3 Reasons to Stop Writing for SEO

This article is contributed by Amelia Wood.

The Atlantic

The Atlantic recently made an interesting announcement. Announcing a swerve away from the tried and true models on web writing, the online news association has recently stopped caring about SEO. Instead, the company is focusing on, dare we say it… actual readers, to catapult their articles to viral status, drive links to their site, and increase Google rankings.

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Can Google see your website?

Warning: this post is entirely conjectural and may have no basis in fact.

There is an interesting post by Loren Baker that encourages companies to develop video websites promoting their brands.  Their existence can be flagged by putting them on.TV domains.  He suggests that one should Take Advantage of .TV Domains for SEO and Reputation Management

There is a very large untapped market of creating .TV niche and business oriented online video sites which your business may be overlooking in your online marketing and search engine optimization strategy. If your business has a strong brand, then people are searching for your brand online. 

One way to attract that same user who is searching for your brand, and build the value of your brand in search results, is by launching a .TV site which is an online video representation of your company. By doing so, not only will you have another authority and valued site which should rank highly for your domain name, but you will also be engaging your customers in a form of social media.

He points out that this will ensure that companies are more visible in Google universal searches.  In any such search there will probably be a video within the first half dozen items.  If an image is associated with the brand, this image may also be referenced.  News items may also be included if the company is making news.

Having multiple online files associated with the company or brand clearly makes the company more visible in such searches.  An intriguing question is whether these multiple online properties have any synergistic effect in the regular Google keyword search algorithm.  Google has been very clear on the importance of hyperlinks in confirming the authority of web pages.  Most other facts about the algorithm are carefully kept confidential.

How important are images in the Google search algorithm?

A commonly held view is that images in a web page give zero information to the search robots.  It is emphasized that one should use Alt attributes to provide information on the subject of each image.  Nevertheless Google is trying to extract more information from images.  This can be seen in the Google image search that can now be done to find faces.

Given these developments, it is reasonable to infer that perhaps an image in a web page may be assessed for its contribution to the relevance of the page.  If there is an associated video file, perhaps this could also contribute to the relevance of a given web page.  If this view is correct, then any given web page may pick up contributions to its relevance from other associated video or image files.  This would encourage the creation of such associated picture files to improve the search visibility of a given web page.

It must be emphasized that this is all conjecture.  However nothing has been lost if the conjecture is untrue.  Creating associated images or video files may in any case contribute to the visibility and ranking in Google’s universal search listings.

Someone is wrong on the Internet

Someone is wrong on the Internet

Matt Cutts of Google has an intriguing slip in his post, Something is wrong on the internet!. He is referring to this cartoon by xkcd.

Matt Cutts said something rather than someone. He went on to say:

That comic sums up the internet in one sentence: the scrum of jostling opinions on the web and the optimism that truth can still win out. I was reminded of that comic when someone asked me about a particular way that someone recently tried to get links.

His spam group is perhaps one key way human intervention comes into the Google search process. So his comments later in the post are particularly interesting.

If a website claims to have high-quality information and then deceives the user and serves up malware or off-topic porn, Google considers that spam and takes action on it. Likewise, if a site says that they completely made up a story to get links, Google doesn’t have to trust the links to that site as much.

I really don’t view Google’s role as judging the truthiness of the web. … But if someone is sloppy enough to get caught (or to admit!) making up a fake story, I don’t think Google has to blindly trust those links, either.

It sounds very much as though Google will be acting as the judge. This prompted me to add the following comment to his blog post.

This all seems to be shaking out as it should, Matt. It raised one question in my mind. You did say I don’t think Google has to blindly trust those links, either. I believe Google’s policy is to try to do everything in its search process by computer algorithms since this is scalable. Human intervention should therefore be very limited. Your spam group does that human intervention with an on/off button, I presume, as it applies to clear spam content.

I’m sure many would be interested to know how you treat websites you are no longer blindly trusting. Do you apply the off button for these with a reminder to check again in say six months? Or is it more like a volume control where you apply a down weighting factor? Or again, is it one of those minus X penalties in the SERPs that some talk about?

Since Google is now suggesting it will be more open than it has been in the past, I hope we will get some clarification on this.

Google Rankings Drive Sales – SEO Expectations

Should You Settle For Google #2 or #3?

Google Rankings Drive Sales. That’s what a caller told me this morning. Let’s call him Chuck, from Massachusetts, to preserve his anonymity. A year ago his website was at #1 in Google for an important keyword in a somewhat competitive consumer market and now it’s dropped to #3. His sales during the same period had seen a 20% decline. He asked me whether I could help to correct this situation.

By coincidence, Sandra Niehaus has just published a related post entitled, Why Isn’t EVERYONE #1 on Google? She wrote it for all those SEO professionals who have been asked whether they can guarantee a #1 ranking on Google. There’s some excellent advice there. It all relates to Setting Client Expectations for SEO and what it can achieve. Part of that included what might be called Reasonable Expectations

  1. SEO is not an exact science.
  2. Rankings are important, but not the whole story
  3. SEO should be judged by bottom-line improvement, not arbitrary Google rankings

To be fair to my friend Chuck, from Massachusetts, he wasn’t asking for guarantees. He knew they couldn’t be given. However he wanted to understand how the competitors now sitting at #1 and #2 had managed to push him down to #3. He felt that if he could emulate them and recapture the #1 position then sales would rebound. As we talked, it was clear that he knew some aspects of the way Google operates. He did understand that different datacenters might deliver different rankings. He also understood that some people would be receiving personalized search results that could influence the rankings. Nevertheless for him the key parameter to optimize was the Google ranking. Get that right and sales would follow.

I pointed out that although there was an obvious positive correlation between the Google ranking and sales, the situation might be more complicated. Had the website traffic also dropped in line with the drop in sales? The answer on this was somewhat vague but he did not seem to have done any website analytics either for visitor traffic or conversions to sales. For him, the Google ranking was almost the sole critical measure.

He asked me again whether I could determine why the new #1 and #2 had managed to push him down to #3. Since I feared that Chuck’s Expectations of what SEO could do would be difficult to deliver on, I diplomatically parted company with him. It really is impressive how those Google rankings have grabbed the attention of some website owners, almost to the exclusion of other factors that influence sales.

If I’d felt that Chuck might be open to looking at a slightly bigger picture, I might have described some of those other factors:

  • The Search Engine algorithms are based on over 100 factors, are complex and highly secret and are constantly being amended and improved. In highly competitive markets, it can be quite difficult to determine why at a given time the top 3 or 5 ranking websites are in the order they occur.
  • Provided a website is featured in the top 3 or 5, then it will appear ‘above the fold’ and so will be visible in the initial screen view from the Google search. Which website gets the click, depends not only on the order but also on the snippet of text that appears. (As it happened, the snippet for Chuck’s website was invariably better than the two that appeared at #1 and #2).
  • Usually a given keyword or keyword phrase will be only part of what the customer actually types into Google. Related searches will far outnumber those for the precise keyword. What counts is the total number of clicks that the web page gets, most of which come not from the precise keyword but from related phrases. This is the so-called ‘long tail phenomenon’.
  • Whether a visitor to a web page will ‘convert’ and make the purchase depends on many other factors relating to the website. If you accept that it’s the bottom-line that counts, then you should be aware of all these factors and make sure you put the priority on the factors that will bring the most immediate returns.

What is the moral of the story? It would seem that both Google and perhaps the SEO industry have oversold the importance of that #1 ranking. #1 does not give a licence to print money. It’s what comes up when you click that “I’m feeling lucky” button, but that alone will not guarantee successful sales growth. There’s a lot more to sales than that.