The world seems full of Search Engine Optimization experts. Everywhere you look these days online, people are either offering SEO services or suggesting that this is THE way to run your online business effectively. After all, the argument goes, if your web site is not optimized for the search engines you are no-one in the grand scheme of things.
Apparently, if you don’t run keyword analysis and optimize your site you could appear down the bottom of the search engine listings and no-one will find you. All sounds fine in theory doesn’t it. So, let’s take a look at my non-SEO’d articles. I just write about what I think is relevant and interesting. So, a while ago I wrote about an Internet shopping report that I felt made some incorrect conclusions. In that report I mentioned the retailer Primark. If you search for “primark online shopping” you’ll see that my article is 13th on the list – out of 144,000 pages. The word Primark is used twice in my entire web site, both on this page. So how come I’m so far up the rankings compared with pages devoted to Primark that are way, way down the list.
If Google were clever, it would realise that my web site is not about Primark, or clothing and that as far as things go, this was a one-off mention and therefore does not rank as useful to people searching for “primark online shopping” as The Fashion Spot web site which is devoted to clothing yet which appears at position 467 in the list.
Similarly if Google was clever, it wouldn’t have ranked my story about HSBC as 9th out of 2.1 million sites for the phrase “big bows”. My headline was “Big bank bows to social networking pressure”. If Google was any good it would know my site was not about ribbons and bows, and that the word “bows” was used as in bending over in a stooping position. The fact that it can’t distinguish and places my site so far up a huge list is telling.
It reveals, for instance, that I am getting very high listings for phrases and words that my site has nothing, if anything to do with. The world of SEO would have us believe that you need to score highly for the context of the phrases you use. You can’t just stuff your site with keywords, as Google will not like you, so say the SEO experts. Equally, they tell us that our keywords need to be relevant to the site, otherwise Google will penalise us. But just by looking at my data from Google’s own Webmaster tools, it is apparent that you can get very high ranking for phrases and words which are not connected with the main theme of your site at all.
So why is Google ranking my site highly for words and phrases that are only of minor relevance to the theme of my site, yet ranking sites lower than me for the same phrases even though those sites have those keywords as central elements of their sites and have often done all the “right things” SEO-wise. In other words, they are spending money (perhaps) on getting their keywords and SEO “tricks” right, while all I am doing is just writing stuff and it is ranking higher than them. I am getting higher Google rankings without trying.
What it adds up to is the implication that Google is much simpler than they would have us believe. If it were really clever it would work out my site is not relevant to clothing or “big bows”, for instance. The fact that it clearly did not do this brings into question the supposed voracity of Google’s indexing systems.
Don’t get me wrong – I’m not suggesting that Google is all bad; clearly it has done a grand job in helping us all find things online. Long may that continue. However, if it is making basic mistakes like those I’ve picked up for my site this week, it means that spending your time and money on SEO could be a waste. It all points to the advice Google themselves give – just keep adding content.
Why is my site more highly indexed than others which theoretically should be higher than mine? Because Google clearly gives a huge advantage to busy sites that are constantly updated. The fact that I write something every day on this site – rain or shine, healthy or ill – could well mean more to Google than the actual words I use. All it really means is what we’ve been told a thousand times – content, content, content. Just keep adding content to your site and you will benefit. Do that rather than SEO and you’ll get favourable attention from Google.
Graham Jones is an Internet Psychologist who studies the way people use the online world, in particular how people engage with businesses. He uses this knowledge to help companies improve their online connections to their customers and potential customers and offers consultancy, workshops, masterclasses and webinars. He also speaks regularly at conferences and business events. Graham is an award-winning writer and the author of 32 books, several of which are about various aspects of the Internet. For more information connect with me on Google+