The StarTribune recently ran a story about a Minnesota based above-ground pool company that’s heavily Google dependent for business:
The Backer brothers say their online business, B. W. Inc., wouldn’t last long if it appeared way down the list of a Google search. “If you’re not on the first page,” said Jay Backer, “you can see 50 to 60 percent drops in business.”
That’s a tough way to run a business.
As Google continually tweaks its ranking formula, the Backers find themselves up and down the company’s search results. It’s a common frustration among many small business owners, as the Internet company makes unannounced changes, cloaked in secrecy. “We’re guessing on a moving target,” Jeff Backer said.
It’s true that Google’s ranking formula is not public data, it’s well known that one of the largest factors influencing rankings is the quantity and quality of inbound links to your site from other websites. The more people (credible people) that link to you, the higher you’ll rank vs. similar sites competing for the same search terms (in this case, stuff like “above ground pools”).
So, while Google doesn’t share that information, we can still take a look at the quantity and quality of links to a given website to get a feel for how credible they may be perceived to be by Google.
I decided to check out this company’s site, familypoolfun.com, to see what I could see. Here is an example of sites that are linking to an above ground pool company in Minnesota:
You may ask yourself, “why the heck are Alaskan fishing companies linking to an above ground pool company in Minnesota?” and if you did, you’d be onto something. The deal here is that a lot of the links to familypoolfun.com are coming from pages like this one:
Which are just long lists of links to unrelated businesses:
Now, think about this from Google’s perspective: Google is trying to rank the most relevant pages they can find for the term “above ground pools” at the top of their search results. One of the companies competing for that term has a ton of links coming into their website from hundreds and hundreds of different websites. So far so good. But, on closer inspection, something strange appears to be going on here. The links aren’t really endorsements from the other websites, are they?
Here are a few more examples of pages linking to familypoolfun.com:
Google eventually figures out a way to correct for this type of gaming, and gets back to providing the high quality search results their users have come to expect from them.