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Google Search Engine Ranking Factors v2
August 18, 2008 3:37 PM   Subscribe

Google Search Engine Ranking Factors v2 "represents the collective wisdom of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization. Together, they have voted on the various factors that are estimated to comprise Google's ranking algorithm." The highest ranked factor is Keyword Use in Title Tag.
posted by Soup (56 comments total) 10 users marked this as a favorite

 
At what rank is "link from Metafilter.com"?
posted by Artw at 3:52 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


#1 in any of these lists should be "make interesting websites that people will want to read and share with their friends" but no, they always miss the one big obvious one and instead focus on every little tiny 1% better trick, while ignoring the other 99% that makes a website awesome.

SEO people remind me of "weight weenies" in the bicycle world. Instead of focusing on training and riding and getting faster through practice, weight weenies obsess over how many grams lighter their new water bottle cage is, and forever want to discuss the lightest possible wheels they could put on their bikes to make them "faster".
posted by mathowie at 4:05 PM on August 18, 2008 [17 favorites]


#1 in any of these lists should be "make interesting websites that people will want to read and share with their friends"

Surely some content cribbed from wikipedia should do the trick there?
posted by Artw at 4:13 PM on August 18, 2008


Yeah, I really don't get SEO. If you make a great website people will tell their friends, link to it and you will get a good ranking. I don't think img alt text matters that much.
posted by sveskemus at 4:13 PM on August 18, 2008


Matt should write a book about SEO people. Any suggestions for titles?
posted by buriednexttoyou at 4:13 PM on August 18, 2008


How about Couch-Diving in the Digital Realm?
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:22 PM on August 18, 2008


They list 25. I seem to recall hearing talk of several times that number of factors being involved in the ranking algorithms. Plus, of course, there's ads which get their own black magic. And the various other top-of-the-page goodies, like News & Scholar that will move articles up.

I suppose it's a reasonable reverse engineering effort, but really, the whole search engine is geared towards being useful and not being easily understood. And most SEO weenies don't strike me as really having any technical depth at all: Google isn't just more complex than they imagine, it's more complex than they can imagine.
posted by GuyZero at 4:24 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Sorry. Couch Fishing in the Digital Realm.
posted by Smart Dalek at 4:24 PM on August 18, 2008


Any suggestions for titles?

Anything, as long as the title and the <H1> tag match, but not too closely.
posted by GuyZero at 4:24 PM on August 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


I also think I just screwed up my than-then usage.
posted by GuyZero at 4:25 PM on August 18, 2008


To be fair, this makes me want to vomit considerably less than most other self-congratulatory collections of SEO thinking. Good job, guys!
posted by cortex at 4:47 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Matt--

The SEO guys aren't so much the weight weenies, they're the guys who sell the titanium derailleur limiter screws and helium-filled cable housings. The weight-weenie enablers, as it were.
posted by adamrice at 4:52 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


represents the collective wisdom of 37 leaders in the world of organic search engine optimization

One of the highlighted phrases is being misused. Is it:

a) wisdom
b) organic search engine optimization

You have 45 seconds.
posted by DU at 4:54 PM on August 18, 2008


#1 in any of these lists should be "make interesting websites that people will want to read and share with their friends" but no, they always miss the one big obvious one and instead focus on every little tiny 1% better trick, while ignoring the other 99% that makes a website awesome.

Well, honestly, this goes without saying for decent SEO people. Of course they emphasize the SEO-specific aspects of improving page rank, because the assumption is that you've already created the content that you want people to find.

If you have a website in a specific business niche, and you want people to find your site before they find your competitors' sites, every little bit helps. There's simply not that much you're going to be able to do with your content to make a difference, because the content has to describe whatever it is you're actually selling. Nobody's going to want to "read and share with [their] friends," unless those friends are in the same market for whatever you're selling.

As the owner of a small business, and the guy who implements basic SEO stuff for our site, I can say that in my own experience, basic SEO changes can make a significant difference in the amount of products or services you sell - again, assuming that you have content that accurately describes those products or services.

And most SEO weenies don't strike me as really having any technical depth at all: Google isn't just more complex than they imagine, it's more complex than they can imagine.

This is a bit condescending, but also irrelevant. You don't have to understand the algorithms for page rank to observe results. Unless you're an employee in a pretty small department at Google, you're not going to know the algorithms anyway. You don't have to understand meteorology to respond to weather patterns.
posted by me & my monkey at 5:05 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


Well, honestly, this goes without saying for decent SEO people.

And decent SEO people are totally okay people. And, while it's inconvenient for them, they may want to let go of the label "SEO" if they want to stop being associated with the teeming hordes of snake oil salemen who have spent the last few years making those three letters into a red badge of assage.

You don't have to understand meteorology to respond to weather patterns.

And people with good weather sense, or who remind you to grab an umbrella if it looks like rain? No problem.

It's more the pissing on my leg and telling me it's raining thing that's an issue.
posted by cortex at 5:10 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You don't have to understand meteorology to respond to weather patterns.

Huh? While that's true, you need to understand meteorology if you're going to go around predicting the weather. And if you're going to them people that you can change the weather then you're going to need to know a heck of a lot more than just meteorology.
posted by GuyZero at 5:17 PM on August 18, 2008


My perspective on this stuff is a little different; I work on the Drupal project, and one of our goals is to figure out how to build a web CMS/thing that is "SEO-Friendly" out of the box.

As it turns out, there isn't really that much to it. Building a site that's standards compliant and doesn't abuse HTML in goofy ways, paired with useful, human-readable URLs, gets you far enough that the rest tends to be out of your control anyway.

I definitely recognize that there's useful accumulated knowledge about the good stuff you can do to boost your site's rankings in various targeted searches, but it's difficult sometimes to see people selling these ideas like they're some sort of incantation. Perhaps the distressing part is that buyers are more willing to fork over money for sound advice about standards-compliant HTML if it's wrapped in hand-wavey SEO promises.
posted by verb at 5:24 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


SEO? Die in a fire. All of the spam I get that slips through gmail's filters is SEO link exchange requests. All of the chat requests I get are SEO "hay letz trade linxz!" douchebags. I hate these people. Really.
posted by seanmpuckett at 5:40 PM on August 18, 2008


Matt, and all other anti-SEO commenters: for the most part I agree, but consider the following not-so-hypothetical scenario:

A large non-profit research institution doing ground breaking work in a number of childhood developmental disorders -- providing research, treatment, and education that is often the best available -- has a comprehensive website providing everything from diagnoses descriptions to community out reach initiatives. They are in a niche market, they provide information that certain people desperately need but are unlikely to forward to their friends (or at least many of their friends), and they are late to the web. Their key words, specialized as they are, still fail to show up in the top ten. They lose potential referrals, and more importantly, they miss opportunities to help those whom they exist to help.

Aside from constantly improving their online content and the usefulness of their website as a resource to families and researchers, and advertising, what non-SEO options are available to them to improve their ranking?
posted by Grod at 6:22 PM on August 18, 2008


The shitty part: SEO techniques like this are beginning to ruin Google for me. Where once I could rely on the first link to be exactly what I need, Google now returns page after page of paywall blocked papers, alibaba knockoffs, obfuscated patent applications, and contentless link-farms. Google is turning into Altavista, and the internet is becoming useless again.
posted by Popular Ethics at 6:23 PM on August 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


The shitty part: SEO techniques like this are beginning to ruin Google for me.

The keywords in title techniques is annoying generally. American Airlines misuses the title element to entitle their home page "Airline Tickets and Airline Reservations from American Airlines | AA.com." This means that it is harder to find American Airlines in a list of bookmarks or open tabs, since they have all that cruft there. Many of the other airlines do other crap like that.

Of course the people who have the number one Google hit for [airline]? Just "Southwest Airlines." Imagine that.
posted by grouse at 6:30 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


As Matt said, the key is to provide good content and/or service on your site. If you are doing it right, your site is going to meet most of these conditions without particular attention being paid to this list. If your site is all about cobra venom, you are going to use "cobra venom" in page titles, in the body text, etc. It's not really rocket science, but I can see a list like this being useful to people who think that there are magic tricks to building search rank.
posted by Mister_A at 6:31 PM on August 18, 2008


I wonder if they (UA) got some demerits for the keyword repetition. Wouldn't shock me.
posted by Mister_A at 6:33 PM on August 18, 2008


Aside from constantly improving their online content and the usefulness of their website as a resource to families and researchers, and advertising, what non-SEO options are available to them to improve their ranking?

But that's beside the point. If they're "late to the web" and need to hire competent, reputable folks who do the non-snakeoil parts of what falls under the veil of search engine optimization, by all means they should do so.

You might as well ask a non-hypothetical question about a noble, hardworking family that needs to be able to get around town on a daily basis. There may be no non-car option available to them to improve their commute, but that doesn't translate to used-car salesmen being awesome white knights.

Good structural design and optimization of a website is a good thing. There are smart people who know how to do that, and who are ethical to the bone, and it is awesome that those people exist and it sucks that they're getting back-splattered by what a shithole "SEO" has become, but that those people do useful things ethically doesn't change the prevailing awfulness of that loose jumble of spammers and scammers and chuckleheads that the self-made SEO sector has become.
posted by cortex at 6:41 PM on August 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Grod, really? I mean, if it's not-so-hypothetical, please let us know what the site is. I've seen blog posts on niche topics hit the top ten in days. There are numerous MeFi posts that are the top hit for various odd keyword combinations. I would like to know more about this site that Google is somehow managing to avoid so assiduously.

Popular ethics, really? The only time I get junk like that is when I do a search on a part number when I'm comparison shopping. If I search for "louis riel" or "batman zur-en-arrh" I get pretty much exactly what I need. As for academic papers and paywalled sites, Google does indeed index those but their mission is merely to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" not to provide access to stuff that you previously had to pay for. I'm not sure why it's surprising that the search results in News Archives Search for "Kennedy shot" are all archived news articles that are for-pay. I think it's rather nice that the results tell you right up front that getting that article from the NY Times will be $3.95. Some scholar results are free, some are behind paywalls, but again, that has to do with the underlying rightsholders and how they make papers available. Searching on Scholar for "reverse polymerase transcription" gets a mixture of paywalled articles, abstracts and freely available papers.
posted by GuyZero at 6:42 PM on August 18, 2008


seomoz.org is not in the top 10 Google results for the search 'seo'
seomoz.org is #2 in the top 10 Google results for the search 'seo blog'

Make of that what you will.
posted by Ritchie at 6:43 PM on August 18, 2008


"[Keyword use in the TITLE tag is] most important for CTR in SERPS, but generally the most powerful HTML tag you have at your disposal."

Wow, this sure is incoherent if you're not a SEO weasel.

I also have this nagging suspicion that the actual algorithm Google uses is a lot simpler than all this voodoo they're waving around.
posted by egypturnash at 6:51 PM on August 18, 2008


I somehow got sucked into the SEO world. It felt as though I was getting paid to spew a bunch of lies to naive local business owners and make the Internet a little less usable.

I even attended a SEO conference in Toronto. The panels consisted of people preaching short cuts and aiming for the newest marketing phenomenon, 'the long tail'. This was last year, people! As someone who went to school studying network theory and power laws, I couldn't believe how these cutting edge leaders were so far behind current Internet trends. I looked around the room and I saw a bunch of people in awe of everything they said. I got sick to my stomach... literally because our catered lunch gave everyone food poisoning.

Needless to say I quit and I haven't been happier.

As for the Google algorithm, SEO wizards make it seem way more complicated than it really is. The best explanation for how it works comes from Steven Johnson. He compares it to an ant colony. An individual ant isn't terribly smart, but collectively, ants come up with intelligent higher-level behaviour where nobody is technically "in charge".

Or better yet, take a glass jar and fill it with candy. Then, ask a bunch of people how many candies are in the jar. Each individual answer is going to be pretty far off, but if you take the median of all the guesses, you're going to get an answer that's very close to the right one.

One spammy SEO wizard isn't going to crack what everyone says is the most important link. All-in-all, if every site on the Internet is optimized, the only thing that matters is content.

And this SEOmoz post is pure linkbaiting bullshit.
posted by AdamFlybot at 7:36 PM on August 18, 2008



And this SEOmoz post is pure linkbaiting bullshit.


Actually, it's something I found interesting because I work in web development. Though I don't work "in SEO," I see various methods tried and tested and this has been referred to a few times. It's great to read some enlightening debate on the subject.

It's not, however, linkbaiting. You look new, Flybot. Relax, make some friends, and take a deep breath. We're all going to be okay.
posted by Soup at 8:13 PM on August 18, 2008


SEO is clinically proven to enhance a certain part of the male body.
posted by Jeremy at 8:50 PM on August 18, 2008


Everything about this post reeks of what's wrong with SEO. It's like standing at the subway platform and watching the news headlines flash by on the CCTV. It may seem like you're getting informed, but it's just a bunch of headlines/blurbs.

And just because Randfish didn't personally post it to the blue, it doesn't mean it's not linkbaiting. It's all in the design:

* Top X ways to be amazing - check
* list that feigns web 2.0 style - check
* large, endless page of text - check

Not to mention the endless page of text skews analytics data. Since it takes so freaking long to read, a webmaster can make claims like, "on average, visitors stay at this landing page for x minutes per visit." Therefore, he/she will increase the advertising rates accordingly or in the case of SEOmoz, make an annual post bragging about its stats to increase subscriptions. It's all a cash grab.
posted by AdamFlybot at 8:54 PM on August 18, 2008


Hey Soup, maybe you should relax too:
  • You act like a SEO chuckleweasel
  • It's not, however, that you're new here yourself
  • It's not, however, that you've made more posts than comments
  • It's not, however, that you've just made a post to the front page of metafilter that links to a digg-bait aggregate survey of Dowsers, Crystal Gazers, Astrologists, Oracles, Haruspices, Osteomancers, and Tarot Readers — all well clearly well versed in the ways of the web, they must be since they're doing it professionally, plus the different specialties guarantee statistical rigor (they even use standard deviations!).
posted by blasdelf at 9:03 PM on August 18, 2008 [3 favorites]


Actually this totally helped me. My mom is in charge of a website for a local school, which is less-than-findable in Google. The reason? Whoever made the site used some awful tool that used tables and images for everything, and therefore Google can't figure out WTF the page is actually about. I forwarded these tips along to her (along with a translation-to-English), and hopefully she'll be able to make some simple changes that will help parents find the site.

I mean, yeah, this is about as useful to me as free tax advice from H&R Block, but for someone who thinks they owe the government money even though they have no income, that might be a good start.
posted by breath at 9:22 PM on August 18, 2008


GuyZero: Google does indeed index those but their mission is merely to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful" not to provide access to stuff that you previously had to pay for.

OK, but at least give me an option to filter these sources out. I want to be able to search the free web without my results buried to page 3 by journal articles and patent abstracts.

The worst offenders for me are the catalog aggregators like Globalspec and Frasers. Somehow they manage to intercept my google keywords, and display a "search results" page that has little to no relevant content to the words in question. Deplorable.
posted by Popular Ethics at 9:25 PM on August 18, 2008


Worst offenders? Well, I don't mind pointing out the elephant in the room. Try searching for porn, or anything porn-ish. Something specific. I don't really care what floats your boat, but if your boat's floated by anything remotely ... well ... within the realms of abnormal and normal human sexuality: you may or may not find what you are looking for, but you will get literally hundreds of thousands of utterly worthless results.

I expect this seems to be a normal state of affairs, to most people. Porn-searching always finds acre after acre of crapulent malware-laden markov-chain rubbish. But why is it so? Granted, most of the operators of most porn websites aren't far above the spammers, scammers, and link-farmers in terms of ethics; mostly, they couldn't care less what it is they actually serve up to the viewer, the point is the views, and money generated from that, and porn is merely "what works best", a direct pipeline into a near-universal human urge that conveniently reduces analytical ability and ethicality of behavior.

If you look into it, this Shit Parade (for want of a better term) of worthless websites and malformed HTML and malware script distribution sites and bot excrescences, there seems to be patterns in it. Certain specific repeated words and phrases, methods of generating it. Conspiratorial as it may be, I think that what the Shit Parade actually is and does, it acts as a "counterweight" swung by at least some of the SEOs. Put the right set of terms on your "genuine" (or genuine as these get) site, and the Shit Parade will magically march past, pelting your site with automated pageviews and links. Because no-one "owns" it as such, anyone who benefits from its existence can easily keep it going. And thus its existence continues.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:42 PM on August 18, 2008


The web is no longer a single cyclist’s attempt to go faster and we have outgrown that metaphor (sorry Matt). Nowadays we need to start thinking of creating winning websites as a team effort in the same way that a national cycling team would prepare for the Olympics.

Some people are in charge of pushing the pedals (creating the content) while others have responsibility to ensure the best effort of the cyclists are not wasted by providing light racing bicycles (through SEO).

I will always be grateful to Matt for the solo effort to create this community, but the Olympics are approaching and we need to start discussing the web as the team effort it is.
posted by Samuel Farrow at 12:09 AM on August 19, 2008


If you want your website to rise to the top of all the search pages, all you need to do is make sure all the network cables connecting to your server point downwards.
posted by flabdablet at 4:39 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: makes me want to vomit considerably less than most other self-congratulatory collections
posted by lukemeister at 5:52 AM on August 19, 2008


Try searching for porn, or anything porn-ish.

Or worse - try to search for something totally non-porn where the porn- or sex industry is using a the same phrase to describe something in the porn-realm. You're never going to find what you're really looking for.

No, I won't be giving examples, you all know a few.
posted by DreamerFi at 7:23 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


After the technical things (titles, alt text, sitemaps, prudent nofollows, etc.) on one's own site, which are the kinds of things that take a short time (hours or, at most, days) to implement, the number one way to increase your search ranking is, ta-da, the traditional approach:

1. Advertising

2. Marketing

3. Publicity

All of these things generate additional interest in a product that is even slightly good will naturally generate testimonials, links, and friend-to-friend referrals without even having to ask for them. But those cost money and take skill beyond what the SEO crowd seems to be capable of, and they take an understanding that the ultimate answer to increasing notice of one's product isn't technical, it's personal. It's human. You have to speak directly to your potential customers.

The SEO dodge is overladen with people who forget that linkbacks aren't the final product. The final product is new human customers.
posted by Mo Nickels at 7:49 AM on August 19, 2008


try to search for something totally non-porn where the porn- or sex industry is using a the same phrase to describe something in the porn-realm. You're never going to find what you're really looking for.

Boy howdy. One of my clients (an adoption agency) recently asked me to do an illustration/sketch of a pregnant teen girl. So, I Googled for some visual reference.

Scarred for life.

And, yeah, SEO is, in general, over-priced snakeoil
posted by Thorzdad at 10:41 AM on August 19, 2008


Some people are in charge of pushing the pedals (creating the content) while others have responsibility to ensure the best effort of the cyclists are not wasted by providing light racing bicycles (through SEO).
Bullshit. The "SEO Industry" is HTML homeopathy. "SEO Experts" are weight-loss gurus who sell you their trademarked placebos, then casually mention you also need to exercise and eat right.

There are genuine ways to format your pages and structure your content such that Google and other search engines can more accurately determine what your page is about. Guess what, though? Google and the web standards folks have been telling us these "secrets" for years. It's the same set of techniques you use to make your style sheets reusable, or ensure that visually impaired users can make sense of your content with a screen reader.

Everything else sold by the "SEO Experts" is cargo cult hand-waving, a swamp of shifting techniques to game indexers into listing a page a few lines higher in a search page for the three weeks until Google next tweaks their algorithm. The next time you talk to someone who says they're a "web expert," casually mention the "Florida Update." If they have an opinion on it, hide your wallet and run.
posted by verb at 10:44 AM on August 19, 2008 [2 favorites]


As an aside, my most recent interaction with an SEO expert was doing some technical consulting/training. They wanted to know a lot of really odd, random stuff and slowly it became clear that they had greatly exaggerated their technical knowledge, and we'd prepared materials they weren't ready for. We stepped back and started asking, "OK, what are you really trying to accomplish here?" kinds of questions.

Turns out, they didn't want a 'standards compliant search-engine friendly content management system.' They wanted software that would see incoming google searches and auto-generate a pretend web site. Also, a branded version of myspace, but with a built in pyramid scheme for college students selling their friends nokia cell phones.

Yeah.
posted by verb at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Disclaimer, I work for an search analytics company, I won't tell you which one, but it isn't that hard to figure out).

The facts of the matter are that SEO does work, I know this because I collect data for many sites that use SEO providers, and I build tools that allow people to see if they get more search referrals after a particular SEO technique is done. I also measure the effectiveness of pay per click advertising, and the change in conversions when various types of marketing are tried.
SEO isn't much different than any other type of marketing, if you don't measure it, you don't know if what you're doing is working. There are a lot of snake oil marketing people in general (SEO is not special in that regard), make sure that your contract specifies that you pay for results and you'll be fine.
posted by mock at 4:18 PM on August 19, 2008


Grod: Matt, and all other anti-SEO commenters: for the most part I agree, but consider the following not-so-hypothetical scenario:

A large non-profit research institution... has a comprehensive website... They are in a niche market, they provide information that certain people desperately need but are unlikely to forward to their friends (or at least many of their friends), and they are late to the web. Their key words, specialized as they are, still fail to show up in the top ten. They lose potential referrals, and more importantly, they miss opportunities to help those whom they exist to help.


... because of SEO optimization. See how that works? It's a net benefit and a net loss. Search engines are intended to help people find what they're looking for-- not to help people find the savviest or largest for-profit companies. When search engines fail, it's either because the search engines aren't good enough, or because someone out there intentionally made them fail. SEO is a profession where people get paid to make search engines fail.

Search engines are not a marketing tool. You're sighing, "but there's just no other choice!" - well, there is. You're trying to set up a situation where it would be laudable to use search engines as a marketing tool; but that doesn't work because there's a net loss for every other non-profit and everybody who uses the search engine when one non-profit does that.

This is destroying the village in order to save it. There's a reason I don't just dump my trash in the middle of the street, even if I'm a poor invalid who has a hard time walking over to the trash can; because that small effort is worth it considering the great harm that'd be caused if everybody just dumped their trash everywhere.

SEO is just a symbolic dumping of trash everywhere on the internet. If every SEO person stood up from their desks and quit their jobs right now, the internet would indisputably be a much, much better place. And I doubt there's anything that any one of them could say to prove otherwise. "But it's just business!" Well, then, business is fucking stupid.
posted by koeselitz at 10:11 AM on August 20, 2008


Wow, what a bunch of snarky, hateful comments!

Bullshit. The "SEO Industry" is HTML homeopathy. "SEO Experts" are weight-loss gurus who sell you their trademarked placebos, then casually mention you also need to exercise and eat right.

I worked in SEO for two years and it was fulfilling employment. Day-to-day I basically spent 30% of my time teaching site owners how to make their typically botched-up sites usable and the other 70% outlining the themes of their industry for them, demonstrating the usefulness of analytics, creating catalogs of their competitors and potential business partners, doing stuff for them that their marketing overhead was not typically knowledgeable or resourceful enough to pursue.

In my experience, the people who call SEO's names are the programmers and Flash designers who make sloppy websites because they were rushed by the client. Hasty client X comes around and asks, "Why is this site disfunctional and/or performing poorly?" SEO says, "Because your content is marked up without semantics, the comment you have you actually duplicated from content on another site that's 10 years old, your links are all anchored on 'click here', your URLs come out of a fusebox, your server gives 302 redirects, 404's resolve on a blank page, your robots text disallows googlebot, and all your image alt tags seem to read, 'I hate fucking blind people'!!!"

So then the programmer gets sued and he goes on metafilter to spread his revelation that SEO's are con artists.

An SEO is like a personal trainer for a website. They look at things that programmers and designers ignore or simply want to forget at the end of the day. And without SEO's and the bounty of research they've shared over the past 10 years, Google itself might not have had as easy a time as it did.
posted by metajc at 9:43 AM on September 13, 2008


the people who call SEO's names are the programmers and Flash designers who make sloppy websites because they were rushed by the client

I'm just a user. I dislike the "SEO movement" because the gaming they engage in results in a worse user experience, making it harder for me to find the information I need or get things done on the web.

SEOs have reaped what they have sown. Don't pretend that this is just sour grapes from legitimate web professionals. Regular users hate what your "industry" does too.

So then the programmer gets sued and he goes on metafilter to spread his revelation that SEO's are con artists.

Lawsuits are a matter of public record. Can you identify even one case where a programmer has been sued because of an SEO and then went on MetaFilter to denounce SEOs? Or did you just make it up like so much other SEO hooey?
posted by grouse at 11:31 AM on September 13, 2008


metajc, I'm willing to accept that there are legitimate SEO firms out there who can evaluate sites and give good recommendations on what can be improved to allow Google and other search engines to more accurately recognize what information of value is being published. You seem to think that the people who dislike SEO firms do so because they don't care about standards compliance. Frankly, that's a little insulting -- like pretending that bulk mailing companies are the only ones who care about communicating information.

I'm a developer of an OSS project that works REALLY hard to generate clean, standards-compliant search-engine-friendly accessible HTML. That kind of stuff works, and it works really well. I once blogged about the company I worked for, and within days it had a higher google rank than the hand-rolled HTML site our company had paid an "internet marketing firm" to design for them. Useful meta/title tags, meaningful human-readable URLs, accessible markup, contextually relevant H1 and H2 tags... that stuff goes a long way.

I encounter tons of fly-by-night "SEO Firms" that want to use that OSS software to set up their keyword-packed google honeypots. After all, we've done the hard part for them!

I see my own writing on technical subjects sucked into automated robo-blogs, markovized, and spat out to generate "keyword-rich high-SEO pages that attract the visitors YOU WANT!"

If you're one of the white hats, then I commend you. But the industry you inhabit is the HTML equivalent of bulk email: for every legitimate operator providing a genuine service, there are dozens of fly by night scammers gaming the system. That's a real problem, and it's certainly frustrating for anyone who actually tries to use search engines.
posted by verb at 12:27 PM on September 13, 2008


Or did you just make it up like so much other SEO hooey?

Yes, I made it up. All that hooey. Lighten up! I just think it's insane the vitriol spewed the words "search engine optimization". I do know a web designer who got rightfully fired after an SEO I know pointed out how he lied about having done "months" of work but, you're right, I don't know if he's on MetaFilter seeking to destroy. That would be awesome though!

Look at it like this. There are lawyers, bankers, and computational biologists who do bad things to help bad people. There are also lawyers, bankers, and computational biologists who do good things to help good people.

All websites are not created equal. It's not like you're dumping text on the Internets and the best content wins. Sometimes the website gets in the way. Sometimes people put their text in images. I don't know why but they do it. You can hire another designer but he or she will probably want to design an entirely new site because that's what they do best ... and they might not know that the problem is a broken line in your .htaccess.
posted by metajc at 1:20 PM on September 13, 2008


Yes, I made it up.

That's another example of why people don't trust SEO people. Because they make stuff up.
posted by grouse at 1:45 PM on September 13, 2008


There are lawyers, bankers, and computational biologists who do bad things to help bad people. There are also lawyers, bankers, and computational biologists who do good things to help good people.

And despite your uncharitable characterization of this thread being populated solely by bitter, lazy programmers, there's actually been a lot of acknowledgement in here that there are good, useful practices that fall under the umbrella of what "SEO" covers. Please don't read the vitriol and set aside the good faith counter-arguments that folks have raised amidst their criticism; no reasonable person is declaring war on the idea of clean, search-engine-friendly design principles or condemning the legitimate and responsible folks who practice that.

But if you truly believe that the public face of SEO at this point is not that of the ambulance chasing lawyer or the payday loan banker, you are not living in the same world that a lot of us are. The good being done in the name of SEO is dwarfed by the number of scum-sucking hucksters trading on buzz and misinformation to cash in. It may suck to have the good name of what you do well trashed, but the trashing has been done, and done thoroughly, for quite some time now and an "SEO doesn't suck" argument is doomed from the start now.

The SEO that you do may not suck, but SEO as a gestalt? As an internet industry one step up, if that, from spamming? It sucks. It sucks bad enough that taking your good work and finding a less shit-stained name for it is probably the sanest move you can make.
posted by cortex at 1:46 PM on September 13, 2008


If you're one of the white hats, then I commend you.

Thanks but I don't do SEO anymore, unfortunately. My title changed to "web designer" ... but sometimes I secretly use some of the things I learned as an SEO to check my work.

But the industry you inhabit is the HTML equivalent of bulk email

We could probably argue over that. I'm not sure how either of us could prove our cases.

I don't think it's true and I do think that Webmasterworld, SEOmoz, and SEO roundtable or Searchengine Watch are pretty intelligent and helpful organizations of professionals. I don't work for any of those people, if you're suspicious. I don't even work for any of the people in this list of SEO service providers. But if you suspect any of those people of fraud or generalized hackery, you could probably write SEOmoz to complain.

I mean are these the groups that everyone is out to hate on? I've learned a lot from people at these sites.
posted by metajc at 1:51 PM on September 13, 2008


metajc: I worked in SEO for two years and it was fulfilling employment.

What you describe below this statement is not what I'm familiar with under the name of "SEO." And it'd be nice if it was. There are a few people who do what you're describing and call themselves "SEO experts," but my experience is that they're few.

Did you read the leader links at the top of this thread? That's what SEO usually means - it means "optimizing web sites for search engines" by somehow trying to reverse-engineer those search engines through some weird formula and then stuffing the header or title of every page with a dozen related keywords, or slipping in a lot of useless code, or some such, in the name of artificially boosting pagerank. It usually doesn't work, and even when it does, it's destructive.

What you're describing isn't bad, and I don't think any of us who can't stand SEO would say that it is.
posted by koeselitz at 5:39 PM on September 13, 2008


Koeselitz, there is nothing inherently evil in the information provided at the SEOmoz site linked above. If there was, I think a moderator would have killed this thread. Keyword "stuffing" as you described is not recommended on that site. You're misinterpreting editing title tag keywords for relevance. Malicious activities are not recommended in general by anyone worth their salt because such activities (black hat) always end backfiring when Google realizes the trend. The other stuff you mentioned about "weird formulas" and "useless code, or some such" -- you're not making sense there.

The main reason people you look up to like Cortex "can't stand" SEO is because they're site mods who get plagued by dunce SEOs trying to spread links on sites like MetaFilter. I don't blame Cortex for calling SEO "shit" over and over because of that. I'm sure it's frustrating. But that isn't really SEO because Cortex is there to make sure it doesn't work ... that annoying link-bombing is just spam. We who enjoy SEO do not call that "SEO" because that is not "optimizing for search engines" ... because you're not exactly optimal when you're pissing people off ... that is spamming. And spamming Cortex is FAIL.

Perhaps the name has been soiled, as Cortex insists. Guess I'll have to change my resume. Thanks a lot.
posted by metajc at 7:54 PM on September 13, 2008


metajc: Koeselitz, there is nothing inherently evil in the information provided at the SEOmoz site linked above.

Inherent evil or not, the site linked is not describing what you're describing. Good design and theories about what Google's algorithms are based on are two very different beasts. The site linked is very much about the latter and very little (if at all) about the former.

I guess my objections - albeit those of a guy who's never worked for firms large enough to use "search engine optimization," and who only knows it through seeing the internet and through the horror stories of my friends - stem from this point:

Everything about good web design is part of good web design. Site mapping? Web design. Proper title tags under images? Web design. Organization of content and basic non-cruftiness of site? Web design. And if those things aren't done well, then hiring a consultant won't help. It needs to be designed well.

... If there was, I think a moderator would have killed this thread.

Please note that the second comment in this thread is by the founder of this site, and compared SEO to "'weight weenies' in the bicycle world." I have a feeling that that's because said founder designed this site with a certain amount of care and dilligence, and, instead of throwing cruft together and hiring a consultant to sort it out, he just did it well the first time and kept improving it. I think this site's done well that way, don't you?

The main reason people you look up to like Cortex "can't stand" SEO is because they're site mods who get plagued by dunce SEOs trying to spread links on sites like MetaFilter.

I say all this not because I look up to cortex (pace cortex) but because I look up to other people, like, say, Richard Stallman. I take a hard line on this, I guess: search engines are not marketing tools. The internet is not a marketplace. It's a place for people to connect with each other; this includes the potential for certain areas of the internet to be a marketplace, but the internet itself is not a marketplace.

The bleeding of the marketplace into the communitarian aspect of the internet is constantly spoiling that aspect. You can say what you're engaged in is beneficial, and that others are just 'spamming,' but spam is the forefront of the marketplace. You can't blame Google for wanting to kill SEO.

I don't do web design - I just use search engines a lot. And any sane person who uses search engines regularly can see that it's a constant war being fought between people who want to make search engines deliver relevant results and people who want to buy their way to the top through cheap gimmicks. I have a feeling that if we could tally up all the time that every person's wasted who's had to refine their searches because of marketing gimmicks, we'd find that we've all lost a combined thousand years because of SEO and other marketing on the internet.
posted by koeselitz at 1:19 AM on September 14, 2008


Thanks but I don't do SEO anymore, unfortunately. My title changed to "web designer" ... but sometimes I secretly use some of the things I learned as an SEO to check my work.
Why would you secretly use things like accessible markup, human-readable URLs, and content-relevant page titles? The point I'm getting at is that the "good" stuff SEO experts bring to the table is acknowledge by all clueful web people as good. It's not like you have to surreptitiously sneak ALT tags into a client's site over their objections, risking your reputation as a Good Designer.
We could probably argue over that. I'm not sure how either of us could prove our cases.
I think bulk email is a valuable service. I've worked with clients who needed to send out dozens of thousands of emails daily to people who legitimately wanted them. Making sure those messages don't get automatically marked as spam, making sure there are good opt-out tools, and so on? Those are valuable services.

But for every one of those businesses, there are dozens of fly by night "Market your product via EMAIL for amazing results!" bottom-dwellers. In my experience, the SEO world is similar. There are some companies who can come in and help you clean your site's HTML and reorganize things for a better user experience (with the additional benefit of higher search rankings)... And other companies who will set up a markovized cross-linking blogfarm, tweaking their auto-content-generators every couple of weeks to optimize their gibberish for Google's latest algorithm updates.

That second group calls thmselves "SEO Experts" too, and that's part of the problem.
posted by verb at 10:14 AM on September 14, 2008


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