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2008-10-02 23:08:55

SEO: There's always an exception to the rule

Perform a Google search for the keyword phrase "Real Estate Articles" and you'll be given over 10 million web pages to peruse. Making up the top ten results will be web pages from domains that you would expect. These include CNN, The Wallstreet Journal, and Realty Times. Each one of these sites has thousands of pages with frequently updated content so its no suprise that they rank well. What is surprising is seeing at the top of the list.

It's a simple web page with links to about two dozen articles on standard real estate topics like home warranties, foreclosures, and financing. The articles are informative and well written but they do make you wonder why Google thinks so highly of them. Here are couple of points.
The articles are displayed in very small font making them difficult to read.

I couldn't tell you exactly how Google treats font size (and neither could anyone who doesn't have access to the Google algorithm) but common sense would lead me to believe that it does have an impact on seo, especially if its very small text that could be considerered an attempt to fool the search engine. I don't think is trying anything malicious but with every article written in a font size of 1, the text is difficult to read. You wouldn't recommend a book with extremely small text and you would think Google would have similar sensibilities when it comes to recommending web pages.
The articles are displayed on very simple web pages.

Black text on a white background. Its about as simple as you can get. No navigation bars, no images, just text. This may be part of why the web site ranks well. Google's algorithm probably doesn't care very much if you website wins any design awards. It's spider is hungry for text and not much else.
Meta keywords that don't exist in the text of the document.

Meta keywords are displayed in the head section of an html documents and are used to instruct search engines what keywords exists on the page. They aren't as important for good seo as they once were however if they are used it's critical that the keywords exists in the text of the web page. Or so I thought. If you look at the source code for you'll find several meta keywords that do not appear in the body text of the web page. Similar to using using very small fonts this practice could be interepreted as an attempt to trick the search engines. Surprisingly, doesn't appear to be penalized for doing this.
Inbound links

When another website links to yours Google considers this to be casting a vote for your site. Having a high number of inbound links (especially from quality sites) is a great way to achieve top search engine rankings. Google provides a search method for determining the number of inbound links a site has. The format is
Use Google as the website, and it will show around 400k inbound links. (The number isn't exact but it can give you an indication of how many inbound links a site has.) Enter and the number of inbound links is around 100. Not bad but not overly impressive either.
So why does the web site perform so well for a popular phrase like "Real Estate Articles". Honestly I have no idea, and Google probably wants to keep it that way.

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