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Is an SEO Contest the best place to experiment?

In the last couple of months lurking at the SEO Philippines mailing list, I often read that the last two SEO contests are good ways of experimenting with stuff. However, I find it a little confusing as to how you’d gauge a certain optimization or technique to have positive or negative effects in your ranking when hundreds of others are also competing for the same keywords.

I was schooled to be a calculating type of guy, relying mostly on statistics and the nature of probability in solving daily problems and issues. My discipline (Chemistry) taught me that to be accurate to the 0.1% percentile, I need to be able to replicate the problem and formulate a solution in a controlled environment. That way, you can be assured of the conclusion/solution with an acceptable level or degree of error.

I think that in an SEO contest, the climate is so unpredictable to be able to do such experiments. There are so many extraneous variables which may effect varying results.

Let me explain further.

We were told by the SEO gurus and deities that the formula elements to a higher ranking in the SERPs is simple:


  • High quality, unique contents.
  • Good quality and quantity of relevant backlinks (trust rank).
  • Keyword in domain.
  • Age of domain.
  • Keyword density.
  • Frequency of updates (fresh content).
  • Good markup and usability (proper use of tags and such).

Yet, one would often wonder why they’d go down or up in the SERPs and for what reasons during the competition. Let’s go give some examples:

Scenario 1: You rank currently #10. You add more backlinks, twice more than you currently have. The following day, you’re down to #12. Was it because you linked from a bad neighborhood? Was it because 2 other sites below you added 3 times more backlinks than you did during the shuffle? Was it because you haven’t updated your entry during those times? Or maybe because one entry on #20 jumped to #5 because it got a PR8 link?

Scenario 2: You’re nowhere in the SERPs today. You bought several links from TLA. You edited your meta keywords and description as well as installing Google Sitemaps in your site. The following day, you’re #7. Which one was it –tags, links, sitemaps? The next day, you’re up to #5 without doing anything. You thought it could be the links so you buy more. Boom, you went down to #7 after that. Why? Could it be someone at #6 changed his permalink structure pulling it down and pushing you to #5. The after he got re-indexed, he went back up again. And all along you thought it was them bought links.

See, an SEO contest is a boiling cauldron of hot soup being cooked by a dozen chefs– you’ll never know which ingredient by which chef spoiled the dish.

So, what’s the best setup? Controlled environment. Your own domain, your own sites, your own personal contest. You control everything so that every move you do will have a corresponding logical and verifiable effect. (Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion — Action-Reaction.) So far, I haven’t seen or read from anyone doing such a deed. Maybe it’s time to make one.

Abe is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of YugaTech. You Can follow him on Twitter @abeolandres.

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5 Responses

  1. Remember Schroedinger’s cat, where the act of observing affects what is observed?

    Perhaps Google detects those many acts of observation, and that affects the ranking of pages in the SERPs?

    So even in a controlled environment, the search engines may do things to keep their algorithm secret. :-)

  2. Kates says:

    What’s up with the whole page adbrite ad? Scary. I thought you were hacked or something.

  3. Miguel says:

    Abe posted about that earlier. What he didn’t say is that it loads a different website. And the one it loaded looks like a splog!

    Back on topic: I guess people are more motivated by the heat of competition, than cold logical experiments.

  4. markku says:

    SEO contests can be effective in teaching you the best methods to approach your campaign, but it cannot predict how your competitors will go about theirs. It can help you get the best out of what you have. But unless your competitors reveal their strategy, you’ll only know that their campaign and technique was much better than yours. :)

  5. http://www.sitebases.org
    Sitebases, the next protocol after Sitemaps.

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