One of the biggest challenges I've had to face in starting my own website hasn't been the actual code. Nope, I can write the software just fine, after all, that's what I do everyday (usually). My biggest challenge so far has been advertising, informing people that my site exists and what it can do for them. For public websites, there has to be some kind of strategy in getting a high rank on the search engines, Google being the #1 search engine to target.
There's some controversy about Search Engine Optimization (SEO), whether is it actually a legitimate practice or not. Unfortunately SEO usually gets a bad rap, there are a lot of people who consider SEO nothing more than "spamming" search engines in order to get a top rank (at the expense of actual meaningful content). In actuality, legitimate SEO practices stress an importance on creating meaningful content, and good website design practices.
Neverless, search engines, especially Google will take a firm hand when they suspect that a site has used unfair practices to gain a higher ranking in their listings. I experienced this first had on Friday when I realized my Google Page Rank for NOTAMAce.com dropped to zero. What this means is that it is practically impossible for NOTAMAce.com to show up on any search listings for "notam" or "notams" in Google (fortunately, my ads for those keywords are still up).
At first I was furious, I wasn't participating in any "link farming", "hidden text", or other dubious practices to gain a high rank. I found the reinclusion request page for Google, however I resented the fact I had to confess that I did anything wrong in what I felt (at the time) was Google's error.
Well, after I calmed down I rechecked the guidelines, and I realized I had inadvertently violated them. You see, it took me a while to come up with the name "NOTAM Ace", a year ago I first launched the site as "Preflight Pro" and placed it on the domains "preflightpro.com" and "notduats.com". Well it turns out Google frowns on the same page under different domains (can't blame them, spammers do that too), so when they found three domains that had the same content, they flagged me.
I had decided to keep the domains active, simply because there were links to some directories and in archives of newsgroups that still had a link to "notduats.com". But I'd rather have NOTAMAce.com reactivated, so I called my ISP and requested the domain pointers be removed, and filled a reinclusion request to Google, explaining my situation and informing them I had taken steps to correct the problem. The time it takes to be reincluded ranges anywhere from two to eight weeks. I hope I get reincluded soon! At the very least I still have my Adwords to help with the traffic.
In the end I don't really blame Google, they have to make sure the listings are legit. I do blame the spammers (not legit SEO guys), who've really poisoned the wells for the rest of us.
Till next time, clear skies!