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Semantic Search – Still needs Keywords

Semantic search has certainly been getting a lot of buzz lately.  However, I wonder if an accurate picture of semantic search is being painted.  If you just read the headlines one might get the impression that keywords and the old way of doing SEO are no longer relevant.

Case in point, in a recent panel about the future of SEO, Barbara Star, who identifies herself a semantic strategist, said that keywords are an artifact of an earlier age and no longer suitable as search engines evolve into questions and answer engines.  She went on to say that this is probably disturbing news to many in the SEO set.

Also in the same panel, Mike Arnesen an SEO team manager, said that it was always a somewhat unnatural process to have to advise clients to craft content so that it can match to specific keywords to get traction. “Now we can tell them to just write good content, put what you need to put on the web and it will be easier find because of semantic markup and semantic search.”

But I’m not so sure this is true.  At least my research indicates otherwise. In fact, it’s my premise that keywords are just as important as ever and to ignore them could be a huge mistake.

I think the misunderstandings about semantic search might start with Google itself.  Matt Cutt’s has said that Google wants to move away from a reliance on keywords in search to a semantic world, where Google tries to look beyond the keywords to the searchers intent.

In the past Google would parse through each word in a search string looking for relevant keywords in the vast warehouse of content across the Internet. Often, this returns useful search results as most of us have experienced over the last several years. However, it’s not always perfect. If Google looks at each word in a conversational search string and then tries to match up the keywords in the string to keywords in the content, the content may not answer the searchers query.

It became Google’s goal to shift from looking at each word in the search string as a keyword and instead look at the entire search string as a composite and analyze what it was the searcher was actually asking.  However, this new semantic analysis of the searchers query still results in specific words, keywords, that should be reflected in the content. When a person enters a semantic conversational query into Google search, Google analyzes that search string and condenses it into specific words, (words are all it has to work with) and still looks for content relevant to these keywords.  If the content contains those keywords all the better.  So for the content creator, traditional on page SEO is still very relevant.

All we have to do to see what is really happening with semantic search is do a few searches.

We’ve been told that semantic search is now an answer engine, so I thought I would ask Google a few off the wall questions.

I asked Google, “Is there proof of worm holes”

This question has two important words, wormholes and proof.  Below are the search results.

wormholes proof

The first search result is from Wikipedia.  It comes from a Wikipedia page with the title Wormholes.  Keywords really at work there.

We also see the semantic characteristics of Google at work.  Google knows that I’m not talking about fishing worms and Google knows that my question for “proof”, another keyword, can also mean “evidence”.  

Google, in this semantic search snippet does us the favor of digging into the Wikipedia article and finding the exact excerpt that answers our question and contains our keywords. Google even shows the keywords in bold print.

The second search result from Yahoo answers is even more keyword connected with my exact search query highlighted in the rich snippet of Yahoo answers.

Neither of these search results would have appeared in the search results if they weren’t relevant to the keywords of the query.  These search results appeared because the had the keywords in the content.

Now I’m sure many people are thinking of possible searches which do not contain the primary keyword.  I tried one of those as well.

I know there is a museum in a neighboring community that has a fantastic collection of antique cars and also has a Christmas show with stupendous pipe organ music. My wife wanted to get tickets to the Christmas show but I couldn’t remember the name of the museum.  So I conducted a search, “What’s the place in Sylmar that has a car collection and Christmas show.”

Below are the search results.

Semantic Search results for Nethercutt Museum

My answer is the Nethercutt Museum.  Google was able to retrieve this information because of the keywords in my query.  My query included the keywords, Sylmar, car collection, and Christmas.

The search results included the content Sylmar, place, classic cars and vintage cars.  Google may have made the association of classic and vintage to the word museum.  Again, this content would not be in the search results if it wasn’t for the match of keywords.

No matter what convoluted search string we enter into search, Google will translate this to a search string that it thinks is the answer to our question and that search string has keywords that should be reflected in our content if we want it to appear in the search results.

And you are going to still see this connection of keywords in the search and in the content for almost any semantic search that you do.

I know, simple and obvious.  But yet we have a whole host of people telling us that keywords are no longer as important.  The truth is they are.  An SEO type may tell their client not to worry about keywords and to just write good content. And that’s cool if they just want to write something.  But if they want that content to appear in the search results, they better be thinking about the potential queries that people will be searching and make sure that their content has the keywords or synonyms that answer those questions.

One suggest is that people should create content that just answers questions.  That will work and will in fact work well.  If a common question is your page or blog title and the content reflects the title you have excellent chances of ranking high in the search results. But that’s always been the case in SEO.

However, you don’t have to confine yourself to just this question and answer approach. You can write content and optimize it just as you always have.  But make sure that your content is rich with as much relevant information as possible.

For example, someday a person is going to speak into their Smartphone, I’m looking for a house for sale in Victorville with a pool and a detached garage. Try this or similar search.  If your content has this combination of keywords anywhere on the page,
house for sale
detached garage
and if your content has strong reliability signals, there is a good chance you will see your content in the search results.  Many semantic searches are very similar to long tail keyword searches presented in a conversational question.

So when it comes to semantic search you may not be able to gain an advantage by black hat keyword stuffing, but you still need the keywords that are represented in the searcher’s query if you want your content to appear in the search results.

I have also noticed that since there is less demand for keyword density (it’s a factor even if Google says it isn’t a ranking signal) there seems to be a heavier demand on reliability signals.  Most of the results that I am now seeing for semantic searches are on very authoritative pages with high page rank.





Author Rank – Is Google Using It

Google has stated that it is not using Author Rank and many academic pundits agree. However, there’s a few working SEO’s that think they see evidence of author rank, or at least anomalies is the search results that seem to point to some kind of scoring system for authors, similar to page rank, that gives some authors a boost in the search results.  It is not the intention of this post to either prove or disprove the existence of author rank.  However, I would like to just have a conversation about the likelihood of author rank.

Ripple demonstrating viral nature of post.Most people who use Google Plus are familiar with ripples as depicted by the graphic on the left.  A ripple tracks the viral activity of a Google Plus post.  At the center of the ripple is the creator of the post and each circle represents somebody who shared the post.  Emanating from the first set of circles are other people who shared the post, and it ripples outward showing everybody who share the post. As a result a quick glance at a ripple can tell you how viral a post is or stated another way how popular a post is. One might assume that if a post shared again and again that it is a great post that people like.

Now, I’m not presenting this as a proof of Author Rank, but if you were Google and your Google algorithmic bot was looking at two pieces of content with nearly identical keywords and other ranking signals, and Content A demonstrated healthy viral activity and Content B showed practically no viral activity which content would you think was of higher quality and deserved to be ranked higher in the search results.

Ripple 3It’s always been my opinion that if Google is tracking something it is doing so for a reason. And if Google is tracking the virility of a post, it just seems feasible that Google could use this data as one of the more than 200 ranking signals that it uses when ranking content in the SERPs.

Now add to the formula, that the creator of Content A had a long history of creating quality content on this specific keyword that frequently goes viral whereas the author of Content B has written very little about the keyword and what is written is rarely shared.

Since Google is so adept at measuring technical signals it really isn’t much of a leap that Google could be creating a score for everybody that has established an authorship profile. The score would obviously measure more than ripples.  It could also look at the other social signals like +1′s, comments, and of course sharing demonstrated by the ripples above.  The author’s score could function much like a page rank and give the author the same kind of credibility that page rank lends to content.  It’s a vetting process that allows Google to determine the reliability of content that is relevant to a keyword search.

Many of the leading SEO pundits will tell you that Google says Author Rank hasn’t been implemented yet.  However, I think, Google is parsing words like a politician.  We all know Google took out a patent to rank authors.  And it is quite possible that this author score that I described above doesn’t perform as described in the patent.

Nevertheless, I would like to implore a little common sense. Google wants to provide the absolute best search results as possible. In the past they have used page rank as a signal to determine the reliability of content.  They have over 200 ranking signals.  Why wouldn’t the collective score of an author be another ranking signal.  Why would they take a patent out on it, score it, and post the results on the author profile?  Why are they tracking ripples.

Argument Against Author Rank

The latest argument against Author Rank is based on John Mueller of Google, Switzerland stating that authorship is currently uses as a ranking signal.  I think this is another case of parsing words.  We’ve always known that the mere act of establishing authorship would not improve search rankings.  Authorship is just a mechanism to track an author’s content and the social signals that content generates.  It’s this score that could function like page rank and give an author credibility in Google’s eyes.  Also, when John Mueller was asked if he could definitively say there was absolutely no author influence on content he would not say yes or no.  Instead he made a vague reference to meta descriptions being used in ranking content.

For those not close to SEO a meta description is a paragraph you can enter into the html code that summarizes the content.  At one time this may have been an active ranking signal but Google has recently said that it is no longer a ranking signal.  However, although Google has said it isn’t an active ranking signal if you use optimize a meta tag it still can influence the search results.

The easiest way to see the impact of a meta description on the search results is by doing any search and reading the snippets of text that accompany the search results. In most cases this snippet is the meta description and you will see your search words in bold in this snippet.  So to help Google find your content for a search word it just makes sense to have your keywords in the meta description.

When John Mueller made the analogy to the meta description to me it was like saying, well officially it isn’t a ranking signal, but in reality, it can affect the search results.

Why is Author Rank Important

So why is it important to establish if an author is receiving some kind of score or author rank that might influence the search results?  In one sense it isn’t.  The results are going to be what the results are.  However, if you are waiting for the advent of author rank to one day be established and miraculously improve the ranking of your content in the search results you might be waiting for a long time.

Operating on the premise that some form of author rank is already here, if you are not seeing good search results now, you probably won’t see them in the future either.  Most people aren’t taking the necessary steps to establish a high author rank score.

Author rank is designed to measure expertise in a topic. Just sharing everything under the sun created by other people isn’t going to cut it.  An author is a person who write.  If you want high author rank you need to create original content and a lot of it about a specific topic.  Then that content has to generate positive social signals.  Ripples or sharing is a major signal. It means somebody thought the content was good enough to share with their circles or public at large.  Plus ones are another social signal.  Maybe not as strong, and the pundits say that it doesn’t directly influence search results.  But then also comment on how interesting it is that the content with lots of plus ones often rank very well in the search results.

The Take Away

So what’s the take away.  Reasonable people could believe that there is an author score that Google uses as one of the two hundred tracking signals. In fact Matt Cutts, prominent Google spokesperson, says they are getting better at determining experts.  However, whether author rank exists or not, one should act as if it does.

Rather than being concerned about being on every social platform out there, one should focus on creating content on a specific subject that is good enough to attract positive social signals.  And the ripples do not have to be as big as in the above graphic.  They just have to be a little better than the next guys.  Often that isn’t very much.  And with good content it is easy to do.  Just remember to use keywords and ask yourself if your content is a good answer to likely search queries.


Semantic Search and Keywords

Semantic search and keywordsI think there may be some confusion about semantic search and the use of keywords in our content.  Lately, Google’s spokesperson, Matt Cutts, has been frequently talking about Google’s desire to move away from keywords, (without knowing what those words really mean) toward understanding things in the real-world and how they relate to each other. Many SEO pundits have immediately jumped on this writing articles that infer keywords are no longer important and go on to proclaim a whole new criteria to get your content to rank at the top of the search results.  However, I think this deserves some “Semantic thinking” to examine Matt Cutts’ statement and uncover what he really means.

There are two elements of search.  There is the query, the words that people enter into the search engine and there are the search results.  As in the video below, when Matt Cutts’ often talks about becoming less dependent on keywords he is talking about the search side of the equation, the words we either enter or speak into the search box.

In the past Google did a pretty good job of matching keywords in a search query to those same keywords in content.  However, as we evolve into conversational search, either spoken or written, this doesn’t work as well.  People are expecting Google to provide answers and often the keyword isn’t even in the query.

So with the new semantic search Google wants to take an abstract search string which may not include keywords and still provide the best content, the best answers for the search query.  Google wants to circumvent it’s reliance on keywords in the search box.

But does that mean keywords are no longer needed in content?

My answer is No.  Keywords in content are still as important as ever for a couple of different reasons.

Primarily, although a person searching may not concisely use keywords and ask something abstract instead, the answer is still, in a sense, a keyword.  The answer to a person’s search question still has to be in your content.

For example, I know there is a hiking area just outside of town called the Devil’s Punch Bowl.  But let’s imagine I forgot the name but still wanted to get more information about the area.  I could ask Google Now, “What is the name of the Camping and Hiking area south east of Palmdale”.

My keyword, although not used in my search string is “Devil’s Punch Bowl”.  If this keyword isn’t in the content, the content is useless to me.

Below, is a snippet from the search results of my query.

semantic search and keywords

The snippet tells us a lot.  First it gives me the answer, the Devil’s Punch Bowl. But also look at how it still uses keywords from my query.  Palmdale is in the title of the search snippet and the keywords “camping area” and “south east” are highlighted in bold.

As content creators it is still in most cases very important to have the keywords, the answers to a person’s query in our content.  Google still needs this information to determine if your content is relevant to the search query even if that query is abstract.

The guidelines to get top rankings in the search results haven’t changed that much. Continue to optimize content for one or two keywords like you always have and include as much peripheral information as feasible.  Notice that in my search results above, the content that appeared at the top of the search results for my query had my geographical qualifiers in the content. If that information wasn’t in the content, this content would not have appeared in the search results.

The other reason you should use traditional search engine optimization techniques is to still have your content appear at the top of the search results for traditional searches. Although semantic conversational search is growing, there are still many people who know exactly what they are search for and you want your content available to them as well.

Also, after Google has determined your content is relevant to the regular search or the semantic search it is likely to measure the reliability of the content as it always have.  How often do the keywords appear in the content, what is the page rank, social signals, and author authority.

How to Embed a GPlus Post in A Blog or Website

It’s easy to embed public Gplus posts into your blog or website.
1. Navigate to a public post
2. Open the Options Menu (arrow in top right corner)
3. Choose Embed Post
4. Copy and paste the embed code onto your website.
5. Done!

Google’s Instructions

Below is an example of an embedded website.

How to Get your G+ Post to Always Appear in Google Search Results

Get your content on page one of search resultsI was a guest on Connor T MacIVOR’s radio show the other day to talk about SEO and the Real Estate industry. I talked about personal search results and how easy it was to get a Gplus post to appear in Google’s search results for the people that have you in a circle just by effectively using keywords.

However, I didn’t go very deep into how to use keywords in a Google Plus post.  If you have a home for sale and you want to reach buyers who are searching for “homes for sale” in Google, you have a better chance of your Gplus post appearing in the personal search results if you use the same exact phrase that your prospective buyer is searching.  Obviously if your buyer is entering, “homes for sale” into Google it would be ideal to have “homes for sale” in your Gplus post.  Thousand of home buyers use this search term every month. (see the results below from Google’s AdWords planner)

Searches for Homes for Sale


Most of the time you only have to enter the keywords once and you can get your Gplus post in the search results.  But sometimes it takes more than just one mention of the keyword.  If I want to be sure that my Gplus post ranks on the first page of Google’s search results I try to use the keyword at least two times.  It’s my simple thinking that if you mention a keyword only once, it is just like every other word in the sentence or paragraph.  But if you mention it more than once, you focus attention on the word.  It helps the Google bot to know that the content is about the keyword that is repeatedly mentioned.  Of course, you don’t want to commit the Google crime of keyword stuffing but you do want Google to know the most important word in your content.

Here’s a test post I did to illustrate my point.  I wanted this test post to rank on the first page for “Pizza Palmdale”  which it did and has been there for months.  (If you search this you won’t see because only the people in my test circle can see it.)

pizza Palmdale ranks on first page of Google's search results.


I pushed this post to the limit.  I started with the keywords, Palmdale Pizza, and then repeated the keywords of Pizza and Palmdale a couple more times.  This almost always works unless you have been somehow penalized by Google.

Parting words, don’t keyword stuff, but don’t be afraid to let Google and your audience know what your content is about.


Evidence of Semantic Search in SERPs

Evidence of semantic searchI’ve finally seen evidence of semantic search in the the search results.  I was doing some SEO research on the keywords, “How to Get Rid of Bed Bugs”.

I conducted a search for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and got the usual list of search results. One of Google’s great features is highlighting the keyword you searched in the snippets that accompany each search result as seen in the image below.

how to get rid of bed bugs



Google has highlighted  Get Rid of Bed Bugs in both the title and the description.  Google is essentially saying you searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” and look, here are those exact keywords.  This is nothing new.

However, as a scrolled down the list I saw something very interesting.  I saw the listing below.

how to kill bed bugs




The relevant keywords are highlighted, but they are not my exact keywords.  I searched for “how to get rid of bed bugs” but the keywords that are now highlighted in the title and excerpt are “how to kill bed bugs”.  This is new.  I haven’t seen anything like this before.

The semantic element of Google search was able to equate “getting rid of bed bugs” to “killing bed bugs”.  Google knew that if I was interested in getting rid of bed bugs I might be interested in killing bed bugs.

This is one step closer to the goals of semantic search.  To be able to search the way we actually talk and get valid search results.  Some people might approach their problem with bed bugs by thinking “how do I get rid of them” whereas other people might think, “how do I kill them”.

However, it is important to note that this is only the beginning and semantic search still has a considerable distance to go. When I conducted the search “how to get rid of bed bugs” the top search results had exact keyword matches for “how to get rid of bed bugs”.  The search results with the alternative keywords, “how to kill bed bugs” appeared further down the list.

Also, if you search both “how to get rid of bed bugs” and “how to kill bed bugs” you will get different search results with a different ranking order.  Although Google’s semantic search knows that these keywords can be synonymous the search results aren’t.  The most relevant search results and top ranking search results in this case was determined by exact match keywords.

SEO for Semantic Search

So how do you optimize for semantic search.  Obviously an entire book could be written on this subject matter but briefly, most of what we currently do with SEO is still valid.

  • Conduct a keyword analysis. Use the Google Keyword Tool and see which phrase was searched more often; get rid of bed bugs or kill bed bugs.
  • Then optimize for the most searched phrase.  Google still wants to know the most relevant content that exactly matches the keyword.
  • Include synonyms in your content and make your content as contextually rich as possible.


Using +1s for Top Rankings

Is Google Authorship about more than a Plus OneThere’s been some discussion about the power of +1s lately.  One of the questions is how big of a ranking signal is a plus one and the usual response is not much. And I know that Matt Cutts has stated that a +1 isn’t a major ranking signal but I have personal experience that says otherwise.

I want to share how +1′s moved a local listing of a client to the top of page one in the local 7 pack.  I had moved this client to the top of the search results in the past and they were happy and decided not to utilize my monthly maintenance services.  We lost contact and they eventually upgraded their website abandoning the old domain name and creating a new one. As a result they lost their top rankings in the search results.  They were no longer on page one for their key search terms.  So they contacted me again.

While I was debating whether or not to change all of their inbound links to the new URL, I decided to share with my friends on Google Plus that a former client had returned and had lost their top rankings in the search results when they changed their domain name.

In my post I included a link to their Google Plus Local Listing page.  At that time the page had only two +1s. But after my G+ post the number of +1′s grew from 2 to 20. And in the next few days, the local listing had moved from page three to the top of page one where it has been for over a week.  I’ve tested the search results incognito and tested again not logged in to Google to make sure the rankings were real and not just personal search results.

The +1′s seem to be the only factor that could have moved the local listing from page three to the top of page 1 in the search results.  Granted, the local listing had an optimized website and plenty of inbound links.  But it was sitting on page three for quite and didn’t move to the top of page 1 until the bevy of +1′s.

Of course, it will take more than just +1′s on a local business page to move a listing to the top of the search results, but it looks like they can be instrumental in achieving top rankings.


Hangout Etiquette

hangout iconI’ve been watching quite a few Hangouts on Air (HOA) lately and although they are getting better than the early days of hangouts there still seems to be room for simple etiquette improvements which will make hangouts a better experience for everybody.

You Are Always On Camera

The most important thing to remember is that if you are a panelist in an HOA you are always visible whether you are talking and command the large screen or if you are observing and only visible in the small film strip at the bottom of the hangout screen.  Although most people are very good and attentive while not on the large screen there are also a few who are not.

One of the more annoying infractions are the people who think being on a panel is a great time to wolf down a sandwich and chug a Big Gulp while they are on a panel.  We can see you and not everybody eats that gracefully.  A wide angle close-up of somebody munching a hoagie even in the small thumbnail in the film strip lacks a certain professional decor.

Almost as annoying is the person rifling through paperwork or feverishly surfing the Internet.  The thing is, you’ve been invited to a panel and just how professional you are is acutely visible.  I’m not saying that you can’t use the Internet or your local hard drive to find information pertinent to hangout, but it’s only polite to pay attention to the speaker.  Especially, if you are the host.  If you ask a panelist a question and then completely ignore the answer it looks like you don’t care.

I’m sure most people don’t do this on purpose.  It’s just important to keep in mind that whether you are on the main screen or in a thumbnail in the filmstrip people can see you and minor distractions can take away from the overall professionalism of a hangout.


Sound is the next important element.  This used to be a bigger problem.  People would come crashing into a hangout disrupting everybody while they finished conversations, banged drawers, and pounded away at the keyboard.  Fortunately, Google mitigated this problem by automatically turning the microphone off by default as people enter a hangout.  But there is still problems in this area.

Whether you have a fan, tv, or barking dog in the background everybody can hear it.  They can even hear objects being slid across your desktop.  This, by itself, really isn’t that bad but the way most hangouts work the person who is talking (or making noise) is featured in the larger camera feed dominating the hangout.  And there is nothing more distracting than when an expert is dispensing valuable information and their image is interrupted by an image of somebody sniffling, clearing their throat, or making any small noise.

Fortunately the fix is simple.  All you have to do is turn off your microphone in situations when you know you won’t be speaking for awhile.

Take Away

Although for some these suggestions may sound over the top, following them will create a more pleasant and professional hangout experience for both the people on the panel and those watching the HOA.

SEO Made Easy

Relevance and ReputationThere are two core elements of Search Engine Optimization and I’m not talking about on page optimization and off page optimization.  I’m talking about relevance and reputation.


For content to appear in the search results it needs to be relevant to the keywords searched.  If somebody is search for surfboards in Iowa, the keywords surfboards in Iowa should obviously be in the content.


Matt Cutts says the most valuable real estate in a blog post is the subject line.  Keywords should be in the subject line / title of the post.  If it is a webpage, keywords should be in the page title and meta description.

Keywords should also be sprinkled throughout the content in a natural way.  It helps to emphasize keywords in bold or header tags when appropriate.


After Google determines that content is relevant to the search query it has to judge the quality of the content.

Page Rank

In the past Page Rank was a very useful indicator of quality content.  Page rank is based primarily on inbound links.  Google assumes that if quality websites are linking to content on other websites the content is good.

Social Signals

However, now Google is factoring in social signals.  If people comment on a blog post or share it on Social platforms like G+ and Facebook, where it gets more shares, likes, plus ones, and comments it is another vote of confidence.

Author Rank / Reputation Score

Although some SEO pundits deny that Google is scoring writers and using this as a ranking factor, more and more experts are seeing the light and acknowledging this possibility.  If an author has a body of work demonstrating his expertise that receive positive social signals, than the reputation score of the author can be a factor in influencing the ranking of content.  This is similar to page rank in providing Google a vote of confidence about the value and quality of the content.

Relevance and Reputation

It takes both relevance and reputation to get content to appear at the top of the search results.  The content has to be relevant to the search query first.  This is being ignored as many SEO pundits declare just create good content.  It can be the best content in the world but if it doesn’t effectively use keyword so that Google knows the content is relevant to the search query that content will have a tough time achieving top rankings.

After the content is deemed relevant it needs to pass the reputation test.  Google needs to see a vote of confidence.  That can come from page rank, social signals, or author / reputation score.

Understanding Google’s Algorithm

search resultsWe all know that Google tells us that there are more than 200 different signals that are used to determine the ranking of the search results.  We are very familiar with many of these signals like keywords, domain name, page rank, inbound links, longevity of a website, traffic, click through rate, etc.  Each of these signals carry different weight and some signals can be superseded by other signals.  Let me explain.

Longevity is a ranking signal.  A website that has been around for a long time will score points over a brand new website that just came online a few minutes ago.  But obviously the age of a website can’t be the only factor.  Otherwise, new websites would never have a chance.  So Google looks at other signals.  A new website that is getting a ton of traffic and positive social signals can quickly compete and outrank the older website.

Another long established signal is page rank.  A website that has a high page ranking has an easier time of getting its content to rank on page one of the search results than a website with a low page rank.  However, Google has realized that a website with low page rank can also have outstanding content so it is also now looking at other factors like positive social signals and possible the expertise of the author.

I first encountered the flexibility of these shifting Google algorithms in my early days of hands on local SEO.  I worked with many new businesses that were just starting and wanted to be on the first page of the search results in what was then a 10 pack for local listings.

The challenge was that many established business with inbound links already occupied the top positions.  So I turned to other ranking indicators.  I optimized both the local Google listing and the clients website.  Although we were weak in some signals we excelled in other signals and achieved top rankings.

I began to look at the Google algorithm as a cumulative score.  If a client scored low in one area like longevity or inbound links they could overcome that short coming by being stronger with keywords and traffic.

The reason I’m writing this article is to take away the excuses.  I hear knowledgeable people in SEO saying that somebody ranks higher than them because they have a better domain name, or better page rank.

Domain names are helpful.  It is one of the first signals to tell the Google bot what the domain is about, but it’s only that.  It is only a traffic sign on the digital highway that gives Google a heads up on the content in the website.  If that content isn’t relevant to a searcher’s query and pass other algorithmic conditions, Google will not rank it high in the search results.  By the same token, content on another site with a non-related domain name can get top rankings if it excels in other ranking signals.

I know this is an oversimplification, but it is a place to start:

The first goal in top rankings is to make it easy for Google to find your content.  This can be done with domain names, but more often with page titles and meta description.

The next requirement is that your content is relevant to the search words.  If a person is searching for a keyword that keyword should be in your content and more than once.  Google needs to know that your content is relevant to the search terms.  And the more relevant the better.

Finally, Google needs to know that it can trust your content.  This is done by page rank, but it also can be accomplished with positive social signals like sharing, comments, and plus ones.  There is also growing evidence that Google has created a way to rank the expertise of authors.