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October 20, 2009

Search Engines: Do as we say not as we do

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Well, I had the unfortunate case of waking up on this particular Tuesday morning with an affliction that affects all of us bloggers once in a while, the dreaded ‘writers block’. While perusing all my online marketing related news and posts in my inbox this morning looking for some inspiration, I found an oldish article that certainly piqued my interest. It was a Search Engine Land blog post where they stated that Yahoo is indexing the keyword’s tag after announcing that they don’t ( in a follow up post Yahoo re-articulated what they meant, essentially they sent SEL a message stating “What changed with Yahoo’s ranking algorithms is that while we still index the meta keyword tag, the ranking importance given to meta keyword tags receives the lowest ranking signal in our system”, so they have corrected the mistake). However, it got me thinking should we as people in the SEO industry (or any other realm of online business) be acting on what the search engines say, or what they ACTUALLY do?

There is a whole lot of examples like this one though. One example that I find particularly amusing is that Google states “You should never have to link to an SEO” and you should avoid SEO companies that “puts links to their other clients on doorway pages“. However, I have seen many SEO agencies rank for the highly competitive term ‘SEO’ based on just links (from what I can tell, although I can’t say this for sure) from unrelated client sites (pages about dog food for example using ‘SEO’ as the anchor text and linking back to their SEO agency) along with ‘SEO’ in their URL and a strong age of domain as they have very little content on their sites and are still ranking very highly. This occurs across many different county TLD’s. You would think Google would address that, especially as they maintain that links should be from pages focused on the same theme or basic content to have high value. Another example of Google saying one thing and doing another was this example that was spotted by TechCrunch. Essentially Google changed the appearance of their buttons, and they did this by using CSS that “is not currently part of any standard and are only supported by Webkit based browsers (i.e. Chrome and Safari”). In addition the Google.com throws up 39 errors and 2 warnings if you try to validate its homepage for W3C compliance, especially strange as Google is a W3C member. Google accusing Microsoft/Yahoo of becoming a web monopoly also smacks of hypocrisy.

This may be a little bit of hearsay but digging up dirt on search engines is a little more difficult than I previously thought. According to this post Yahoo is offering a substantial financial grant to the University of Stanford for a programme of support for the journalists “working in countries not respecting the freedom of expression” all while working with the Chinese government to purge its china web index of ‘undesirable information’. According to Reporters Without Borders, Yahoo.cn blocked a higher percentage of politically sensitive results than Google.cn or msn.cn (this was an old test so things might have changed), talk about saying one thing and doing another.

Now this is not meant to be a rant (although it might sound like it, it’s not meant to be an attack on any entity) but I needed some examples that support my main point. The axiom I am trying to get across here is that you shouldn’t believe everything you read on the internet, even if its source is one of the big search engines (who for some reason the majority of us trust implicitly) or a slightly nerdish guy whose surname rhymes with mutts and loves cats.

You need to read between the lines, listen so carefully so what the Google, Yahoo and Bing’s of the world DON’T say as sometimes you can glean more information out of this, than what they actually do say. Rely on successful tests that you (and contemporaries that you trust) have run to evolve methodologies instead of Sergey Brin intimating that links don’t have value anymore. Run experiments, collect data and make intelligent decisions on that data as opposed to hearsay. The SEO industry is one of the most dynamic in the business world and will only continue to grow, evolve and improve if we persist with challenging the conventional wisdom out there, finding new and better ways to get our clients websites in front of the right target market, so get out there and challenge & question everything!!





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