and the winner knows better anyway, but I wanted to at least clarify my points :-) Enjoy the Ipod Shuffle!

  25. Appelogen » My two cents Says:

    […] geshowd. We treffen eenmalige gebruikers: Wim op 7 seconden, Vorkmans bij Pietel, Acer op Blonko, BVLG bij Pascal Vanhecke en Kerygma op Gentblogt én Smetty (oppassen meid!). Coolz0r is op dit vlak een nestbevuiler. En […]