The End Of Arbitrage and Content Based Search-Engine Rankings....
Google could be entering a new age, or at least there are changes coming on the horizon, according to two interesting threads at webmasterworld. (Oh, and I found the above interesting video on youtube that may be of use to you - but read on to see how that ladies method will have to change...)
The first thread looks at the end of arbitrage, and the closing down of Adsense accounts owned by those who seek to make money by buying cheap clicks from adwords and converting the m into higher paying Adsense clicks. The second looks at how Google is attempting to change its search engine results from primarily link based to content based. That is to say Google is developing algorhythms that can rank a site or page based on the quality of its content and not just the quality of the hyperlinks that point to it.
Arbitrage has been around since the birth of Adwords and Adsense. From current information it looks like that from June 2007 Google is closing down the Adsense accounts of those who try to make money from the discrepancies between how much they can buy Adwords clicks for, and then convert them to Adsense click income. From the feedback from banned webmasters it appears that it is not a question of quality, simply the fact that they are acting as a middleman and taking away a slice of Google's profits while offering little extra to the advertisers who are paying for the Adwords clicks in the first place.
The reason for this is obvious. Adsense provides an extremely easy way for webmasters to monetize their sites - and subsequently tens of thousands of very poor sites have sprang up purely to serve Adsense ads and add little to the visitors web experience at all. This has led to advertisers pulling out of the content network part of Adwords, meaning fewer earnings for webmasters and a degrading of the value of content in the eyes of those paying.
Adwords is often used to drive traffic to these 'MFA's' or Made for Adsense sites, and by the use of limited navigation and large ad blocks very high click through rates (and earnings) can be achieved. These are the sites Google is going after, so we have to ask ourselves how we can avoid being caught in the cross-fire and become become a collateral damage victim.
First, do you use Adwords to drive traffic to pages that primarily make their money from Adsense? If you do, expect an email from Google pretty soon. Next. Have you designed your site so that visitors click on your ads by mistake, or because the navigation is poor? Again, Google will be after you.
Finally, does your site have a high click through rate, say above 30%? Just guessing on my part, but that may be one of the triggers that causes Google to review sites, and is an indicator of poor content or misleading navigation.
For a long time the way you improved your sites ranking was with quality inbound links. Amateur webmasters like myself rely on reciprocal linking and organic links, but many a professional will pay for links in their thousands in order to get on the first page of Google for their chosen keywords or key phrases. Google is already trying to downplay paid links by asking webmasters to highlight them with a 'nofollow' html tag, and it is believed that reciprocal links only benefit your site if they are placed within relevant body text, or at least on a page that contains links to similar, quality, sites.
This system can be gamed, or manipulated, downgrading the quality of any search-engines results. The perfect answer would be to have trained human reviewers to grade sites, but this approach would not be scaleable for the size of today's web. Just look at the poor results at dmoz to see how the only viable method is to develop algorhythms that can gauge the quality of pages by using artificial intelligence to rate sites, and Google is attempting to do this with phrase based semantics.
The mechanics of this are well beyond my understanding, but it is sufficient to say the Google's aim is for their spiders to be able to discern the quality of a site by its content, and not just the links pointing to it.
What does this mean to your average webmaster? I guess it means you have to really start looking at what you write and ask the hard questions about how really good it is, and how useful it I to your visitors. Can it be improved? Is it any different to your competitors, and if not how can you make it so?
I've struggled with this for months. I know that many pages on this site do not particularly stand out from other, similar sites. I have found that the answer may be to try to make your pages 'sticky' or have substantial link-bait. Now you may consider these buzzwords or the latest seo fad, but they do help when trying to thing of ways to improve a page. I also think that the use of linkbait will increase your sites natural in bound links, which will improve your search engine rankings.
Examples of this on this site would be my use of youtube videos on reviews of products, say my review of the Nuvi 660fm Sat Nav. The text may be ok, but I think the addition of a video makes the page different to any other reviews out there and will lead to a better user experience and higher natural back-links and then to more visitors.
So there we have it. Two subjects for the webmaster to chew over and think about how they will change the face of Google, and you can be sure that the other Search Engines such as MSN and Yahoo will be following too. Good luck!
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