SEO and Sub-domains

The impact of sub-domains and SEO took an interesting turn in recent weeks with coverage in the Wall Street Journal about how HubPages has had a material improvement in their organic rankings by leveraging a sub-domain strategy. Of course, they had been hit hard by the Panda search algorithm update, so any sign of improvement must have been welcome news to them and their shareholders.
It has been interesting to read some of the comments and thoughts of those in the SEO space about what this means, but I think that Aaron Wall of SEO Book wrote is probably the most accurate: we will soon see millions of people pour into sub-domains as a way to get ahead of Google (Read: Google Says "Let a TRILLION Subdomains Bloom").
But we believe the reality is that Google hasn't changed their position: sub-domains are still treated as separate websites, each being able to rank independently with good or bad content. Ian Lurie over at Conversation Marketing has described this well...

Panda considers the quality of all content on a subdomain when making ranking decisions. If you’re, say, HubPages, and 50% of the content on is basically brain snot, that hurts the ability of every page on your site to rank. So the other 50% of content—the arguably decent stuff—gets zapped out of the rankings. The bad content becomes an anchor, dragging everything down.
That’s why subdomains helped HubPages. They used subdomains to separate the crappy stuff from the good stuff: versus I made those up, by the way. But you get the idea. With subdomains, HubPages was able to move the bad content ‘anchor’ to a whole other site. That helped the good stuff move back up, because Google doesn’t let subdomains directly pass ranking factors back-and-forth.

This is not a change

What HubPages describes is exactly how Google has always treated subdomains. It’s not a change in their algorithm. It’s why I’ve always said putting your blog on a subdomain is a bad idea: Subdomain authority and relevance doesn’t directly transfer to other subdomains.
Apparently, the same holds true for quality.

What it comes down to is that you have to have good content on your website. Will the other factors like having the exact match concept influence your ranking? We believe so... but not if your website has nothing original or relevant on it to attract Google's eyes in the meantime.

What does "beta" really mean?

Earlier this month, we had an opportunity to pitch at the Test Track event for TRAFFIC Vancouver. This was our first public 'hello world' as we start down a process that is sure to be a wild ride. As part of this, we built a website for our brand and slapped up a "Beta" next to the logo, after all... we were truly in Beta.
This gave us a chance to reminisce to four years ago when a few of our principles were involved in another startup and we labeled the initial release as"First Draft", arguing that "Beta" in the world of Web 2.0 software often implied a product that was, "entirely workable, defect free, and a good option for all that ails them."
Here is an excerpt from the blog post that was writte for that launch, as come to  think of it, a lot of what we have done so far definitely falls into the whole concept of "first draft" as well.

Unfortunately, people (thanks in large part to Google and the whole Web 2.0 phenomenon/bubble) expect that when you see Beta next to a product, it is entirely workable, defect free, and a good option for all that ails them. Heck, even Microsoft is charging for their Beta.
Our justification for naming is just this. Think back to writing those college/university papers when you first put all your thoughts down on paper. Sometimes you get it right the very first time and your prose are perfect, and with a few edits here and there … whammo – you submit an A+ paper. But the reality for most of us isn’t like that. You put your first draft together with an underlying genesis of an idea at the core, cobbled together with bits and pieces of stories you read, the odd plagiarized copy here and there [legal note: this is a reference to using Google's API, not an Apple/Creative thing], and paragraphs that sound good, but you know they are not in the final order. If it is a thesis, you may even have a committee who reviews your first draft and offers you feedback on how to improve, change, modify, etc. You may even get steered down an entirely different path by the feedback you receive. And that is why it is Calgoo First Draft.
And like the term paper, we gave ourselves a deadline. Otherwise, products are never released, and they will never be more than 90% done. So if you want to label it, you can call it version 1.0 if you must. But we ask this of you, don’t grade us yet. This is just the beginning.

So like then as is now... this is just the beginning.