Everyone knows Google defines the web experience for Internet surfers today. Everyone also knows Google defined search relevance (the quality that determines which pages rank for specific Google searches) based on linking, such that web pages getting linked from other sites, on specific topics, earn relevance for that topic in the Google index. Alot has changed over the years, but Google still defines relevance, decides which pages rank at the top, and serves up the “winners” when consumers search the web.
That’s a zip code in the heart of Denver, Colorado. That search term (sans quotes) is a target for mortage companies in Denver Colorado especially because the two letters “co” represent CO, Colorado, County (there is a Denver County), and Company. I picked 80202 as one example of a central downtown Zip code… it could have been 80201, 80203, 80204, etc. You can see from the SERP highlighting that Google matches the CO on those appearances.
The page being served as the #1 result is a template page from TheDenverChannel, which is the website for Denver’s Channel 7 ABC affiliate. The Denver Channel premiers as a News channel website in Denver, Colorado. Next to Denver.org, it is arguably the most relevant website for the topic of DENVER COLORADO in the world. Given the update frequency of an ABC news affiliate website compared to a local government website (even an excellent one like Denver’s), it should certainly rank well for Denver searches as long as it publishes on local topics.
This post of mine should not be taken as a “spam report” or an “outing”. Any of that is collateral damage of the SEO discussion, and I am sure the Denver Channel can survive an SEO noting how some of it’s spammy MFA pages should not rank. I think the important thing to note is that Google directly benefits from this abuse of earned (and granted) page rank, via that AdSense monetization. With such an obvious abuse of “authority” by the ABC News website, Google is forced to acknowledge the conflict of interest OR do something about it. Otherwise, Google loses it’s authority (granted by the Internet-using public), and loses the faith of SEOs working hard for their clients. I can hear the white hats getting dirty as we recoil in disgust.
The listing that premiered on that spam page when I viewed it was “Cherry Creek Mortgage Company“, located in zip code 80202. But the spam page had no backlink to the Cherry Creek Mortgage Company website. A look at the Cherry Creek Mortgage Company website shows it to be a powerful “denver mortage” relevant website. Especially note the depth of this library of Denver mortgage resources on the site. Clearly these guys went the extra mile to rank, publishing tons of on-theme content. I don’t know these players so I am nofollowing here, to avoid an apearance of conflict of interest myself.
I didn’t look very hard but I didn’t see any AdSense on the Cherry Creek Mortage website. If those pages are so useful, why don’t they rank? If they had AdSense ads, would they rank? Google?
Local search is very interesting to both consumers and businesses, and represents a frontier in search not just because it’s a relatively untapped opportunity, but because it represents the ultimate challenge for search engines (and SEOs) to rank user-serving, quality local results. If the web finally becomes useful for “finding a local plumber”, the Internet will take another giant leap forward with small touchscreen devices showing up in every kitchen in America. I don’t think Cherry Creek Mortgage Company should have to publish a thousand “articles” of text on mortgage law and Denver neighborhoods in order to rank well for “denver mortgage brokers”, because there are not that many local brokerage outfits truly serving the Denver area. But if Google is going to start rewarding every super-category authority with sub-category relevance just because they syndicate business listings…. when they do no other work to make themselves relevant to the end user, well that really shows Google as the bad guy.
I know this might come across as just another rant about Google permitting MFA pages, but I think it’s a different case. The Denver Channel seems to have no purpose for those pages but to rank and monetize with AdSense; they are exploiting a solid earned authority for “Denver, Colorado” that is not likely to go away as they continue as an ABC News channel, and the user is not being served nearly as well as she might be by any number of more relevant contenders. If ABC News had even bothered to simply list morgage brokers in Denver I wouldn’t have commented. But they haven’t even done that much work.
Can SEOs working the local SERPs keep Google honest and deliver results for their clients (and web surfers), or will Google simply make it all irrelevant while it cashes out of the true “search” engine game?