So I guess the thing on everyone's mind is Google's major change in algorithm. Many of you have written to ask me my thoughts on this and what you need to do, etc., etc.

Here's the thing. I don't chase algorithms, and neither should you. I know, I know, you all want to get the best rankings possible and have an advantage over your competitors, the easiest and cheapest way possible, but look what that did for you -- now your site is missing and your traffic is gone.

How many times do I have to tell you that search engine optimization is about making your site the best it can be for the long term? It's not about quick fixes, and it's not about creating your site based on some formula or the algorithm of the day.

I know you don't spam the engines and you have a great site.

But do you have THE best site in your niche? Or at least one of the top 10 best sites? Do you, really? What makes yours better than the other 7 million that sell what you're selling? Oh, yours is better cuz you put keyword phrases in the Title tag and in the copy. I see. Yes, that's what I always tell you to do, but if you read what I write -- really read it -- you will see that I've always said that you have to go beyond that.

The free ride is officially over.

From now on, you can't just create a site by the book, trade a few links with friendly competitors and expect to be found in Google for phrases that are relevant to millions of other sites. If you want to beat those other sites, you're gonna have to work your butt off. You're gonna have to live and breathe your Web site. You're gonna have to start an email newsletter and become an expert in your field. If not that, then you're gonna have to think of something else that makes you credible in the eyes of your target audience.

It's all about credibility. And fake credibility (as in reciprocal linking schemes) is finally a thing of the past. At least until the scammers figure out a new way to scam.

Links are still important, but we're talking about REAL links. As in the kind you get just because people like you and your company. What? You say those aren't given out any more? Oh yes, they most certainly are. I have hundreds of them pointing to my site, and so do tons of other sites. The World Wide Web is still alive and well and linking as much as ever. It's only those of us in the SEO world who think we have to be cheap with our links cuz we know their value. It's all about building relationships and learning about real marketing, real public relations, and real advertising.

Search engine marketing has just grown up.

Things are definitely not all a bed of roses for some sectors. Real estate agent sites have been crucified by this update, and the same is true of many other commercial industries. Information sites that just marginally touch on the topic at hand are showing up first in the results. But this won't last; the general public won't put up with that for long. Google still has some tweaking to do. A major shift in how to rank sites can't be done in a few weeks. There's some pretty comical stuff showing up for some search queries, and if I know Google, they're working to fix that asap.

The good news is that all is not lost for you. Even real estate agent sites are doing fine in the rankings for many keyword phrases, just not for the big money phrases containing the words "real estate." There are plenty of other related phrases where agents' sites still show up. Phrases like "moving to city name" and "city name relocation" still show plenty of agents' sites when those sites have a lot of information on them. Real information as in "written off the top of your head and not copied from somewhere else" information.

Sure, you may have been taken by surprise by this update, but the good news is that many of those spammy sites we were previously complaining about have started to disappear. Not sure why Google still can't seem to get the redirected and/or cloaked sites to disappear for the search query "email marketing consultant," however. They're still stumped by that one, apparently. Oh well. Maybe nobody actually searches on that phrase but me anyway.
December 8, 2003

CEO and founder of High Rankings®, Jill Whalen has been performing search engine optimization since 1995 and is the host of the free High Rankings Advisor search engine marketing newsletter, author of "The Nitty-gritty of Writing for the Search Engines" and founder/administrator of the popular High Rankings Search Engine Optimization Forum. In 2006, Jill co-founded SEMNE, a local search engine marketing networking organization for people and companies in New England.

High Rankings is an internationally recognized search engine optimization firm located in Framingham, MA specializing in search engine optimization, SEO consultations, in-house training, site audit reports, search marketing seminars and workshops. High Rankings has a 100% success rate for substantially improving client rankings and targeted traffic.

Jill speaks at national and international conferences and has been writing about SEO and search marketing since 2000. She's been quoted in such publications as The Wall Street Journal, U.S. News & World Report and The Washington Post. Her articles have appeared in numerous print magazines and online websites including CIO Magazine, CMS Focus, The Internet Marketing Report, ClickZ, WorkZ,, Entrepreneur, Lycos Small Business, WebProNews, SiteProNews and others. Jill has also appeared on many online and offline radio programs such as Entrepreneur Magazine's E-Biz Radio Show, SearchEngineRadio and the eMarketing Talkshow.

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