What's right with Search Engine Optimization

Search Engine Land's Danny Sullivan has published an open response to Derek Powazek's Spammers, Evildoers, and Opportunists defending the practice of search engine optimization, arguing that there's plenty of esoteric, useful, non-sleazy information that web-site-owners need to know to get their stuff recognized correctly by Google.

I think there's something to this, but I don't find most of Danny's examples very compelling. In Derek's original article, he mentions most of the sort of thing Danny cites here (distinctive page titles, for example). The Google Base bit is indeed esoteric and the kind of thing a pro can help you with, but I'd be more convinced if his article had more of this sort of thing and fewer straw-men.

But to really be real, let's remember that she's selling real estate in one of the most competitive areas of the country, Newport Beach, California. Her friends aren't all going to buy homes she's listing. Her "community" congregates on Google and does things like type in "newport beach homes for sale."

To succeed in attracting that audience, she should have a great site and great content -- agreed. But does she have individual listings? Then she probably needs to kick them out into Google Base, in order to fully be listed in Google. Does your mythical web developer deal with Google Base much? And where's her web site now? Is she running it off Blogger? Using her own domain? These have impacts on how both the search engines may see her as well as how she's perceived.

Does she have a blog in addition to a main site? That has an impact. Has she considered some unusual, creative ways to create content around real estate in her area, perhaps some catchy link bait, which may pull in the links she needs to rank better (which, by the way, is a recommended Google practice).

Does she have a local office? If so, has she claimed her listing in Google Local? If so, has she updated her title to reflect that perhaps she has "newport beach homes for sale?"

An Open Letter To Derek Powazek On The Value Of SEO (Thanks, Danny!)


  1. Does she have a blog in addition to a main site? That has an impact.

    Yeah it does. Everyone looks at her 5 lame blog entries from 2 years ago (posted within a month of attending a web marketing seminar) and immediately see it as a bullshit attempt to improve her search engine rankings.

  2. Sorry to say so, but the two sides of this arguments both miss a crucial point being what “obvious” means.

    One thing is right in any case: semantic HTML can be parsed with greater ease both by browsers and crawlers than unsemantic code. This is what both sides may agree being obvious.

    If you boil their difference of positions down you remain with the question whether marketing is useful or not. My first thought about it: it may be really useful, but less so than good content. Alas, many managers forget the 2nd bit of the sentence.

    Greetings, LX

  3. Something that says something to me is that in that article he mentions the “Canonical Tag”. I was curious as to what that was, so I clicked a link. Stayed on his site, no useful info. Ahh! I scanned all the links on those pages, nothing external. Alright, I type “Canonical Tag 2.0” into Google… And #1 is a post from him, and half the links are repostings of the same content elsewhere. Nothing useful.

    Excellent SEO, there. But fuck him.

  4. There is one lesson out of SEO that I think matters (beyond the sphere of creating great content and getting the word out): writing for your audience. If you use industry jargon that your target customers/readers won’t be searching for, nobody is going to be finding you in the search engines.

    Paying attention to what people are looking for on your site and focusing on that, I suppose, is really just a subheading under the “create great content” directive though.

  5. v21, when I type [canonical tag] into Google, the first result is the Google blog post and the second is the Search Engine Land article I wrote (Search Engine Land is Danny’s site):

    You really think that article has no useful information?

    I posted it just as the tag was announced, I explain exactly what the tag is, why a site owner would use it, and how to implement it. I also describe other ways to canonicalize URLs beyond the use of this tag. And I talk about the other times that the three major search engines have come together in support of a web standard.

    What other information were you looking for that would make the article useful?

  6. Also, v21, the reason you mostly see references to Search Engine Land when you search for [canonical tag 2.0] is that Search Engine Land coined that term to refer to the next version of the canonical tag that Google just announced it was working on last week. Had you taken the time to click the link in the first paragraph of the article you refer to (http://searchengineland.com/canonical-tag-2-0-google-to-add-cross-domain-support-27222), the canonical tag 2.0 article would likely have been more useful to you.

    The reason there are no external links in that canonical tag 2.0 article is that there was literally nothing to link to. We were at the conference where Google made the announcement on stage and wrote up the post based on that announcement. However if you were to follow the first link to my article article about the tag, you’ll find external links to blog posts by all three major search engines.

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