SEO Myths: Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?

One of the myths of SEO is that search enhanced pages will hurt the user experience. We have all seen examples of poorly written, overly optimized web pages that deliver a clumsy user experience. The obvious example is pages with big clumsy keywords in every sentence on the page. These web pages just feel wrong to the reader.

Keyword stuffed pages stem from the myth that higher keyword density on the page leads to higher rankings. Other ancient web spam tricks like stuffing hundreds of keywords into HTML meta tags or placing hundreds of invisible keywords on the page in the same color as the background, were disallowed by the search engines prior to 1999. More sophisticated tricks such as paid links, have very publicly failed throughout 2010 and 2011. As a search marketer, I still encounter people who have a vague notion that SEO still involves such simplistic tricks, or that SEO will hurt the user experience.

SEO helps the user experience. Here’s how search optimization helps search engines to see and present your web pages clearly:

  • Meaningful, keyword focused page titles help search engines to accurately index the content of each web page
  • Elimination of technical errors ensures that everything on the web site just works as expected
  • Technical SEO eliminates duplicate content that wastes the user’s time
  • Compensating for certain web technologies such as Flash, JavaScript or AJAX, allows search engines to index content
  • Optimization prevents content management systems from blocking search engine indexing
  • SEO enhances video and image content so that it can be search-indexed and easily found by users through keyword focused titles

Here are some reasons why SEO actually benefits the user experience:

  • Elimination of broken internal links prevents user disappointment
  • The easy to use, keyword focused global navigation helps users quickly find the right content
  • Social media inclusion of web pages exposes your content to users who share content, ultimately gaining natural links
  • Acquiring links from relevant sites will provide related information to the web user
  • Ensuring that content links internally to relevant pages, helps the user find added information
  • Content gap analysis ensures that your site addresses subject matter relevant to user needs, as revealed by user profiles or web personas
  • SEO ensures that outdated pages properly redirect to new pages
  • Optimized press releases use appropriate keywords so industry journalists can find your content
  • SEO reduces page load speed, to deliver information to the user quickly

Over the last 8 years, I’ve studied the Google webmaster guidelines constantly as they are updated and practiced a lot of copy writing, so that I can create or enhance existing pages that will read in a natural way for the user. I try to be very conscious about this seo copywriting issue. My goal is to make the most accurate title tag, headline, links and content text that correctly describe the content of the web page. This helps the search engines to accurately index my web pages. It also helps users to find my web pages that meet their information needs.

The Google guidelines are explicit in requiring that the user experience is placed first. Matt Cutts, head of the Google’s spam fighting team, has gone on record to say that Google does not consider SEO to be spam. In a 2011 video, Matt Cutts added that SEO is “a valid way to help people find what they’re looking for via search engines.” But in general, Google does not consider SEO to be spam.

I have always sought to practice copy writing where, the user experience must always come first. In my past SEO projects, for major retail web sites, analytics data typically showed that bounce rate decreased by 10-20%, and time on page increased for search enhanced web pages.

5 Responses to “SEO Myths: Does Google Consider SEO to be Spam?”

  1. William Gill
    July 10, 2012 at 2:01 pm #

    Nice summary.
    It highlights what I’ve believed for a long time to be true when it comes to SEO: build a web site/product on a technically sensible architecture and include content that people want to engage with, and search engines will help you. As soon as you start trying to “trick” search engines, you’re on a path to creating a product that isn’t relevant for an actual user. Such tactics might help in the super-short term, but they are not scalable or sustainable.

    I think SEO is all about providing content that people care about (and presenting it sensibly).

  2. Ed Hill
    July 16, 2012 at 2:10 pm #

    “I think SEO is all about providing content that people care about (and presenting it sensibly).”

    Will, That’s a concise summary. If you build useful content, then the search engines and people will grow to trust you.

  3. Vitorio
    July 17, 2012 at 7:29 am #

    I guess that it would be right to say that SEO discipline has outgrown its title if it is to be understood and practiced as the discipline responsible for providing content to people, not only Search Engines.

    I believe it’s an interesting debate if SEO should include content strategy or vice-versa, or if SEO = content strategy.

    • Ed Hill
      July 17, 2012 at 11:37 am #

      Vitorio,
      I think the best results in SEO come from combining on-page optimization, content strategy and sharing useful content through social media and blogs. I’ve seen powerful results from combining all these methods in a unified strategy. This combination is more powerful than any of these elements by itself.

      So SEO has really outgrown focusing on only search engines.

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