Las Cruces

So, the Las Cruces question today relates to whether Google’s “SERPs”, or Search Engine Results Pages, give good quality results for the Query “Las Cruces”.    This post is also part of the nmohwy SEO experiment.    To determine this we’ll take the top page of results and look at each one of them.   In SEO terms this is called “scraping” a page and is usually considered bad form and even illegal in some circumstances if you do it over a large number of pages to create a new website, but in this case the scraping action has good legitimate use, especially because it’ll help me determine the most appropriate content for the Las Cruces web page at   “Most appropriate content” has become a very interesting concept as Google’s search dominance continues.   Without a high Google ranking it is very hard to get much traffic to a website so “pleasing Google” has become almost a necessary condition for the online success of a website.    Yet as Peter Norvig, head of Google search recently noted at a conference there is a huge give and take going on between Google and SEOs that is reshaping the Google results and therefore reshaping the web.   This was an inevitability of Google dominance but I think it’s a very undesirable outcome that is devaluing many of the things the web once valued highly (especially some type of very functional linking relationships that are now seen as “spamming”).

That said, it appears  Google has done a very good job for the query “Las Cruces” with one glaring exception among the top 10 sites.   I’ll discuss each below:

City of Las Cruces – Home

Home page for the beautiful city of Las Cruces, New Mexico, Rated as the best place to retire. – 35k – CachedSimilar pages 
This, Las Cruces’ official city page, makes sense as the top choice for the query “Las Cruces”.   With a simple query of the form  “city”, it’s not clear if somebody wants Las Cruces Travel Info, City info, news, real estate, etc.   However with most city queries I have reviewed Google tends to go with the official city page first, then the official visitor page second or third.   This is intuitively consistent with what I’d think a user would want from that simple query.

Las Cruces, New Mexico Convention & Visitors Bureau

Official Web Site of the Las Cruces Convention & Visitors Bureau. – 68k – CachedSimilar pages
As noted before this is a logical second page – Visitor Bureaus are usually key point of visitor contact  (smaller cities generally don’t have this function or have it wrapped up as part of the Chamber of Commerce)

Greater Las Cruces Chamber of Commerce Home Page

The chamber of commerce is a not-for-profit organization and is owned and operated by local business leaders who work to promote business growth in the – 25k – CachedSimilar pages
Again, a logical third choice for Las Cruces NM.     Chambers offer businesses in the region and also will have much visitor and relocation information.

Las Cruces, New Mexico – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Las Cruces is a city in Doña Ana County, New Mexico, United States. As of the 2000 census, the city had a total population of 74267.,_New_Mexico – 89k – CachedSimilar pages
Google *loves* Wikipedia.   This is partly for good reason as Wikipedia often has excellent features for many cites as well as millions of other topics.   Recently a university study of Britannica and Wikipedia concluded that the errors in each of these online resources were roughly equivalent, suggesting that Wikipedia, with it’s much greateer number of articles, is actually a more authoritative resource than Britannica.

Las Cruces Sun-News – HOME

Daily news, opinion, sports, arts, entertainment, lifestyle and classifieds. – 105k – CachedSimilar pages

Local Las Cruces news also appears to be an excellent site to rank highly.

Las Cruces NM New Mexico

Las Cruces New Mexico Travel, Restaurants, History, and Relocation. – 24k – CachedSimilar pages

Las Cruces, New Mexico (NM) Detailed Profile – relocation, real

Recent posts about Las Cruces, New Mexico on our local forum with over 100000 registered users. Las Cruces is mentioned 1128 times on our forum: – 120k – CachedSimilar pages

City Data is a good site that has created a huge mashup of many public domain data source, images they collect from users, and has a fairly large user forum.  This is their key Las Cruces page and probably a good choice though there are many resources that offer similar information, though I think City Data does a good job of pulling them all together in an unattractive but very usable form. 

New Mexico State University

Located in Las Cruces, New Mexico. – 18k – CachedSimilar pages

This result should probably appear higher because Universities are a key part of the community and also a key search destination for many.  However NM State Las Cruces appears to have failed to do (any?) SEO work with the site to let Google know wazzup, thus Google winds up placing them lower than otherwise.

WEBLIFEPRO.COM – 1k – CachedSimilar pages

This is the only clearly bogus result.   The page is down so this must have been some sort of marketing effort gone bad, perhaps due to manipulative SEO practices.

Las Cruces Public School District

Las Cruces, New Mexico’s Public School District. Calendars of events, board policies. Information on schools, employment, district news, assessment, – 45k – CachedSimilar pages

This at first appears to be a questionable result for the first page though it could be a result of huge incoming links from kid related sites.  People looking for an elementary school would tend to use “school” in the query.  I suppose this criticism could also apply to the University listing.   Perhaps the demographic for “Las Cruces” searchers has a good variety of ages including young kids,, making this a reasonable result.

So, it appears that for the query “Las Cruces” Google has done a good job of rounding up relevant sources of information.    Google’s strength is working with highly targeted queries so we’ll try that next for Las Cruces New Mexico related stuff.

Las Cruces New Mexico

No, I’m not in Las Cruces NM right now, but I’m blogging about Las Cruces NM as part of the online NMOHWY experiment in white hat SEO for our travel related websites.

As part of that experiment, which I’ll explain later, I want to tell you more about Las Cruces and provide some links for better information than I can provide here but will eventually have at our New Mexico Travel website which is under major rennovation.

The area now occupied by the city of Las Cruces was part of Mexico until Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo which included a conversion of the Mexican city of Doña Ana to the US city now called “Las Cruces”. The origin of the name is not clear but may refer to crosses in the area placed by Spanish priests.

Las Cruces has a population of about 78,000. Most air travel to and from the region is from the El Paso International Airport about an hour south of Las Cruces in Texas. Las Cruces is in the far south part of New Mexico.

And in what is almost certainly not a coincidence I have a strong personal connection to Las Cruces even though I’ve never been there.    My aunt, uncle, and cousin lived there on a ranch for many years.

The city of Las Cruces website is here
The Visitor Tourism website for Las Cruces is here

Some day the world’s best web page for Las Cruces New Mexico searches will be at the website here.

Google Sitemaps. My good news and my bad news.

Elite SEO Dave Naylor was complaining a bit about Google Sitemaps and I've also been unconvinced that sitemaps really does help straighten out ranking confusion.   According to Google Sitemaps my old-and-in-need-of-great-repair Airport Directory has some incredibly impressive sitemaps stats  (e.g.  Sitemaps says I'm number ONE for term "hotels")

Term   |   Rank 

  1. hotels in new york   1
  2. airport codes   1
  3. ord   1
  4. washington dc   1
  5. international airports   1
  6. hotels   1
  7. ord ohare   1
  8. chicago   1
  9. houston airport   1
10. airport city codes   1
11. airport maps   1
12. charlotte nc airport   1
13. john wayne airport   1
14. orlando   1
15. las   1
16. airline codes   1
17. city codes   1
18. major airports   1
19. salt lake city airport parking   1

Unfortunately does not  rank for any of these terms.  In fact I'm under some form of downranking that means I get little Google traffic at all despite the fact I'm one of the most linked to Airport sites on the web. 

I've seen this type of bizarre sitemaps stat for some time so I'm not sure what's going on, though I do have some framed content and this could reflect the rank of sites appearing in the frames.

The good news is that my experiment has been languishing but it may be because I failed to load the sitemap when I moved to new server over a month ago.   I just loaded it now so hopefully my new pages at will get indexed soon rather than Google showing the old supplemental pages, using old cache dates of June 2005 and similar.

Google v Kinderstart Lawsuit over downranking

Eric Goldman offers his summary of the Google v. Kinderstart lawsuit, and I think he speaks for many online people in his aversion to government regulation of search. However, I'm not as persuaded as he by the Google arguments, which ring increasingly hollow given the complexities of the ranking process and the onslaught of spam, which seriously inhibits the ability of search engines to rank sites optimally for users.

Our Online Highways site suffered a similar fate to Kinderstart in February 2005 when Google traffic dried up almost overnight. As one of the most comprehensive travel sites online it is still not clear why the site was downranked. Google has assured us we have "no penalties" and only have changed from algorithmic ranking issues. Our pages are still in the Google index yet Google users are unlikely to find us despite the fact we have arguably the best treatment of several travel topics. Note which was developed by the Silk Road region's top travel guide publisher.

Frankly I'm surprised how sympathetic Goldman is to the notion that the cornerstone issue here is Google's right to do pretty much whatever they please regardless of the consequences. I'm guessing he was hardly this generous with Microsoft's attempts to monopolize search using the browser.

The "hands off of search" is a slippery slope, especially when granted to companies that make 97% of their revenues from advertising. I strongly contend that there are solutions that help users and enhance Google's long term prospects which some feel are in great jeopardy due to ranking capriciousness.

The solution is to create MUCH better feedback mechanisms for webmasters and companies that suffer from ranking irregularities. Google's actually started such a process though I think it's only addressing a small percentage of the growing number of legitimate concerns about ranking changes. Experiment update

For the story so far click HERE

Interesting… shows only 142 out of about 3000 pages, but NONE appear to be supplemental anymore. So after time and/or a few sitemap submissions the supps plus most pages seemed to be deleted from the Google index in favor of the 142 pages now showing. This happened over the past few days though it seemed that the supps were slowly disappearing over the last month or so.

This activity seems to have had NO effect on the low Google referrers which total only about 25 for the first few days of May vs 252 from Yahoo.

So…Experiment has so far failed to resurrect Google’s faith in these pages which used to get great traffic with pretty much identical content (though inferior link structure and they looked better organized before – these are just thrown together with the old data).

This leads me to think that perhaps OHWY’s good fortune in the past came in part from the many interlinked state domains. Although this practice would seem legitimate and normal, many have noted problems from this and/or sharing C block IPs as these state sites did.

WebmasterWorld Boston Site Reviews, part Deux

More site reviews from WMW Boston, continued from HERE


27 years teaching Tai Chi and other personal enrichment technniques. Want to rank better for terms like Tai Chi since they are a key resource.

Tim: Not clear from site what you actually do at the institute. Write more about your key focus which helps both people and SEs figure out the site. Put "Yoga" and "Tai chi" keywords on home pages!

Bruce: Look at competitors Static pages with more decriptions would be better. Send more NON volatile content to home page. [By Non Volatile he means less flash, dynamic, changing material which can confuse the indexing process]

Matt: A good site map is important. If you use java mouseover navigation FIND ANOTHER WAY.

"Treat Search Engines as dumb little kids with short attention spans"
(do a separate post on this concept which is important)

Change your huge URLs to more intuitive reading like /carol-anderson/. Weird or long URLs can fool the search engine and you have a lot of them.

Thomas: List of workshops is WAY too long – cut it up into sections with better categories which will spider better. (Matt nodded that this was a good idea).

Jake: All Title tags in the site appear to be the same! Bad.

7. [this is one of the largest shopping portals]. They appear to be having big ranking problems though they have a huge number of indexed pages. He said 80% of their server load is from SE crawling(!).

Matt: Mouseover problems? Always use DASHES as separators rather than underscores. Underscores will be treated as connecting the two words.

Jake: Load balancing at the servers can lead to duplicate content filtering.

[ said they had som latency (slow loading page) issues. Matt indicated this is UNlikely to cause problems with Google but might with MSN.

Users have complained about empty pages – get rid of them.
Use more user friendly URLs – more for users than for Search engines.

8. Now in top 60 for most terms but can't rank for "embroidery".

Tim: More descriptive anchor text needed.

Matt: 3 parameter URLs are not good. DO NOT use ID=. Best to use NO parameters but keep to 1-2 if you must do it. Stop using nofollows on (internal?) links. These prevent the SE from following internal navigation and beefing up the site.
Think about attracting attention to the site to get more inbound links.

Bruce: Descriptions are NOT unique and that is bad.

9. "We syndicate content. Site Tips wanted. Comics are top read at the site. They send out joke of the day. 30-40 subscribers per week from home page and position of subscription box on home page does NOT appear to affect this. 40-50% leave home page without going in to site.

Matt: I see irrelevant ads and a toolbar download that might scare people. Focus on other things like jokes and cartoons.

Tim: Leverage RSS power. Need content surfacing [more readily available?] Make more specific calls to action.

v7ndotcom elursrebmem rears it’s ugly alien head at the house of Cutts

Over at Matt's blog we be talking about the V7ndotcom elursrebmem contest. I'm reproducing here because I think it's an interesting dialog about what constitutes spam and about the vagueness of the Google guidelines, AND it's an opportunity to link to my Alien Astronaut evidence for the existence of V7ndotcom elursrebmem

  1. Michael Martinez Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 8:45 am

    I think Matt is manually reviewing every listing for v7ndotcom elursrebmem to make sure he knows who all the spammers are.

    After all, v7ndotcom elursrebmem is a “Come and get it!” call to spammers. Why not take advantage of their audacity and track them down, one by one.

    Maybe John Scott is on Google’s payroll, serving as an industrial spy, enticing the black hats to come out with the v7ndotcom elursrebmem contest so that Google can finally track them all down and nuke them.

    Frankly, I’m not entirely sure we can trust Matt to be our advocate at Google any longer. He may actually be putting their interests first, since he is a stockholder.

  2. Joseph Hunkins Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 9:08 am

    Michael the V7Ndotcom elursrebmem contest is NOT a call only to spammers – it’s a reasonable and fascinating experimental approach to figuring out how ranking works. I’m restraining myself from saying how PISSED OFF I get when people suggest that simply trying to figure out Google’s definition of “relevancy” is the province of cheats and liars which it’s NOT. I have huge respect for Matt and his spam team, and for the fact they must deal with a lot of crap, but I’m not going to ignore information about ranking or not run any experiments. I’m think Matt would agree that ranking experiments that stay within the Google webmaster guidelines are a reasonable use of electrons. V7N as a *concept* is within the guidelines though I’m sure some people are using spammy methods to rank.

  3. Ryan Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 10:23 am

    within the guidelines?
    what about guideline number 3:

    Create a useful, information-rich site, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.

    how is a page that ranks for a nonsense term useful or information rich?

    Doesn’t information have to involve real words?

  4. Michael Martinez Said,

    April 5, 2006 @ 8:13 pm

    ” I’m restraining myself from saying how PISSED OFF I get when people suggest that simply trying to figure out Google’s definition of “relevancy” is the province of cheats and liars which it’s NOT.”

    Then you have no reason to be pissed off at me. I wonder how you feel about people putting words into other people’s mouths, though, and deliberately misrepresenting and misconstruing what those other people say.

    Nonetheless, the v7ndotcom contest reveals nothing about relevancy, and is little more than a call to spammers to have some fun and earn some money. Legitimate people may have gotten involved in it, but that doesn’t change the fact that the results have been spammed to death (with 6 milllion+ raw hits).

    A much more reliable SEO contest would not use the cattle call approach. It would require independent judging by panels and evaluation of live projects (with full non-disclosure agreements to ensure contestants’ contracts were not violated or compromised).

  5. Joseph Hunkins Said,

    April 11, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    Michael –

    1. I apologize. I didn’t mean YOU piss me off, rather the idea in general, but it did look attack-like from my response and that was bad by me.

    2. I also agree with you that V7dotcom is probably inferior to the type of study you suggest. Interesting though that the V7 listings do appear to be propagating much like “normal” ones. Google prefers to avoid manual intervention and I’m guessing they’ll avoid it here as well.

    Ryan – Maybe I’m splitting hairs a bit but you are doing what people should NOT do and that’s starting to accept Google’s most restrictive interpretation of their rules as the “correct” one. In the traditions of early Google I say they/we should use less restrictive interpretations of the guidelines. But even with restrictive use I’d say that the V7 contest does meet the criteria you cite above as follows:

    Useful – V7 sites are useful to many both as experiments and as a big SEO news item.

    Info rich – look at all the listings! Most have LOTS of relevant, real information about the contest. Those that do not don’t rank well. hmmmmmm

    Accurately describe your content: Again, most do this while those like the “hotel” site (hi DaveN) create a fiction and make it clear it’s a fiction.

    The more I watch the contest the more convinced I am it’s fun, educational, and legitimate. I wish Matt would weigh in but I think he can’t cuz it’s an “Algorithmic item”.

Oh yes – here is the V7ndotcom elursrebmem Alien Astronaut evidence experiment continues…

Interestingly, Google stopped the rapid re-indexing of even though they have recently downloaded the sitemap. What's odd is that the immediate effect of breaking off this domain and setting it up separately with non duplicate (but similar) information was that the NEW pages were indexed with NEW cache dates. No effect on traffic.

NOW the pages at show OLD cache dates (often Feb 5, 2005) and have been relegated to supplemental index except for Home page. The key event in this experiment will be the reindexing of the "new" pages which look very much like they did years ago before Google started hating these pages.

Were the problems getting properly indexed and ranked from GOOGLE changing it's opinion about our site or from SITE errors WE made as we improved things?

Even after a year of conferences, emails from Google and others, hundreds of questions, site reviews (even one by Google at Las Vegas PubCon!), and many changes made we don't know the answer to this simple question, though I think duplicate content filtering is be the most likely category for our problem.

Sitemap submission for

Using the excellent free online sitemap generator HERE I created and have uploaded and verified a sitemap for the approx 3000 pages at   I’ve noticed that using currently yields almost all supplemental pages with VERY old Cache dates – usually Feb 2005.

Now and I’m trying to get Google to revisit the site.

Interestingly about 3 weeks ago when I uploaded pages that had the old names and data in a simpler database format Google pulled in the new pages and indexed them very quickly and did NOT seem to put them in Supplemental Index.   Now they are using OLD page with OLD cache dates.
The overall idea is to take the OLD pages from the time Google liked us, strip out links that are no longer relevant and other extraneous stuff, reformat some of the text in the hopes of avoiding duplicate content problems, and see if we can regain traffic for this domain and figure out why Google seems to hate the site after loving it for so many years.

The Experiment

…. and so another chapter in the saga begins….sort of….my ambitious – some would say reckless and foolhardy – attempt to regain the good graces of Google search for a part of what was once one of Google’s favorite travel websites –

This chapter began a few weeks ago when I resurrected which for about 8 months has been 301 redirected to   The redirection was thanks to recommendations by Google support, Google Engineers, and a major SEO firm.    So why defy all that brilliant conventional wisdom?   

Because things still aren’t working.   So I’m taking the blogged advice of Matt Cutts and “experimenting”

The basic story is that our major travel site – or “Online Highways”, was downranked by Google on February 2 of 2005.   The drop in traffic was severe – about half gone, and we had to lay off people and restructure the company.   On February 1 we had about 50,000 visits from Google searches and on February 3 we were down to about 5,000 which fell over the next few months to about 500.

The site had been growing for years and we’d set up domains like which were specifically targeted to states – in this case New Mexico.   After the drop we were advised that consolidating the 12 or so domains into our “mother ship” of was advisable and we did it.