One of the most frequent questions I get asked about my ebook, Don't Get Banned BY The Search Engines, is whether I amended it to include post-Florida Google. "Florida" is the code name that search engine optimizer wizards gave to a November, 2003, shakeup at Google that left many webmasters covering themselves up with makeshift fig leaves while dangling upside down above the proverbial crocodile moat.
I am tempted to explain that, "No, I did not amend it, because nothing has really changed." But just try telling the world that Bill Clinton did not have "sex" with Monica Lewinski. Yeah, right.
So I take the lazy way out and I just say, "Yes."
But the guilt has been creeping up on me, grasping at my skin, gnawing away at my bones, chewing on my heart, mauling my conscience, and spitting out my toenails one by one. So this is confession time. Don't Get Banned By The Search Engine has not been amended to include post-Florida Google.
Is this because I am peddling stale goods? Am I leading people astray? Do I have a clue what's going on? "No", "I hope so", and "Maybe".
In fact, nothing really has changed at Google, and webmasters who have been following Google's guidelines can just keep doing what they have always been doing, just as Presidents who follow public decency guidelines can keep doing what they are doing (until we vote them out of office for other reasons, of course).
"But I followed the guidelines, and I still took bullets in several vital organs," I hear many webmasters say. In fact, very few webmasters have been following Google's guidelines. Most have been following the Clinton what-can-I-get-away-with fig leaf guidelines.
Remember that Bill Clinton never had "sex" with Monica Lewinski. Technically. Honest, he did nothing wrong. He followed the rules by not having "sex" with Monica Lewinski. In fact, he was seen in public not having sex with Monica Lewinski on several occasions.
And webmasters follow the rules by not linking to "link farms" or "overoptimizing". Sure, they will link to sites that have nothing to do with their site's topic, but not to a "link farm". And they will "exchange links", but surely that does not violate Google's" uniquely democratic nature of the web" principle. As long as you are not actually caught publicly stuffing the ballot box, how could Google possibly suggest that you are doing so?
So here are my post-Florida rules:
You only link to relevant sites, because that's what you know Google and your visitors want. Keep doing that.
You don't exchange links, because that would be stuffing Google's ballot box and that is NOT something Google wants. Keep not doing that.
Your link does not appear on many useless "links" pages, where it has to share PageRank with dozens of other web sites. Keep not doing that.
You accept links only from relevant web pages, because you know that's the only meaningful traffic ... and that's what Google wants. Keep doing that.
Your links look different on different web pages around the Internet, because that's how a democratic process would create your links. Keep doing that.
You keep adding relevant content to your web site, because that's what you know Google and your visitors want. Keep doing that.
See? No change. And if there is a change, it simply means that you were not following Google's guidelines in the past. Oh sure, technically you might have been following Google's guidelines, but technically Bill Clinton didn't have sex with Monika Lewinski. Another round of fig leaves, anyone?
Google implemented "stemming" along with the Florida update, or more likely a few weeks earlier. Since your inbound links are varied and often unique, you probably already are taking advantage of stemming, so it won't bother you. And since you write meaningful copy for your visitors, you probably already have all the stemming you need right in your copy. You are ready to really excel in Post-Florida Google.
Google is also implementing a "communities" factor. Since your inbound links all come from relevant web pages, you are already part of the community. You are already well placed to succeed in Post-Florida Google, right?
Google has implemented "penalties" for some typically overoptimized terms. Actually, I think penalties is probably the wrong word, but that is what most SEOs are using. Since you write quality content, meaningful headers, and don't cut and paste the same phrase over and over in every possible place, you are ready to conquer Mount Google.
In other words, if you were following Google's guidelines, not the Bill Clinton fig leaf guidelines, just keep doing what you are doing. For the rest of you, isn't it time you dropped the fig leaf and wrapped yourself up in something a little more substantial that will weather the high winds of Google's next big storm?
And, "No." I did not amend Don't Get Banned BY The Search Engines to include post-Florida Google because I never advised people to follow the Bill Clinton fig leaf guidelines in the original edition.
David Leonhardt writes the Happy Guy humor column:
and A Daily Dose of Happiness:
He also wrote Climb Your Stairway to Heaven: the 9 habits of maximum happiness:
and The Get Happy Workbook: