Matt KWDs Says: Do as I Say, Not as I Spam

70 comments

Matt Cutts recently talked down keyword density in a post that had SEO in it so many times that it crashed Firefox when I tried highlighting the term.

Comments

A Bit of Envy

Do you get the feeling he'd like to join us? Being an SEO is way more fun than working for the Man.

Take him on!

It would rock if you guys could get Matt Cutts to post occasionally here at ThreadWatch.

As it is - the day he retires from Google, and starts a consulting firm will rock!

Coming Out of the Closet

It is very funny. In The Beginning of Matt, anything you did specifically to influence search engines was bad. Then there were white hats and bad hats. Then there was advise on doing seo "right". Now Matt is presenting tactics for influencing search engines on his blog.

Of interest to me is that Matt doesn't seem to have a good grasp of SEO. He's surely trying, but he's also clearly experimenting and not nearly aware as an SEO that works the SERPs. That suggests he's not too connected to search inside Google. I would expect that to be reinforced by Google as he forays further into the manipulation.

It is quite a cool

It is quite a cool progression, eh John?

My only concern is the day Matt sells an ebook I am toast ;) but I am sure I would be one of his first customers :)

sorry

Sorry Aaron I edited too slow. My bad :-)

I was thinking SEO book as well, because he strikes me as a strong reader much more than an experienced SEO.

Now if Dave could get the

Now if Dave could get the highlighted version to make a picture then i would give him a link ;)

I responded over at DaveN's

I responded over at DaveN's because I saw his post first:
http://www.davidnaylor.co.uk/archives/2006/08/22/matt-cutts-keyword-stuffing-seo/#comments

Ah, what a business model, too!

"In general, any time you look for an answer or some information and can’t find it, that should strike you as an opportunity."

Meaning that if the search engines are too dumb to find it, please write something more and add it to the queue? Isn't that what the MFA crowd's doing all the time?

I can't find it because

The first 200 slots are filled up with .gov, .edu, or hopelessly out of date "authority" .com links that completely fail to include information that would help a human being. The oddest thing about Matt's post is that he acts as if on-page factors, and especially the text in the content, have all that much to do with how pages rank these days.

Nice point

... about those on page factors, indeed. Why not blog that with a "Google Bearish on PR and Links" headline? Maybe they'll find THAT one. :-)

raycam, I mentioned that my

raycam, I mentioned that my chosen topic was specific enough that I was out of the competitive areas where anchortext or other off-page stuff are really big factors.

--

I found it amusing on Matt's blog when he was asking what sorts of stuff people wanted him to post, and one option was more info on SEO.

I believe I made a comment there to the effect of "When did Matt become an SEO?"

Not that Matt needs any more money, but can you imagine the money he'd make if he went out on his own as an SEO? Surely, tons of companies would hire him "just because." :)

Dunno about specific making a difference

I dunno, Matt. Speaking as a Google user, I have done some pretty specific searchers lately, in very noncompetitive areas, where getting past the non-helpful .gov and .edu results was a real pain in the neck. Stuff like trying to find a model invoice for a particular kind of work to modify for a bill (you have no idea how many university hospitals post their preferred form of invoice online until you do a search like that, or how many .gov agencies have a required invoice form for government contractors). There were others that dealt with tax issues that got me into the same kind of stuff. The supposedly limiting term to get me to the kind of invoice I wanted would appear somewhere in the document, but far away, and not in a way that actually made it the kind of document I wanted.

To get something useful, you know what I did? I formulated a general term that got me into the kind of terms that spammers go after. I then searched within the sites that came up, including some that were paid ads, and found what I wanted. The problem came precisely when I was in the non-spam long tail area, where the .govs and .edus absolutely rule, because no one is doing the work (linking up deep backlinks, testing pages until one works, maybe some darker stuff) necessary to get past them.

I use Google because I got used to using Google back in the day, but I have to tell you that if I tried something else that actually got me what I wanted without having me spend fifteen minutes working past all the .gov and .edu worse-than-spam, my loyalty would be tested.

And that's me. I'm pretty good at searching online, going back to using proprietary online services before the invention of the world wide web. What percentage of Google users actually use, or know how to effectively use, the options on the advanced search page? How many of them give up after reading fifteen off point government and about.com pages before figuring the answer just isn't there, and heading off to the library or Borders to see if it can be found in a book?

My guess is that mattcutts.com is trusted at the level of Harvard.edu, which will effect how your page gets ranked. On top of that, anything you post, on any topic, is automatic link bait, getting dozens of links in the day it is published. For an experiment, try living where we live. Why don't you go to GoDaddy, register a domain under your wife's name, host it on a commercial shared server somewhere far away, post of a few of these supposedly correctly written pages in a noncompetitive area, and see what happens. My prediction - not much. It's all in the domain these days, and not necessarily in the right domains.

The hotbox

It's worth noting that as much as we put Matt Cutts in the hotbox over a variety of issues - we do appreciate that you sit there :). I'm sure it doesn't appear that way when it's question after question, many of them pointed and laced with opinions, but the fact that someone stands up in the face of that onslaught is worthy of respect (and recieves that respect even if it's not always expressed).

Matt knowing less about

Matt knowing less about "SEO" would make him even more dangerous in future search algorithms because he writes well. ;)

I agree with Wheel

In case it's not clear, I respect Matt greatly. He does a difficult job well. I, too, am grateful that he drops in here and elsewhere.

Fair point, raycam. I think

Fair point, raycam. I think it would be fun to try more with AdWords, YPN or AdSense, or starting from an unknown domain and seeing what I could do. It would be a hoot to register something like shadyseo.com that doesn't have any links and play around with ranking starting with zero links someday. :)

try it matt. i'll even loan

try it matt. i'll even loan you some handy scripts.

skew

I think much of what we do as SEOs is skewed, and that fact is exaggerated by so-called "experiments" like this. As commercial webmasters, we naturally weave opportunity into the mix. Opportunity-driven strategies pay well, but are not pure SEO. When we execute a tactic because its "cool" or "will work" we are allowing the opportunity to drive our choices. That's the skew.

If Matt wants to play SEO, Matt needs a client, not an opportunity. Let's say Molly Ringwald hires Matt to SEO for her new celebrity scented candle line "16 Candles". Go ahead and get page 1 for "Molly Ringwald Candles" or "16 candles" or whatever the money terms are. That's SEO, not using a PR5 page to rank for Bacon Polenta.

Jill's comment above about the money Matt could make as an SEO is revealing about the SEO market. It's not as much about performance as it used to be, for sure. Funny how some used to say "SEO is PR"... it really seems that way these days (in a twisted way).

and fwiw

just stay outta travel and real estate, matt.

We'll throw in a t-shirt

featuring our infamous "Evil Black Hat Search Engine Spammer" graphics (made by Teresa, no less). :-)

And casinos and credit repair

and online prescription drugs and sports gear and pharmacies and diet programs and offshore finance and adult content, to name but another choice few.
And, oh yes, let's not forget this one: SEO.

16 Candles

> celebrity scented candle line "16 Candles"

Truthfully, I wouldn't know where to begin. Some of the guys and I are talking about new niches, social sites, etc. In that conversation, it's very apparent that interest, maybe even vestiges of the game mentality, still drive what you want to do in SEO.

Better yet Matt, try putting

Better yet Matt, try putting a "compliant" site into the SERPs.

I'll check back on your success in a few years. ;)

nome de plume

I think that starting a blog on a brand new domain (not a subdomain) where you didn't use your own name, or borrow any "juice" from anything you are already running, would actually prove to be pretty interesting for you Matt. Especially if you contrasted it to your current blog.

Cash prizes available!

And Google should offer a faaaaaabulous prize (like, I'd loooove one of those fridges!) for the first person to find and out this new MC site.

Top of Page 2

Matt's blog is on Page 2 already for SEO, not bad for repetitive use of keywords in 3 days.

10,000 links in a day may have a little something to do with it, but nice anyway.

Behold! Yet another search engine spammer is born!

At least now we can all point to it and say: "See - it's OFFICIAL! And: Relief, keyword stuffing works again!"

Tip...

At least now we can all point to it and say: "See - it's OFFICIAL! And: Relief, keyword stuffing works again!"

It never stopped working. Raycam, on-page factors continue to rule, as they always have.

Just because the SEO community sells itself a load of horse crap about what is required to rank well doesn't mean that's actually the way things are.

The more competitive expressions, where everyone went with links for ranking, are the minority.

So would you evaluate

"SEO" as being an uncompetitive term? And if so, by which standards?

Is "SEO" a competitive term?

Not as competitive as, say, "real estate" or "insurance", in my opinion.

Matt moved up to page 1 today. People at SEOMoz are still, I think, scratching their heads over why seotoday.com should rank for the word (the fact that its cached content is loaded with "SEO" apparently doesn't count for anything).

Frankly, I think it will all be moot in a matter of days as dozens or hundreds of SEO blogs (I have stopped counting) are now linking to Matt's post. Everyone will soon be hiding behind the curtains as their smoke and fireballs proclaim "It's all because of the links".

"We're off to see the Wizard, the Wizard of SEO! We hear he is a wiz of a wiz if ever a wiz there was!"

Well, hopefully Matt will continue to share fundamental search ranking ideas. The SEO community has wallowed in nonsense for years and badly needs a serious wakeup call.

This is why I think Google, Yahoo!, Ask, and MSN should begin certifying Search Engine Optimizers. There is no one else out there who is really qualified to separate the crap from the fact.

In my humble opinion....

clarification

Michael just to make sure I understand you are you saying on page factors are more important than linkage data, and the trustrank/authority those links eventually pass on?

Clarification

Michael just to make sure I understand you are you saying on page factors are more important than linkage data, and the trustrank/authority those links eventually pass on?

It's a big search index, isn't it? So it would be foolish for anyone to say unequivocably that links are more important than on-page factors or that on-page factors are more important than links.

What most SEOs do is rely almost solely upon links to position their pages (or clients' pages) in the search results.

Just because you can do it this way, however, does not mean that it must be done this way.

And yet, when someone like Matt shows that it can be done through on-page content, SEOs choke on their spit, hem, haw, and come up with ridiculous rationalizations and qualifications so that they can justify hanging on to their silly links-are-king mythology.

The original Google paper stipulates that they "designed [their] ranking function so that no particular factor can have too much influence" -- and yet how often do you or anyone else in the SEO community point that out?

That same paper stipulates that the rankings are based on a computed IR score (which is derived in part from on-page factors and a 10-bin proximity measurement) combined with PageRank. How often have you or anyone else in the SEO community pointed this out for your readers?

My point is that the SEO community focuses on just one part of the larger picture.

I've never said links are not important. In fact, I've always said they are important for several reasons. But people who ignore the importance of organizing on-page content to take advantage of the known Google ranking factors are running the race with one shoe tied and one shoe off.

You can spin that any way you want or just accept it as I say it, because I don't mean anything other than what I say.

"SEO" - the true Viagra

Michael: While I'll concede you "life/health/car insurance" and "florida real estate" (because they're far more realistic as search terms go), if Google results are an indication "SEO" is practically on par with the latter and sure beats the hell out of "Viagra", "credit repair" and even "online casino".

Here's a baker's dozen of some popular terms, based on Google queries.


Date: 2006-08-25
(All terms sans quotes;
Google results are specified as "about", i.e. approximations)

"seo": 141,000,000
"search engine optimization": 101,000,000

"insurance": 1,060,000,000
"health insurance": 553,000,000
"life insurance": 367,000,000
"car insurance": 292,000,000

"real estate": 1,090,000,000
"florida real estate": 143,000,000

"online gambling": 88,400,000
"online casino": 124,000,000
"online casinos": 54,800,000

"viagra": 75,100,000
"cialis": 37,700,000

"sportsbook": 10,100,000
"online sportsbook": 8,290,000

"credit card": 608,000,000
"credit repair": 77,400,000
"payday loans": 43,800,000
"payday loan": 23,700,000

This said, I've never bought into all that link hysteria that's been so prevalent the past years myself. To all practical purposes, PR's been so dead for years, it's even stopped smelling funny ...

And yes, you'll (still? again?) find keyword stuffed pages performing rather nicely here and there, but as probably everyone hanging around here knows, in SEO there's always tons of exceptions to every perceived "rule".

Ralph...

And yes, you'll (still? again?) find keyword stuffed pages performing rather nicely here and there, but as probably everyone hanging around here knows, in SEO there's always tons of exceptions to every perceived "rule".

Yours has always been one of the voices in the community I've most respected. I think that we all probably see things more the same than differently, it's just that I tend knock chips off shoulders, especially when I'm rushed, feeling ill, or not fully paying attention to what I'm doing.

"SEO" is a competitive expression in my opinion. But I dodged your bullet because, in order to explain and defend that opinion rationally, I would have to disclose some SERPs I'd rather not discuss openly.

Not everything I do is about science fiction fan sites. I think people forget that because I'm more willing to talk about what I do with the SF sites than what I do with commercial projects.

So, please forgive my not giving you a direct answer. You deserve better, but I've painted myself into the proverbial corner.

Nonetheless, Matt and Rand Fishkin have just this week shown the SEO community that there are sites which apparently outrank link-heavy sites in part on the basis of content.

I say "in part" because I'm in no better position to know than anyone else outside Google. I don't really care if I persuade the old hands to change their minds. Those of you who are making money -- either through the services you provide or the SpamAd sites you run -- really won't care what I or anyone else says. Money talks, opinion walks.

But I'm always concerned about the people who are new to SEO, who join the various forums, and who get the mistaken notion that they have to devote the bulk of their efforts to link building.

The conventional SEO wisdom should be telling people, "Organize your content to rank as highly as logically possible first, and then adjust your linkage to compensate for hyperoptimized competition."

But most people still wrongly believe they are all in highly competitive categories, and they're not.

This week signals an opportunity for the SEO community to cool the build-more-links-first rhetoric in the face of real examples where that doesn't have to happen. It's an opportunity for the old dogs to learn some older tricks, but the pack is howling in pain and rebelling against common sense.

I hope we aren't all

I hope we aren't all assigned to this particular pack.

geesh

I don't know who "Ralph" is, because I deal with what I am dealt and there is no "Ralph" listed here. Forgive my ignorance. That's just part of this painting. Given the quote, I'll guess Fantomaster.

After that insider quip we get hyperbolic :

Quote:
SEOs choke on their spit, hem, haw, and come up with ridiculous rationalizations and qualifications so that they can justify hanging on to their silly links-are-king mythology.

and

Quote:
What most SEOs do is rely almost solely upon links to position their pages (or clients' pages) in the search results.

are easy to quote. Yawn.

For someone who writes like he's pissed at misguided SEO authority and DefenderOfNaiveClients you certainly don't paint a fair picture, Mr. Michael Martinez. It seems to me the picture you paint of SEO is just that - the picture you paint. What's your agenda, sir?

It seems that these days you have forgotten the recent past and are unable to make peace with the idea that links do play a significant role in many recently-minted-seo's arsenals. And with the public perception goes the marketing, so why the surprise? "Sell what the customers are buying" is surely a better sales method than.... whatever.

This bit tips the scales of rational:

Quote:
It's an opportunity for the old dogs to learn some older tricks, but the pack is howling in pain and rebelling against common sense.

Perhaps most oddly, you started by quoting raycam's comment about keyword stuffing. I read Raycam's comment about keyword stuffing as sarcasm.

I quote John Stewart when he interviewed Bill O'Reilly... "why so angry?"

sheesh

John_Andrews, Ralph aka fantomaster here. Rejoice, mate - you guessed right.

My, my, don't be too hard on Michael, hell: after all, he's stated if not quite in as many words that he's having a bit of a hard - or darn busy - time or similar currently, hasn't he?

And yes, Michael: as you know, the respect is fully reciprocated. Always enjoy reading your stuff, even if I do happen to disagree, which is rarely enough anyway.

No problem about your holding back with some SERPs - who doesn't? Qualifies for "Best Practices" in this industry, doesn't it?

The conventional SEO wisdom should be telling people, "Organize your content to rank as highly as logically possible first, and then adjust your linkage to compensate for hyperoptimized competition."

That may not be an entirely new revelation but it's probably the most sensible bit on SEO I've read in quite a while. Well put.

And John again: if you take offense at Michael's "an opportunity for the old dogs to learn some older tricks" (lmao at that one myself), I can't quite follow your rationale. I mean, it's been that way all the time: what goes around comes around, in SEO as anywhere else.

Not too surprising, either: after all, it's humans running these outfits (ok - more often than not you might argue that they're only pretending, making it all up as they go along, and you wouldn't hear me contending that particularly vociferously either, heh). So they tweak their algos, see what happens, don't like the results, tweak them some more, try out a few new ideas, and so on.

And come time, they'll likely have run the full cycle of fundamental possibilities (not too many of those available anyway, in some very essential ways it's a whole lot less complex than it may seem to be at first glance), and wham! they're back on field one with a belly full of new experiences to digest.

Much like the fashion business: just sit and wait long enough, and all your faded bellbottoms and petticoats will suddenly be the "latest" craze once more. (Lava lamps ring a bell? Or, for that matter, Warren Buffet's investment strategy?) Because at the end of the day, humans (yep - even SE employees) will always return to what they've survived at some previous point in time.

IMV, if there's still a modicum of fun in this industry left after a full decade of gaming the engines, it's this perpetual, ever-recurring "back to basics". Sort of like a burst of rejuvenation, albeit not entirely original ...

So here's to the next forthcoming round of meta tag spamming! :-)

Up until then, my best advice would be to have a serious bash at LSI for a change.

All content? From a random

All content?
From a random sample of 800 backlinks to Matt’s blog 10% have the word SEO in the anchor text

An oldie but goodie...

Top result for [computer] = www.apple.com
Instances of the word "computer" = 1 (the company, 'Apple Computer', in the footer)
Top result for [allinanchor:computer] = www.apple.com

IMO, Matt's page ranked because it was the most keyword stuffed and freshest document on a domain that has a metric assload of SEO-related inbound links. Authority sites can act the fool with content.

Bob...

I hope we aren't all assigned to this particular pack.

It's a shoe-fitting exercise. Don't take offense at anything that doesn't describe you. The offense is only intended for the people who cannot shake the links-only mythology off their shoes.

Scoreboard: top result for "pizza" is still pizza hut. So what?

Top result for "michael martinez" is now my official Web site, after almost three years of Google presenting a page that had fewer than 5 inbound links to it (and that page still shows in the top ten).

So what?

"Authority site"? That's as meaningless as "quality links".

Some of you guys still have a lot to learn about the fundamentals of search engine optimization.

Authority sites and quality links

everyone's entitled to an opinion, but from where I sit on page factors aren't worthy didly until you've got enough "quality links" from "authority sites" to get past whatever we're calling the sandbox/trustbox thingy these days. Now if you're on an "old" and "trusted" site then you can start worrying about on page and on site factors, otherwise you're rearranging deck chairs on on empty ship with no passengers.

"Authority" and "quality"

everyone's entitled to an opinion, but from where I sit on page factors aren't worthy didly until you've got enough "quality links" from "authority sites" to get past whatever we're calling the sandbox/trustbox thingy these days....

No argument on the need for trusted links, but my point is that "authority" and "quality" are just meaningless buzzwords that SEOs lob around the Web.

"authority site" is a euphemism for "site I can't figure out".

"quality link" is a euphemism for "links I think should help me".

Every site needs links to be crawled. And now, thanks to the abuses of spammers and overzealous SEOs, every link needs to be evaluated before it can be trusted.

All I'm saying (and all Matt is saying) is that it's far easier to rank on the basis of on-page content than on the basis of massing link anchor text.

You guys can continue to beat your heads against the wall for all I care. If you're happy with what you're doing, fine. There are certainly easier ways of getting the job done than going after every link possible, but I'm not getting paid to force any of you to do this the most efficient or sensible way.

I'm just amazed at how quickly the SEO community leaped to the offensive to insist that Matt Cutts doesn't understand how Google works as well as they do.

Matt doesn't know everything about the search engine, but he knows more than you, me, and all the other SEOs combined.

None of you are in any position to be saying he's wrong to advocate content-rich SEO. It works, it has always worked, and there is no reason to believe that it will stop working.

Show me where in Google's code it says, "Authority_Site = [some equation]".

You can't. You're just speculating, and not speculating on the basis of fact but on the basis of collective SEO opinion. I have contributed to that opinion through the years, but at least I have sense enough not to tell Google engineers I know more about how their software works than they do.

You guys have gone way over the top on this one. That's what is so exasperating. You guys just dug in your heels and refused to admit that you were wrong. You still refuse to admit that Matt's grasp of the fundamentals is sound.

Deck Chairs

otherwise you're rearranging deck chairs on on empty ship with no passengers

Exactly, you could publish the cure for cancer on a new domain and unless you get some links to it from some high quality sites no one is going to find it through google. That's why I liked the suggestions that matt try his writing experiment on a new domain without pulling in any favors from his webmaster friends or fame from being who he is, use no traded or bought links. Just try to be an average guy with a $3.99/month hosting service from godaddy on a server with 5000 other sites. The quality of the information, the style of writing, keyword density, bold vs. strong; it's all meaningless until the site is linked to heavily.

Once the domain has high trust, rank, whatever you can pretty much throw up whatever you want and it will be indexed, for example:

http://72.14.203.104/search?q=cache:GepSF8z0TewJ:www.mattcutts.com/blog/gmail-vacation-autoresponder/feed/+site:www.mattcutts.com&hl=en&gl=us&ct=clnk&cd=4

example

All I know is I can throw up a title and "waiting for content" on a web 2.0 media darling authority site and get a top ten ranking, or I can create great on page content on a new domain and ponder the inner meaning of "quality links" while I wait for traffic ...

Michael feel free to PM or email me if you want to see an example

Examples...

Michael feel free to PM or email me if you want to see an example

I have seen plenty of examples, thank you. That doesn't change the fact that the SEO community has been wrong to downplay the importance of content.

You're confusing the need to validate a page as trustworthy with the mechanism for determining wether it's relevant to a specific query. They are not connected.

The bottom line is that the search engine has to return relevant results, and the first place it looks -- the first place it has always looked -- is on the page.

Forum manipulation lesson # 8765

Ralph - thanks for owning up to the name.

As for "taking offense" at Mr. Martinez, nah. It takes a good deal to offend me. But I do get annoyed when certain players come into TW and play forum manipulation games here. It's tiring to sift through, and more tiring to watch as well-meaning participants get played. ThreadWatch doesn't have to be another stop on the abrasive bait practice circuit.

John + Michael

John: Obviously, individual impressions are a dime a dozen but while I'll endorse the take that Michael's way of putting things may not exactly qualify for pussyfooting, I guess we all know that it IS a pretty emotion-laden topic within the SEO community. So if he doesn't mince words about it, at least he's voicing a specific, clear cut (ok: strong) opinion instead of merely bleating with the flock.

Not that I personally find anyone participating in TW to belong to that crowd, which is actually my main reason for hanging around here at all when my time constraints will allow for it. But if that should be his opinion, he's welcome to it as far as I'm concerned: it'll be for him alone to defend if challenged, but I'm sure he's more than able to cope.

In any case I feel that terming this "forum manipulation games" and "abrasive bait practice" is a bit over the top, especially as he hasn't addressed anyone in particular by name or resorted to ad hominem arguments.

It's also not very conducive to constructive discussion - and I absolutely agree with you that TW shouldn't be turned into yet another bloody flaming platform, no matter by whom. So in that spirit I'd say we can easily agree to differ without getting frantic or acerbic about it, not so?

Michael: I'm not sure you aren't overstating matters a mite regarding the view many people here seem to be holding of Matt. The way I read it, it actually wasn't at all about telling an honest working man his job etc. Rather, it's a matter of trust IMV.

After all, as everyone here knows, Matt works for Google and not in any minor, essentially expendable capacity, either. As such, it only stands to reason that he's bound to pursue his company's agenda - it would actually be blatantly reprehensible and disloyal (read: "evil", hehe) if he did otherwise.

So, to all practical purposes it's sound policy to assume that he's not interested one bit in spilling the beans in their entirety regarding effective SEO demands. After all, both you and I will well remember the times, not too long ago, when ALL search engines would view ALL SEOs as mere spammer scum to be wiped off the face of the earth, the sooner the better. As I recall, Mikkel was the very first SE rep to publicly adopt a different, more rational and constructive approach before he finally switched sides. So it's not as if we as SEOs owe the search engines anything in terms of social niceties.

(I won't go into my old contention regarding their parasitic theft of webmasters' content without giving anything in return here as it's off topic and a full fledged can of worms in its own right - just making mention of it to paint a more comprehensive atmospheric picture, ok?)

Also, let's not forget that this is a multi billion dollar biz involving tightly guarded business secrets, enforceable patents, NDAs galore, a sharks basin of competition, escalating click fraud and potential graft issues, etc.

So if people have their doubts and nurture downright misgivings not to say suspicions about whatever information he may deign to dole out, it's not entirely irrational. (Of course, I fully agree with you that any overkill on this score is plain stupid.) As always, the proof of the pudding ... etc. Because first and foremost he's a spin doctor in his blogging and forum activities: that's the way the cookie crumbles IMV, and it would be quite pointless to fault him for it.

Whether he's good or bad at this game is subject to personal opinion, of course, but it does make perfect sense to take anything he offers by way of SEO advice with a huge fistful of salt. IMO we would collectively be doing him (possibly) and ourselves (certainly) a pretty dumb and risky disservice if we didn't.

Which is not to say that he's ever been caught out as being deliberately misleading, AFAIK. I didn't read of anyone accusing him of that here, and I for my part certainly won't either. But there's obviously a very fine line between downright lying (ok: disinformation warfare) and not divulging the whole truth and nothing but the truth. I'd be downright surprised, nay: wary if he suddenly were to give away the "Golden Key to SEO" (if there actually were such a thing), as the old cui bono investigation adage holds true here, too, as everywhere else. Reality check: Why the heck should he, even if he could?

Now add to that your excellent point that he, too, may not know everything about search engines (the synergy and interdependency factors governing all ranking algos are far too complex for that), let alone SEO (which is, after all, as you don't need me to tell you, an entirely different animal), and what you'll get is a fairly absurd, often involuntarily comic situation determined by a mélange of abject paranoia, subjective empiricism (aka overestimation of what is, after all, merely anecdotal evidence), reasonable and rational wariness, genuine interest in what makes search engines tick, routines of fond beliefs and delusions, insecure challended egos, critical ingenuity, emotional reflexes, etc. etc.

Viewed in this light I'd say it's more important and profitable to us all to focus on the technical issues at hand without wasting time on generalizing people's individual attitudes merely to trash them.

True, it's a shoe-fitting exercise, as you say. But as always in these cases, the issue isn't really about which shoe will indeed fit whom but, rather, who the guy throwing the shoes at you in the first place seems to feel they actually SHOULD fit.

'nuff of the soapbox (which beats the Google "sandbox" stone cold for sexiness anyway, hehe). Thank you for your patience.

This is like the Indian tale

This is like the Indian tale of the 6 blind men describing an elephant.

LOL

Spot on - couldn't agree more! :-)

>Indian tale of the 6 blind

>Indian tale of the 6 blind men describing an elephant.<

Maybe so, but we are all being given insight into the minds of 3 of the most intellectually superior blind men in the SEO industry. Their powers of perception and communication are so easliy and deftly weilded as weapons of both attack and defense in virtually any battle of wits that we could all learn a lot to improve our own abilities on just about any subject they choose to address. But on a the field of an SEO skirmish, they need yeild to no man and a concession would likely be the best we could hope for.

I just wonder if that intellect allows them to see that they are talking over the heads of the majority of the people they seem to be wishing to influence. Gains would likely come easier in this arena with a slingshot instead of a canon.

Just to clarify

It's pretty obvious, isn't it, that it's both on page and off page items? I found Matt's post helpful, and have it clipped and filed for reference next time I write a web page. I certainly did not mean to demean or disparage Matt, or argue for one instant with his advice on how to approach content on a page.

All the same, I don't think the on page elements are the whole story. (Nor do I mean to suggest that Matt ever said they were). Right now, speaking more as an end user of Google than as a webmaster, it seems to me Google has the dial turned up pretty high on the domain part of the equation. It may not be page rank per se, because Google has obviously moved way beyond something as simple as what page rank used to be, but it still seems to be something connected with the domain and how Google thinks about it. I mean, maybe the various volunteer writers and editors at Wikipedia really get the on page stuff right on page after page after page, but I'm pretty sure the folks posting ads at Craigslist or the kids creating MySpace profiles don't spend that much time optimizing the on page elements of their posts, and those still seem to rank absurdly well for a lot of moderately competitive terms.

I was serious, not sarcastic, when I suggested that it would be interesting for Matt to go create a page on some shared server somewhere. He does, after all, know exactly what the algorithm wants on page and on site. I would be very interested to learn (because, as Michael Martinez notes, I certainly don't know now) exactly how well a site would rank if the algorithm were spoon fed what it wanted, but nothing fancy was done with the linking strategy. I would love it if Matt picked a relatively non-competitive phrase (say, something at the competitive level of "non alcoholic drink" or "sprite soda" but less discoverable by the Cuttlets), put up a new site on a new domain with valuable content that gives the spider what it wants, and came back in six months to tell us what happened.

I think it would be interesting for Matt, and I know it would be interesting for me to see what happens.

I love words...

I love words... so thanks Fantomaster for so many more of them :-)

No problem re: cutting some slack. I agree it seems to be a reaction to some other forum discussion more than a TW post, and since I don't bother with much of that I wouldn't know about certain battles that make men weary. I defer on imparting intent. No harm intended.

Raycam, maybe I misread the sarcasm. Not about trying a web page somewhere, but when you said :

Quote:
Relief, keyword stuffing works again!

I assukmed you were being sarcastic. Surely you have seen keyword stuffing at work in the SERPs all along, despite the comings and going of fashionable primary tactics like linking? It's certainly hard to miss given the way the cache highlights things. Try any low-competition serp.

I'm not at all positively certain that I might not be the most congenial character in the room, fantomaster, but I do certainly recognize that I often fail to over use the double negative, sharing a not-very-indirect-ness with Mr. Martinez on matters of social discourse.

In my view, a disagreement doesn't have to become an argument, but should if the participants have any interest in clarity of issue. Argument. Not shouting match, and not one sided treatise serving a (possible) ulterior objective.

Ah - that was Fantomaster

I'm so old that I remember when keyword stuffing was a best practice, and white hat SEOs were the ones whose doorway pages redirected to a page consistent in theme to the cloaked page.

But I wasn't the one with the keyword stuffing quip. That was fantomaster.

Interesting conversation

I always enjoy posts by fantomaster, Michael Martinez and John Andrews, because whether or not I agree with them they always make me think. And a little thoughful debate sure beats all of us just sitting around agreeing with each other.

Don't think so...

Quote:
I'm so old that I remember when keyword stuffing was a best practice, and white hat SEOs were the ones whose doorway pages redirected to a page consistent in theme to the cloaked page.

FTR...None of that would have ever qualified as whitehat.

Maybe I'm not white hat enough, but I beg to differ

Keyword stuffing as Matt did it - lots of one keyword repeated on the page, but equally visible to people and search engines - wouldn't work today for anyone but Matt but did work back in the day. As I recall, there was a time when keyword densities of up to 15 or 20 percent were what it took for top rankings at Infoseek, including metatags loaded to the gills with keywords. Was that keyword stuffing? Sure. Was it black hat? Not if the user saw the same thing on the page that the search engine saw. (The keyword stuffing where people put the white letters on the white background, yeah, that was always cheesy).

Doorway pages - If you were running a database driven website in the mid to late 90s, you were invisible to the search engines if you did not run doorway pages. The spiders of that era simply could not get through the dynamically generated URLs. If you wanted to let the spider know about your site, you needed to put up static pages for all the important pages of your site, and redirect to the dynamic page. The dynamic page could then enjoy all the benefits you get from database driven websites - up to the minute prices, current inventory levels, interactivity, and so on.

You might call those kinds of doorway pages as used in that era black hat, but I wouldn't, because they didn't mislead people, and allowed people to know what you had at the database driven site. Is it black hat today to have HTML at a flash driven site that tells today's spiders what's in the flash content? Is it black hat for the New York Times today to use disclosed doorway pages to inform the Googlebot what's behind the subscriber wall? To me, it's pretty much the same thing, working with the spiders despite their technical limitations to inform end users honestly about the site. To me, that's not black hat.

(The cloaking pages where someone had a static page on Barney the Dinosaur, and redirected to a porn site - yeah, that was always black hat. Having a hundred doorway pages targeting slightly different keyword phrases that redirected to a single product page - at least grey hat).

Doorway pages - If you were

Quote:
Doorway pages - If you were running a database driven website in the mid to late 90s, you were invisible to the search engines if you did not run doorway pages. The spiders of that era simply could not get through the dynamically generated URLs. If you wanted to let the spider know about your site, you needed to put up static pages for all the important pages of your site, and redirect to the dynamic page. The dynamic page could then enjoy all the benefits you get from database driven websites - up to the minute prices, current inventory levels, interactivity, and so on.

There were other things you could do which were not deceptive to the search engines. I and many others were optimizing sites in those days without resorting to redirecting doorway pages to other pages.

And "keyword stuffing" has never been something any "white hat" SEO would recommend for anything. Keyword stuffing implies that the copy will not read well and is written only for the search engines. That has never been a white hat practice either, although people may have assumed they weren't doing anything wrong when they did it.

So tell me

I thought the keyword stuffing Matt did with SEO read ok. It certainly is easier to write readable copy if you are not trying to reach unnatural levels of keyword density, but I think Matt just gave a memorable tutorial of how it can be done when a master is at work.

In 1997, with a database driven site, with URLs a spider could not follow, what was it you did to deep optimize a 1000 page site effectively? If we didn't have a database driven site, we couldn't deliver the on page functionality and current information the user needed, and if we didn't optimize at the product page level, we weren't going to stay in business as an ecommerce site. We thought static versions of our database pages that redirected provided an acceptably white hat solution. And I would argue that what we did was not deceptive to the search engines, anymore than including HTML that mirrors flash content is today (although maybe you consider that black hat). We just gave the search engines the content on the page in a form in which they could read it.

I'm curious to know what you did for your clients with dynamic sites that needed ranking for more than just the home page. I thought our team had exhausted the possibilities, thinking inside and outside the box, so I think it will be very instructive for me to learn how you and other top SEOs of the era did it.

Maybe, but

There were other things you could do which were not deceptive to the search engines. I and many others were optimizing sites in those days without resorting to redirecting doorway pages to other pages

those of us who were using doorways were outranking those that didnt.

1997?

You just didn't :)

I thought the keyword

Quote:
I thought the keyword stuffing Matt did with SEO read ok.

If it reads okay, how is it keyword stuffing?

Quote:
In 1997, with a database driven site, with URLs a spider could not follow, what was it you did to deep optimize a 1000 page site effectively? I

Well, some engines actually did follow those URLs just fine, actually. Inktomi-based engines didn't have a problem with them as I recall.

For me, if I had to deal with dynamic pages that didn't get indexed, I did create static pages, but I simply built them into the site as part of it, no redirections or whatever.

and that is the tell

Hah! Jill just gave away a secret LOL.

As for those sneaky redirects, I just discovered a new Google-proof one and wrote about it hee hee.

Never too old to learn

Me, I would have thought at the time that stapling a whole mass of made-for-seo pages onto a site would be less white hat than simply faithfully replicating the pages created for the human user in a spider friendly format. To ask the site owner create (at some expense) and maintain (at some expense) and work into the site navigation (at some expense) a bunch of made-for-seo content simply to avoid a redirect seems to me to be elevating avoiding a redirect to a near-religious matter. It certainly would add significantly to the costs paid by the site owner (quality made-for-seo content has never come cheap, while generating static pages from a database has always been a process you can automate). It also certainly would reduce conversions, as every click from site entry to the product page does reduce conversions. It also would present a view of what the site was actually about in the search engines that would differ from the original site without its nailed-on made-for-seo-content, maybe making an ecommerce site seem like a content site to the unwary surfer. But, it would avoid a redirect, in this case a redirect from a page that faithfully mirrored exactly what the human surfers saw.

I can't say I feel too guilty about the solution we chose, nor do I feel entitled to adopt a black hat swagger.

Anyway, it's all moot now. The technology has moved on. Besides, that site was sold years ago, and I'm quite certain that the new owners operate it to the purest white hat standards.

As for the keyword stuffing, I had naively thought that if you were consciously altering the content to jam in bunches of keywords, and making it read worse than it would if you focused first on the human reader, that was keyword stuffing, even if in the end it met an "ok" minimum standard. I stand corrected, and corrected by perhaps the ultimate white hat authority on the topic.

This is what I love about places like ThreadWatch. Every day brings new lessons.

--

Quote:
As for the keyword stuffing, I had naively thought that if you were consciously altering the content to jam in bunches of keywords, and making it read worse than it would if you focused first on the human reader, that was keyword stuffing,

You are correct. "Jamming" keywords anywhere would be keyword stuffing and has never been a recommended practice by any true SEO worth his/her salt. Any time you make something "read worse" in order to attempt to please a search engine, it would be simply stupid.

For one thing, why would a search engine appreciate a page that sounded stupid to people? Their goal is to find the pages that best meet the needs of their customers (the searchers). Pages that read like crap would not (by their very nature) do that.

Unfortunately, the world is filled with alleged SEOs who still believe that SEO is about doing things to sites that they believe will please the search engines. However, they do it at the expense of the users of that site. Fortunately, they are simply wrong -- that's got nothing to do with SEO.

SEO semantics

There's different takes on this SEO definition, of course - and I think it's only fair to at least mention the fact.

According to another common definition, SEO is about getting sites/pages to rank well in search engines - sites/pages that are competing with lots of others vying for the same eyeballs.

Another (just as legitimate) view defines SEO as the technique (and, arguably, art) of driving targeted search engine traffic, no matter how. (However, there's a lot to be said for terming this "search engine marketing" - SEM - rather than "optimization". This may also include pay-per-click - PPC - campaigns.)

User experience does not by default come into it, at least not from a strictly technical standpoint as this actually pertains to marketing, web site design, layouting, usability, ergonomics, etc.

Of course Jill and I are probably in agreement that it's plain stupid to present users with crappy pages as this tends to kill conversions - which, let's not forget, is what traffic to commercial web sites is all about.

Obviously, there's ways around that, not necessarily "white hat".

BTW, "white hat" and "black hat" SEO are fairly recent terms which only became common usage in the course of the Harry Potter craze, as far as I recall. Before, "ethical" and "unethical" - or "real life", depending on whom you asked - SEO used to be the terminological rage and the source of endless arguments. Not that they've ever really abated ...

The point being that the search engines' definition of SEO isn't necessarily the only valid one. Of course they've always tried to dominate, even monopolize the term by imposing their specific view on webmasters as this eminently serves their own agenda. The counter argument being that what's good for the search engines is not necessarily good for the entrepreneurs and webmasters who actually create the content the search engines want to index. In a perfect world, the search engines would be absolutely neutral, independent and - just as important - competent arbiters of search query results relevance, but say what they might that's blatantly not the case.

So these days a "white hat" is generally an SEO artist who abides by the search engines' terms (or, at least, claims to do so) whereas a "black hat" is someone who follows their own view of what it takes to drive search engine generated traffic, regardles what the search engines may condone or not.

It's a bit like gambling, e.g. roulette, where you can either go with or against the bank - both strategies are perfectly viable technically. And both have their uses and inherent risks, too.

As SEO isn't in any way an exact science, different and conflicting interpretations abound. Personally, I'd say that Matt's page is a perfect example of "keyword stuffing" but only some 5 years ago the term would usually be restricted to stuffing meta tags with repetitive terms.

And of course, one man's/woman's "search engine optimization" is all to often merely another's "spam", and vice versa ...

siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh

Not that I'm the authority but my .03...

I launch about a site a week (gray & white alike), so I do know a thing or two about getting new sites ranked in G.

Guess what, yes on-site & content matters, it always will!

And of course links -- esp. trusted links -- matter a whole lot, too!

Don't think you will rank a new site ignoring either.

And of course, long term, content quality matters a ton -- it attracts links!

Imagine that, they're both important, and feed off each other!

Wow, are we seriously having this discussion in 2006? And am I seriously participating? ;-)

BTW, FWIW ... I don't think anyone should ever act like an authority about G's algo, unless they've launched a site in the past 12 months on a brand new domain... If I could just have a feature to filter out comments by anyone who hasn't ;-)

No neocracy, please! :)

"If there's nothing new under the sun, what we may really need is a new sun."
(Rolf England)

Hey, has the history of SEO theory ever been anything else? Regurgitating and reviewing and reassessing purportedly "established wisdom" ever and again is the very essence of the ranking parameters and strategies discourse, isn't it? (And I'm not referring to instructing newbies here.)

It may be tedious, sure, but as this very thread shows it's always wise to reconsider your position and whatever grasp you (or anyone else) may have on this matter. At the least, it can't hurt, at the best some surprising stuff may crop up, more often than not: again.

I don't think anyone should ever act like an authority about G's algo, unless they've launched a site in the past 12 months on a brand new domain...

That, I'd second emphatically. Very good point.

But in the process, let's avoid pretending to reinventing the wheel anew every time, heh. Nor will a single site or even a mere handful alone suffice these days, I'm afraid.

Neither is putting matters in a historical perspective merely an academic conceit: human forgetfulness aside, old tricks everyone's deemed to be dead for ages might yet arise to fresh glory again that way.

It's a bit like gambling,

Quote:
It's a bit like gambling, e.g. roulette, where you can either go with or against the bank - both strategies are perfectly viable technically. And both have their uses and inherent risks, too.

Good analogy. For every bet, the house wins anyway, so it's never a matter of the house losing, just which players take and which players give. Google seems to like it that way.

Hey Andy, I don't think anyone argues that links or on-page don't matter...it's always a combination, but for didactic discussion we isolate one or the other. It's when someone says one doesn't matter that the discussion heats up.

It's hard to deny that you can learn a lot about a lion very quickly by poking at it with a stick.

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