I’ll say it right out front: It is very difficult to get high quality and trustworthy information about search engine optimization. I attribute this to a few main reasons:
1. Google is Secretive
It’s no secret that Google is secretive, why wouldn’t they be? If Google released the exact inner workings of their search algorithm, SEO’s across the globe would manipulate the search results in their favor all day long. Google is a publicly held company (currently operating under the parent company Alphabet, Inc.) that must meet the expectations of its stock holders. If it were to disclose the exact methods to achieve #1 rankings, the algorithm would be nullified in very little time and the company would cease to exist.
2. Google Lies (…or bends the truth.. or just kinda doesn’t mention some things)
Throughout the course of my SEO career, I have observed various occurrences of data discrepancies within Google Products.
- Data anomalies in search console – search console will sometimes delay data updates for many days beyond the default 3-day delay. Often times sketchy reasoning is given for such data anomalies.
- Backlinks disappearing/reappearing in search console – Various Google representatives have publicly stated that search console attempts to display only the “most important backlinks.” In many and most cases, Google is aware of significantly more links to your website than is disclosed in search console.
- Google keyword research tool showing more accurate results for accounts with higher ad spend
- The Disavow tool – does it actually work? what does Google actually use this tool for? Official Google statements and unofficial correlation studies show conflicting results
- Manual manipulation of search results – Ad accounts with spend over $10,000 / month get assigned an account rep from Google that has been reported to manipulate search results when desired rankings aren’t achieved
- Unofficial Studies that Conflict Google’s Public Statements – A good example here is Google’s statement that web developers don’t get a boost by inserting backlinks to their pages into the footer of their clients’ websites. There have since been correlation studies showing the opposite result.
3. Everyone is Looking for the Easy Way out (who wouldn’t?)
The title of this bullet point gives this more of a negative connotation that I would like, but I still do see it as a concise description of the point I want to make here. If you are interested in SEO, you are most likely trying to increase the visibility of some piece of digital content that you or some company you represent really cares about. Whatever the content is, and whatever the motivation behind your interested in increasing its visibility it is almost always the case that the FASTER, the BETTER (The quicker its visibility is increased, the more positive the outcome). Unfortunately, in the SEO realm, the truth is that fast rankings are VERY difficult to achieve and even harder to maintain in the long run. Regardless, too many people spend their time perusing the internet for articles regarding the intersection of growth hacking and SEO rather than just actually learning and implementing proven SEO tactics.
4. The Internet is Filled With Unreliable SEO Articles
Blogging tends to be a reliable way to gain visibility and digital marketing companies use this to their full advantage. Since companies that specialize in optimizing the SERP results for other websites tend to be the best at ranking web pages, this creates quite a conundrum for the Google SERP results. It’s very clear that Google has heavily penalized spammy blogging over the years, and I certainly have seen progress in the filtration of some spammy SEO articles, but useless articles in this space still remain prevalent. The real problem here is that the really important SEO information has already been blogged about a million times. The websites that rank for core SEO terms like “alt tag optimization” are pretty much set in stone at this point and are not likely at all to be influenced by Joe Smoe’s articles about how to optimize alt tags. SEO bloggers are now almost primarily writing articles to rank for long-tail keywords; articles that describe information that applies to one specific niche, is irrelevant, or just plainly contains exaggerations and lies in order to produce a viral following.
Best Websites to Learn SEO
TYPE OF INFORMATION: SEO best practices, Live Q&A, Official Google Statements
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: Information right from the source. Google Webmaster Central Office Hours are currently run by John Mueller who is the lead Webmaster Trends Analyst at Google. John Mueller’s Google+ page is also a resource worth mentioning.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Official news on crawling and indexing sites for the Google index. This is where you can find Google’s official announcements, updates, warnings, and helpful information.
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: This is an official Google blog and is the platform that Google chooses to use for all major SEO announcements.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Anything related to white-hat SEO.
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: This forum was set up by Google to enable webmasters to help each other in the quest to provide a better experience to their website users. Anything that resembles growth hacking or black hat will get you laughed at and potentially banned, making this an excellent way to get high-quality, risk averse SEO information. The users of this site tend to be extremely knowledgeable and very willing to answer any questions you might have (I get the idea that they think the teacher is watching and they will be rewarded somehow).
TYPE OF INFORMATION: SEO and webmaster fundamentals – all the important stuff
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: This is basically Google’s boiled down version of what they want you to do.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Practical videos that discuss SEO “how-to’s”
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: These videos now completely run by Rand Fishkin – the founder and owner of MOZ – probably the biggest player in the SEO field. Rand is going to be right on point in these videos because as the authority in the field, the entire internet would instantly know if he ever said something wrong.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Very technical SEO implementation information
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: Chase knows what he is doing as he has been doing this for many years and now makes a living teaching people how to rank their websites.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Black hat, white hat, growth hacking, affiliate marketing
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: I strongly recommend you create an account at Black Hat World, and familiarize yourself with the site just to get it out of your system. This forum is filled with people that are knowledgable on ALL levels of growth hacking techniques. I am in no way endorsing blackhat ranking methods, but I do think it is necessary to understand how this part of the internet operates or you will be forever wondering if you could be doing a better job.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Very technical information right from the source. Often describing algorithm changes years before they are implemented.
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: It is very helpful in understanding many of Google’s products including highly technical details of search and ranking methods.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Primary literature, highly technical and mathematical
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: If you truly want reliable SEO information, the dissection of these research papers will lead you as close as you’re going to get without being employed by Google.
TYPE OF INFORMATION: Anything you want to ask about SEO
REASON THIS IS A GOOD SOURCE: The responses on Quora are fast and generally reliable. You can ask any question you want without getting the typical forum response of “we already answered this question a million times, use the search function”
DeepCrawl’s Google Webmaster Archives
Google ‘s Advertiser Community includes subcommunities for Google My Business, Adwords Express, google Adwords, Google Analytics, go ogle Data Studio, Google optimize, Analytics Academy, and Google Partners.
Think with Google is a set of resources provided by Google that allow you to take a deeper dive into your marketing data. This is a very useful and often untapped resource and is best described on the site’s about page: “Think of us as your resource for everything from high-level insights to deck-ready stats to useful tools. Here you will find the data we’re exploring and the trends we’re tracking along with forward-looking perspectives and behind-the-scenes looks at digital campaigns—across industries, platforms, and audiences. We hope you find it helpful and visit often”