SEO Experiments – Changing Index pages

by seoibiza on 19, May, 2008

Today is going to be a day of cliches, all of which will be marked with asterixes ( * ) and apologised for, before-hand.

There’s an old saying, usually banded about by those who would (like to) be thought of as experts in the particular field, that …

“you have to understand the rules to be able to break them” *1

You’ve probably heard also heard the expression that

“you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette”*2 ?

…Well this is a post about rules, omelettes & the power of broken eggs.

There’s a lot of talk about how changes to the homepage of a site can induce sudden unwanted (downwards) effects on SERPs and there’s no doubt that it can, we’ve seen client sites changed by not-so-seo savvy developers with very negative effects (and received the “HELP!” calls to see if we can help or know what they did wrong / why etc) and so are no strangers to the effects.

However as our whole site is basically a big collection of ongoing, and constantly evolving  seo experiments anyway, and we have our eyes on a very much bigger plate of omelette going forwards, we decided to not only to go ahead with a major homepage re-write and sitewide navigation structure changes, to link weighting, distribution and anchor text, but just in general to see quite how far we could push our luck.

hehe :) whoops. we broke it. – running the scanner last-night shows a major bombing of most (but interestingly not all) terms.

It was to be expected really as it’s an aggressive sitewide “adjustment” of the main theme, but we were obviously hoping for as minimum disruption to current rankings as possible, or at least it would be fair to say we weren’t expecting such dramatic negative effects on the bigger terms -Business SEO from top 5 to #21, Business SEO Packages – #6 to #91, Superior SEO – unflichingly #1 for 2 months down to #5, …you get the idea..

anything from -10′s, -20′s and in some cases -50 or even -80′s to terms that have been solid top 5′s if not dominant #1′s.

There are several factors we think it could be – ah, the joys of making more than one change at a time.. :)

  • Google’s theorised “Over-optimisation filter” – sudden changes to internal (and especially navigation) anchor text has long been alleged to cause these kind of effects. It’s obviously theoretical as nobody even knows whether there is such a thing, but has been widely reported and so must be considered as a possibility. If so, this is the fist time we’ve ever made aggressive enough changes to an already ranking site to trigger it.
  • Reduction of link weight from the homepage – by increasing total links off the page from 50 to 72. In most of the cases that have shown substantial drops there are now more than one link to the page using differing anchor text. This was carefully calculated and hoped to actually increase link weight to the page through differing anchors, and working on anchor text cross-over effect. It was also always possible though, that the second link could get discarded and hence the link weight to inner pages actually reduced rather than increased.
  • Keyword density – although much maligned as an almost worthless metric these days, most would not argue that you could definitely go too high with it and maybe trip spam filters. We are now up to 7.8% for “SEO” on the index page (on purpose, to see the effects) having previously aways kept it at around 5%. Seven percent is a widely touted upper limit, and so of course we went in above that to see for ourselves.
  • Something more complex we haven’t yet thought about or maybe a combination of any or all of these things, plus other things we will never comprehend thrown into the mix :)

..SEO’s good like that, definitely keeps you thinking..

In hindsight, the multiple simultaneous changes do maybe now seem just a little cavalier, but if we’d done it as usual, slowly, bit by bit, we probably wouldn’t have broken it as we seem to have, or in cliche terms..

“You can’t fix something that isn’t broken” *3

Which gives us the advantage now that we can now step-by-step it backwards again until we find the exact thresholds at which it leaps again, and thus the optimal levels.

Secondly, as this is ultimately exactly what we built the site for, to push the limits, if you are pushing hard, then you have to expect to exceed the limits occasionally, or else you’re not pushing hard enough.

The site is mostly recached now and unless Google is just having a mad couple of days its it’s fairly safe to say that we’ve significantly altered the way they look at us.

The plan now is to leave it alone for another week or two just to make sure it’s not just a little passing glitch and that it doesn’t just bounce back unaided anyway, and then gradually start making small adjustments and we now get to SEO our own site instead of all these constant boring #1′s all the time :)

Ultimately a lot of the changes are staying anyway whatever, and so if these are just the new thresholds at current settings we can always just bludgeon our way back upwards if using linkforce if required, but that always takes some of the finesse out of it.

I personally am hoping that it is the “over optimisation filter” as you can’t learn about these things until you hit them, and reducing kw densities is not likely to be nearly as educational and challenging as manoevering around Google’s mythical anti-SEO filters, even knowing that they exist for yourself, (never mind where the thresholds are) is valuable knowledge and so it’s all good.

Customers can rest assured that we always stick very carefully to the best practice protocols on client sites, (which is why we had to build our own to mess about with in the first place) and competitors in the various “glory terms” serps we’ve been invading all over the place can have a little rest.

but I wouldn’t get too comfy, as The Ibicenco SEO warriors will be back even stronger in a couple of months, with our new

knowledge (equals Power) *4

…all too soon you may rest assured. …it’ll be like the Schumacker of old, after a first lap crash, starting from the back of the pack and scything up through the field again… ;)

See the thing about cliches, is that they are cliches for a reason, and when you get to the point to which they refer, all of a sudden they make perfect sense.

Hasta pronto Amigos

{ 2 trackbacks }

SEO Experiments - Google 950 Filter in action? | SEO Ibiza - Superior Small Business SEO
25, May, 2008 at 11:46 pm
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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Pittsburgh SEO 19, May, 2008 at 9:02 pm

I think that’s why I like SEO so much… the experimentation of it.

Ivan | 20, May, 2008 at 8:25 am

“One page, one change at a time.” – that should be added in the list of the SEO clichés, isn’t it? :)

seoibiza 20, May, 2008 at 8:43 am

hi guys.

@Ivan :) ..yes indeed. & its not like we didnt know better.

@ Chris – experimentation is the spice of life or something like that…

Hari 23, May, 2008 at 10:59 pm

I like this blog very much and even i’m trying to
post blog tips in my blog.

I would like to read more from this blog.
Can we have link exchange?

If so just drop by my blog.

Search Engine Optimization Petersfield 24, May, 2008 at 2:33 pm

I love the braveness of trying things out on our main, money earning sites. I changed a few things (too many) the other day on my site and dropped off page 1 for main search term.

Slowly getting back, but perhaps I will just come over here in future and let you do the work for me, for free!

Great site by the way!

seoibiza 24, May, 2008 at 3:31 pm

haha and thanks, but is it braveness or stupidity? :)

ever since I was a kid I always liked breaking things to be able to fix them again, hopefully better, and we cant try new ideas out on clients sites so whats left?

but of course we happened to make the changes at exactly the same time G just happen to be remaking the whole SERP, the same has happened to lots of others who hadn’t made any changes.

We have no idea whether this would have just happened without the changes and she’s bouncing back up to an extent anyway. It would probably be fair to say that we should likely suspect that 4th category of “Google Unknowns” in the mix as there seems to have maybe been a devaluing of certain types of links.

who knows? ..we get basically paid to take best guesses most of the time don’t we?

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