Does Google Hate Search Engine Optimization?
Jill Whalen updated an article she wrote that she wrote on search engine optimization a few years ago and included it in her latest HighRankings newsletter. The article is called The Art of SEO. Overall, it’s a great read and I agree with a lot of what Jill is professing, but there was one statement that Jill makes that tripped me up and threw some clouds into an otherwise totally sunny SoCal day.
In the article, Jill concludes that Google doesn’t like search engine optimization and that Matt and his crew are actually on the hunt for sites with the "telltale signs of SEO" in order to "downgrade" or "zap" them out of the index.
Let me ask you, do you think Google hates search engine optimization and is just tolerating us SEO-types?
I’d really like to think not. I’d like to think that Google (and Yahoo and Microsoft and Ask) think of SEOs as having the same goals in mind that they do. Everyone wants to highlight quality, authoritative sites. They want to reward sites that are benefiting users and help make the search results more relevant. What in that is worthy of being hated?
I’m used to hearing people like Jason Calacanis go into tirades about how all SEOs do is muddy up the results for the average searcher. That we somehow make the results less relevant by applying all that magic and fancy stuff to Web sites in order to trick the engines into ranking them higher. But that’s not what we do.
This quote from Jill caught me off guard.
"If you think that having your keyword phrases "in all the right places for SEO" is a good thing, think again! You’re essentially telling Google, "Hey look…my site has been SEO’d!" To which they reply, "Thanks so much for letting us know… ZAP … see ya later!" Doesn’t matter if your site is the most relevant (in your mind) to the search query. Doesn’t matter that you’ve placed your keyword phrases strategically throughout the site. That’s actually the thing that may become your downfall."
Jill has far more experience and knowledge in SEO than I do, but I just don’t see how that could be true. If search engine optimization is about creating better sites, sites that are able to effectively communicate what they’re about, then why would Google be against that? Surely, they’re against spamming and keyword stuffing and trying to make a pig look like an eagle, but that’s not what search engine optimization is.
I also feel like if Google hated SEO, we’d know it. Google isn’t just tolerating SEOs; they’re going out of their way to help them and give them access to more information. We’ll always want more information and more data and more transparency, but if you look at what they’ve given us over the years, it’s pretty impressive.
We have great Webmaster tools; we have people like Matt Cutts blogging and dispelling rumors and answering questions; we have official Google blogs to help educate users and webmasters; there are APIs, written guidelines, representatives showing up at search conferences, etc. I don’t think this is a company trying to placate us or appear accepting when they’re not. If Matt Cutts didn’t care about SEOs, he wouldn’t have showed up to the Are Paid Links Evil session and taken the lashing that he did. And you can be damn sure that he went back to Google and shared what he learned with the powers that be there. If Google hates optimization then they’re doing a lousy job of showing it. If they’re downgrading sites that have been optimized, then they’re missing each and every one of our clients. I don’t think Google is that dumb.
Google doesn’t hate search engine optimization. SEOs are making them money. It’s not just organic campaigns search marketers are running, they’re also running paid search campaigns. Campaigns that utilize programs like AdWords, Yahoo! Search Marketing, adCenter and the like.
Or maybe I’m wrong and Google does hate SEO. After all, they seem to hate just about everything else.