Lessons From The Roundabout SEO Test

My favorite comedian of all time, the late great Mitch Hedberg, once told a joke about what he called “The Roundabout AIDS test.” Click Mitch’s mouth below to hear it:

While obviously not meant in any serious manner, the joke reminds me of my attitude towards SEO, or “Search Engine Optimization”. A lot of people spend an inordinate amount of time making sure all of their pages are specifically geared towards achieving a high ranking on Google. While I understand the business objectives of such an obsession, I find my own attitude towards SEO much more apathetic. I’m a lot more interested in how many people subscribe to Mike Industries than how many people typed in something like “expiring domain” and somehow ended up at my site.

So for that reason, my SEO activity is limited to my own little “Roundabout SEO Test”, which I perform a few times a year. It’s a very simple test and takes only a few seconds to execute. Here is the procedure:

1. Go to google.com.

2. Type in “mike”.

3. Hit return.

4. Take note of how high or low Mike Industries is on the list of results.

That’s it.

Yes, it seems a little narcissistic, and yes, it’s not a true measure of how well each page on this site is optimized for search engines, but it’s a general indication of how well or poorly this blog is doing and that’s really all I’m interested in.

In running this Roundabout SEO Test since creating Mike Industries last year, I’ve seen my ranking among Mikes climb from in the thousands, to in the hundreds, to the top 50, to the top twenty, and most recently to number 5.

Number 5 is great and I’m totally cool with it considering that my parents were unoriginal enough to christen me with the most popular name in the 70s, 80s, and 90s, but now that the list of “competitors” is down to 4, I thought I’d take a close look at why the pecking order on Google is the way it is. In other words, what are the factors which most affect search results in the real world?

First, a rundown of the combatants:

1. Mike Little
PageRank: 7
Household Name: No
Code Quality: Very good.
Mentions: 30,200
Incoming Links: 16,400
“Mike” appearances in source: 54
Notes: Mike is known for his contributions to WordPress, and like Matt Mullenweg, auto-Matt-ically appears in the sidebars of many WordPress blogs. He is also a diabolical genius in his ability to put 54 mentions of his name in his page source without being “spammy”. I fear any attempt to “outmike” him would require me being “spammy”. He is the king, and will probably remain that way.

2. Michael Moore
PageRank: 8
Household Name: Yes
Code Quality: Average. Old-school table layout.
Mentions: 218,000
Incoming Links: 18,500
“Mike” appearances in source: 13
Notes: Michael makes wildly popular, wildly controversial films that are praised and reviled the world over.

3. Mike Portnoy
PageRank: 5
Household Name: No
Code Quality: Oh my god. This is not even HTML.
Mentions: 44,200
Incoming Links: 417
“Mike” appearances in source: 1
Notes: Mike was is the drummer for a now not defunct rock band called “Dream Theater”.

4. Mike DeWine
PageRank: 7
Household Name: Maybe in Ohio
Code Quality: Bad. Frames, tables, etc.
Mentions: 23,900
Incoming Links: 301
“Mike” appearances in source: 1
Notes: Mike is a senator from Ohio who apparently supports the frameset initiative.

5. Your self-absorbed host, me, Mike Davidson
PageRank: 8
Household Name: Ha!
Code Quality: Very good… minus the intentional invalidation stuff.
Mentions: 38,800
Incoming Links: 1,870
“Mike” appearances in source: 21
Notes: Works and plays well with others.

Ok, so there are two combatants that I’m particularly puzzled with here. See if you can guess which ones.

Number one is the republican Senator from Ohio Mike DeWine. His PR, Code Quality, Mentions, Links, and “number of mikes” in source are all less than mine, and yet, he’s number 4. The guy’s entire site is a frameset too, so let’s put to rest any suspicions that framesets disqualify you from good SEO. The only few things I can think of which may have led to Senator DeWine’s SEO ranking are 1) he has a .gov domain, which may yield an advantage over a .com, 2) of his measly 312 links, most of them might come from other .gov sites which have high Page Ranks as well, and 3) most people might link to him by name (e.g. vote for “Mike DeWine”) whereas many of my links might not even contain my name (e.g. “sIFR” technology is evil and kills kittens).

Ok, so Senator DeWine is the first curious result, but the second is much more confounding and — really — 90% of the reason why I decided to even write this article:

Mike Portnoy.

This guy was is in a rock group called “Dream Theater” a long time ago and whoever is doing his site for him writes the worst HTML I’ve ever seen. Seriously. The worst. It’s so bad that I’m just going to go ahead and paste the entire source of his front page right here:

<TITLE>Mike Portnoy.com - The Official Website</TITLE>
<LINK title=default href="/inc/mp2.css" type=text/css rel=stylesheet>
<div align="center">
<img src="/images/mp-hof.jpg">
[<a href="/default2.asp">Enter MP.COM</a>]

Yep, that’s the whole thing. The kid who coded the site didn’t even give poor Mike an HTML tag. I guess I don’t blame him considering he probably only got an acid-washed denim jacket and a pair of drumsticks out of it. I also find it ironic that there is actually a call to a stylesheet amidst this neanderthal mess, but whatever. It’s awful… and I won’t even get into the actual design of the site. We’ve already done that once this year. :)

*Note: It looks like Mike’s front page was updated (slightly) for the better just this week. Still no HTML tags but here’s what it looked like for the past two years (and when this test was run).

When I saw Mike Portnoy’s site at #3 among all Mikes and then peeped the corresponding code, I had a giant moment of doubt about the whole web standards movement. If the worst code any human being has ever produced gets a narrowly-known drummer to the front of 251 million Mikes on Google, is SEO even a valid benefit of writing standards-friendly code?

And furthermore, considering that said drummer has a PR of 5 and I have a PR of 8 (supposedly three orders of magnitude or 1000 times greater), does PageRank matter at all in search result ranking?

The only way we can find out is to test.

The Google Vacuum Tests

After witnessing the strange results from the Roundabout SEO Test, I set out to discover exactly what effect, if any, HTML code has on Google search results. The first thing I did was make up a word.

That word is “lodefizzle”… a nickname given to the legendary Stephen Lodefink of Finkbuilt.com during our days at the Disney Internet Group.

I created 15 files in a new directory on my site which contained the term “lodefizzle” in different contexts. Some had the word in the title element, some in the H1 element, some in the filename, etc etc etc. The idea was to see how treatment of this word affected search result ranking within Google.

Here are the results from the five tests performed (raw results here):

Test 1

Function: To determine if using semantic tags like H1 boost ranking, and to what degree.

1a – Contains “lodefizzle” in an H1 tag.
1b – Contains “lodefizzle” in a B tag and one extra mention further down the page.
1c – Contains “lodefizzle” in a B tag.

The important test case is 1b here. It’s a safe assumption that 1a would beat 1c (and indeed it does), or else we might as well quit our jobs and start using FrontPage. But the real question is, will one lousy extra instance of “lodefizzle” override the H1 tag’s advantage and bump 1b past 1a?

The answer: No.

Conclusion: The H1 tag does indeed assert some dominance and we can therefore assume you are better off using proper headings in your HTML documents.

Somewhere, Molly and the recently reawakened Doug are smiling.

Test 2

Function: To determine if the mere appearance of tables and nested tables penalizes search result ranking, and to what degree.

2a – Contains “lodefizzle” once in the document.
2b – Contains “lodefizzle” twice in the document and a 14-deep nested table.
2c – Contains “lodefizzle” once in the document and a 14-deep nested table.

All cases are important here, but once again, the one to watch is the middle one. So we have two questions to answer:

Does the appearance of a nested table penalize you at all in search engine ranking?

The answer: Yes.

Does an extra instance of “lodefizzle” in the source override this penalty?

The answer: Yes.

Conclusion: The mere appearance of many nested tables in your code does not have a strong enough negative effect to be considered a drag on search engine ranking.

I imagine the only negative affect at all was because the ratio of “lodefizzle” to other content on the page was slightly lowered by the addition of more code. This, however, could be an argument to keep your code as small as possible.

Test 3

Function: To determine if invalid code penalizes search result ranking, and to what degree.

3a – Contains “lodefizzle” once in the document, after a valid table.
3b – Contains “lodefizzle” twice in the document, after an invalid table.
3c – Contains “lodefizzle” once in the document, after an invalid table.

First, let me say that I expected all three of these results to be about the same, with 2b taking the cake only because of the extra mention. I’ve never really believed the claims of validatorians about bad code getting you booted off of Google.

So can invalid code get you penalized on search engines?

The answer: Yes, to a draconian degree, in fact.

3a is the only document which even shows up on Google. Whoa! A full-on blackballing from the Big G. We already know that 99% of the world’s web pages are invalid to some degree and they show up just fine on Google, so what happened here? Let’s look.

The valid table I created looks like this:

<table class="checkered"><tr><td><div></div></td></tr></table>

… while the invalid table looks like this:

<table cloth="checkered><invalid>

The interesting part here is that while the source code of all three test cases looks pretty similar, the appearance of the pages in a browser is completely different. The invalid pages, in fact, don’t even render (at least in most browsers they don’t). The reason for this is the degree to which the code is malformed. The missing quote on the end of the “checkered” attribute is causing the entire page to fail and the word “lodefizzle” to not even appear on the rendered page.

What’s really interesting to me is that Google is doing one of two things (or both):

1. Somehow grading pages based on how they are rendered as well as how they are coded.

2. Simply counting the rest of the page as an attribute of the invalid table because the attribute is never officially closed off with an end quote.

There may also be other explanations to why this is happening, but this was the most interesting test in the bunch for me.

Conclusion: It’s not clear that validity helps search engine ranking, but it’s definitely true that certain errors in your code can get you completely removed from indexes.

Test 4

Function: To determine if semantics are more valuable than raw phrase placement on a page.

4a – Contains “lodefizzle” in an H1 tag, after the first paragraph on the page.
4b – Contains “lodefizzle” in an H4 tag, at the very top of the page.

The question here is, are semantics powerful enough to override a simple shift in placement of the keyword?

The answer: Yes.

4a shows up well before 4b in the search results, even though keyword placement on 4b is theoretically better.

Conclusion: The semantic effect of hierarchical HTML headings is a stronger factor in search rankings than more rudimentary measures such as physical keyword placement.

Test 5

Function: To test if the advantage of clean, semantic HTML can be easily overridden by other factors.

5a – Contains “lodefizzle” in H1, H2, H3, and H4 tags.
5b – Contains “lodefizzle” four times in normal text and once in the page title.
5c – Contains “lodefizzle” four times in normal text and is linked once from my old site, mdavidson.com.
5d – Contains “lodefizzle” four times in normal text and once in the filename.

Since we already know that good semantics do matter to an extent, the question is: will any or all of the methods in 5b, 5c, and 5d be strong enough to usurp the proper use of hierarchical headings?

The answer: Yes, in all cases!

The winners, in order, were 5c, 5b, 5d… followed up by 5a.

*Note: Some time between when I ran these tests and now, the link between mdavidson.com and 5c ceased to be recognized by Google, causing 5c to drop to the bottom of the current search results. I have no idea why this happened, but for the purposes of this test, we’ll assume it didn’t.

Conclusion: Although good semantics are somewhat valuable in optimization, simple things like proper titles, descriptive filenames, and incoming links are dramatically more important.

Final analysis and lessons learned

Some of these results are commonsensical and some are not. None are in the least bit scientific, so please don’t tell me that. I already know that much better tests could be performed. The findings do support my initial suspicions about web standards as they relate to SEO though: that they matter about as much as a cheap umbrella in a hailstorm. That is to say: “kind of”.

Developers should write clean, semantic code as a matter of professionalism rather than search engine optimization. For good SEO, making your site sticky enough to attract quality incoming links is by far and away the thing to concentrate on.

In revisiting the list of five combatants above, it’s now easy to see why Mike Portnoy’s front page did not penalize him too much on Google. It renders in the browser (even without an HTML tag!) and his 44,000 mentions around the web are apparently enough to bump him into the #3 spot. “But he has a PR of only 5!” you say. Well, apparently that doesn’t matter a whole lot either. From what I’ve been able to gather, PR has a much greater effect on the link love you’re able to give than the search engine placement you yourself actually receive.

While the findings from this test explain the placements of the top three Mikes, they still don’t tell us anything about the republican Senator from Ohio, Mike DeWine. I seem to kill him in every measurable category and yet, he’s one slot ahead. The conspiracy theorist in me says that Larry and Sergei are closet puppeteers in the political process of this country, but the realist tells me there’s something else I haven’t considered. Perhaps it’s the unexposed “quality” of the incoming links… I don’t know.

What I do know is that, while this was a fun experiment, I won’t be mucking around with any more in-depth SEO tests.

The roundabout is good enough for me.

153 comments on “Lessons From The Roundabout SEO Test”. Leave your own?
  1. Sean S says:

    First of all, when did you have time to do this? Haven’t you been a bit busy?

    Secondly, you said that developers should write clean (semantic) code as a matter of professionalism rather than for SEO — but how are we supposed to convince corporations of this if it makes no difference? It’s one thing to start by writing clean code, but to change practices means time (and money); which companies aren’t willing to spend if it doesn’t mean results.

    Thanks for the experiment and demonstration, though!

  2. And there you go. You’ve just added four more “mike”s to your homepage (and 25 more on this page). You’ll be numero uno in no time :)

  3. Mike D. says:

    Sean: This was one of those posts that took about three months to complete… little by very little, as I had a few minutes here and there. This is also one of the myriad reasons (I suspect) why I don’t have a girlfriend.

  4. Very interesting, Mike!

    It seems that you’ve not only demystified a bit of SEO and Google-fu, you’ve also made a case for standards-based development, which I recently questioned out of frustration.

    Great post!

  5. Mike D. says:

    Sean: Oh, I forgot to answer your second question. Well, it wouldn’t be lying to mention during your web standards pitch that it does indeed help SEO. It’s just that it doesn’t help “that much” (that is the part you either keep in your head or mumble under your breath as you cough and ask for water).

    The truth is that web standards help in all sorts of little ways. They help SEO a bit, they help in accessibility a bit, they help in maintenance a bit… and so on and so forth. They just don’t turn water into wine overnight as some people would have you believe. Developing with web standards is the right thing to do for many, many reasons… it’s just important to manage expectations around them.

  6. Sean Madden says:

    Mike…oh Mike {shakes head}

    You are up at all hours of the day tracking Newsvine and still you have the capacity to write the most engaging post centered around ego-surfing EVER.

    Strong work my friend, strong work. However, you may have single-handedly brought back the era of the table-based designer by dismissing web standards as a tool in SEO. Damn you! You know marketing people couldn’t care less about professionalism. They want results baby! If tables become hot again, I will blame you entirely.

  7. Chris Renner says:

    Blast! Accidentally reloaded and lost my comment. Well..

    I tend towards the incoming link pagerank theory. Wikipedia’s List of websites with a high PageRank suggest that .gov links do well in this arena.

    PR 10 – 5 out of 17 are government
    PR 9 – ~34 out of ~215 are government

    Also news mentions. NY Times, 10. Washington Post, The Economist, USA Today, all 9s. I’m sure he gets more mentions from those pubs than you do.

    Amazing to actually see standards and SEO in action. Thanks for this post!

  8. Don says:

    Nice Work Mike as usual. My sidekick over at http://htmlfixit.com wrote a blurb a while back on how to optimize based on some findings we had kept track of. We were perhaps less “scientificish” in our findings (you may soon be number one for that term as well and you will then know if things included in comments help …) here: http://htmlfixit.com/tutes/tutorial_How_to_improve_your_search_engine_rankings.php

    I am going to go back and read what he wrote and perhaps consider a cross reference.

  9. Mike D. says:

    Sean M.: Was there really any question that table-based design is back? Load that baby over a slow connection for the full-effect.

    The new game in town is how complicated – nay, sophisticated – you can make your grid. If I’m not seeing at least “colspan=15” up in there, I’m not coming back.

  10. grey says:

    After all that, how I can even be stuck on this little bit of information, I don’t know, but I am:

    Mike was the drummer for a now defunct rock band called “Dream Theater”.

    This guy was in a rock group called “Dream Theater” a long time ago…

    Other than the fact that he’s a drummer and he’s actually in the band, I think that’s all wrong. They aren’t defunct, and it wasn’t a long time ago. They’re, umm, on tour as we speak.

    They’ve been around for like twenty years, and they produce the most boring brand of progressive metal there is, IMHO, but they’re still a band, and he’s still their drummer.

    Not that it really matters, but for some reason I felt compelled to clear all of that up. Oh, well.

    (Editor’s Note: Grey, you’re totally right. Don’t know why I haven’t heard about them for years, but yes, they are apparently still around! Fixed!)

  11. Bradley says:

    If you think DeWine’s site is bad, just check out Ohio.gov. More “sections” of links than I think I have ever seen (like 6). Not to mention rollovers and drop-down menus. This is the state of the art in Ohio… I’m ashamed of my state.

    I just met a guy at an agency close to me, whom I have e-mailed back and forth before. After a good conversation, and a “maybe we’ll work together sometime,” I mentioned coding with tables. He interjected, “I don’t care about code, I just want to fulfill my clients’ needs.”

    I understand the “technology agnostic” standpoint. I think it’s a good business perspective in a lot of ways. But when it comes to SEO, wow! It baffles me how the search engines look at code, but people don’t care about writing good code, nor do they care about how their content is placed within the code. Big. Fat. Duh.

    We need more case studies like yours, Mike, to start pointing people the right direction. On the other hand, if everyone became a believer, there would be less to differentiate the elite from the run-of-the-mill junk.

    Don’t forget to check out Google’s recent study on web authoring, featuring statistics from over 1 billion web documents. Table is not dead yet, for sure. Amazing that people still use keywords in meta.

  12. “Amazing that people still use keywords in meta.”

    I don’t know if you noticed, but…MIKE uses keywords in his meta! :p

  13. Andrew says:


    Since it’s becoming clear that Google has the ability and processor power to take DOM rendering into account while weighing a site’s semantic structure, the only SEO-related question that comes to my mind is how that will affect legitimate sites using any form of traditional image replacement (excluding js IR and sIFR).

    Since most IR techniques utilize style=”display:none;” in some way and since that is the easiest way for content stuffers to abuse CSS, my guess is that this could become a point of contention in the year(s) to come (similar to the old school technique of styling tons of spammy text the same color as your background color, which Google et al eventually figured out and penalized for).

    Meh. SEO ShmeSEO.


  14. Mike P. says:

    For good SEO, making your site sticky enough to attract quality incoming links is by far and away the thing to concentrate on.

    Gah! That was a secret!! Man, and I didn’t post about Newsvine during the early beta…

  15. Pat Collins says:

    Curious, I looked up my first name on Google last week. Suddenly I felt very insignificant, with entries like “Pat Robertson,” “Pat the Bunny,” even “Pat and Mike” popping out at me instead of my admittedly less than stellar site.

    Come to think of it, insignificant will probably be how the Seahawks feel when they are flying home after the Super Bowl because they just couldn’t handle that Steel Curtain defense. That’s a shame. :)

  16. Sharaf says:


    Jackob Nielsen recently wrote an article about “Liberating Web sites from Search Engines.” Very good article that kind of relates to what you posted here. Here is a link to my summary of the article and the link to the article: http://soaphia.com/?p=61


  17. .gov and .edu are more ‘respected’ by the google index calculator, so that’d be why the Senator is up there.

    Good article!

  18. Lindsey says:

    Quoting Andrew, above:

    Since most IR techniques utilize style=”display:none;” in some way and since that is the easiest way for content stuffers to abuse CSS, my guess is that this could become a point of contention in the year(s) to come (similar to the old school technique of styling tons of spammy text the same color as your background color, which Google et al eventually figured out and penalized for).

    Oh, I dunno. Only a couple of these ten techniques use display: none, and that’s not counting another technique I use that doesn’t use display: none either. Still, I wouldn’t put it past Google to penalize for all kinds of CSS trickery.

  19. TC says:

    Thanks for the great article. The one thing I would have to question here is test 3. If a page is so badly coded that the text doesn’t appear in most web browsers would the web developer who made it really put it online?
    It just seems like such an invalid case that it wouldn’t be likely to happen.

    All the other tests are great and thanks to test 5 I’ll be stuffing page titles and filenames even harder than before.

  20. In certain circles, Mike Portnoy is revered as a god. I know people who live and die by Dream Theater. I have no idea as to how high the Ragerank is for these people, but his name gets around a lot more than you think. Not to mention sponsorships on musical products, like the Mike Portnoy cymbal or what have you.

  21. Nathan Smith says:

    It’s funny you bring up the potential politics of search engines. I think that aspect fits well with the recent article on Airbag about China’s Google page.

  22. Nick says:

    I’m a lot more interested in how many people subscribe to Mike Industries than how many people typed in something like “expiring domain” and somehow ended up at my site.

    I feel honored and ashamed at the same time… that is how I ended up at your site almost a year ago and was so impressed I’ve been a steady reader ever since.

  23. Brandon Cox says:


    A great article by Gord Collins @ Sitepoint further expounds on “link reputation”.

    Link Reputation article at Sitepoint.com

    I guess if sites with a high keyword pagerank for “Mike” would give you an incoming link using the keyword “Mike” within the <a> </a>, and then your site’s conent is verified as being about “Mike” and “Mike” related issues, your ranking would improve for with the keyword “Mike”.

    His theory suggests it will become more difficult to “cheat” SEO – A respected site has to “vouche” for yours in a keyword that is relevant to your site.

    This goes back to reinforcing Mitch’s point. Truth in jest.

    Great testing, BTW. I’ve gotten similar results to yours.

  24. While proper document formatting may not benefit search rankings to a large degree, I’ve often been put in situations where I’ve had to “pitch” web standards to a client or employer. SEO is a very convenient argument for web standards, and although I never actually went about accumlating the empirical data you have, I’ve known in the back of my head that SEO is a weak case for standards.

    And I’ve never really felt comfortable pitching SEO in the first place. I feel the practive often takes an “ends justify the means” attitude and is perfectly comfortable adopting shady tactics to bolster rankings.

    Thanks for writing this article. It’s not something I wanted to read, but it’s important to challenge arguments for a cause (standards), even if you’re pushing for the cause.

  25. Matt Smith says:

    Wow! That was quite an impressive write-up. Thanks. There was a lot of useful insight.

    Couple things to note:
    First, as it has been pointed out, Dream Theater is alive and well. I only know this because I bought one of their albums (ok, maybe 2) a long time ago. Some of my “friends” haven’t let me forget it and go out of their way to send me links and references to Dream Theater. Same thing with Yanni.

    Second, (if those two admissions haven’t totally sullied my reputation) is that I was reading something, somewhere this weekend that talked about how the ‘title’ element is the only actual required element of a page. I can find where I read it, but I checked on the W3 HTML 4 spec (http://www.w3.org/TR/html4/struct/global.html) and sure enough, the ‘html’ and ‘head’ elements are optional. Am I misinterpreting that? Back in the 96-98 timeframe, I used to always take the shortcut of only including the the html markup I needed (discarding all the head and body markup) since IE let me and it was quicker. I don’t do that anymore though.

    So can we start including ‘lodefizzle’ on our sites to see how they get picked up by the search engines?

  26. Matt Smith says:

    Phew! I was going absolutely nuts trying to remember where I saw the quote about the ‘title’ element being the only required element on the page. Sure, I gave the W3 specs reference link but I was concerned that I and the other person were misinterpreting them somehow. Fortunately, I found the original link where I got my info from: It’s from Google’s recent analysis of over a billion pages. The exact reference occurs on the Elements and attributes page.

    Hope that lends a little bit more credibility to my statements above. I was nervous about posting it originally because with all the fuss about proper page structure over the past few years, I would have thought that there would have been other off-hand comments about the lack of required page-level elements.

  27. Faruk Ateş says:

    To complement James’ comment on that .gov and .edu are more “respected”, it’s also that politicians probably get a better link-quality-link ratio, for lack of a better term. What I mean is, they might get fewer links in total, but the links they do get are more likely to be from highly respected, high-ranking sites such as big news sites. Lower noise ratio, essentially.

    (just a theory, though…)

  28. Tim G says:

    Mike sez:

    (Editor’s Note: Grey, you’re totally right. Don’t know why I haven’t heard about them for years, but yes, they are apparently still around! Fixed!)

    Totally right??? Saying that Dream Theater is “boring”????

    Heh heh. Sorry, I’m a progressive rock fan.

    But I do have to suggest that Mike Portnoy is probably a lot closer to a household name than you realize. Even outside of prog circles, he is widely recognized as one of the world’s best drummers.

    Still… Mike is an awfully common name, so I am surprised by how high his rank is too.

  29. Todd Huss says:

    This is great info! To your point that your apathetic about SEO and more interested in the number of people that subscribe I would say that you should view SEO as a means to get more subscribers. If your content sucked then sure, now matter how good your SEO, you won’t have subscribers. But if your SEO sucks and you’ve got great content then nobody will discover your content on the web unless they hear about it from someone.

    When I joined my current company they had done no SEO and with 8 hours of simple SEO work and waiting for reindexing the traffic shot up dramatically and revenue for the subscription product went up as a result. I don’t think internet companies can afford to ignore SEO and it’s easy enough to do that you just need a consultant intitially to train staff.

    Anyhow, thanks again for putting this together, it’s really useful information!

  30. Sardionerak says:

    Great stuff, thank you so much for your patient delivery of your test results. I got pointed to your web site by a colleague of mine, and we constantly have to deal with search engine optimization stuff.

    I have to admit, I use rather dirty tricks to get certain pages up in the ranking, and the no. 1 most effective way to do that is to create files with a file name that is exactly the search phrase that you anticipate…
    I know, nothing to be proud of, but it really works.

    Word of advice, Mike: why don’t you just run for Governor in one of the American federal states? That should automatically give your site a major boost ;-)

  31. jake nickell says:

    I have a similar test that I run to check out how my SEO is doing. Instead of typing “mike” I type “coolest dude on earth” … currently I’m number 1 so I must be doing something right.

  32. Jon Crain says:

    Would this have anything with trying to knock mikeindustries down a few spots for Newsvine’s SEO?

  33. tre says:


    i believe google also applies weight to the age of the domain, both how long it has been registered and for how long it is currently registered for. (i guess the thinking is, to prevent search engine spammers from buying new domains to setup temporary dummy sites to simply link back to their own site in a circle of incestuous debauchery).

    mr. poytner’s domain has a six year head start on yours.

    it’s all rather unscientific and speculative, but for a number of sites i’ve worked on, seems to hold a grain of truth.

    the caveat, however, must be stated yet again — if true, would only be one of a dozen factors google looks at.

  34. Mike Keen says:

    You sure have put a lot of effort into this post. It is interesting to see the results of some of your tests. However, if Google says you aren’t number 1 material, then you just aren’t. You should keep trying though. Work on getting some inbound links with “mike” as the anchor text. Good luck!

  35. Taking a cursory look at your SEO results, it appears that the title element is very important. It also appears that given the same number of occurances of a word or phrase, a well structured site will appear above a poorly structured site.

    I wonder if the number of times a person searches for a phrase and that phrase brings up your site and they actually click on a link to your site affects your ranking.

  36. Jon Crain says:

    Whoa, Mike what did you do? Newsvine’s got the number one spot now. I swear yesterday it was behind you…

  37. Jason T says:


    How would you compare Newsvine to news.yahoo.com?

  38. Fred says:


    Compares the two searches and show how the same search results are returned in a different order.

  39. Collin says:

    Mike, thanks for sharing, you went very in depth! Nice Stuff.

    Whats weird is I added some simple SEO fixes to a site and it raised the site up to #5 on Google from around #18. MSN gave the keyword ‘orlando news’ a place at #8. Few months later I went back and cleared out all the old tables and extra layout code and went with valid html.

    Google had no change at all but MSN bumped the site up to #1 and has since dropped in the last 2 years to #2.

    So it seemed like perhaps MSN rewards cleaner code and Google ignores all the layout code and focuses on the content.

  40. Jim says:


    More people are concerned with the content of a web page than about whether the developer closed all his list-item tags.

    When someone searches for “Mike”, google has decided that there’s a very good chance they’re looking for Mike Portnoy who, according to wikipedia, “has won 19 awards from Modern Drummer magazine, including “Best recorded performance” (5 times) and “Best Progressive Rock Drummer” (10 times in a row), making him the youngest drummer (at 37 years of age) to be inducted into their Rock Drummer Hall of Fame.”

    So understand that Mike Portnoy is not just a “narrowly-known drummer” – he’s actually very very well accomplished in his field. Not to mention he’s also generally considered the band-leader of Dream Theater.

    And he’s linked to a few more times than you are too:



    Because rock stars are typically more famous for their names than web design consultants are, the name “Mike” is more relevant to his content than it is to yours. Your incoming links might be titled “good article on CSS” or “10 ways to improve your site”, but his incoming links are more likely titled like “Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater.”


  41. Robert says:

    Quite fascinating and a good read. I have been curious as how much web standards really played in SEO, since there are a lot of high ranking sites that aren’t standards based and are not using semantic code.

    Thanks Mike!

  42. Jim says:

    …not to mention Mike Portnoy’s forum, with 125 members and 340 guests online at the moment, and 1,131,698 posts in the General Chat category :)

  43. Mike D. says:

    Matt S: Yeah, apparently the HTML attribute is optional but surely you should at least open your HEAD attribute and close your BODY attribute if you’re going to use them. Interesting trivia for sure though.

    Tim G. and others: When I say “household name”, I mean “have significantly more than 1 out of 100 people ever heard of him?” I think the only person on this list who qualifies is Michael Moore.

    Mike K.: Oh don’t get me wrong. I’m not even #5 material. :)

    Jason T.: Yahoo News lets you read the news. Newsvine lets you read, write, and influence the news. That’s the quickest summary I can come up with.

    Jim: Yes, I agree with a lot of that. The two links you provided do not support your subsequent conclusion though. According to those links (without the “www”), I have more incoming links by about 100. If you put the “www” in there, I have more incoming links by about 1400.

  44. Mike,

    SEO’s of the world are having a major “contest” to see who can rank #1 in Google on May 15th for a nonsense term – see URL in my signature (disclosure: I’m competing, but will donate it all to charity).

    While on-page factors (per your nice testing) are significant, most people feel that off-page factors (i.e. links, especially with “good” anchor text) is the key to ranking well, especially for competitive terms.

    A good example of this is a “google search” for “miserable failure” – http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=miserable+failure – which shows George Bush as #1 … and after that happened, the response was to get Michael Moore up to #2 – needless to say, neither has on-page factors encouraging a high ranking for that term. Political zealots can get outa control … but so far, no sign of you in those results. ;-)

    Having said all that, I’m a strong believer in “content is king” – build something good, and they will come … and link to ‘ya.

    Ditto other people’s comments – how do you have time for this with the awesome job you are doing with newsvine?!? ;-)

    P.S. Yahoo has you as the #2 Mike and MSN says you are #3.

  45. The test is interesting, but unscientific as you note and for some reasons you aren’t anticipating. My main concern is you’re going to freak people out about assuming they must have perfectly valid code.

    Yes, valid code is good. But no, not having valid code is not going to necessarily get you banned from search engines in the draconian manner you note.

    You already said that you figure that 99 percent of the pages on the web are invalid and show up fine on Google. Picking out one page that isn’t listed for a very specific problem is scary.

    More important, it is listed. Here you go:

    It’s not completely removed as you think. It’s just not showing up for your test word. That’s because due to the invalid code, Google’s not indexing it for that particular word.

    But look here:

    Congrats. You’re page with invalid code just outranked 2.3 million other pages :)

  46. Drats! Can’t edit and typed fast. I meant to end:

    Your page with invalid code just outranked 2.3 million others :)

  47. Mark says:

    Pretty accurate state of affairs i think. The combination of title, h1, and filename embedded with targeted keywords is very powerful. You’ll find that if you add your keywords more than a few times you’ll start to lose relevancy. Conversely you can gain relevancy by having inbound links from similar sites.

  48. mohrr says:

    FYI, Mike Dewine is definitely a household name in Ohio.

  49. Joseph Lukic says:

    Whatsup everyone. Well I found this article very useful. I used to run a website called HipHopGateway.com in which I also own the .org and .net domains. I was able to eventually get that site placed 5th on google for “Underground Hip-Hop” and sadly on like the 4th or 5th page for “Hip-Hop.”

    Anyway, mixing this with my current knowledge of SEO I think I will definitely be able to get better results in the future. I know I will anyway. Also let me add that I appreciate everyones comments and the constructive feedback everyone has given. I rarely run across constructive comments either, so thats cool. I often did wonder how much of a role validated and proper coding played with SEO. Now I got more of an idea for more SEO tactics.

    Thanks Mike for doing this article. Appreciate it.

  50. Joseph Lukic says:

    Oh I meant to say by mentioning I owned the .com, .org, and .net domain names of all the same domain if that helps with search engine ratings? Anyone got an idea about that?

  51. John says:

    Wow, great article man. Caught this over at digg today. Fascinating stuff.

  52. wilho says:

    Sorry about this, but I got to:

    “Barely known” he is… Nice article otherwise.

  53. Why ask? says:

    The senator gets higher rankings because they pay google to give them a high page ranking. Duh!

  54. gal from NZ says:


    Cute photo. Loose the facial hair & you might be in luck, and get yourself a girlfriend.

  55. tremendo says:

    Matt Smith wonders whether the <title> tag is the only required element, and cites Google’s recent study. Funny the spec for HTML 4 says html and head are optional, but does state that “Every HTML document must have a TITLE element in the HEAD section.”, so by their own definition head should be require too. Now, as far as XHTML, the W3C says: “the root element of the document must be html.” (emphasis mine) and of course, complying with the DTD.

  56. Alexa says:

    While your initial test method is pretty easy and straightforward, I don’t find it helpful personally. Results from any search engine inevitably lean toward the large thorn in my side, Alexa. Plenty of people can google their name at any time and get lots of interesting pages full of links to other people’s lives and interests. Unfortunately, I just get lots of pages full of “Alexa page ranking” and discussion on the toolbar and whatnot.

    So besides beating out senators and band members with crap coding and miscellaneous people who share your first name, do you have any advise for people competing with a faceless entity that already has a name plastered all over the internet?

  57. miscblogger says:

    wow dude! you really did your research on this. i love how you added real life experiements. i was wondering…. how long did it take for google to completely crawl your expermment pages?

  58. Robert Treat says:

    Mike Portnoy Rules !!!


  59. randfish says:

    Mike – You need to check with what Danny said, above. The page is ranking very well for the pieces visible. It’s not a case of being removed from the index – no need to falsely scare folks.

    Also, as you’re a fellow Seattlite – Go Seahawks!

  60. Lance says:

    I had something to say until I read the last message …


    Wow… “large thorn in my side” Really? You are that pissed that people can’t find your personal site because you share a corporate brand?

    Curious: why are you competing with the faceless entity? The holy marketing grail of being top ten for “alexa”? Or perhaps you just want to tell friends to “google me” instead of http://www….

  61. Great article. Its good to get some perspective on what really counts for Google. It’s even better to know that one of the many Mike Davidson’s is responsible for it.

  62. Adam Plocher says:

    This is a great article, thanks much. I will definitely be applying many of these practices towards my website. One question – do you happen to know how keyword tags affect Google? I know certain search engines utilize those tags more than others, and I’ve heard Google doesn’t use them for a whole lot, but it would be interesting still…

    Thanks again

    (btw Mitch Hedberg was hilarious)

  63. EvilBill says:

    On 3b and 3c: I remember reading somewhere that google does make sure that the text it indexes is visible in the browser. That is, if you put white text on a white background, at the very least it will not be indexed. Probably the whole page will be blackballed.

  64. Shii says:

    This is no surprise to me. Introducing your page with an h1 title, and writing HTML that renders properly, is just common sense, and Google likes websites that employ common sense. It looks nice, too:


    The only people who would be concerned by this are bloggers who use images to render their title in a fancy font, like this one. Luckily for them HTML isn’t a big deal compared to backlinks.

  65. Very interesting test! Just demonstrates what I’ve always been telling people:

    1 – write good, clean code
    2 – write pages that mean something
    3 – understand and use semantic HTML
    4 – make your site worth linking to
    5 – you will get ranked.

  66. I usually do the roundabout SE test on my educational site by looking at my page stats to see who’s been searching for what to bring them to my page. Imagine my surprise to find that one of the most common search engine terms that brings visitors to the site is “sexual intercourse photos” – for which, with SafeSearch on, my site currently ranks #11!

    So my question is, what am I doing wrong so that Google thinks I’m one of the internet’s biggest pornographers?

    (I always laugh when I think about the poor kids desperately searching for smut who somehow find themselves in the middle of a Swahili dictionary. I’m sure they last about .003 seconds before they’re searching for that back arrow with their free hand…)

  67. Leigh says:

    I’ll second that question from micblogger…

    “how long did it take for google to completely crawl your expermment pages?”

    great read! Thanks Mike!

  68. Alexa says:


    It’s not that I’m pissed about not showing up right away in Google or any other search engine, it’s more a matter of identity for me. Are they really so unoriginal they had to use a name? My name? I don’t see any services out there named Jennifer or Michelle. No services named Mike, either. It’s easy to show up in search results even with a common name, but my name is associated with probably millions or billions of links and page ranking features, including site redirects that also get listed. It’s a unique situation, but that doesn’t mean I’m willing to accept low search results because of their omnipresence via the services they provide.

    Why compete with a faceless entity? Because to get any recognition, you have to start somewhere. What if some brief encounter I had with a potential employer interested them enough to remember I mentioned a website with details about my projects, and they wanted to look it up? That is really my main concern, and with even just the ads from Alexa.com showing up in the first few pages of search results, it makes it more difficult. It’s not as if they go lightly in mentioning their name on their site, either.

    Why does Mike want to compete with all the other Mikes on the internet? Mikes with actual lives and faces and possibly even content. Alexa.com doesn’t have much content, but it does have thousands and thousands of links that are all redirects and so of course include “alexa” in each and every link they provide. That’s why I want to know, how does one go about competing with that, armed with only a name?

  69. Mike D. says:

    Danny and Randfish: Good find regarding the page still being “in the index” but “not properly indexed”. That’s good to know. However, I certainly did not mean to imply that “invalid code will get you booted from Google… period.” I never said that, and I think most people know that’s not true. I’m merely pointing out that, contrary to my previous belief, there *are* some errors in your code which can negatively affect you on Google.

    Leigh and micblogger: Took about three weeks I think.

  70. Intrinsic says:

    This is a totally wrong methodology for testing search engines. All search engines, including Google, predominently still use term frequency to score documents.

    Your tests are inconclusive because you varied the number of times “lodefizzle” appear on each page. Naturally, the pages that contain fewer mention of “lodefizzle” will typically rank lower, even if its in a title or h1 tag. Tests 1, 2, and 4 all vary the number of “lodefizzle”s.

    The invalid html written for Test 3 will cause parsing errors for all html parsers. Any programmer who’s written html parsers cold have told you this. And its the reason why those invalid htmls do not even get ranked by Google. I am pretty sure these pages also do not get ranked by MSN, Yahoo or any other internet search engine.

    (Editor’s Note: Not true, Intrinsic. The very fact that results with *more* instances of “lodefizzle” scored lower in some cases is the whole point of the test.)

  71. Your Google fu technique is impressive.

  72. Sean says:

    Concerning test #3: I don’t think Google’s software decided not to index the page because of invalid syntax. As you’ve said, Google seems to have no problem indexing tens of thousands of invalid documents.

    The problem is your malformed document completely breaks the documents DOM (document object model). Because Google’s software probably uses the DOM to parse the document, it’s very possible that their software simply *can’t* index page because of the broken DOM. The Dream Theater Mike’s page may be badly coded, but software that walks the DOM won’t have any troubles with it. Your document just breaks the DOM altogether which probably causes Google’s software to give up on trying to parse it. No parse, no index.

    – Sean

  73. Sean says:

    P.S. I just realized Intrinsic was making the same point.
    P.P.S. Forgot to compliment you on the Mitch Hedberg audio.

  74. clockwise says:

    Hilarious post – also a major suprise that Portnoy turned up, considering how much of a huge fan of his I am :) If anyone is interested in his work, read my page:


    Which, I am quite sure, has a very low page rank :)

  75. mabrown says:

    Wow some people have nothing better to do with their time I guess. Glad to see you enjoy my site so much seeings how your a fan of MP’s and all. And just for the record, you’re right “it’s not even html” it’s a bunch of asp scripts with some sql and vbscript and a lot of include statements so that I can write something once and re-use it through out the site. And also just FYI I wouldn’t call myself a kid and I get A LOT more then a pair of drumsticks and a jacket out of it. Sorry I don’t conform to your “standards” for making a website but then again I really don’t care

  76. Don says:

    Alexa writes:…how does one go about competing with that, armed with only a name?

    Alexa, you did give them a copy of your four color business card with your address on it and then email them to reinforce the meeting didn’t you? You don’t compete with them … you stand out on your own.

  77. Max says:

    I laughed my a$$ off reading the first part of the article :) Great read, interesting and worth looking into. Very relaxing too :) Thanks for sharing Mike!

  78. Don says:

    Alexa … try this: alexa -site:alexa.com and you might want to turn safe search on unless you are looking for a new york escort

  79. ddovey says:

    Stick it to the man mabrown!

    P.S; If you define your existence by how high your ranking is on google and by how “clean” your coding is, you should probably go right ahead and kill yourself right now ;)

  80. David Wang says:

    Wow, an interesting question and an even more interesting finding or not finding. After reading your article, I decided to do a few tests myself with my own site. I go by the name “David Wang”. Doing a search for “David Wang”, I am ranked 11 on Google results, but my incoming links is only 56. To be ranked 11 out of some 18 million results is pretty wild. And I personally have no idea why I am ranked so high since my domain does not even contain “david”.

    What I do know is that, according to my site statistics, I do get a ton of Google image search hits pointing to my site.

    Yes, I have always attempted various methods to help a client receive better search results by using key words, linking, and etc. However, it still remains a mystery why one site ranks higher than the other. Who knows?

    Thanks for the interesting test and idea. I love your site and information you provide.

  81. John M. says:


    For the email addresses on Newsvine, have you considered using Javascript to avoid spambots instead of “(at)”?

  82. Kirby says:

    Jeez, all this talk about standards, code, frames, etc. My old ugly frameset with tables and deprecated tags still kicks for highly competitive terms.

    This isnt to defend bad code or old standards, but to merely point out the obvious – that Google’s link based algo is just that – link based.

  83. Lodefizzle says:

    You forgot one other Google ranking technique.

  84. alek says:

    Ho-Ho-Ho … you definately got some competion for the term “lodefizzle” now Mike! ;-)

    P.S. For those that don’t notice, poster “Lodefizzle” registered lodefizzle.com … and is pointing to other Mike’s!

    (Editor’s Note: Ha! That is awesome.)

  85. Lea de Groot says:

    I can corroborate 1, 4 and 5 (if I got the numbers right)
    I ran similar tests a while back, with similar findings.
    I wish the engines liked semantics more.
    (and this reminds me that I really need to go back and re-evaluate the results now that more time has passed – thanks! :))

  86. Adam Plocher says:

    does anyone know how whitespace affects search engine optimization? if I strip all line breaks and extra tabs out it should still be fine on the search engines right?

  87. Linklog says:

    1. Impressive!
    2. I would have placed the test pages outside a domain which is already well-known to Google and ranked at 7/10. Of course, it has nothing to do with comparative analysis.

  88. Merlinox says:

    Thanks Mike for this document. It’s a good resume of many doubt and preconception I have since long time. Clear and easy: thanks.

  89. Karl says:

    Interesting and light-hearted article. But remember:

    All Design and Content are Copyright mikeportnoy.com and NOT for use on other web sites.

    Don’t go nicking the best practice code to be found there and rest assured he won’t be using your standards-compliant code or CMS in return :p

  90. Son Nguyen says:

    Nice experiments! I’d like to do some tests myself but I don’t see anywhere you mentioned how long did it take you for each of the tests?

  91. Matt Sollars says:

    Quoting TC,

    If a page is so badly coded that the text doesn’t appear in most web browsers would the web developer who made it really put it online?

    Absolutely! The reason is simple. Internet Explorer has, for the longest time, displayed almost anything you send its way. If you’re an idiot and don’t know it, IE won’t clue you in either. After all, denial is best served without ever being told you’re doing something wrong in the first place.

    Great article, Mike!

  92. Alexa says:


    That search method might work for me to check rank or any sign of listings, but for someone less websearch-savvy [and let’s face it, many people doing the hiring are not skilled at or interested in learning all the workarounds], it does not solve the problem.

    Also, what if someone I went to college with heard their company was hiring and thought I’d be suited for the job and had an opportunity to simply mention me as a candidate? It’s doubtful they would have my business card or resume ready to hand out. Word of mouth is a useful marketing technique. Any interest created by talking about me could be easily backed up through a quick websearch – if they could find me.

  93. James Smith says:

    Dream Theater rules!!

    That is all.


  94. Ozh says:

    There are a few default links in WordPress installs : Donncha, Michel, Ryan, Matt, Mike, Alex, Dougal. All but Michel and Ryan are #1 results in Google. For Ryan, competition is tough, but for Michel I really don’t see why he wouldn’t be the first one…

  95. rahim haji says:

    Hi all,

    Well mike congrats to you on adding fule to the fire that is SEO!!!!

    I found the article very interesting and informative, i totally agree with most that has been mentioned on this debate. However, i have been testing out all the possible techniques for SEO both by looking at what you are saying as well as the other techniques i have picked up in my 10 years as aweb designer.

    I wanted to know what you guys think about the “title” tag which is used by some designers on hyperlinks within a site, so you know if this assists SEO or not?

    Also, does using the google site map assist you in getting better ranking?

    and finally, if i link from my homepage to our history page, absolutely, e.g. http://www.webtrendz.co.uk/our_history.html do you think this assists or deters google in setting a better pr for that page?

    All help would be grately received.


    Rahim Haji

  96. Setlist Scotty says:

    What a highly amusing (and yet totally boring) exercise in techno snobbery. “My website’s better than your’s” – that’s the essence of your jabs at Mike Portnoy’s site. Perhaps it’s better coded. Big deal. His is still more popular. Sucks for you.

  97. Lance says:


    Tell people to search for “alexa white” where you are 6th or just alexa white where you are 9th. Unless you a super model, use two names.

    If you are looking for work – try focusing SEO efforts on electrical engineering in your area and specific field. You will get more interest then people looking to hire an Alexa to fill their engineering needs.

    In the same way, the word mike has nothing to do with web design – yet. Getting close though: I said “newsvine is very mike’d” to a design friend and he knew what I meant.

    I found him on a specific topic and spred the word through mike industries of which he is number one.

    Oh, and by the way, I’m think about joining your fan club:
    (I love alexa white t-shirts!     Well, no, it’s “I love alexa, white t-shirt” but it was still amusing)

  98. Mike D. says:

    “Setlist Scotty” and any other bitter Dream Theater fans: Get over yourselves please. Your boy’s website is #4 on Google because it’s popular. That’s a good thing… and part of the essence of this entire study. Popularity trumps code quality by leaps and bounds.

  99. Alexa says:


    Thanks for taking the time to google me and make suggestions. I had a look and apparently my rank has increased significantly since I checked a month or so ago [the last time my site content was really updated]. I’d still like to turn up in results based on just one name, though. Considering my field of interest, there are still few females and even fewer with my name – it would be nice to maximize that to my advantage, doubled with the fact that my last name is a common word and will turn up results for a style of stocking, or less desirably – any number of escort service descriptions. I don’t need to rank above alexa.com or even above the young actress who’s got an up and coming career, but I would like to establish an online presence that is definitively stronger and separate from generic terms and paired words that are unfortunately an exact match to my name, without necessarily requiring a refined search query.

  100. joe says:

    Mike, what are you using for your blog? I love how the comments are numbered in the background…

  101. Hagrin says:

    Very interesting case study. I know that my site needs a redesign and some more SEO improvements so this has definitely helped me shape that TO DO list.

  102. Arn’t you increasing there site’s seo by mentioning them :p

  103. hurricane says:

    Conclusion: Although good semantics are somewhat valuable in optimization, simple things like proper titles, descriptive filenames, and incoming links are dramatically more important.

    Just a note on that conclusion, a title is ultimately more important to semantic document structure than Hn headers are; it’s also what is displayed by search engines as the link text for their search results, and so it shouldn’t be too surprising that it’s weighted higher by the SEs. Similarly, having a file name that relates to the subject matter discussed within the file is far more semantic (meaningful) than having one that is unrelated.

  104. Charles says:

    Great post. It seems to validate some of the things I’ve been doing have helped.

  105. Ivan Minic says:

    Thanks a lot for this post and all testing… I actually thought about testing this in similar way, but this is much better than I would make :)

  106. Nazgob says:

    Very good text. It shows that google promote good quality(valid) sited with logical content and few high PR links :) I’m trying to do this with my site -> Nazgob As simple as that!

  107. MM Design says:

    It was a good fun to read while very educational. Thanks Mike :)

  108. Michele says:

    Very good article.Very usuefull thank you.

    Good luck in ur quest for ratings ( south park).U should be up there not Mike DeWine and Mike Portnoy.

    Mitch heldberg..I din’t know him untill now…I am a foreign u know…downloaded couple of gigs of lm. and I have to say he is fk funny.


  109. Interesting feedback on whether having incorrect mark-up will prevent a crawler from indexing a page.

    A friend built his site in Microsoft Publisher which never appeared in Google and Yahoo! search results until it was linked from DMOZ. While he does enjoy good ranking for his business name, his site doesn’t appear for other important terms related to his business.

    While I’ve always thought that good mark-up is a definitely plus to SEO, these developments have caused me to attempt an experiment with my friend’s site. :)

  110. Dave says:

    Very nice, trying to get my site #1 for dave

  111. Matthew D says:

    I see that the term Mike now puts mikeindustries at the 4th position.

    Poor Mike DeWine.

  112. Lodefizzle says:

    The domain name of “lodefizzle.com” now ranks highest (as of February 8th) on Google with no mention of the word on the page, in meta tags or the title – just the domain name. This is the only site that links to it.

  113. Mo Forza says:

    Excellent test, thanks for sharing this information.

    STEELERS – 21
    SEAHAWKS – 10

    (Editor’s Note: Thanks. Minor correction on the score though. REFS – 21 SEAHAWKS – 10… :) )

  114. Colleen says:

    You have a very interesting blog and design. Nice work, Mike. ;)

  115. Ryan Crisman says:

    Mike Writes:

    This is also one of the myriad reasons (I suspect) why I don’t have a girlfriend.

    Newsvine is the reason why I dont have a girlfriend. oh and my work to.

  116. When you Google your site and it’s not within the top 20 or so, what tool do you use to find your position without having to trawl through hundreds of pages?

  117. SINner says:

    Magic Trick Paul, I have found this tool very helpful in determining if my website shows up in the top three pages of the biggest search engines.


    While I did not carry out detailed tests like Mike did, my personal experience with the “Google Sandbox” is described in my blog entry here


  118. Great article, very clever… this page alone should give you a nice boost ;) I was wondering if this was before or after the google indexing change, and if before, does the change modify this info at all?

  119. Metal Stamper says:

    Great info. I have also thought that google somehow finds out how the page appears in the browser and gives importance for it. That’s why it is always important to create web pages for the surfer that for search engines. But I never thought in your test, the hierarchical headings will get pushed down in SERPS. This is absolutely new info for me.
    Thanks for sharing the resuls of your tests Mike. It wil be very handy when I optimize my site for search engines.

  120. inf@ectio.us says:

    Good article Mike, as usual.

    Best of luck with your Mike-ness.

  121. R Suede says:

    I am a newbie to SEO and have recently launched my first adult venture. I have put in alot of work trying to achieve good SE placement – sometimes feeling like I am just banging my head against a wall.

    Your post has been of the upmost help and I thank you greatly. My web developers are just about to get a rocket in the ***.


  122. Nice Paul says:

    R Suede – rule 1 of SEO, if you’re going to use inbound links then spell your web address correctly ;-) your link above doesn’t work.

  123. R Suede says:

    Thanks Paul for your comment.

    The reasons the link doesn’t contain my full address is because I didn’t want to get accused of just been here to spam. I have been accused of this for adding my full web address as a signature.

    If not too cheeky could answer this please. I have been posting on forums, creating relevant blogs and news stories on the likes of Digg. I have received a decent amount of traffic from this, but when I check my site with Google it says I have no incoming links!! I have done 50 in the last week – I’m lost!! :(


  124. Nice Paul says:

    Fair ’nuff on the link. As for Google’s inbound link checker, as far as I’m aware it’s been ‘broken’ for ages. Try the same thing at http://www.alltheweb.net instead.

  125. R Suede says:

    Does that mean I’m wasting my time with the inbound links Paul. The inbound links I have been creating seem to have actually knocked me down the results.

    Thank you again Paul.


  126. R Suede says:

    Damn I just checked alltheweb and got the same results – no links back to my site. i can go on google and type in my keywords and find a link to me 2nd on the list…..aaarrgghh it’s frustrating the hell out of me.


  127. hannah says:

    You inspired me to google my first name. I personally don’t rank in the first hundred or so. But number 1 gave me a chill. I think I’ll stay away from ego-searching for a while! :)

  128. Julien says:

    I’m on a similarly endless quest to get myself into the number one position in Google for my first name (though it’s far less common than yours). In order to help you, however, I’ll put you in my blogroll, since I’ve subscribed. Your site is super interesting, by the way.

  129. smith says:

    Does that mean I’m wasting my time with the inbound links Paul. The inbound links I have been creating seem to have actually knocked me down the results.

  130. alek says:

    Might be Smith – here’s a writeup on Google Bowling that suggests too many links at once can hurt ‘ya …

  131. Foddski says:

    I got here doing a google for “css tags affect google ranking” To find out if
    blah would rank lower than a pure
    blah tag. But when I got here I had to read your excellent article.

    I also wanted an incoming link from your pr5 page ;)

  132. Foddski says:

    Damn it sripped all my code from the post, so that was useless :( it showed it in the preview though !!

    ah well at least it’s another IL

    Oh and your pr is 6 not 5 sorry

  133. Lucy says:

    Setlist Scotty’s remarks don’t surprise me at all. He’s full of himself, and comes here accuses others of snobbery. What a joke. He’s nothing more than Mike Portnoy’s biggest fanboy.

  134. Mike D. says:

    Foddski: My PR is actually 8, if that matters to you… and every link has a “nofollow” attribute, so sorry but no Google juice for you.

  135. alek says:


    On the off-chance you are interested in sending some of your Google Juice to benefit a good cause, consider helping this web site win $7,000 in the Google SEO contest for Celiac Disease Research. It’s hanging in there at #6 in Google despite serious competition from the nefarious black hats!

  136. Jason Gillespie says:

    Mike Portnoy is a god!

  137. PKIRecords says:

    I think the reason alot of Portnoy fans posted on here (its the reason I’m posting) was some of the initial comments at first mentioned about Mike Portnoy were “dancing” (lack of a better word) on the line between objective study and bashing without knowing. That being said, I read through this page and your work is interesting indeed. I am a novice at web development and I always keep an open mind even if one my idols is being possibly “bashed”.

  138. Mike says:

    Another instance of the good name ;)
    anyhow – good stuff – I always enjoy these reads and the no-nonsense hardcore grit they produce

    Still don´t understand how you find time for newsvine & all else – perhaps people live in different time frames – not just timezones – Hello, im on fast.. what are u?

  139. Vance says:

    Thanks for the experiments and the great article. (Wow, I have a lot to learn. I don’t even know what tool to use to figure out your rankings for a particular search.)

    Well, back to researching the fine art of SEO…

  140. Milan says:

    It appears that all this talk about ‘Mike’ has helped shuffle the rankings to put you in the #2 spot. If nothing else, that’s a fascinating test that you conducted and shared.

  141. Aaron says:

    Thanks for the info, really nice that somebody took the time to do all that…now to tackle the task myself…

  142. Excellent article – and definately an addition of ammunition for any standards freaks trying to convert cynical “web-developers”

    I have long suspected that valid markup is very helpful in getting good placements on the serps.. nice to see someone doing some homework :)


  143. Lessons From The Roundabout SEO Test

    Lessons From The Roundabout SEO Test…

  144. Avalonstar says:

    Blogging Isn’t a One Minute Gig

    … although I wish it was. Or do I?
    Maybe not. It’s not the old “hi my name is Bryan and this is what I did today” sort of thing. Actually, I would have loved to just sit down and write about how I’m in Minnesota in twelve-…

  145. The Google Vacuum Tests

    Mike Davidson has an interesting blog posting about the relevance of specific HTML tags in regards to search engine positioning. He created websites with different tag combinations to test how much valid HTML, heading tags, titles and filenames of webs…

  146. Lessons in Search Engine Optimization

    So, you have created a site that you wish you share with the world (that is, unless you only created the site to get a grade – head shake and disappointed look). Often times, making the site is the easy…

  147. […] I’ll be checking the ranking of a made-up word on each of those seach engines to see how they rank the test pages. If you’ve actually read this far, you will probably be interested in a fantastic test by Mike Davidson on Google’s ranking results. […]

  148. Great Post Mike. It was really helpful. Seems like a lot of work though. One thing you didn’t address: how long did it take for google to index or not index the sites? I’ve had posts that google indexes within hours of posting them, and I’ve had others that take weeks.

  149. Paul says:

    excellent article.. very interesting reading. has given me a few new ideas on how to tart things up a little more too! thanks Mike.. one thing I always wonder though (and I guess would be prevailent on a test like this to some degree) how long does it take google to find / update your site or directories and start netting you results for such a test?

    thanks & all the best!


  150. Donna says:

    I just ran across this. lol. I don’t think I’d ever be able to rank for my own first name. Sigh.

  151. Shane says:

    fyi – years later Mike Portney has added the html tag to his site. lol maybe he read your blog post. :) this is an old post but still thought it was a good one and I think I may have learned something about SEO.. like, how irrational it is. :)

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