Name five examples of SEO misinformation from the past year

Matt Cutts is the head of the Google Webspam team.  His decisions ultimately affect your rankings in Google.  When Matt talks we listen.

If you prefer to learn SEO by reading, I have transcribed the video below.  When Matt mentions “we” he means “Google”.


[divider top_link=”false” autosize=”false”]

“Today’s question comes from Tom S. in Seattle, Washington. Tom asks: Name five examples of SEO misinformation from the past year given by reputable persons that made you want to bang your head against the wall. You don’t need to name names.

Okay. So I can think of at least a couple, and I’ll highlight those and then I’ll fill it out with some other misconceptions.

The biggest one that made me want to bang my head against this wall was the idea that somehow if you do negative things towards your customers so they complain on customer complaint sites, that those links automatically count, because that’s a dangerous idea that if you can abuse your customers, the more bad you treat them, the more links you’ll get and the higher your rankings will be in Google. That’s very definitely a misconception.

So Thor from posted a blog post where he said, “Look, we have no-follow on these links.” And just as a quick reminder, no-follow is a general mechanism to say I don’t necessarily endorse this link to a third party. We can say to ourselves, “You know what? Even though this is a reputable site, we don’t necessarily trust or we don’t trust this no-follow link. We drop it out of our link graph so it doesn’t figure into PageRank. No anchor text flows through that link.” So as a result, all of these customer complaint sites weren’t contributing to that particular site’s search rankings.

Another misconception that I’ve heard is that the Google Webspam Team is somehow slacking off this year. Just because certain SEOs might not see what various people in the Webspam Team are working on doesn’t mean that we’re not working very hard.

For example, one of the biggest things that we faced, in the year 2010, was hack sites. There’s a lot of people out there who trying to do essentially illegal things. They’re really trying to hack a site and add links to their own stuff, or distribute malware or viruses or Trojans. So this was enough of a malicious trend that we wanted to spend some time on it, put some cycles in and try to correct it. So that involved a lot of people working for quite a number of months, and so as a result people might not have seen other changes going on. So if you take your resources and you’re trying to stop hack spam sites, then you might not see as much of the regular spam fighting. So the good news is that the hack site changes have mostly gone live, and those people are sort of being pulled back to work on the regular webspam that people might otherwise see.

Another misconception is that only links matter. People sometimes think, “Oh, I only need to get links. I don’t need anything at all other than links.” And it does help to have good content on your site. So don’t just pursue links. Also think about your site architecture, how crawlable it is, how discoverable it is, whether you have good internal links, whether you have the words on your page that people are actually going to search for. All of those things are really useful.

A specific misconception that I like to pull out and highlight is that the keywords meta tag counts in Google search ranking somehow, because it just doesn’t. We don’t use the meta keywords tag.

Then another little bit of misinformation that I’ve seen from a few people, not necessarily because they were deliberately trying to spread any misinformation, is that the Webspam Team is either all algorithmic or all manual. The fact is that we do reserve the right to manually remove sites when we get a spam report or when we somehow detect that something is going on. So we do have a manual team that operates in many different languages around the world. We’re proud of that team. They do a great job. As far as I know, every other major search engine also has a team that looks at spam manually, and that’s great because not only can they remove spam, but very importantly they provide training data for the engineers who work on webspam. So it’s good to know that it’s not just engineers and it’s not just manual people checking out spam reports. It’s the combination of both of those that really is the way that Google approaches webspam.

So those are just a few of the things that I saw this year, and I am glad to have the chance to clarify it for you.”

Matt Cutts

Photo Credit: Flickr