Facts & Fictions for Ranking #1 in Google

Digital Marketing December 27, 2018
Google RankBrain SEO Illustration

Facts & Fictions for Ranking #1 in Google

Google has the power to make or break a website. There are horror stories of websites losing tens of millions of monthly visitors overnight after Google updates. There are also feel-good stories of websites gaining nearly near as much attention.

It’s clear Google holds great power but understanding how to help your website perform in the search engine is anything but straight forward. Google doesn’t make their ranking algorithm public, though they do offer a seriously long guideline to help “explain” things.

In the aforementioned guideline, Google will tell you about spam, quality, freshness, relevancy, and many other ranking factors they describe playing a role in their consideration of which sites rank in their search engines.

Take it all with a grain of salt.

Billions in Revenue

Before we dig in let’s consider Google’s perspective. Google makes more than a 100 Billion dollars per year in advertising revenue alone. This revenue comes from their AdWords (now just Ads) product which allows businesses to pay to display messages in search results. You’ve seen these before—they have little tiny “Ad” labels for FTC compliance.

Google’s entire business model relies on having quality and relevant content that creates a quality user experience. After all, if Google doesn’t have quality users fewer businesses will pay to show them ads. Google will only ever advise people on how to rank in their search engines by Google’s own preferred methods. This is the single most important part of this article to understand. Read it again if you need to.

How to Rank in Google: Advice You Won’t Hear From Google

If you owned a nightclub that charged a $15 cover you wouldn’t want people to know there’s a door they could sneak into around back. In fact, having that knowledge spread would actively hurt your bottom line. When it comes to ranking in Google’s search engine you need to understand there are things that can help that Google would never condone and actively threatens taking action against. Some of these actions are worth the risk and others are just silly. Below we’ll discuss some of each.

Private Blog Networks Work

Google f*&^ing hates the notion of private blog networks but. When done correctly however, there’s little they can do to stop them. Private blog networks, commonly called PBNs, are websites that are created with the sole purpose of linking to other websites.

Let’s say you have a business website you want to rank on the first page of Google for the keyword “best seafood restaurant in yourcityname. After you realize how expensive it is to pay Google to show links to your site at the top of results you might ask yourself how you get there as a part of their organic search results. In other words, getting free advertising. Enter Search Engine Optimization (SEO).

The backbone of SEO is getting links from other websites to yours. These are called backlinks. Google perceives these as outside endorsements for your site and uses the quality and quantity to calculate something called PageRank. This helps determine how highly your site will rank for a given keyword. You’ll quickly find out that building backlinks is no easy task.

One option is to create other websites with the sole intent of adding a backlink on those sites to your original website. Google expressly forbids this in their Webmaster guidelines and will penalize your site if they detect a PBN. You won’t receive a manual action—your site just drops 50-60% in its rankings without an explanation.

When done right however, PBN links can help you dominate the SERP for keywords that are worth lots of money in comparable advertising cost. For example, a keyword with 90,000 monthly searches and an average CPC cost of $2.50 is worth approximately $78,000 ( 90,000 x 2.5 x .35 ) per month in advertising cost. It’s in Google’s best interest for people to believe PBN links always mean loss of profits.

NOTE: The .35 signifies a 35% share of search clicks for the first position.

Quality Content Gets Outranked by Shitty Content All the Time

This is the biggest lie in SEO. Quality content is always preferred to lower quality content but rarely a deciding factor in overall rank. Outsourced content written by non-native speakers will outrank native masterpieces if there are enough favorable ranking signals such as backlinks, social media shares, and user engagements.

It’s really frustrating pouring one’s heart out into the creation of superior content only to realize that Google doesn’t give a shit until it gets backlinks. This begs the question: if Google never shows your content to people how is anyone supposed to find it to create backlinks? They don’t.

What’s even worse is when more authoritative websites plagiarize one’s content and in turn outrank the original source for competitive keywords. It’s pretty rare comparatively speaking but still happens.

Negative SEO is a Real Thing

Back in the day, an SEO with hate in their heart could take another website’s rankings by bombarding it with low-quality links containing spammy anchor texts. Think 1,000,000 backlinks with anchors like “cheap Viagra,” “mail order brides,” and “horny housewives online.” Google pretty much stated that in order to address this issue they trained their crawlers to ignore low-quality links rather than penalize for them.

The thing is: they still penalize for PBN links if they spot them. The difference is that Google no longer tells you that a website has been penalized in such cases. They just shit on your rankings.

In theory, if an SEO with hate in their heart wanted to create a modern negative SEO campaign they might just create a really poor PBN and link to a competitor. It’s hard to imagine how Google might effectively manage this. On one hand, they could ignore known PBN links. Unfortunately, this would remove the risk of creating PBN links for webmasters altogether. You might lose your rankings if you get caught but the site wouldn’t get blacklisted.

Make no mistake: there are plenty of backlinks that do get ignored by Google. At least for all practical purposes. Social signals are among them. There’s a strong correlation between social media links and pages that perform well in the SERP but no empirical link has been found.

Putting it All Together

Google wants high-quality content to show their users. They also want fresh and relevant content. To do this at scale, Google has to take an algorithmic approach that simply can’t account for everything. There’s plenty of ways to slip through the cracks when ranking your website. Just know that many come with risks and that Google penalties are very real. So, in closing, the secret to ranking on the first page of Google is in knowing when to ignore Google’s advice and break the rules.