Many of you know the word Canonical because of it's use in SEO as the URL specified as being the true URL. The original meaning of Canon related to the authenticity of the scriptures, separating what was accepted as the "word of god" from what was not accepted. Thus, Canonical meant that something is accepted to be the standard. The root of the word canon is the same as cane, because canes were used like rulers.
SEO is very much like scripture. The original authors and reasons behind SEO Best Practices are buried in time. As one generation of search marketers handed down best practices to the next generation, these practices were accepted because they have always worked, yet without actually knowing how the best practices came about. SEO best practices are canonical and never questioned
Years of actual experience have taught us that there are basics that need to be on the page if a page is to rank well. These truths are held to be self-evident. They are so taken for granted that SEO best practices are baked into WordPress plugins, content management systems and templates that allow you to easily create "search engine friendly" websites. SEO Best Practices are Canonical
Canonical SEO is a mix of many ideas created over time, based on search engine algorithms and research papers. And whether you have read it or not, the foundation of Canonical SEO can be traced to its most formal declaration in Brett Tabke's seminal article, Successful Site in 12 Months with Google Alone Part 1
[webmasterworld.com] and Part 2
[webmasterworld.com], published in February 2002. That article is the single most influential SEO article ever written, of all time. That article has influenced how you practice SEO, even if you've never read it.
The tactics and strategies outlined in that article have been reproduced in countless books, articles, SEO guides and documents as canonical best practices. To this day there are professional search marketers who use these tactics without knowing that those tactics were formally collected in one document right there in that article written in 2002. And it's dangerous to not understand where SEO Best Practices come from. SEO Best Practices are like Gospel Truth
SEO Best Practices are believed in and trusted like scriptures. SEO Best Practices teach us how to please the search engines, that hang over the industry almost like gods standing in judgment, dispensing rewards and penalties depending on how well you worship. There was a time when SEO best practices could be depended upon to help you rank. The article subtitle boasts: "26 steps to 15k a day
" and it truly was the gospel truth. Back in the "biblical days" of SEO when it was easy to rank, those 26 steps could be depended upon to help you rank better.
However, unlike the "eternal" and "constant" God of the scriptures, search engines change. The search engine algorithm written about in 2002 no longer exists. That search engine is gone and presumably, the way we "worship" should have changed. But it didn't. Which explains why many search marketers today feel that the search engines are fickle, inscrutable, unfair and unknowable. It's frustrating to "follow the rules" and see nothing happen. The reason is because search engines have changed but SEO Best Practices have not.
One example of this is in section G of the 2002 article where it is advised that every page should link out to one or two high ranking sites. On February 14th, 2002, a member named Trish wrote:
What about linking to .gov or .edu sites that have relevant content? I've read somewhere on here that Google may give edu and gov's a higher importance ranking. It would seem then that getting a link from them would be good. Maybe it would good to link to them also.
And another member cited Kleinberg's research paper that discussed Hubs and Authorities
[cs.cornell.edu], which is one of the influences for many algorithms that followed, algorithms that in different ways incorporated links and the concept of authority, including the PageRank algorithm.
The SEO Best Practice of linking to a .gov and .edu page has its roots in a research paper written in 1998 and an article published in 2002. Do you think that the search engine they talked about in 2002 still exists? Consider this: there is no modern research paper or patent that says outlinking to a high quality site is a signal of quality. ZERO. It's not a ranking factor or a signal of quality. There are many research papers that state that spam sites tend to link to normal sites. But there are zero research papers that indicate that linking to a high quality site is a sign of authority. The definition of rote is to do something mindlessly, without thinking
Even though there is no reasonable basis for continuing that practice, the practice continues. And why not? Is it hurting anything? Probably not. Matt Cutts encouraged web publishers to link out, so that must mean something right? Of course it's a good thing to link out. But not if you think it's going to help you rank better because there is no algorithm or patent anywhere that does that. Link out because it makes sense for the user and it'll make sense for the search algorithm. Link out to a .edu or .gov page because you think it's an SEO Best Practice and you will most assuredly be going against the spirit of what Matt Cutts said about linking out liberally. Link because it makes sense to link. Don't write an article and drop a handful of links to .edus because that is the definition of rote SEO. SEO Worst Practices
- Assuming that if something sounds plausible that it must be in the algorithm
This is a leading excuse for poor SEO practices.
- Taking it for granted that if something used to work then it must still work.
Search engines have evolved. Those keyword laden pages might not be useful anymore. Study up on User Intent and how that relates to search algorithms.
- Articles reporting on "informal" studies showing how they had manipulated the SERPs.
These articles are almost always click bait with zero scientific foundation and thus zero chance of being real.
- Just because something is repeated often it doesn't mean it's correct.
Be skeptical. Look for citations. Scientific research and patents are the smoke that indicate a possible fire. No smoke, no fire. Reject SEO Best Practices
When you sit down to create a site review or fix your own web page, ask yourself why you are doing something. Take a look at the SERPs to see if Google's ranking pages with outbound links to .gov and .edu's (Google is not). Take a look at the SERPs and see if Google's ranking sites with the keyword phrases in the title tag AND the H1 tag (Google is not). Google has changed. It is your job to understand what is ranking and why it is ranking. The algorithms have changed but the search industry's strategies need to catch up.
Thus, when you free yourself from Rote SEO Best Practices, useless activities inspired by platitudes like Content is King can be seen for what they really are: Activities designed for ranking on search engines that no longer exist. Content is necessary for ranking. But it's not the keywords in the content that are important anymore. It's many other things. Consider this. Download Google's Quality Rating Guideline and do a search for the word "keyword." The only time the word "keyword" appears is in the context of keyword stuffing. If Google cared about keywords, you would think there would be at least a single sentence telling it's human quality raters to check if the page is relevant for a search query by making sure the keywords are there. But it doesn't. Identify the Actual SEO Best Practices
And that is why SEO Best Practices are irrelevant. They are not relevant to how Google is actually ranking sites today. SEO Best Practices still exist. But they are not the Best Practices the industry has been clinging to since 2002. Read the 2002 document and think it over, think about how a search engine in 2016 is different from the search engine of 2002. Then re-think what Best Practices for SEO means today.
[edited by: engine at 6:53 pm (utc) on Mar 25, 2016]
[edit reason] fixed typo [/edit]