Have you ever heard of the “first page of google ranking penalty”? Probably not – because I just made it up. I made it up to name a current trend that I’ve been seeing over and over again in regards to first page google rankings. I’m a professional linkbuilder and SEO, and in addition to WordPress work that’s what I do day in, and day out. People hire me to get ranked in google for their keywords – so I’m constantly watching search listings for a wide variety of keywords. In addition – I see a lot of web sites get on the first page of google (because I put them there) for the first time.

Google is smart. The algorithm is constantly changing to keep you from trying to “game the search engine”, or figure out the exact method to get perfect rankings every time. Google likes sites that naturally attain authority over time. If you do something that seems out of the ordinary, like get an unusually large amount of links in a short period of time, or add an unusually large amount of content to fast – it looks unnatural.

What I’ve noticed is that if you setup a web site properly, and start to build links – sometimes you can be surprised how fast you can make it to the first page of google results. It can be pretty easy at times to rank #8, #9, or #10 on the first page. But it never lasts. I’ve had half a dozen times recently where it only lasts anywhere from 3-10 days. Then it goes to the top of the second page of results.

SEO Scams

I want to talk a minute about what I call “SEO scammers”. These are the guys that claim to get you on the first page of google “fast”. They buy links, or build a few high PR links – or maybe some quick social media exposure. They can get you ranked on google’s first page of results….just long enough to get your money. Then, once you fall to the second page of results – they are long gone.

If you’re going to hire an SEO expert, the best advice I can give is to ask a lot of questions. How do they build the links? To they build them buy hand, or buy them? Do they comments on blogs? Submit to directories? Use Social Media? Submit to article directories and document repositories? Post links in forums? Can they help you get registered with search engines and setup an XML sitemap?

Sometimes (if you know enough) you can trick your “SEO expert” into inadvertently admitting they aren’t an expert at all. Have they researched your keywords? Can they tell you what your SEO competition is? Can they give you examples of how many searches per day/month your keywords bring in for broad, phrase, and exact match results? Can they give you an actionable list of items that need to be done to actually compete with and beat your competition on the first page of google?

Google’s Preventative Measure

Online authority is an ongoing and arduous task that never ends. It can take 3-6 months to get “consistently” ranked on the first page of google, and then regular work to maintain it. I think that what I call the “first page google ranking penalty” is really more Google’s own ‘preventative measure’ to ensure you can actually maintain a first page ranking. Now that google has switched to it’s new algorithm (caffeine) as of Jan 15, 2010 – the index is a little more “immediate”. Google likes to show you some of it’s latest and greatest results, but I think the algorithm also has a little followup script I like to call “15 seconds of fame”.

In other words, if you get enough authority to push you to the first page of google – you’ll get your 15 seconds of fame. But without supporting elements, your fame won’t last. So if have an article that gets 400 tweets, or 100 diggs, or you get a big pagerank link – you might make the first page of google. If it’s the first time you’ve been on the first page some time after a week you’ll get swatted down to the second page of results. I don’t think of this as a penalty, as much of a “holding period” – where google is waiting to see if your site is really growing (or not). If you continue to get organic links, quality traffic, and have new content released regularly – you stand a pretty good chance of getting on the first page of google in a permanent spot. If your online authority isn’t naturally growing – odds are you “online fame” will fall from the second page of results right back into search engine obscurity.

JTPratt is available for hire as an Online Marketing Consultant and SEO.