SEO - what you learn from experience

SEO - what you learn from experience
Can you trust an SEO who has only been in the profession 6 months? Can you trust an SEO who has only optimised a handful of websites?

SEO - What you learn from experience.


Michael Brandon of SearchMasters. "I have been practicing SEO since September 2002, now 6 years. I am constantly learning. However, I have SEO'ed numerous websites and got top worldwide rankings for competitive search phrases. That experience is certainly worthwhile.

This article is part one of a two part series on two of the things experience has taught.
  • Part one - Duplicate Content
  • Part two - SEO for Affiliate Schemes


While there are many things in SEO that you can do right and see great results for, there are some inconsistencies for which only experience can seek to give the answers. Unfortunately there is no way that you can guarantee top results for a client. It is a real lottery because of the effect of past penalties, the way that Google treats certain phrases, the relative competitiveness of a search phrase and the existing strength of a particular website.

I have a number of case studies on clients that I will be writing today that I hope will start to give some insights into how hard it is to ever fully understand Google. I thought that I would write a summary here, before I write the case studies.

Understanding duplicate content and Penalties

Experience with the following websites - CitySales.co.nz, AccountsEnforcement.co.nz, Arrowfield.co.nz and others

Some background

Guess what! SearchMasters optimises websites. For some clients, I see an instant increase in rankings for phrases as soon as Google recaches the revised homepage, even for seemingly competitive phrases.

Arrowfield Apartments - top 5 rankings for Arrowtown Hotels within days.

The accommodation industry is insanely competitive with so many national and international resellers, yet I was able to get a particular website from no-where to top 5 within days.


For other websites like AccountsEnforcement, I search engine optimised their home page properly and once Google recached their homepage, that page was still not able to be found on Google.co.nz nz sites only (not in top 1000). The homepage is only able to be found when the phrase is searched for in quotes" New Zealand Debt Collection Agency".

For Accounts Enforcement their meta description and page content had been copied numerous times, especially in relation to the words around their search phrases. I made the content unique and added the search phrases properly onto the page. Yet the homepage is not able to be found on Google for the normal search of the phrase. And so I have filed a reconsideration request via Google webmaster tools.

So what have I done right on Arrowfield, and wrong on Accounts Enforcement? Yet I have done each the same.

What is the Duplicate content Penalty?

I have written about CitySales and its demise on Google for the phrase "Auckland Apartments". I had done nothing wrong on the website, basically just left it alone after applying our standard onpage/onsite SEO, and links package. The client is very active in selling Auckland Apartments, and has constantly updated the homepage, and had new apartments advertised on its inner pages.

The homepage was consistently ranking around 12th on Google.co.nz for "Auckland Apartments", then all of a sudden ranked 90th+. We found other websites that had copied content and so made the content unique again. Rankings came back once Google had recached the homepage. Then within a month the same copying of content happened, we made the homepage unique, but the rankings did not come back once Google had recached the page. In fact, if we take a phrase on the home page that Google has cached you would think that the phrase would have made it into Google's index (certainly should be, several weeks later). But that exact phrase is not able to be found in Google's index at all (see the case study). We have since filed a reconsideration request for the website.

What we have learnt

The same duplicate content/making unique/reranking/disappearing happened to another client around January 2008 and we initially put it down to excessive linking. But given the experience with CitySales and Accounts Enforcement, I now believe that it is what I call a "Recursive Duplicate Content Penalty". When you have been copied too often, you can't be trusted, therefore you are not allowed to rank at all for your given search phrase. Despite it being other websites that have copied your content, and nothing to do with you.

I believe that the Accounts Enforcement client has that same penalty applied to it. But in addition, I consider that since debt collection sector and similar phrased money lending industry website sectors are so spammy, Google has applied tougher criteria for getting ranking in the sectors.

Such interpretation is not easy to arrive at, and is only able to be made when a SEO is "fully understood" - not that anyone can fully understand SEO. You can't say its a Google problem until you have done everything possible to discount your own inadequacies.

Part 2 - Understanding SEO and Affiliate Schemes - published tomorrow

How can you promote other websites and rank for their search phrases?

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