“Something” is Wrong with Google (since 2004)

SMS Text

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


I used Open Site Explorer to extract the data for back links.

As per the data, the website has a total of around 18647 backlinks pointing to it which includes around 970 root domains.

Page Rank wise data for the root domains is as follows –

Type of Link

I still remember those days when spammers used to make life of bloggers a living hell with their constant blog comment spamming.

Hell it became so popular that people started offering it as a service. I mean can you believe it? Anyways the point that I want to highlight here is that no follow tag was introduced to help webmasters to in a way control their link juice.

However with the advent of no follow tag also came the argument of whether no follow links help SEOs in any way or not. The SEO community was again divided into two parts where one side said that as long as links are coming from relevant websites it shouldn’t matter whether the link has a no follow tag or not and the other side stated that no follow links in simple words are not followed by search engine spiders and hence are of no use.

As far as the back link profile of this website is concerned, around 5,485 links out of 18,647 links have no follow tags. Did it help the website? Not sure if anyone can answer this question with utmost accuracy.

Error Pages –

According to Matt Cutts, showing a 404 message is one of the ways of telling Google to remove the respective pages from Google’s index. As per the data shown by open site explorer all the URLs for which external links have been built, except the home page, all others return a 404 error.

From an SEO perspective getting links built for pages that return a 404 error is not at all recommended. In my years of experience I have also noticed that whenever links are built for 404 pages they seem to have a negative impact on pages that return 200 ok as well.

However in case of our website, apparently the home page is unaffected despite the many links built for pages that return a 404 error.

Country Wise Distribution of Links

On analyzing the links from a GEO perspective, something just clicked me; I decided to check the result for the same keyword on Google.co.uk, Google.ca, Google.com.au and Google.de. Below are the ranking statistics for the keyword “Something” on these search engines –

As you can see, except for Germany, in all the other search engines the website is ranking at #1. Also, the website does not rank well in countries like Japan, Russia etc. These are the same geo locations from which there are no external links pointing to our website. A clear co relation between Geo Specific links and performance in Geo specific Local search engines.

Also the links can be broadly classified into three types –

  • Blog Comments
  • Forum Links
  • Others (content links, links from scraping websites etc)

As one can see, majority of the links are in the form of blog comments and forum links most of which are no follow links.

Anchor Text

Ok before you guys think that I have gone bonkers, please believe me when I say that I am perfectly fine. The Tag cloud that I have shown above consists of keywords that have been used as Anchor Text to point to our website. It is so obvious that except the home page URL none of the other anchor text makes any sense.

But wait, I thought anchor text plays an important role in helping the performance of the search terms? or does it?

Social Statistics

For http://www.something.com


For http://something.com

As per the data from SEOMOZ, it is pretty evident that the website (for some God Forsaken reason) has been performing well on the social front as well.

Some Interesting Links

Google has always been very clear about links from link farms i.e. in simple words they hate it. Somehow the website always got exempted from this. For example consider the link

If there was ever a link farm, this has to be by far the best and the easiest link farm to detect. On examining the source code you will realize that the page has only links and nothing else.

Number of Pages Indexed and Doorway Pages –

It is a well-known fact that the number of pages indexed by Google is also a crucial factor in helping the performance of any SEO campaign. When you look at the home page it is evident that there is absolutely no content or links on the page however on checking the site: for the website the results were pretty surprising –

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

I took the courage to actually go and have a look at these webpages, I have provided snapshots below to some of the pages –

Crazy freaking pictures aren’t they? Nevertheless apart from the images what caught my attention was the fact that these pages had no links or if at all they had links they were pointing to third party websites.

Hmmm now what do we call such pages? I am sure that such pages are called Doorway pages, but wait aren’t doorway pages bad from an SEO perspective?

On another note – On checking the internet archives, back to the year 2000, something.com was actually an internet service provider  and their new website is http://westnet.com/.  Being an ISP might explain why there are images hosted with no links from the main page. The whois entry shows that it was created in 1995 and expires in 2015, so this site has a lot of domain age to it. But then again why would Google not filter this website out, just because it has domain age does not mean that it should rank.

Traffic Stats –

Of course I do not have the GA access to the website, in fact the website does not have Google Analytics tracking code, but still we can get some insights from Compete.com –

As per Rand Fishkin’s latest post one should not rely on traffic statistics by Compete.com, unfortunately for us we have no other data to work with.

Ill assume that the reported traffic is 30% of the actual traffic, hence in that way the website actually receives on an average at least 15,000 unique visitors.

Now that’s just bad, imagine the user’s plight when they actually visit the first page that is ranking on Google to be an empty page.

Now for the Ultimate Test – Google v/s Yahoo v/s Bing –

I wanted to see the performance of Google’s arch rivals Bing and Yahoo and below are the snapshots of the results –

If you ask me for a feedback I would surely rate Bings results above Yahoo and Google.

In Bing the first result is Wikipedia and second is Dictionary. These search results make a lot more sense for a highly generic keyword like “something”.

What Next?

As I stated above I am not running an Anti-Google campaign nor am I preaching Black Hat SEO techniques. It’s the global picture that I am trying to highlight. Despite so many things going wrong for the website, it’s just not possible that everything is wrong. There are certain lessons that one can learn from this or at least I surely did.

  • Exact Match Domain Name Matters

One cannot be oblivious to the fact that one of the main reasons the domain had an edge over other domains was the presence of the exact match keyword in the URL

  • Number of Pages Indexed Matters

As and when more pages get added to the search engine index, it’s a signal that fresh content is added to the website on a regular basis and hence beneficial from an SEO perspective

  • Geo is Very Much Important

In order to perform well in local search engines it is important to get localized links and should always be preferred over non localized links.

  • Social Matters a Lot

I am probably the trillionth person on this planet to state this but yes Social presence Matters

  • Text to Code Ratio

Now this inference was not drawn from the ranking result above but something that I have noticed over the years. IpullRank wrote a brilliant post on how search engine spiders can actually see flash content and can also crawl through JavaScript content. The bottom line of his post was that “Google and other search engines are SUPER INTELLIGENT”

All that is great but logically speaking search engine spiders will prefer to crawl pure text or more of textual content over JavaScript or Flash. Again I am not trying to argue or point fingers at anyone but am only putting forth my opinion.

  • Anchor Text Relevancy

Although Anchor Text is an important factor, as long as we are getting links from relevant websites, search engines are becoming smart enough to pass on the SEO value.

On a lighter note – I am not sure how many of you noticed but I consciously avoided writing the domain name throughout the post and there is a genuine reason for it. While analyzing the links I realized one common user behavior pattern of the internet users. So many times it has happened that while writing a comment for a blog post or a forum, the URL field has to be filled as it is a compulsory field. I asked myself if I am filling this field and if I don’t have a website what will I write and immediately the answer was somethingdotcom. I would like to highlight that at least 40% of backlinks for this website showed this tendency.

Lastly, many of you must be wondering how did I stumble upon the year 2004 or why did I include it in the title in the first place. While analyzing the backlink profile, I stumbled upon http://www.dslreports.com/forum/r9483427-Something.com

So I said to myself, if this link has been there since 2004 then obviously the website must be in existence since 2004 and probably even ranking. Funny isn’t it? Also if you ever decide to analyze the back link profile you will find lot of blog comments where people have actually stated that they have absolutely no clue why the website is ranking.

Hope this post was useful and could provide you with some insights. Would love to hear your thoughts.


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... Read Full Bio
Sajeet Nair
Sajeet Nair
Sajeet Nair

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  • 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?

  • Dave

    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.

    • 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?

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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 🙂

  • 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.

  • Thank God for exact match domains. They are the source of my power. Without them I am lost.

    • They are important but not the only thing. Hopefully one day great content will be given preference over stale content on exact match domains

  • “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.

    • 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 😛

  • Kevin Gamache

    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.

    • 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 😛

  • Mind = Blown

    Nice job, although it raises a pile of questions!

    Oy Vay!

  • Congrats you just figured out Google over values exact match domains. Slow hand clap…..

  • 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.

  • 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.

    • 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.

      • It makes me feel even worst 🙁

  • 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

  • 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!

  • 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.

  • Thomas

    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.

  • 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!

  • 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)…

  • 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!!!

  • Sajeet,
    Really Interesting post.

  • 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…


  • Google really got crazy, i’m starting to use Bing, their results are more relevant.

  • 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?

  • “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.

    • 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

  • Shahzad Hassan

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

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

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • if a site like that can rank first, maybe it is the expression of the “perfection” of the Google algorithm

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Allen Webstar

    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.

  • Paul mcgarrity

    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…….

  • Is it just me or that website is nowhere to be found on Google now?

    Are you reading this awesome blog Google?

    • It´s correct. The website is gone! Thanks to Sajeet 😉

  • WHOA, now that’s what i would call AWESOME 🙂

  • All the pages have also been removed from the Index, this seems like a manual intervention by Google.

  • Paul mcGarrity

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

  • Nice article, I checked out the search term and it seems to have been removed.

  • Its gone now… Maybe its SEJ impact…

  • 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.

  • Sajeet Nair, I feel that your detailed compilation of the article made it happen, congrats for it.

  • Philip Inman

    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.?

  • 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 —