SEO Blog - Internet marketing news and views  

Running into Googles Great Wall of SERP defense

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 26 March 2008 22:41

Young Guns of SEO - Brian Chappell

Lets face it Google has been around for a while now. They have enough sites indexed to serve quality results for just about anything you type in. If you are like me and have been optimizing for a while now you have noticed a trend with highly competitive niches and phrases, where taking over top ranking sites can be like destroying the great wall of china.

the Great Wallof Google
Main src

Google doesn't need your new site, nor mine for its index. You have got to give them a good reason to rank your site high. There is something I have noticed over the years with regards to moving up the rankings in hyper-competitive niches that I thought I would share with you.

Up Against the Wall

This will be better explained by posing a hypothetical example: Let’s say you are involved in the golf niche and are targeting "golf clubs".
  1. You start an ecommerce driven site that sells golf clubs.
  2. It starts obtaining lots of great back links through natural one ways, reciprocal, directories etc. etc. (point being is your link profile is solid and it is dispersed),
  3. The site’s been around for 2 years.
  4. It is pumping out fantastic unique content,
  5. The site architecture is fully optimized and siloed,
  6. All of those backlinks have superb anchor text and are highly targeted,

…yet the site still isn't ranking in the top 5.  The site has successfully broken the top 10 since targeting the phrase and is sitting at #7. The sites ahead of it absolutely should not be ranking ahead of it.

This is all hypothetical of course but serves a point most people don't really understand unless they are directly involved in backlink manipulation. What I have seen over the years in many cases is in sort "walls", or simply put the ease of use of moving up the rankings. A lot of times it will be relatively easy to move up from page 3 or 4 onto page 1. You can really shoot up 10-20+ spots at a time if you are starting at the 3+ page range. However, once you make your way onto the first page movement will really start to slow down. Hyper-competitive terms can almost be impossible to crack. The top 5 spots don't move much, and when they do its 1-2 spots at a time usually.

Google doesn't like us optimizers gaming their algorithm. They have put these "walls" in place to keep us in check, thus making it an ongoing battle to grab the top spot. What do you think; do you see the same thing?

--- Brian Chappell

This week’s young gun, Brian Chappell has been doing organic search engine optimization since 2002 and has spent many years manipulating results in hyper-competitive niches. When not playing in the SEO world, he enjoys connecting with others on Twitter and meeting new people. When time permits he guest posts over on Marketing Pilgrim and dabbles in client work outside of the agency work he partakes in from 9-5. Be SURE to follow his writings over at or you can simply subscribe to his feed.



-1 # shopping cart 2008-03-27 04:52
I have experienced these things and agree to you.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+1 # Jason Peck 2008-03-27 13:32
I wonder if one factor her relates to the fact that many of the other sites in most major niches are also trying to game google and manipulate backlinks. So while one site may be doing a good job - the others ahead of it are doing just as well. What does everyone think?
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Brian 2008-03-27 20:03
@ jason That is certainly the case. However, with all things being equal, there are many occasions when a site owner does nothing to a top ranking, yet sits there for eternity.

Partly why Google's algo is a bit outdated IMO in todays day and age.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Dave 2008-03-27 20:47
Yup it's true. One great thing about being an older fart is I have clients that are entrenched in the money terms, there is no where near as much work to keep them there... Lazy SEO, that's me.. :woohoo:
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+2 # Dave 2008-03-27 13:47
Certainly the 'keeping up with the Jonses' theory does come into play, but also the fact that authority sites tend to attract more links naturally and often are older more trusted domains as well.

I have worked in markets where the top terms are full of entrenched .edu / .gov domains and the balance of the top 10 with companies such as Microsoft... this means there might be 1 or 2 holes that we're all competing for.

Nothing is impossible, its just that some terms require so much time and money that it is not viable for smaller SEO clients....
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
-1 # Brian Turner 2008-03-29 06:05
"The sites ahead of it absolutely should not be ranking ahead of it."

I'm sorry, that statement cannot be supported. Sure, there are checks and balances in place, but SEO is a long-term game in the mainstream.

But rubbishing the sites above is comparative with saying your SEO efforts are crap. Personally, I wouldn't shout about that if I were you. :-)
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Barry Welford 2008-03-29 10:23
I couldn't disagree more. Most often items are roughly where they should be. Some rogue web pages do rank highly but they are the exceptions not the norm.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Dave Foreman 2008-03-30 01:50
This is true, has been true for years.

I have seen total crap sites hold on to positions in very competitive areas for years and years.

It only applies to certain keywords. Some keywords are wide open. Others are shut tight as a drum.

The bottom line is, Google, despite all its table pounding about quality has a very vested interest in making SEO difficult, arbitrary and random. I am sure with all the brain power in Mountain View they have not failed to recognize that SEO efforts involve time and money spend that competes directly with their number one product - AdWords.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # ecommerce web design 2008-05-16 00:17
said it better than I could have. I will ask though:

1. how many more good backlinks do you have.

2. is the other site older?

i have seen this behavior on a particular site in a hyper competative niche, but their sites are older, and have roughly the same number of links
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
+1 # Malte 2008-03-30 05:59
I don't think that there are solid walls, blocking anyone from ranking high.
You have to consider two things:
1) Highly competitive terms have very strict filters and it might take months for strong backlinks to fully unfurl their impact.
2) Google might think the for a term like "golf" there should be no site tagged as "shop" in the top and thus, let's you go up to place 6/7.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Ric Dragon 2008-04-01 07:35
Its just a theory.... but could the site be over optimized? In other words, if the site, on a scale of 1 to 10 (ten being perfectly optimized, 1 being not-optimized-at-all), the site is at 10... and say, the sites ahead of it are at 7.... Google MIGHT have a factor for over-optimization. I'd compare the sites, and make sure that my golf site is only at 7.5.
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote
0 # Gab Goldenberg 2008-05-28 16:26
IMHO, it just depends on keyword difficulty. Competing against a long established page /exact match domain is harder than fighting some gibberish autogen content on longtail keywords...
Reply | Reply with quote | Quote

Add comment

Security code

Search the Site

SEO Training

Tools of the Trade


On Twitter

Follow me on Twitter

Site Designed by Verve Developments.