Know Your Neighbors!
The concept of virtual hosting, where a Web hosting company may host 10 or 12 Web sites on the same IP address, was a revealing topic of discussion during our interview. Erika acknowledged, “What we see on the Internet is that there are the IP equivalents of good neighborhoods and bad neighborhoods. So we see it fairly frequently where people on a certain IP exhibit a certain kind of behavior…”
Therefore both iProspect and AltaVista recommend that if you opt to participate in virtual hosting, be aware of who and what types of other sites are being hosted on your IP address. If other sites who share your hosting IP address are engaging in spamdexing, either submitting too frequently, optimizing for irrelevant keywords, etc., AltaVista may block several or even all of the Web sites hosted on that IP address.
If you’ve ever encountered problems gaining rankings in AltaVista, even after you’ve properly optimized your Web site, you may want to think about moving to another hosting provider or if all else fails, starting a new domain name and changing hosting providers at the same time. We’ve encountered rankings problems that we can only attribute to what you might call, a “dirty domain” problem. As the interview revealed, AltaVista (and probably other search engines) may be banning sites hosted on certain IP addresses and IP addresses “near” yours, e.g., numerically close to your IP address.
By changing your hosting ISP, you are doing more than merely asking your ISP to change your site’s underlying IP address. The goal of changing hosting providers is to change to a different class-c subnet, not merely a different IP address on the same class-c subnet. Here’s a description of the different components of your site’s IP address:
- 255.255.255.XXX here the X’s identify the host of a class-C subnet
255.255.XXX.XXX here the X’s identify the host of a class-B subnet
255.XXX.XXX.XXX here the X’s identify the host of a class-A subnet
The goal of changing hosting providers is to change your class-C subnet. If your current hosting provider has enough class-C subnets, they may be able to move your site without you having to change hosting companies. In most cases, changing your class-C subnet is sufficient. If search engines were to block class-B or class-A subnets they’d be blocking a big part of the world as these designations identify so many potential users!
For whatever reason, sometimes a “fresh face” to the search engines makes all the difference. The AltaVista disclosure above is just one of many domain and IP related issues that could interfere with your site’s ability to obtain top rankings. In our many years as a search engine positioning firm, iProspect has identified several dozen hosting, domain and IP address related issues that have interfered with a Web site achieving rankings in search engines. Changing hosting providers and/or the domain name often solved the problem and allowed the site to gain strong search engine visibility when all other efforts failed.
Many versions of Windows allow you to open a DOS window and type PING followed by your domain name to determine the IP address of your Web site. If you’re unsure of your IP address and whether other sites share it, contact your hosting service.
Are you not finding your Web page currently for a particular search query? Yet, it came up in the search results for the exact same query just three hours ago? Don’t worry. My interview disclosed that queries made during different times of the day might yield different results. Consequently, if you conduct a search during a peak traffic time, it is possible that you may receive different search results. Using load balancing, AltaVista distributes the site activity evenly across multiple servers in order to prevent a single server from being overwhelmed. While your ranking may exist on one particular server, there is a chance it may not be present on another.
AltaVista considers themselves to be the best in the industry at fighting what they consider spam. Erika and Edgar noted several ways that a site could get dropped from the AltaVista search engine. Their list included: hidden text, tiny text, excessive keywords, duplication of content, pages consisting only of links to other pages, Web pages that only exist to redirect users to another page, and so on. In addition, don’t try and sneak in duplicate content, AltaVista has an exclusive patented mechanism for detecting such Web pages.
Although there are countless activities that AltaVista deems to be unethical that risk being dropped from the index, AltaVista again provides a general rule to follow. Any action taken by a promoter “that would not create a positive user experience” could be labeled as spam and could cause a site to be blocked.
Subsequent to my interview, AltaVista performed their fourth site redesign in just over a year. Here are some of the changes that have taken place:
- There are no longer tabs encouraging users to try AltaVista’s vertical search options.
- The previous “Related Searches” links can still be found at the top of the page with the introductory text “Others searched for” coming before the links.
- Numbers next to results have been dropped in favor of bullets.
- GoTo.com sponsored listings are now labeled as “Partner Listings” though listings sold by AltaVista’s ad department (or by doubleclick) are still labeled as “Featured Listings.”
- Page Clustering has been altered so that you may see up to two pages from the same web site. The second page appears “indented” below the first page.
- Vertical search links now appear at the bottom of the page, rather than in tabs at the top. These let you run your search against AltaVista image shopping, multimedia and LookSmart directory databases.
Evident in the recent adjustments made, AltaVista is constantly fine-tuning their search services. My enlightening conversation with Edgar Whipples and Erika Aks of AltaVista reinforced my belief that AltaVista is, and will remain, one of the sought after search engines. As the Web expands and search technology progresses, I am both excited and anxious to see what AltaVista has in store.
The above article, or portions of it, have been reprinted with permission from the MarketPosition Newsletter and FirstPlace Software, Inc. and is copyright 1997-2001. FirstPlace produces WebPosition Gold, the award-winning software product to track and to improve your search engine rankings. You may download a FREE trial copy of WebPosition Gold from: http://www.webposition.com