Bob Sakayama : Diagnostic SEO

Bob is the person responsible for the super high ranks on this and many other websites. TNG/Earthling, Inc. is his playground, a technically robust search consultancy based in NYC. Bob is the CEO.

By: Tangela Marquis


Websites get into difficulty when vital functions fail. Fortunately the large majority of those failures have a technical explanation, and someone can fix it. Most of the time. But if a failure remains a mystery for any length of time, the situation can quickly deteriorate into an existential risk.

The nature of that risk includes every part of the enterprise but technology is where the bulk of the attention is focused - on the potential for failure and conflicts among hardware, software, data, and other infrastructure. All of these are controlled by trained experts who have deep and highly specialized knowledge regarding all the critical elements and how they need to interact. There are manuals and courses you can take to learn these skills because the useful knowledge is published, accessible and standardized as curriculum. The experts get certified and licensed.

When a failure occurs the trained experts engage because they are the first line of defense. They're the ones who keep most of the disasters at bay.

Unless they can't. There are some failures that are beyond the purview of the traditionally trained experts. This may be because of rare interaction failures among devices, software, browsers, etc. that have not yet made the journals. Each piece may be working when separately tested, but something in the aggregate throws a failure. Or, as in the case of Google's search results, it may be a problem that the traditional experts are not taught in school and for which there is no manual because the real facts are kept secret. This has always been the case with what enables a website to hold ranks. Add to that: the rules are constantly changing as Google updates its algorithm. When the failure lies with a site's Google ranks, the existential risk is the absence of traffic. And while there are a lot of SEOs who claim knowledge on this front, no expert is legitimately certified to handle this problem.

But you might want to talk to Bob Sakayama. "There are so many ways to get harmed by the search results. You may not be able to distinguish between bad ranks due to weak optimization, and ranks hit with a penalty. You could have inadvertently messed up some compliance attribute, or an error in your implementation might have prevented Google from indexing your site. Or you did a terrible job of optimizing. Or you hired an SEO." According to Bob, the vast majority of the penalties and rank issues he discovers are related to an effort to push rank, and triggered by the work of an SEO.

Although he is very protective of his clients and will not provide any details he did tell me about a couple of very recent projects as examples of the kind of work he does. He mentions a very old site that used to dominate the market in the niche in which they operate, but over a long period of time - 10+ years - their ranks collapsed. All their recovery efforts failed and actually made things worse.

This was a client of an SEO agency that was Bob's client. The fact that his clients include SEO agencies, and that they bring their troubles to Bob is indicative of his standing within the community. The agency had diagnosed a Google penalty, but Bob did not find evidence of one. After addressing a number of compliance issues, the site rebounded briefly before settling back into a continuing downtrend.

Doing a very simple test, running searches on snippets of content taken directly from the site, Bob discovered that the site did not hold content authority for its own content. Every site should rank #1 or very close to that for snippet searches of its own content.  Instead, a directory was ranking above the main business site for all snippet searches because it basically carried a copy of the site, and that copy now held the content authority. The directory website was now being recognized by Google as the owner of the content. And this was a directory service the business was paying for! Bob suspects that at some time in the past, the main site suffered a very long down time - where the site was not live for many months or longer. During this time, the directory, now the only site with this content, became recognized as if the creator of it, and the content authority was passed to it. Much later, when the site came back online, Google, not knowing it was the actual creator of the content, treated it as if it had copied its content from the directory. Under Bob's instructions, the site owner had the directory take down the content, and remove from Google their indexed urls. Shortly afterward, the content authority came back to the site - where it belonged. We don't yet know if this is the only issue because this case is still active. We'll report an update as we learn more.

An other example of Bob's very recent work involves an investor who wanted a risk assessment before buying a business. When evaluating risk for venture firms, he is not looking at the financials, or the business model, or the growth potential. He's looking for evidence that the site's current or previous owners have created a vulnerability that might trigger a future rank event in the form of a penalty or traffic loss. What Bob is really looking at is the efforts by current management to advance ranks and traffic, because this is often where the trouble lies. Bob is a recognized penalty expert, having unwound hundreds of them over the years, and this highly specialized skill set is the foundation of search risk analysis. In the specific case being discussed, he found hundreds of links from other owned sites, obviously posted to push rank, but clearly causing harm. The owners of the site had given over management of SEO and ad marketing to incompetents who were destroying the ability of the site to perform in the search - all sales were coming from affiliates. And there was clear evidence that the site was being artificially pushed just as the business was looking for buyers. Bob told me that a venture firm would have walked away based on this last fact alone. The business was profitable in spite of the SEO failures and the potential buyers saw an opportunity in a successful recovery. Again this case is still active and we can't yet report on what transpired.

Most SEOs devote their time attempting to manipulating the search results of a client's website. Examining the risks created by their work is one of the critical and highly specialized services offered by Bob Sakayama.