If there is one thing I have learned in life it is that I have a lot to learn. That is why I study. That is why I keep my eyes open. And that is partially why I suffer frustration and disappointment when I encounter cheaters who disregard the common good to gain some short-sighted goal (e.g. polluting to environment along the way to earning a living wage). I so wish they were not so ignorant, or that at least they recognized that they were capable of learning.
If people would simply recognize their own ability to learn and advance, we could all avoid some pretty dangerous situations (like global warming, or major recessions, contaminated drinking water, disease spread, vehicular accidents, etc). I do recognize situational blindness — the inability to see reality due to the stresses of a situation. In those cases, I look to those who have some influence over the situation to be responsible (the boss of that wage worker who knowingly pollutes the environment because that’s the only way he can accomplish his assigned tasks and get paid).
I believe in enlightenment. If you don’t, then please look back at your past and explain how you could have been so ignorant back then to have done what you did. The context doesn’t matter.. we can all look back and see when we did things badly because we simply didn’t know what we know now. And that demonstrates enlightenment. So, perhaps, we actually all do believe in enlightenment?
Anyway, a big part of maturity is knowing you’re not “All That“. Yes, you may be great and knowledgeable, but if you think you are ALL knowing or REALLY GREAT, chances are you will suffer some reality blindness. The consequences depend on your risk management, but for SEO people, thinking you really know what you’re doing across different web publishing situations can be an expensive trap to trip.
Here are just a few “basic SEO” questions which in my view, should challenge your confidence no matter what “level” of SEO you have achieved. I ask them directly in the common ways, but then add more detail in an attempt to better demonstrate the potential traps:
Q: Does the order of content within a web document matter for search engine optimization?
Google has become very good at parsing web pages into segments, in order to “understand” the intent of the published page. This has been going on for over a year now. As Google parses the page and determines sectional intent (presumably in order to properly weight core relevant content more heavily than superfluous filler or cross-referencing content), how does content order play into that process? How does one tell? CSS is great for separating style from content, which can be a much biger aid to search marketing than positional ordering. HTML tables are an optimal tool for presenting tabular data, and in some cases tables are the only sensible way to mark up data (which should be styled via CSS).
Q: Do keywords in the folder and filename help search engine optimization?
Some SEOs say it doesn’t make any difference. Some say it helps a lot, and some even define an approach to setting keywords in folder names or filenames such that they exact-match search queries or Hn tags or page titles. Some SEOs say it might help, if not today then maybe tomorrow, so why not do it? Some SEOs recognize that creating keywordy folders and filenames can be a very large undertaking, as it represents a completely different content management approach (with filenames and locations now housing page-level meta data courtesy of that “SEO requirement”). Some might even suggest that for SEO, URL management can be even more important than content management. Who to believe? What to believe? Who is right? Personally I don’t think any SEO not integrally involved with the development team should pretend to suggest the right move in this situation.
Q: Which is more important, quantity of back links, quality of back links, or distribution of back links? Deep links to themed sub-pages, or themed links to the home page?
A great question, with a variety of answers posted all around the web. There has been so much focus on page rank and link juice flow and aggregate summation of linking effects, it often seems SEO people have completely forgotten that Google is a collection of smart people working on the search/Internet/relevance problem every day.
Google moved past much of that link stuff long ago. They use links and link profiles in creative new ways, whenever research suggests that links and link profiles strongly correlate with any signal of quality under consideration as a potential quality improvement opportunity. Sure they have problems countering paid links and third-party reciprocals and the like, but I doubt there is as much benefit to be had on that front compared to other fronts where Google might now be trusting linking and link profiles for select quality measures. Which is more important for ranking? How can any SEO defend taking a position on that, outside of the specific context of the site under consideration?
Q: What is the optimal length of a title tag?
I see this so much it hurts. Some SEOs say it should be an optimal length, while some say it should avoid being longer than some limit. Some say as short as possible to focus on the target keyword, and others say stuff it full of related keywords. Some point out that it’s a page element, not a tag, and cite W3C specifications for proper use. Who is correct? What is optimal for Google? For Yahoo!?
I could point to several live examples of almost every case. How then, do SEO people publish SEO advice on the topic with authority?
Q: Should I have one deep, rich web site, or should I break it into smaller, niche sites which follow some crafted interlinking scheme?
This also shows up on plenty of SEO forums and advice web sites, and is oft-debated on web master community sites like WebMasterWorld. Many have strong opinions, and state with authority why one should have one deep site or perhaps many small niche sites. Which is accurate advice? Which authority is really an authority?
Q: Should I worry about Yahoo! and Ask, or just focus on Google?
Many SEO people say Google serves all the traffic today, so best focus on SEO for Google. Some web publishers report that Yahoo” traffic converts better thanGoogle traffic. Some even state (with authority?) that Google traffic is more research-oriented, serving information seekers, while Yahoo! is more product-oriented, with more shoppers than information seekers. Some say Ask is not worth even considering, because it sends so little traffic. Which SEO advice is good advice? Who’s right? Or perhaps the best question to ask here, “What Say You, Mr Expert?”
So then, who do you believe?
In my opinion, if you have strong convictions for any of the above questions, you maybe reality blind with respect to SEO. In my experience, each of these issues depends heavily on the specific markets and publishing scenario under consideration… or at last it may. We’d have to check, wouldn’t we? And if that is true, what is the measure of a good Search Marketer?
I put critical thinking at the top of the list, along with creativity, experience, and determination/passion, in that order. Least important, and potentially last on the list of factors to consider when choosing an SEO consultant? Public profile established via speaking engagements, professional association, or SEO information published with authority on the Internet. There are many other factors to consider when choosing any consultant (e.g. work habits, reliability, integrity, honesty) and some of those may be evaluated through examination of public speaking engagements etc., but when it comes to SEO qualification, in my view if you think you’re All That, you’re probably not.