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August 24, 2006

“Amish Go Karts” Show Link Importance

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I know what you’re thinking, and no, I haven’t completely lost my mind. If you want to see the power that the ODP and pre-existing links can have on your site, Amish go karts are your window in.

Greg Boser had a great post yesterday to help site owners appreciate the full impact that links can have on their site, specifically pre-existing links. For those that think buying up expired, formerly high ranking domains is a good way to get instant authority for your site in the search engines, you may want to rethink your strategy.

To prove his point, Greg encourages readers to head over to Google and do a search for Amish furniture. Do you see the completely off topic gokartsusa.com site sitting high up in the SERP?

Ooops. According to Greg, that’s what happens when site owners don’t pay attention to pre-existing anchor text.

Hey, it’s not all bad. I’m sure there are lots of people looking for Amish furniture who are ALSO interested in go karting. Or maybe they’re looking for Amish go karts? Hmm, okay, probably not.

So, why does gokartusa.com rank for the term “Amish furniture” when there’s not one mention of that phrase on the entire site?

“It turns out that the domain amishfurnitureandcrafts.com, which is listed in the ODP, now resolves to the same IP as gokartsusa.com. It’s hard to say whether or not this was done intentionally, because the hosting location and registration information is completely different for the two domains. That means there’s a chance that the owner of the gokart site has no idea this has happened. (competitive sabotage??…)”

Whether it was competitive sabotage or intentional by the owner makes no difference. Because of weight given to ODP links (remember that the ODP is also Google Directory and the base for hundreds of other directories), Google thinks both domains point to the same site and has combined the anchor text for the two domains — essentially leaving this site with little chance of ranking for its intended keywords.

I found this point particularly interesting because it seemed to negate what Matt Cutts was saying earlier in the week about how using on-page elements can be enough to rank well in niche industries. Here, on page elements were clearly not enough to get this site to rank well for its intended keywords or to negate an ODP link.

Matt commented to Greg’s post and tried to place the blame on the site’s web host since both sites are on the same IP. Greg didn’t buy that, especially since Google returns the same number of backlinks for both sites. Clearly, to Google, they are one and the same.

Based only on this one example, it’s hard to say that ranking for off-topic terms will kill your shot at ranking for your intended keywords, but it might, especially for searches as targeted as “Amish furniture”.

Today’s lesson, kids: Be caution when buying up expired domains. And if you’re going to do it, try and match the two site themes as close as possible. Otherwise, your go kart and mini bike site might rank for loads of off-top anchor text terms, like Amish furniture.

Update: My apologies to Greg Boser for accidentally dropping the link to his post yesterday. It was merely an oversight on my part, and in no way done intentionally.

Who knew forgetting one link would cause a grown man to threaten the safety of a young girl. Matt’s right; you are kinda whiny. However, I did always want to rank for the term “bitch slapping”.





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