I'm not a Google hater. In fact I have no real problems with Google other than the standard fare. I don't always agree with what they do and they, at times, appear to be quite hypocritical. Many would simply chalk that up to big-business. But Google's no Enron, at least not yet. My only real problem is that Google tends to talk out of both sides of its proverbial mouth, and expects the SEO community to take them at face value. But we really can't anymore.
I had an alternate title for this post: "Ask not what Google can do for you, but what you can do for Google". We're moving into a new age where we have to pay closer attention what Google does -- despite what Google says.
I smell deceit in the air
If I asked you to tell me the biggest lie perpetuated in the SEO industry, what would you say? Now before you answer, notice I didn't say "biggest lie perpetuated by SEO's". Sure there are plenty of those, whether deliberate or out of ignorance, but none reach the status of being one of the greatest all-time self-serving lies of all time when it comes to SEO. A lie, which many have bought into, but has very recently been exposed for what it is. And here it is:
Another useful test is to ask, "Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn't exist?"
Not all paid links violate our guidelines. Buying and selling links is a normal part of the economy of the web when done for advertising purposes, and not for manipulation of search results. Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such. This can be done in several ways, such as:
- Adding a rel="nofollow" attribute to the < a > tag
- Redirecting the links to an intermediate page that is blocked from search engines with a robots.txt file
You'll notice that both of the solutions Google provides for disclosing paid links have nothing to do with the site visitor. In fact, neither solution does anything to benefit the user or even informs them that you've used paid links. No, these solutions benefit someone, but it's not the website visitor. That's quite the contradiction from their longstanding rule of doing things to your site for users rather than the search engines.
Turn to the left and cough twice
And therein is the great SEO lie that Google has been kind enough to expose for us. Google says that you shouldn't make changes to your site solely for search engines. However, they are more than happy—neigh, they demand—that you make changes that fill in for their own algorithmic shortcomings. Changes that would never be made if we based it on the answer to the question, "Does this help my users?"
Welcome to a new SEO generation, where Google has us by the, uh, well, you know. In the past, webmasters have been the ones in the drivers seat, manipulating Google and other search engines to give us the results we want. That manipulation has now become a two player game. We're still free to ask what Google can do for us, but don't be surprised when Google demands we give a little back. And that they are more than willing to squeeze their grip a tad bit if that's what it takes to get our attention.
The cat is out. The lie has been exposed. I can live with that, but let's not continue to pretend that it's only users that matter anymore. Google has made it clear that Google matters. And Google cares about themselves far more than they care about their users. The only thing left to do is for Google to stop pretending otherwise. They do that and a little tug here and there won't be so uncomfortable.
Stoney deGeyter is the President of Pole Position Marketing, a leading search engine optimization and marketing firm helping businesses grow since 1998. Stoney is a frequent speaker at website marketing conferences and has published hundreds of helpful SEO, SEM and small business articles.
If you'd like Stoney deGeyter to speak at your conference, seminar, workshop or provide in-house training to your team, contact him via his site or by phone at 866-685-3374.
Stoney pioneered the concept of Destination Search Engine Marketing which is the driving philosophy of how Pole Position Marketing helps clients expand their online presence and grow their businesses. Stoney is Associate Editor at Search Engine Guide and has written several SEO and SEM e-books including E-Marketing Performance; The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!; Keyword Research and Selection, Destination Search Engine Marketing, and more.
Stoney has five wonderful children and spends his free time reviewing restaurants and other things to do in Canton, Ohio.
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