Five Principles Of Advanced SEO

Ian Lurie

UPDATE! Turns out there are eight principles. I’m rewriting this post. In the mean time, here’s my deck from MNSearch Summit:

This post does not pick on Google. It picks on us. We’re passive. Lazy. Dependent on Google to give us SEO advice. We jump on bandwagons and apply hacky fixes. Then we say we’re practicing “advanced SEO” because we know how to use noopener.

Advanced SEO isn’t about scouring webmaster hangouts, applying the latest Google patches, and then calling it a day. You want to be “advanced”? Understand five principles:

1: Google Recommendations Are Not SEO Recommendations

Rule number one trumps all other rules.

Apply Google’s recommendations, and a website is visible. Our job isn’t to make sure a site is visible. Any competent developer can do that.

An SEO’s job is to ensure a website can sustainably compete for organic rankings and conversion-generating traffic.

An advanced SEO is always aware that Google is not making SEO recommendations.

2: Always Read The Fine Print

Everyone talks about javascript and its impact on SEO. Search engines tell us “We can render javascript.”

They can! But javascript is risky. Rendered does not equal ranked.

That’s one example. There are plenty more. Here’s Google talking about 301s and links. I added the highlighting:

Image: When Google says could - beware

Read all of Google’s guidance with skepticism and rule #1 in mind. Watch for “could” and “might” versus “do” and “does.”

Read the fine print.

3: Remove Problems. Don’t Hide Them.

Now and then, the search engines give us Remedies: Stuff like rel=canonical. Search engine support for remedies comes and goes.

Google said nofollow would work for link sculpting. Then they said otherwise, sparking the worst nerd riot in history. Folks pelted the stage at SMX Advanced with branded stress balls and iPhone cases. Horrifying.

Google supported rel=next/prev. Until they didn’t.

Remedies change. Shit that just works, though? That’s forever. Don’t mitigate. Fix.

4: Reduce Abstraction

Don’t put more stuff between your content and browsers/bots.

Prerendering and hybrid solutions create additional layers. Redirects create extra hops. Avoid them whenever possible.

Reduce abstraction. Give Google a direct path to your content.

5: Learn The Tools

You can be “advanced” if you don’t know how to analyze a log file, or do fancy natural language processing (I can’t). But you need to be prepared to learn.

That sounds trite. But “learning” doesn’t mean reading the latest blog posts. It means digging into the command line, hacking around with some code, and learning how search engines work.

Read someone’s great GREP tutorial(cough cough).

Learn on-page SEO and natural language processing. Understand how to measure shingling (and what it is, too).

I can’t list everything because I’m still figuring it out myself.

Corollary: Advanced SEO Doesn’t Replace The Basics

By the way: Advanced isn’t a replacement. It’s an amplifier. It makes the basic, nuts-and-bolts SEO tactics more effective.

So spend all the time you want geeking out about natural language processing and isomorphic javascript (I do).

But you’d better spend even more time on title tags, internal linking, and the words you use on a page.

If you skip the basics, all the fancy-schmancy advanced tactics in the world are worth exactly nothing. You’re giving Google a chocolate chip cookie without chocolate chips. That’s bound to piss anyone off.

Advanced SEO means giving me my chocolate chip cookie.

End of rant.

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