Don’t Trust Google for SEO Advice
Ian Lurie Nov 13 2008
At least, take everything they say with a grain of salt.
Today, they came out with their ‘SEO Starter Guide‘. I downloaded it and took a quick look.
And I’ve finally lost patience. So here I go on a Graywolf-style rant:
Inconsistencies in the SEO Guide: Dynamic URLs
On page 6 they say “Improve the structure of your URLs”. The authors point at URLs that have lots of dross like ‘mysite.com/folder1/1089257/x1/0000002a.htm’ and say that’s not user friendly. They’re right. What they don’t say is that this URL is clearly dynamically generated. No sane human being would create a page address like that.
A professional SEO will always recommend keyword-relevant, clickworthy URLs like ‘mysite.com/bicycles/schwinn/mountain-bikes.htm’ instead.
To create that more friendly URL, you’d have to rewrite the dynamic URL using some kind of URL rewriting tool like mod_rewrite.
So, Google’s recommending you rewrite dynamic URLs. Fine. As an SEO, I’ll always suggest that if it’s possible, and if it won’t kill already strong rankings.
But, this statement is a direct contradiction of their post just 6 weeks ago, though, they were very specific in stating you should not rewrite dynamic URLs.
And of course, that post was a change in their previous policy.
K guys, I’ve tried to stick up for you on this while you flop back and forth on the dynamic URL question like a fish slowly dying on the bottom of a boat. But I’ve had it. Pick a damned policy and stick with it, or stop trying to pretend you have one.
Exclusions from the SEO Guide
Google doesn’t talk about your page’s semantic outline. They mention headings, but ignore paragraph tags, lists and other structural elements that are critical to successful SEO.
They ignore the importance of content clustering and hub pages. Instead they provide a one-paragraph example of a content outline that, if used by any site of reasonable size, will result in 99% of your content being buried deeper than George Bush’s popularity rating.
They also ignore blended search, semantic relationships between different terms, any discussion of pagerank, the potential damage caused by Flash or AJAX, the importance of standards compliance or how to display products on a page.
None of these items are essential to basic SEO. So strictly speaking, I guess Google’s guide is just fine. Sort of like knowing half the flight manual is ‘just fine’.
The Real Problem
Google’s guide doesn’t say anything horrifying (except where they contradict their own policies, but I already covered that). But many beginners will download it, read it and think they’re set. And they aren’t. Implying this guide is an introduction to SEO is dangerous. It might be a very high-level introduction to basic principles of site building. Maybe.
But an intro to SEO? If you believe that, I’ve got a bailout package for ya.
Google is a private entity. They are a large group of brilliant people who’ve made one of the best search engines on earth. They deserve a lot of props for that, which I regularly deliver.
But they do not have your best interests at heart. I’m not implying some kind of conspiracy – Google’s a business. They have their best interests at heart. As they should.
They do offer great advice on selecting an SEO, which makes sense: A good SEO will help them sort out their rankings, which will bring happier searchers. That then generates more clicks they can sell via Adwords.
But SEO advice? I don’t think so…
End of rant.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More