From: Clay Crosland


I'm very displeased with Yahoo's new way of listing sites. I would think they would be shooting themselves in the foot by listing their directory matches second. Why would anyone want to list their sites in their directory (and pay them $300) if no one will see them? I'm sure some people will, but I'd guess that they'd be losing over 90% of traffic to their directory listings.

I guess this just means that we'll have to really start working hard to get ranked high on Google for all of our sites. Which leads me to my question to you.

Did Google make a change on or about the 28th of September? We used to rank quite well on several of our sites for several keywords, and have now fallen off the planet for most of them. They all seem to have done this right around that time period. I'm not sure what to do to try to reposition us high in Google, as I have no clue what kind of changes they have made...any ideas?



~~~Jill's Response~~~

These are great questions as they discuss two very important issues that are happening in the SEO world right now: Yahoo's recent switch to "all Google, all the time" and Google's recent "algorithm change."

In case you haven't noticed, a few weeks ago Yahoo stopped showing their own directory results when a search is made. They're now showing results that come straight from Google's database, and they are ranked (for the most part) according to Google's ranking algorithm. The major difference between the Yahoo results and Google's own results is that if a site is listed in the Yahoo directory, the Yahoo title and description will show up instead of the information in your page's title tag. The directory-listed pages are also designated by a little red arrow.

There are many implications to these changes -- all for the better, in my opinion. Yahoo is now a worthwhile search site once again. Before the change, their results were so spam-filled that they were essentially useless. Unprofessional SEOs had taken all the top spots for their clients' sites by creating fake keyword rich company names, and purchasing domain names to match. Now this trick is worthless. (Yay!)

As to Yahoo's reasoning behind this change, all I can guess is that they were tired of losing visitors to Google. If you can't beat 'em, join 'em! Perhaps they decided that $299 per listing didn't amount to much for them if they couldn't sell people on their other services while they were there. Maybe they needed a good reason for people to come to them and stay with them. Google has proven that having relevant search results can make you queen of the prom. Perhaps Yahoo hopes to be king?

So the big question remains -- should you pay $299 a year for a Yahoo directory listing now? I certainly see no benefit in doing so. In fact, I would even say that you might be better off *without* a directory listing. Some people say that it's worth having Yahoo's nice short title and description showing up in the results for your site. But to me, that's a bad thing! Why would I want Yahoo's yucky title and description when I can have any title and description I want, simply by putting them on my page? Okay, so that's not totally true since I can't actually choose a description with Google, because they use "snippets." However, I like snippets, because they show that the site is highly relevant to the search query by highlighting the keywords. Yahoo's title has to be the company name. For most unknown companies, this is not a benefit to their listing.

It's true that there's still the "link popularity" benefit that a Yahoo listing supposedly gives you. But is it worth $299 a year for that? Plus, aren't we supposed to refrain from getting listings for the sole purpose of boosting link popularity (or Google PageRank)? Besides, there are plenty of other directories that will list you for free. Try GoGuides, JoeAnt and Gimpsy for starters. (There's always DMOZ, but as most of us know, getting listed there these days is like pulling teeth!)

Of course, these changes also mean that a good Google listing is even *more* important than ever. (Bet you didn't think that could ever happen!) Along with the Google search engine itself (which is gaining in popularity by leaps and bounds), Google also powers AOL, Netscape, IWon, and now Yahoo. That's a huge reach. Should you be scared of this? I'm certainly not. Although I do wish that other search engines would somehow miraculously become popular because it would make things a lot more fun, I don't see it happening in the immediate future. All this means is that doing SEO in a professional manner is more important than ever.

It's very simple to get high rankings in Google, although it is nothing that can be done overnight. You've heard me say it a million times. Create a great, content-filled site which naturally uses your keyword phrases, and optimize the HTML code accordingly. This will not only get you high rankings in Google (and its partners), but in every spidering search engine out there!

So what happened to Clay's Google rankings around the end of September? Well, it's hard to say for sure. But there was definitely a big shakeup at Google after the last "Google Dance," which was right around that time. Many pages that had been highly ranked for years suddenly dropped out of sight. It appears as if Google made a major change to their algorithm in their continuing effort to fight spam. Anytime this happens, some sites inadvertently get dropped. For the most part, my clients' sites did not have any problems, and in fact, most of them went up in rankings.

If your site is having problems in Google this month, here's what I would suggest. First, you know whether you're using any unprofessional SEO techniques. Just because it may have worked in the past doesn't mean it's okay to use it. So, be honest with yourself. If you felt a little scummy when "optimizing," chances are that's what your problem is. Fix it, and wait until next month's reindexing. If you have honestly assessed all your techniques, and are positive that you have behaved in a completely professional manner, PLUS, you know that your site is as fully optimized as it can be, then I wouldn't do anything just yet. Trying to tweak your code for any possible algorithm changes will only drive you crazy. If you're confident in your work, then there's nothing more you can do. When that happens to any of my sites, I chalk it up to the search engine being wrong -- not my site! And you know what? Eventually the search engines work out their little problems and my site is once again at the top where it belongs. If you try to change things each month, you'll never really be able to tell which of your techniques work. Have faith and ride it out. If after a few months there are still problems with your rankings, re-evaluate everything once again, and make changes as necessary.
October 24, 2002

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.

Search Engine Guide > Jill Whalen > Yahoo/Google Changes