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June 26, 2007

Search Engine Optimization Is Not Google Optimization

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LED Digest Moderator John Audette asks: Has Internet marketing been reduced to optimizing for Google searches?

Has it? Yes.
Should it? The total and complete opposite of yes.

Props to John for highlighting two of the major problems in search engine optimization with one succinct little question. The problems?

  1. Site owners are focusing their optimization efforts around ranking higher, not creating better sites.
  2. "Ranking" has been redefined as "ranking in Google". Who cares about Yahoo or those smaller niche engines?

If this is what your optimization campaign consists of you should hire a new SEO and kick your old one in the back of the knees on his way out. He deserves it.

Search engine optimization is not just about rankings. I know, I know, blasphemy, but it wasn’t just about rankings five years ago and it certainly isn’t all about rankings in today’s world of blended and personalized search. If that were the case, SEOs would be super excited about personalization. Most aren’t.

As my second favorite Bruceism tell us: "It is not the job of search engine optimization to make a pig fly. It is the job of the SEO to genetically reengineer the Web site so that it becomes an eagle".

(I’m sorry, but it makes me giggle every time.)

The point is search engine optimization is not about making a worthless site rank. It’s about reengineering a Web site to make it both a subject matter expert and easily accessible for both users and the search engines. It’s about connecting Web sites and people and filling that core need Web searchers have to "find stuff". That’s why search engine optimization will not become obsolete. It’s about marketing and usability.

Forgetting about users and becoming hyper-sensitive to the search engine’s every move is dangerous. It encourages you to be reactive instead of proactive and to create Swiss cheese-like sites full of traps and holes for Web searchers to get stuck in.

The other danger is that in your attempt to streamline things you start only looking at the engine that brings you the most traffic and forget the rest. In most cases, this is Google. In one swoop you forget about being user-friendly, and instead decide to become Google-friendly. This is when people become what we like to call Google-obsessed or Google-retarded.

If you’re not sure what a Google-retard looks like, spend a day hanging out in the forums. You see that guy using his sudden dip in ranking as proof that Google hates him. That’s a Google-retard. He’s the one spouting Google conspiracy theories and leaving angry messages for Matt Cutts threatening his cats.

[Google-retard, if you're reading this, I want you to know that there is nothing wrong with your site. It bombed because Matt Cutts hates you. Or maybe he's just bored. Either way it's not your fault. Don't feel bad; the world is just unfair.]

When you optimize for Google or for Yahoo or Ask (what? Some people like to live dangerously.) you put yourself at their mercy. You can’t control Google and your ability to run your business and feed your children should not be based on your ability to do so. This is how babies go hungry and end up in dumpsters.

I’m not going to stay that optimization has nothing to do with the search engines, because obviously it does. However, the search engines and your users aren’t like your best friend and your significant other. You don’t have to choose which one you love more.

The smart thing to do is focus your optimization efforts around making your site the best you can. This includes writing content that accurately describes your services, creating clear themes for users to follow, linking off to valuable resources, and designing your site so that it is easily accessible. Doing this you’ll see that most of the best practices for users match the best practices for the search engines. By focusing on blending the two you’ll be able to create a stronger site not at the mercy of the search engine algorithm updates. Better sites rank higher, regardless of the engine.





9 responses to “Search Engine Optimization Is Not Google Optimization”

  1. pat writes:

    Hello Lisa,

    I agree with your whole deal except…

    “Site owners are focusing their optimization efforts around ranking higher, not creating better sites.”

    Optimizing for Google is creating better and more useful sites (because that is how you will rank well in Google.

    If everyone were to optimize for Google, it would actually be a good thing because the way to optimize for Google is to create better, more useful sites.

  2. Janna Berg writes:

    Lisa-
    I have read several different blogs lately that are saying that you need to create a site with good content & focus less on the SEO of Google, but do you really see this happening?
    We have clients that want a great site…but are overly concerned with their rank & don’t give enough energy to the content. How do you suggest we train our clients to consider both aspects?

  3. Lisa writes:

    @Pat: I somewhat agree. I think following the best practices outlined by Google and the rest of the engines is a goodo thing. However, being a crazy algorithm chaser is bad, which is more what I was getting at. You don’t want to mold your sites *soo* closely to what the engines are doing that you spend the entire life of your site looking backwards instead of forward.

    Now, please don’t ever disagree with me again. ;)

    @Janna: I think Universal Search will force site owners to change the way they look at optimization. It’ll be less about mastering algorithms and more about creating great content and showing users what you have to offer. Once sites are competing for space with news, video, images, audio, etc, the “content is king” mantra is going to have a whole new meaning and site owners will have to produce.

  4. pat writes:

    You are so cute when you are wrong :)
    I agree with you, like I said. Please read my post again, It would be hard to circle the words “algorithm chaser” in my post cause they aren’t there. But I forgive you.

  5. Jules writes:

    Usability. I think this is the key to an effective website. If the site is created with the user in mind it will be well organized and full of content. I am working for a SEO company right now and I can’t seem to separate usability and the different ways to optimize a site. I automatically want to make changes from the user stand point. But I think we do a good job of balancing our Google Relationship with others.

    Check out our blog for more SEO Info: http://www.industrialsearchenginemarketing.com

  6. Randy Duermyer writes:

    Hi Lisa:
    I agree, people shouldn’t live and die Google rankings, but because of their market share they often see it as the only worthwhile measure of success. Let’s face it, it’s also what keeps us SEO’ers busy. I’ve always felt that content is king and always will be and a good site with relevant content that people are looking for will always prevail in the long haul – no matter what shifts in SE algorithms are made and no matter what happens to Google’s market share and its pervasiveness in the online world. Good content gets you ranked, gets you backlinks and gets you traffic – whether it’s from search engines, word of mouth or through social media.

  7. Tim Vermeire writes:

    Lisa,

    I totally agree with you. After all, in the first instance websites are build for people, not for google spiders. And yes, usability and content is king! The content should be marketed towards people. SEO is just one (good!) step in the marketing process.

  8. DanielR writes:

    Lisa,
    I’ve been on the same page with you on this for awhile. We need to also think beyond Search Engines.
    People need to think: “Agnostic Search Optimization”
    The “Search Engine” in SEO will be whatever website that *your relevant* users conducts searches on to find your website. Is it Yelp? Del.icio.us? Stumbleupon. That depends on the client’s customers.
    See more on that here:
    http://www.emergence-media.com/2006/09/quick-post-organic-traffic-optimization-doing-agnostic-seo/

  9. edwin writes:

    I disagree, in Europe there is nothing else worth mentioning besides Google



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