Google search engine optimisation and their 80/20 rule

Search engine optimisation or optimization (with a 'z' or is that 'zee' if your from across 'the pond') techniques are constantly evolving. This evolution is in response to the evolution of search engines such as Google, Yahoo and MSN. Google in particular has come to be seen as the most sophisticated and advanced search engine as it is armed with an array of anti-spam technology.

Google's increasing use of anti-spam features has meant that optimising websites for Google has become much harder and it's now not just a case of opening your websites source files in notepad, adding some keywords into your various HTML tags, uploading your files and waiting for the results. In fact in my opinion and I'm sure others will agree with me, this type of optimisation, commonly referred to as onpage optimisation will only ever be 20% effective at achieving rankings for any keywords which are even mildly competitive. Those of us who aced maths in school will know this leaves us with 80% unaccounted for.

This 80% corresponds to offpage optimization. Offpage optimization is all to do with the amount of links pointing to your site and its pages, the actual linking text (anchor text) of these links and the quality of the pages which the links are on. Offpage optimisation is now for sure the overwhelmingly dominating factor which decides where a site will rank in Google. That then is what I mean by the 80/20 rule, I'm not talking about the pareto rule which means that in anything a few (20 percent) are vital and many (80 percent) are trivial, I'm not sure that applies to SEO.

What is the logic behind this then, why does Google give so much 'weight' (80%) to offpage optimization efforts and so little (20%) to onpage optimisation. Well simply put it is all about the quality of their results. Whereas onpage optimisation is completely controlled by the webmaster and can thus be abused by an unscrupulous one, offpage optimisation is something that is not controlled by anyone as such by rather by other webmasters, websites and indeed the Internet in general. This means that it is much harder to conduct any underhanded or spammy offpage optimisation methods in the hope of gaining an unfair advantage for a website in the Google SERPS (Search Engine Result Pages), this does not mean it is impossible though.

Let's elaborate for a paragraph or two just why offpage elements such as incoming links are deemed by Google to be such a good measure of relevancy, thus making offpage optimisation the most effective method of optimisation by far. Take the anchor text of incoming links for instance, if Google sees a link from SITE A to SITE B with the actual linking text being the words 'data recovery london', then SITE B has just become more relavent and thus more likely to appear higher in the rankings when someone searches for 'data recovery london'. SITE B has no control over SITE A (in most cases.) and Google knows this. Google can then look at the link text and say to itself, why would SITE A link to SITE B with the specific words 'data recovery london' if SITE B wasn't 'about' 'data recovery london', there is no answer so Google must deem SITE B to be 'about' 'data recovery london'.

I said 'in most cases' above because often webmasters have multiple sites and would crosslink them with keyword rich anchor text, but there is only so many sites and crosslinks any webmaster can manage, again Google knows this and so as the number of backlinks and occurrences of keyword rich anchor text grows (and with that grows the unlikelihood of anything unnatural like crosslinking going on) so to does the relevancy of the site which all the backlinks point to. Imagine hundreds or thousands of sites all linking to a website X with variations of 'data recovery london' type phrases as the linking text, well then Google can be pretty dam sure that website X is 'about' 'data recovery london' and feel confident about returning it in the top 10 results. This is why they place so much importance (80%) on offpage ranking factors such as links; they are simply the most reliable way of checking what a site is about and indeed how well it covers what it is about. This reliance on hard to cheat offpage factors is what produces the quality search results we all know, love and use everyday.

The moral of the story from an SEO point of view then is to spend less time on those little website tweaks which you think might make a big difference (but won't) and work hard on what really counts, what really counts is how the web 'sees' your website, the more quality (keyword rich) incoming links your website has the better the webs 'view' will be and therefore the better Google's view of your website will be. What Google thinks of your website is very important, as they 'look after' websites which they like.