“Something” is Wrong with Google (since 2004)

Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty – Ronald Reagan

It never ceases to amaze me how Google has become such an integral part of our lives. Search has evolved in such colossal proportions and especially with the advent of Google instant my belief that Google can actually read my mind has only been fortified. Search Marketers around the world are always on their Toes and as Google states “Don’t try to follow our algorithm but try to think about the direction in which we are heading, build content for the users and not the search engines”. I sometimes wonder if Google was actually a person he would be an amazing election candidate.

But then again the high and mighty also have their share of secrets, secrets that should never come up, what I am about to reveal can be touted as one of the many chapters of the Da Vinci of Google.

Disclaimer – I am NOT one of those ANTI Google Freaks. As part of my research I came across this unique search result which I thought should be shared with the entire SEO community. I am also not claiming that the website is involved in any black hat SEO techniques. Over the years the link profile of this website has evolved in such a way that the website has been ranking despite going against some of the most conventional SEO rules.

Having made my point very clear let’s get started. Make a search for “something” and check the result that is ranking at #1.

It looks like a normal search result and at first glance everything seems just fine, but this search result is going to break (or possibly make) some of the biggest SEO myths.

Before we dig into this website, let’s have a look at the statistics of the search term “something” –

One would wonder, why the hell would someone search for something like well… “something”. The answer is simple, English is a funny language and there are millions of people who are trying to learn this language and would probably want to know the meaning of the word “something”. There might also be a case where people are searching for Beatles song “something”, in simple words there can be “n” number of reasons why people search for such a term. Also it’s needless to say that “something” happens to be a very competitive keyword with very high search volume even in exact match.

As soon as I saw this website ranking, I decided to do an analysis of this website and identify what is really working for this website, also the fact that it is ranking above the almighty WIKIPEDIA all the more increased my anxiety. As I dug more and more into the data I realized that this website was somehow able to defy all SEO laws and believe it or not FOOL Google. Yup you heard me right fool Google. One by one I will be enlisting those laws and then highlight how the website was doing the exact opposite of what ideally should be done.

Law 1 – (Relevant) Content Is King

If content is “King” then the kingdom which this content is ruling will definitely die in poverty. It is a well-known fact that relevant content plays a very important role as far as rankings are concerned. The website under consideration has exactly one instance of “something” and nothing else. Surely this does not qualify as good content.

Forget good content, I am pretty sure that this content cannot be classified as relevant content as well.

On a lighter note I believe spammers will love this version of Google’s relevant content

Law 2 – The URL Should Be Optimized

There has been a lot of debate on this topic where clearly there are two stands. Some experts believe that including keywords in the URL does help whereas others believe that relevant content and a good back link profile should outdo the advantage that websites with exact match domain have.

Nevertheless in our case, apparently the exact match domain is helping the website.

Hmmm “something” to think about.

Law 3 – The Website Should Be Spider Friendly

I will definitely not argue with the fact that this website is spider friendly, perhaps too friendly?

I had my initial doubts whether the website was into cloaking where content was written only for the search engine spiders. Alas I was so disappointed. Not only are they not doing cloaking but they actually have nothing in the source code.

Except the search engine spiders everyone is disappointed.

Law 4 – The SEO Elements Like Titles, Metas Etc Should Be Well Optimized

This is probably the first chapter in every SEO book out there. The role of on page SEO elements like Page Title, Header tags, Alt tags etc cannot be stressed enough.

However, except the Page Title the website does not have any of the above mentioned elements.

Again “something” to think about.

Law 5 – The Website Should Have A Good Back Link Profile

Analyzing the backlinks data for this website was like opening a Pandora’s Box. It was like being amidst corrupt officials of a Government who took pride in the fact that they were the ruling party despite their horrible background and one could do nothing about it. Sad but true story.

For the sake of simplicity and to have a broader perspective I classified the backlinks into various categories and then segmented them further so that one can view the bigger picture. I classified them on the basis of Page Rank (Google Tool Bar), Type of links, Website Category and Linking URL Status

External Link Analysis

Page Rank


Sajeet Nair

Sajeet Nair

Senior Project Manager at SMG Convonix
With over 5 years of work experience in digital marketing, Sajeet Nair is a Senior Project Manager at SMG Convonix, a Digital Marketing Firm based out of India. You can also find him on Twitter @sajeetnair
Sajeet Nair
Sajeet Nair
Sajeet Nair

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56 thoughts on ““Something” is Wrong with Google (since 2004)

  1. Interesting article — I’d like to know whether there are any other similar examples out there.

    In regards to the Social Stats, I do remember seeing a semi-viral Facebook post regarding this site sometime last year. I didn’t click on the link, but was curious enough to type the URL directly in to the browser to see what it was!

    But that makes me think, surely the bounce rate of the page would be 100%? And doesn’t high bounce rate also negatively affect SERP rankings?

  2. That’s pretty funny. I just googled it to verify your results, and sure enough, there it is. I wonder how additional content would make or break the site’s ranking, like if they put a CTA below the word something.

    1. Unfortunately I did not get any data wrt CTR but yes the bounce rate should be 100%.

      But one would wonder, if CTR is an important factor why would Google rank it?

  3. Weird.

    It’ll be interesting to see how Google reacts to this. While a seemingly harmless problem it could be signs of deeper problems with their algorithm.

  4. Interesting study.
    I especially liked the methodology you used in order to investigate the “something” mystery, and actually – seeing how it still ranks first – I consider that many of your conclusions are right.
    Sincerely, your post made fall in great sadness… if a site like that can rank first, maybe it is the expression of the “perfection” of the Google algorithm… but it is also the demonstration that relying just onto apparently objective signals is not enough in order to have quality SERPs.

    1. Thanks a lot for the kind words Gianluca, I am sure that there are a lot of terms for which poor quality sites are ranking, but the key takeaway that I wanted to highlight was the fact that there is always a “SEO Factor” playing an important role in the rankings :)

  5. I was almost tempted to give them a backlink… I think I will need to run some more in depth tests like this one soon. It’s interesting how they broke so many of the so called “SEO Rules” and still have this amazing ranking. The simplicity of it all is amazing.

  6. “I remember getting blacked out for almost 2 seconds, soon after I gained my senses I realized something was horribly wrong”. lol

    I suspect that a site with longevity that has not had any penalties might get a little boost for its maturity alone but I have nothing to back that up. Very interesting though. I am afraid I have nothing more helpful to add. but I do want to thank you for an entertaining and informative post.

    1. I am glad that you found the post informative and entertaining :) I guess we are in an era where user is the king, longevity should not ideally play any role if content is not good enough, but then again that would be the ideal situation and unfortunately we do not live in an ideal world 😛

  7. I have noticed on some of my dives into why certain websites rank above others that their Google+1 counts seem to push them higher than what would be naturally occurring. I am wondering if the same is relevant to this example with a large number of +1’s in their social profile for the www version. I wonder if anyone else has seen this trend? I have noticed on a few more niche searches and not on this generic of a level. However, then again someone targeting this specific phrase is probably a bit unlikely from a marketing standpoint…possibly.

    1. Hmmm I guess Google would obviously prefer websites that use their service, but then again they have delivered over the years so lets give them a benefit of doubt 😛

  8. Sajeet,

    Nice catch and this confirms something wrong with google :) We all know Google’s algo is not perfect and prepared for every such instances like this. But they should do definitely better than this.

    Their link profile details you mentioned certainly surprised me. May be everybody got bit surprised by something and linked to the site when they discussed about it ? Weird.

    Let’s see how Matt Cutts explains this fringe phenomenon :) (if he ever notices this) and how our SEO community comes up different scenarios behind this.

  9. It`s really frustrating when you see this still happens… more than 10 years after Google is “improving” their algorithm and other stuff.

    That´s pretty funny, no doubt. But if you go deeper you can see how “easy” spammers can get TOP10 for many keyword phrases against Googlebot and white hat SEOs.

    My question is: how much time we should wait to Google clean up this mess? I mean; is PANDA or Penguin going to fix this BIG issues, black holes? I don´t think so… at least soon.

    1. Hey Charlie,

      I hear you, but the fact is that the website is primarily and conceptually getting “Natural links”, so as I stated in the disclaimer, the website is not involved in any Black Hat SEO techniques, its just that the link profile has developed in such a way over the years that it has become very strong.

  10. Special Thanks to my awesome team members – Shalaka Pawar (@shalaka_r_pawar)(For identifying this website) and Vineeth Nair (@vneethnair) (For the catchy Title).

    – Sajeet

  11. Shouldn’t it also have a massive bounce rate? I assume that if someone is searching for “something,” they click on the first result, don’t find any useful information and immediately go back to the results page.

    Anyway, very interesting study. Thanks for sharing!

  12. Your data sample of 1 isn’t pretty conclusive that ‘something’ is wrong.

    An algorithm isn’t exact. It’s based on a set of rules, metrics and variables which can all be gamed. This is an outlier.

    You’ll find less irrelevant results like this, than you would of relevant results. Again, this is an outlier, not the rule.

  13. In your opinion, what do you consider more value…13 year old domain or EMD? The 13 year domain does not have any keywords relevant to the website niche, however it has 2 generic words that make the domain very easy to rememeber. It should also be noted the 13 year old domain is a .com and the EMD is a .org, although I suspect that doesn’t matter much as I’ve never had any problems ranking .net/.org. Would love to hear your opinion on this. Thanks.

  14. Sajeet, this is mind blowing! I too couldn’t resist looking it up and yes, I too was amazed that such a site could feature no. 1! Thanks for such an informative post – I can see alot of research went into this so hats off to you for sharing this with us! Some of this backs up what we found with urls that have search specific words in their titles. What do you make of all this black hat SEO? I am really worried about our site being vulnerable to hackers. what can I do? I’ve just watched Rand’s Friday video blog and it was scary news!

  15. Hi guys,

    I didn’t read through the whole article but found it interesting and happened to remember an example that is, I guess, somewhat similar. Please go to google.fr and look for “perdu” (meaning “lost”). The first result (perdu.com) has been there for years (almost since the beginning of the internet)…

  16. You are absolutely correct Charlie, I spend more dollars to rank my website, but I can’t hardly believed that those spammers are really rank their website to mine!!!

    I hope this will resolve the issue soon!!!

  17. Hi there

    how many other similar examples will come out in the near future??? Not sure if this is a reason for laughing or crying…


  18. Great article, makes you think you can do everything right and not rank and you can just not bother and rank!

    I recently created a blog on a website but i did not link to it. 4 days later the blog is ranked and quite highly. Any ideas how this has happened?

  19. “There has been a lot of debate on this topic where clearly there are two stands. Some experts believe that including keywords in the URL does help whereas others believe that relevant content and a good back link profile should outdo the advantage that websites with exact match domain have.”

    This should not be a debate. It’s not an either or proposition. All the above are true. Good back link profile, relevant content, and exact match domain name are all important. Especially with one word searches. I see a large number of people put “AOL”, “Google”, “Microsoft” in the browser search bar instead of the browser url bar. So I think there is a strong indication that one word search phrases could be a destination, and not a search.

    Now this of course is not always true and there are many other factors. If you search for “anything”, you do not see anything.com or any other extension in the first page. If you search for “nothing”, you see two exact match domains in the top 5.

    But it is not a debate in my mind. Exact match domains are great, domains with keywords are good, and back link profile and relevant content are important.

    1. As you rightly said, content and user intent should be the most important. Based on this criteria the website that fits the bill perfectly should rank on Google

  20. Very good compilation. you really sum up everything nicely. Appreciate!

    It will be a reference for me till the next PANDA or Google update :)

  21. I think there’s no question that Google still overvalues exact-match domains, and that’s mostly what you’re seeing here.

    But the analysis you provided misses a fundamental point: a search for a keyword like “something” is extremely atypical relative to most informational/navigational queries, and doesn’t really signal a larger failing on the part of google’s algo. Consider a couple pieces of evidence:

    1) Google estimates there are 13.6 million monthly queries for “something”
    2) Something.com is the first result
    3) You / Compete estimate that something.com gets ~15,000 visits a month
    4 So… the #1 search result is getting a click through rate of 1/10th of 1 percent? When has that happened, ever?

    The situation we’re seeing is that users are likely typing “something” as a placeholder query. Maybe into a browser search box as a way to get to google.com. Or as a test query to make sure their internet is working. Who knows. What they’re NOT doing is trying to find information on the topic “something”… otherwise searchers would be more engaged with the search results, and something.com would be getting a TON more click throughs and traffic. The whole thing is compounded by the fact that many links pointing at something.com are unintentional–just placeholders webmasters inserted without thinking about the actual domain they were linking to.

    Basically, this is an edge case that would be hard to fix algorithmically. “Something” searchers aren’t interacting with search results normally, and webmasters aren’t linking to something.com normally. The signals Google pays attention to are all out of whack in this limited case. You might be able to document similarly weird behavior for searches and domains like test.com, example.com, placeholder.com, blahblahblah.com, asdfasdf.com, etc.

  22. Loved this. Not only for the obvious Google algorithm problem (which was surprising and somewhat amusing), but for a couple of other points. First, this really highlights some substantial differences between Google and Bing. Second, you did a great job of laying out the analysis process you went through for this domain, and trying to understand what’s happening.

  23. Hi Sajeet,

    First of all thanx for making it public about the recent updates. Yes its true that google has messed up. What google had actually tried was to reduce spam. But its just the opposite. Instead spam is on the 1st page. There are many cases like this already in digitalforums, webmasterworld and even in googles blogspot.

    I don’t know how google is going to come up with better results ? Also how can now a SEO try to overcome such situations when the search is messed up.

    What i feel is that when google pushed its algo many good sites got affected and many bad sites got ranked on 1st page. There is also cases like many sites din’t get affected. So its like MIX Results actually.
    The problem is that now how can one make it to the 1st page ? I think google has deliberately confused its algo so that seo’s won’t be able to rank better.

    Rankings have gone down becz i feel google has devalued many social bookmarking sites and database generate sites, by which automatically those sites who have submitted there links will be devalued.

    MATT says “even if you don’t do seo, then also its better” – This i really don’t understand. Doe’s it means if i don’t do seo for my website, still i can rank?

    Will google come with a new update where google really gives credit to better optimized sites. I really don’t know. Only time will tell about the Future of SEO now.

  24. I really love the way that you have analyzed the things to bring pile of information for the users to understand in detail, which is eye catching one from Google point of view. I would like to post a question to Sajeet, what about the panda updates given by Google on regular basis.

  25. Hi Sajeet,

    really a compelling blog post of you. It sheds some light on the Goolge algortihm from a complete different angle. I just have been very surprised about the composition of the backlinks in terms of origin. So many links from forums and blog comments show a spamming tendency in my opinion. But you made a good point at the end of your post that could give an explanation for this pattern.

    It is funny, however, that this site has not been downranked by the Penguin Update.

    Do you think , they should adjust the algorithm again to mitigate the radical changes in the SERPs? I have seen a lot of strange rankings after the update.

  26. What a nice observation man! Even I found this type of stuff in search result many times. For Google keywords in URLs and Title tags are most important factor, in many cases it comes auto generated search results. Errors has been occurred where is huge algorithm processing.

  27. Some interesteing points here. However, I’ve just searched for “something” and something.com is nowhere near the top in google SERPS. Not sure why…….

  28. Sanjeet, it appears your ‘concentrated power’ quote from Ron Reagan has never been more apt! lol

  29. Great study… so it all comes down to

    exact match domains
    age of domain name
    and many blog comments

    I have a age domain name, 13 years, I will admit that google does give some great advantages. having an age domain tells google that is authority domain and thats why its been on the internet for that long.

  30. A number of the posters are reasoning that because those navigating to “something” were largely not looking for this site the high ranking does not point at google algorithm failing. I think a few steps of logic are missed there. But more importantly, I sense that more insight could be gained by analyzing the interaction of the non existent tags and markers with the other non existent tags and markers. And those with the exact match name. In other words it seems possible all the rankings were boosted because all the others were unavailable for use. And i think this might point to how google loops back and rates based on its own assigned ratings.?

  31. Hi Sanjeet,

    Love the analysis and final result.

    Now that “something” has been dealt with, has anyone taken a look at “anything”? I just did — PR 3 (must be a good site based on that score, right?)

    By the Power of Sanjeet, I banish thee —