John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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July 27th, 2007 by john andrews

Can Google Kill Off SEO?

We all know Google hates SEO. They used to express it openly, before they were a BigPublicCompany. Then they branded it, with the “black hat” references. Now they are quiet about openly opposing SEO, although with each new “advance” of the Google “algorithm” they try and kill off what is commonly understood to be Search Engine Optimization (SEO). They do it by trying to make it irrelevant, or at least trying to make it appear that way. They do it by taking away the signals that suggest a need for SEO, one at a time.

Now they have added a great SEO tool “Unavailable after” while at the same time increasingly removing one of the best signals of SEO problems, the supplemental label. I don’t often agree with Michael Martinez, but this time I love what he says over at SearchEngineLand (bold added):

But I am increasingly concerned about the message coming from Google regarding Supplemental Results pages. Simply removing “Supplemental Result” from the SERP listings won’t change the fact that Google only partially parses and indexes the Supplemental Results pages (a fact Matt Cutts confirmed at SMX Advanced 2007 in Seattle). If Google does not begin fully parsing and indexing the Supplemental Results pages then they need to keep the designation visible so that users and Webmasters alike know there is something different in the data they are seeing. Otherwise Google will be engaging in a deceptive trade practice by deliberately and intentionally misleading people regarding the way they process and present Web data information.

Just removing the label hurts SEO practitioners and end users interested in web site performance. It does nothing to improve the algorithm, and actually hurts the promised mission of making the world’s information accessible. I think Michael’s being a bit wishful with that corruption allusion, though.

They’ve added “did you mean” which reduces reliance on some aspects of SEO. They’ve integrated some aspects of Universal Search, which effects some of SEO negatively. They say that underscores will now parse just like hyphens, which takes away an SEO task (or seems to). Underscores are always ripe for SEO services, as coders love them.

But what do all this adjustments really do to SEO? They help SEO. You see, SEO is about competition, not marketing. Google is a marketing company. There is only 1 #1 spot for every search, and Google can never change that until it ceases to be a search destination and traffic referral source. Sure, it can become a portal like Yahoo! and eliminate the need to appear #1 (I lost track of the location of the #1 organic search resulton Yahoo! a while ago… let me know if you find it). But as long as Google wants to be TheSearchEngine, it will have organic results. As long as it has organic results that matter, SEO will survive. As long as Google makes it harder to SEO, SEO will thrive. Just ask Ask… the only way to kill off the SEO incentive is to remove organic results from the first page - LOL.

So keep trying, Google, because it feels good. Less pressure on us SEOs for short term results because you are making it obvious that it takes time to beat Google at it’s own game, and you are making it obvious that in order to beat Wikipedia, the regular webmaster needs more than just a $29/month SEO services package from Network Solutions’ overseas affiliates. What’s that you say? Is there anything else you can do to help us SEO blokes? Sure! How about raising those PPC minimum bids again? I don’t care if you do it by “adjusting” the “quality” requirements or by outright demand, just do it, ok? It’s GREAT for business!

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July 27th, 2007 by john andrews

Zend Framework SEO: Now There’s a SERP that needs help

Tsk tsk tsk… there is but one thing more annoying than a web programmer community site that doesn’t properly handle sessions. And that is a web programmer community site that posts a review of an SEO for PHP book, offers an opportunity to comment, but then then prevents me from posting my comment (presumably because of the sessions issue, but who cares why?).

Anyway that community site is Zend Developer Zone, and the less-than-stellar review I can’t comment on is for a SEO for PHP book over here.

If you search Zend Framework SEO you get three misleading results in the top three spots. You then get non-relevant stuff. We could really use some decent content ranking in that SERP for Zend Framework SEO. The top result is the most worriesome: a positive review for a book on SEO for PHP, that is misinformed and clearly biased. I would like to suggest that all SEO Consultants read that review, because it clearly demonstrates the bias held by PHP coders regarding SEO. Understand the perspective of that PHP coder writing the review, and you understand what I deal with when I work with tech teams on client projects.

Here is the response I wanted to post to the comments on that Zend Developer page:

I’m going to use this review as an example of how programmers view SEO. It demonstrates a bias quite well.

First let me say that if you are a PHP pro, comfortable with the ZF repository, you are far different from the majority of technologists responsible for SEO implementations.

Second, SEO is a dynamic discipline. Even the best book on SEO and PHP has to spend the bulk of it’s 300+ pages on enabling infrastructure. That’s not a bad thing, but it’s not all you need to SEO your sites. Whenever the book recommends implementation tactics, that advice must be suspect because SEO factors change continuously.

Third, if you really know PHP, you recognize that 10 good PHP programmers will implement a web site on ZF 10 different ways. All on ZF, but all different. Same for SEO. Ten SEO-savvy people will SEO a web site 10 different ways. What’s different about SEO, however, is it is accountable. The implementation that was “best” is the one that out ranks the others.

Which brings me to the final point: SEO tactics by themeselves are like ZF by itself: basically useless. ZF is an enabling framework for web app development. SEO is a framework for ranking on targeted search phrases. Would you implement ZF for a project without a good PHP coder? Why do you think you can implement SEO without a good SEO?

I’m not saying you can’t.. I’m not much of a PHP coder but I deploy PHP web sites all by myself and they do their job. But I know very well the value of a good PHP coder, even when I decide against hiring one for a project.

Now I would expect this to be WAY over the head of most SEOs, because very few SEOs are so advanced in their PHP work to be working with the latest release of the Zend Framework. That’s not an elitist statement - I am far from a good PHP coder. But I do work with ZF and it is non-trivial stuff. You really need to be waste high in PHP development world to understand how ZF is properly deployed SEO-wise; much more than user-level involvement. What SEO has time besides the tech team (PHP coders) or the PHP-skilled self-practioner? And that is the problem.. those PHP guys will read that review and get misdirected. I have greatest respect for those who SEO for themselves, and especially those competitive webmasters with mad PHP skillz. And I’m all for selling books if you’re friends are writing them. But I dislike reading bad SEO advice, no matter the context.

These are the current top four results in Google for Zend Framework SEO:

Zend Developer Zone | Search Engine Friendly Websites with the …
The Zend Framework allows for websites that are search engine friendly, although some thought needs to be taken when building your application. …
devzone.zend.com/article/949-Search-Engine-Friendly-Websites-with-the-Zend-Framework - 35k - Cached - Similar pages

Zend Developer Zone
Zend Framework and the New Hybrid Designer … (the lovely and talented Kathy) attended a very expensive conference on SEO put on by 4 SEO Professionals. …
devzone.zend.com/ - 30k - Jul 24, 2007 - Cached - Similar pages

SEO friendly URL’s on Zend Framework - Zend Framework Forum
Hello, I am very concern about SEO things for some websites and i am wondering what can do ZF for us. This is in fact the main reason for which i didn’
www.zfforums.com/…/search-engine-optimization-friendly-urls-zend-framework-44.html - 74k - Cached - Similar pages

AJAX Tooling For Zend Framework Will Be a Full Development …
Also on the future roadmap is AJAX tooling for the Zend framework. … By SEO/SEM News Desk. FTC Probing Microsoft & Yahoo Ad Deals As Well As Google’s …
search.sys-con.com/read/397497.htm - 76k - Cached - Similar pages

What would be really cool to see? Stuff that matter when considering SEO on Zend Framework? How about:

Having your Cake and Eating it 2.0 : Using a front controller with strict URLs. Rerouter Black Magic for Zend Framework.

Cross-platform Trailing Slash redirection: We don’t need to stinkin’ Apache

Getting More out of URLs: 100 Ways to encode infrastructure bits into URLs to drive SEOs Crazy: (starts with CamelCase parsing, moves on to underscores, hacks its way to hyphens and finally configurabe separators! Plenty of language-specific issues included!

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July 26th, 2007 by john andrews

Wow. Talk about Bad Press.

After publishing this ugliness, Time Magazine had better be completely arms-length from any online dating site that competes with eHarmony. Talk about nasty commentary, that article is as biased as they come. I have to wonder just how bad an online romantic experience the Time “reporter” had with eHarmony to cause that rant. Or maybe she (he?) never got past the screening… it’s probably worse to get rejected by the bot than a human, eh?

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