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What Official Google SEO Advice is Misleading or Misunderstood?
goodroi

WebmasterWorld Administrator goodroi us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 11:22 am on Feb 7, 2014 (gmt 0)

Google is a business. They are in the business to make money for themselves and not to give free money to webmasters. So when Google communicates (via Google blogs, at conferences, through Google employee statements, etc.) sometimes they are not giving the most accurate & helpful information to webmasters. After all if you were Google, why would you want to help expose your weaknesses to spammers that are trying to abuse your system?

As a webmaster community we need to become better at Nuance Marketing - realizing that there are many slight differences that can make a dramatic impact on the final results.

Google is trying hard to help businesses with no SEO knowledge but still protect themselves from spammers with too much SEO knowledge. This makes the average webmaster have to digest the message to understand what is being said and what is not being said to make the smarter decisions for their website.

For example Matt Cutts has recently said that if you were using guest blog posts "you should probably stop". This led many SEO people to start assuming that Google will consider every guest blog post to be bad. Matt Cutts had to clarify his initial statement and say that some guest blog posts when done in a relevant and professional manner can be good for your online business.

Let's start thinking in the ways of Nuance Marketing and start sharing examples of Google SEO advice that might be misleading to less experienced webmasters and how you have interpreted it to be more useful to more experienced webmasters. Help shine a light on the nuances that are often overlooked in Google's SEO advice.

 

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 4:19 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

when Google communicates (via Google blogs, at conferences, through Google employee statements, etc.) sometimes they are not giving the most accurate & helpful information to webmasters.


I don't think that's correct. The real problem is that the intelligence of SEOs, like the intelligence of the human population at large, is spread over a bell curve. The less-than-bright SEOs see something like the example you gave and misread it entirely. They share misinformation in forum posts or blog comments, other less-than-bright SEOs pick up on it, and the misinformation is shared again (often with further distortions) in the manner of the old "Telephone" or "Gossip" game.

Let's look more closely at your example: The aforementioned blog post by Matt Cutts on the topic of spammy guest posts. Matt never said "Don't publish or write guest posts," or "We're going to penalize guest posts." He did say:

In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. Likewise, I wouldn’t recommend relying on guest posting, guest blogging sites, or guest blogging SEO as a linkbuilding strategy.


This prompted responses such as:

Wow. That’s all I can say. There are some HIGHLY respected guest bloggers out there writing for some great blogs. Why throw the baby out with the bathwater?


and:

don’t tell writers they can only write for their own site now. Links are the fabric of the internet.


Matt's blog post was about "spammy guest posts," but the commenters turned it into something else entirely. That wasn't Matt's fault, and it wasn't an example of miscommunication or less than "accurate and helpful information" on the part of Google. The misunderstandings occurred because the commenters weren't very bright or were too lazy to read.

rish3



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 4:27 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

The misunderstandings occurred because the commenters weren't very bright or were too lazy to read.


Or because they were skeptical that a machine learning algorithm would enforce this new policy without a significant number of false positives.

Also, Matt seemed concerned enough about the confusion that he updated the post.

This sentence in particular isn't limited to just "spammy" posts:

"In general I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well. "- Matt Cutts


Most of the guest posts on Google's own blogs don't meet that bar.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 5:07 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ah, the old "But mommy, I saw you eat a cookie from the cookie jar" defense. Let us know how far that gets you. :-)

IMHO, Google's advice is misinterpreted and misrepresented so often that it might be better for Google to simply shut up and let the Webmaster Guidelines speak for themselves. Example: Google says not to buy and sell links. Should it really be necessary for Matt Cutts to explain that wrapping the links in a "guest post" doesn't change the fact that the links are being bought or sold?

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 7:55 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Most of the guest posts on Google's own blogs don't meet that bar.

Great Point! Since they ignore their own advice, why shouldn't we ignore it too.

ohno



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 8:17 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Great Point! Since they ignore their own advice, why shouldn't we ignore it too.

We shouldn't. Now let's get back to what the www is all about (that means ignore anything that comes from G people! )

Think about it, "good content above the fold" is the best example of "do as I say not as I do".

Ralph_Slate

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 10:04 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

One thing that shocks me as going unchallenged or uncorrected on Google's own forum is their "experts" advising nearly every site owner to move all advertising below the fold.

Anyone who has ever worked with a CPM ad company knows that this almost never permissible. Advertising is required to go above the fold.

I have seen, countless times, "Top Contributors" telling people that their poor ranking is due to the Leaderboard banner they have on their site.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 11:42 pm on Feb 8, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just because Google owns the forum doesn't mean the "top contributors" are handing out official advice.

There's a big (and, IMHO, obvious) difference between UGC and statements by Google Search spokespeople like Matt Cutts and John Mueller.

rish3



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 3:06 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Ah, the old "But mommy, I saw you eat a cookie from the cookie jar" defense. Let us know how far that gets you. :-)


Personally, I think there's value in checking if Google follows it's own advice. More value than blindly parroting the company line.

austtr

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 3:09 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

For me there is often a disconnect between what is said or implied and the reality. Penguin is a good example… it was a wrecking ball that decimated thousands of quality websites that never for one moment thought they were at risk. Those sites did not all commit some heinous, punishable offence, it was Google who needed to rearrange search for its own ends…. and collateral damage be damned.

Yet the PR that prefaced the arrival of Penguin presented it as a minor, low irritant adjustment that would impact on a very low percentage of sites and that sites which played by the rules had nothing to fear. Oopsie!

examples of Google SEO advice that might be misleading to less experienced webmasters

I suspect Google did not envisage the amount of confusion that would be associated with the disavow saga. If you got a manual penalty message, or an unnatural links warning or were hit with the Penguin algo… who should use the disavow list and was it to be with or without a reinclusion request? I wish more people would stop and remember the the WWW is global and not everyone has English as a first language. Even those that do were obviously very confused by this saga.

Google is trying hard to help businesses with no SEO knowledge but still protect themselves from spammers with too much SEO knowledge. This makes the average webmaster have to digest the message to understand what is being said and what is not being said to make the smarter decisions for their website.

Re the first sentence. Google has 10 years of lessons learned, probably all in the public domain in way or other, yet none of it is in the Google Guidelines to help new webmasters. I feel sure the world's greatest collection of PHD's should be able to prepare a bullet-point list of "do not do" items that helps newbies from falling into penalty traps through lack of experience. Would Google really be giving spammers the keys to the kingdom by stating publicly:

"do not use manipulative links to try and achieve SEO advantage"
"do not create pages using duplicated content"
"do not participate in link buying or selling"

and whatever else the current list of bad practices may be.

Re the 2nd sentence. When a person is forced to interpret what is not being said then the message is a total crock….and the problem MC has is that as one of the very few Google reps who reach a global audience, every time he opens his mouth, even to just answer a question, that becomes a message that gets spun across hundreds of blogs and can assume a gravitas way beyond the original intent.

This could be addressed in part by simply revisiting and strengthening the Google Guidelines (see above) so there is way less need to interpret what was or was not said.

Because MC is the most public face of Google to most of us, it's easy to forget that the role of his team is to fight spam. I doubt he sits in a position of authority on the team that sets profitability targets. So when we see the SERP's being given over to more and more of Google's own revenue streams, or the domination given to authority sites, or the loss of diversification in search results, we have to accept that SEO has nothing to do with the decisions that led to those things happening. There are no nuances from the faceless teams making those decisions, so you can only react after the event.

superclown2

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 11:06 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Mr Cutt's job is to reduce the volume of spam and manipulative SEO techniques that Google has to deal with. His responsibility is to his employer and not webmasters and we would do well to remember that when analysing what he says.

In other words; if he says don't do something, that 'something' probably works ;-)

superclown2

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 11:06 am on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think there's value in checking if Google follows it's own advice. More value than blindly parroting the company line.


Problem is, they can get away with it and we can't.

aristotle

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 5+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 12:06 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

blindly parroting the company line.

It's funny how in a thread about mis-information we have our own blind parrot show up as usual to try to repeat it.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 3:28 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Personally, I think there's value in checking if Google follows it's own advice. More value than blindly parroting the company line.


Nobody here is "parroting the company line," blindly or otherwise.

And exactly what value is there in "checking if Google follows it's [sic] advice?"

This thread is titled "What Google official advice is misleading or misunderstood?" It isn't "What Google official advice applies to me but not to Google, and why is Google acting like the mean girl?"

Common sense and pragmatism suggest that Google Webmaster Guidelines apply to Webmasters. Whether they apply or don't apply to Google's own UI team is beside the point.

Let's look at one obvious example: Matt Cutts's suggestion that sites may suffer a rankings loss if they let ads push content below the fold. Is it useful to complain incessantly that some of Google's own SERPs push the "10 blue organic links" below the fold? And is it wise to ignore Matt Cutts on the assumption that bitching about unfairness will lead Google to rescind any algorithmic downranking for going nuts with ads?

As far as official advice from Google is concerned, I can't help thinking that Google might be better off limiting its official pronouncements to the basic Webmaster Guidelines.

Do people really need to be told that looking for loopholes (e.g., "spammy guest posts" as a way to conceal purchased links), or publishing useless fluff and scraped search results as filler for pages of ads, or producing thin affiliate sites that add no value to the SERPs, are likely to be regarded unkindly by Google's ranking algorithm?

The warnings in Google's Webmaster Guidelines and Matt Cutts's videos could be summed up as "Don't let greed get in the way of good judgment and common sense." Would Google's SERPs be any worse, and would Google's users be any worse off, if Google limited its official advice to a short list of conceptual guidelines?

Ralph_Slate

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 6:30 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just because Google owns the forum doesn't mean the "top contributors" are handing out official advice.

There's a big (and, IMHO, obvious) difference between UGC and statements by Google Search spokespeople like Matt Cutts and John Mueller.


I agree 100% - but look at the situation:

1) Google-owned forum.

2) Google-sanctioned contributors (though not Google employees). They have been named as "top contributors" - even though some of them are downright nasty - and they even get moderation power.

3) Google employees frequent the site and read the comments.

4) Who gains if sites take down advertising? Google, because they sell ads themselves.

5) Google can't openly discourage or penalize sites that have advertising because of anti-trust issues - to a line. Their official line is "if you can't find the content among all the advertising". People are mistakenly (or deliberately) interpreting that as "if you have advertising above the fold".

Google is benefiting from the dissemination of false information on their own forum. They could easily step in and set the record straight when one of the flunkies says "hey, take down all your advertising, this is why you aren't ranking in Google" - but they don't.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 6:56 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

They could easily step in and set the record straight when one of the flunkies says "hey, take down all your advertising, this is why you aren't ranking in Google" - but they don't.


In that case, maybe Google should eliminate the support forums at the same time that it tells Matt Cutts to stop making his Webmaster videos. Google should consider limiting its support to the published Webmaster Guidelines.

At the same time, maybe Google should stop notifying site owners of manual penalties. Why should site owners who deliberately flout the Webmaster Guidelines get more help than site owners who haven't tried to trick Google but get hit by algorithmic penalties like Panda and Penguin?

By limiting its support to the Webmaster Guidelines, Google would encourage site owners and their SEOs to think conceptually instead of looking for loopholes and escape routes.

7_Driver

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 8:49 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just because Google owns the forum doesn't mean the "top contributors" are handing out official advice.


I agree with Ralph - it isn't just a Google owned forum - they actively recommend that's where webmasters with penalties, ranking problems or other questions should go for help.

Anyone either naive or desperate enough to go there in the hope that a Google staffer will see your post and look into it (which happens VERY occasionally) - is most likely to get:

a) Bad advice from people who don't know what they're talking about much of the time

b) Unnecessary and often vindictive abuse from so-called "Top Contributors", some of whom are only there to boost their own egos by being nasty to everyone else.

The fact that Google recommends the forum to webmasters seeking help, and then does absolutely nothing to maintain any kind of standards is unconscionable - but sadly entirely typical of a company that simply doesn't care.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 9:09 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

entirely typical of a company that simply doesn't care.


Google cares cares about its product (search results), its customers (advertisers), and its audience (end users).

It has no more reason to care about the welfare of site owners and SEOs than we do to care about the welfare of Google.

austtr

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 9:54 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

Why should site owners who deliberately flout the Webmaster Guidelines get more help than site owners who haven't tried to trick Google but get hit by algorithmic penalties like Panda and Penguin?

My absolute #1 gripe arising from Penguin.

It has no more reason to care about the welfare of site owners and SEOs

Without site owners there would not be any websites and if there are no websites, Google is irrelevant… so I think Google does have a reason to be concerned about the welfare of site owners. Not to forget the old adage that with power comes responsibility…. and not just to Wall Street.

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 10:56 pm on Feb 9, 2014 (gmt 0)

They have been named as "top contributors"

Is this a deliberate action? I would have assumed it's automated, just like our own "senior member" vs. "preferred member". Post enough bad advice and you'll get to be a "top contributor" even if everything you say is wrong.

Ralph_Slate

10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 1:47 am on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)


They have been named as "top contributors"


Is this a deliberate action? I would have assumed it's automated, just like our own "senior member" vs. "preferred member". Post enough bad advice and you'll get to be a "top contributor" even if everything you say is wrong.


Yes, it is a deliberate action:

https://www.google.com/get/topcontributor/join/become-a-top-contributor.html

Step 6 is "Welcome aboard! A Googler will reach out to you when you’ve demonstrated that you have stellar product knowledge, provide clear and accurate answers, show a positive attitude when helping others, and are ready to be a Top Contributor. This usually happens after four or more months of being active in the forums, although this timeline can vary."

rish3



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 4:19 am on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Nobody here is "parroting the company line," blindly or otherwise.

Likely, most here aren't blindly spamming either. That seems to be your default assumption.

And exactly what value is there in "checking if Google follows it's [sic] advice?"

In this case, it's helping me decide where the line is, exactly, with guest posts. The bar of "being able to personally vouch" for the guest poster seemed a bit high, and seeing what Google does when it allows guest posts on its own blog is helpful.

As for "it's" vs "its"...you got me. I made a grammatical error on a forum. Won't be the last time.

This thread is titled "What Google official advice is misleading or misunderstood?" It isn't "What Google official advice applies to me but not to Google, and why is Google acting like the mean girl?"

Er, okay. I thought the advice in Matt's recent post on guest blogging was initially over the top or, wait for it..."misunderstood." The fact that he revised it seems to support that notion.

Common sense and pragmatism suggest that Google Webmaster Guidelines apply to Webmasters. Whether they apply or don't apply to Google's own UI team is beside the point.

Whoever runs Google's various official blogs (most of which have guest posts) is a Webmaster. That's what I was referring to. Common sense suggested that :)

lucy24

WebmasterWorld Senior Member lucy24 us a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 4:50 am on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Yes, it is a deliberate action

Eeuw. Thanks. I'll keep this in mind for the future.

CaptainSalad2



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 8:04 am on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Just because Google owns the forum doesn't mean the "top contributors" are handing out official advice.


If I owned a forum and my contributors were handing out misinformation...

scooterdude



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 9:54 am on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

The determination of some to defend Google honor is certainly, impressive, but its making a nonsense of this thread.

Would be nice if this thread where truncated after the OP and further posts simple answer the question, politely of course, sensitively , if possible :)

Or we could all continue squaring up, lets forget about SEO for now.

@moderator
Kindly delete this post(mine) if its in breach

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 2:37 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Er, okay. I thought the advice in Matt's recent post on guest blogging was initially over the top or, wait for it..."misunderstood." The fact that he revised it seems to support that notion.


He expanded on the original post because so many people misread or misrepresented it.

In any case, Google's Webmaster Guidelines already warn against "Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank":

https://support.google.com/webmasters/answer/66356?hl=en

rish3



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 4:32 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

In any case, Google's Webmaster Guidelines already warn against "Advertorials or native advertising where payment is received for articles that include links that pass PageRank":


Yes, I, and most other people understood that part. The confusion wasn't about spammy guest posts. It was about legitimate guest posts.

Matt chose to use phrases like:

    "stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done"

    "I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward"

    "I wouldn’t recommend accepting a guest blog post unless you are willing to vouch for someone personally or know them well"


Those statements weren't scoped down to just "paid" or "spammy" guest posts.

Thus, many (including Danny Sullivan), felt the post was condemning guest posts across the board. Matt backed off in a big way when he updated the post.

austtr

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 6:23 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

I think a point being somewhat overlooked here, irrespective of what MC said or didn't say, or what the Guidelines say or don't say, is the long history of collateral damage that seems to often happen when Google "improves things".

No fair minded person can complain about the intention of Google to drive the crud sites and black-hat operators from the marketplace. It's the fear of having years of quality site development end up in a graveyard of collateral damage because of some unknown, un-specified, event or third party action that might have happened years ago, and probably with Google's knowledge or acceptance at the time.

The fear of becoming, or knowing you already are, a collateral damage victim is very real and has far too many of us developing a "walking on eggshells" mentality and going into a funk every time MC opens his mouth.

EditorialGuy

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month



 
Msg#: 4643242 posted 6:49 pm on Feb 10, 2014 (gmt 0)

Yes, I, and most other people understood that part. The confusion wasn't about spammy guest posts. It was about legitimate guest posts.


I saw Matt's post before he went into more detail, and it seemed clear enough to me.

Still, as I said earlier, it might be best for Google to keep things simple:

By limiting its support to the Webmaster Guidelines, Google would encourage site owners and their SEOs to think conceptually instead of looking for loopholes and escape routes.

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