Jul 14 2007

Where do you Draw the Line with SEO?

Published by at 10:52 pm under Google,Search Engine,SEO,Truelocal

I’ve been having an interesting discussion (via the comments on a previous post), with Will and Snoskred about the “evils” of Search Engine Optimisation (which I’ve considered to an extent before). There’s a lot of talk on the internet about “white hat” and “black Hat” Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) practices (and of course the grey area in between).

Basically “white hat” SEO means adhering to guidelines set down by search engines – such as Google’s Webmaster Guidelines. This incorporates ensuring that the content a search engine indexes is the same as what a user will see, and not being deceptive.

Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings. A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you. Another useful test is to ask, “Does this help my users? Would I do this if search engines didn’t exist?”

“Black Hat” SEO is basically anything that does not conform to these guidelines and employs deceptive practices. Numerous examples of these techniques are quoted, including hidden text, cloaking, keyword stuffing and link farming.

That made me wonder about “meta tags”, and where that fits in with all this “black vs white hat” SEO. Meta tags are essentially a fancy sounding name for particular fields that search engines use to determine quickly what the page is about. Two of the main meta tags are “description” and “keywords”. It is suggested Google (and others) stopped paying attention to the keywords meta tag because of flagrant misuse (ie stuffing the keywords tag with words that had no relevance), and a desire to maintain quality in their search results.

Why then would a large company, and one with a close association to Google, jeopardise their inclusion in the search engine by being deceptive? I’ll give you an example (and Mark from Rave About It posted about this back in May).

While conducting a Google search for the term “Yellow Pages”, I found this curious result, around page 6 of the results.

TrueLocal Google

Now I don’t have an issue with the fact that TrueLocal have a listing for Yellow Pages (well, 14 in fact). What I do have a problem with is the fact that they seem to be indicating by this result that either they, or Yellow Pages, have on their site “reviews” and “recommendations”.

Now when you get to the page this is the result:

Yellow Pages on TrueLocal

(Unusual phone number and not sure about the “electronic equipment manufacturing” categorisation). Now maybe it’s just me – but I don’t see any reference anywhere to reviews or recommendations.

So I thought I’d have a look at the meta tags. Curious:

Meta Tag

There are a lot of keywords here, but what I don’t understand is why just the “Reviews, Recommendations, local, search, business” get pushed to the description on Google, if Google are ignoring the keywords meta tag.

But maybe it’s just me missing something. Any ideas?

(disclosure: I am a founder of dLook, a local business directory that does provide business reviews – powered by Rave About It)

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Where do you Draw the Line with SEO?”

  1. Willon 15 Jul 2007 at 3:55 am

    Maybe my previous comment on the mentioned post were a bit too harsh on SEO.

    My income doesn’t depend upon getting or maintaining a high google ranking, so when I see people recommending various SEO tactics such as getting linked from various directories – I feel somewhat suspicous of the motives behind it all. Including that of the Directory Maintainers.

    I’m more of the “If you build it, they will come” type of approach. i.e: Have good compelling content/features/etc, then tell your friends/family/colleagues about it.
    But, perhaps that doesn’t work quite as well in the real world.

    As you can tell – I’m not a marketer or salesman :)

  2. Megon 15 Jul 2007 at 9:51 am

    Hi Will

    I used to think it was a matter of “build it and they will come”, but the harsh realities quickly bite. If people can’t find you in a search engine, you might as well not be there – word of mouth will only get you so far.

    But I’m talking more so about my websites (ie what puts the food on my plate) than my blog. Sure, I put time into my blog, and I’d like interested people to find it and read it, but I wouldn’t go over the top making sure that everything is just right with the SEO, or that I’m ranking for this term or that.

    Nor would I stoop to tactics that would jeopardise inclusion in Google. Bottom line, if you want to be in the game, ethical SEO is mandatory, and can make or break a website.

    I’m not much of a salesperson or marketer either, but what I *can* do is learn the rules and apply them.

    As always, thanks for your thoughts – I enjoy your visits :)

  3. Lee Hopkinson 15 Jul 2007 at 11:11 pm

    FYI: I’ve just published a recent interview with ‘white hat’ Bill Sweetman, superb seo expert and marketer from Canada. Link on my name takes you to the post.

  4. Megon 15 Jul 2007 at 11:29 pm

    Hi Lee

    Thanks for dropping by and letting us know about your interview – I’ll be sure to have a listen.

  5. Tim Nashon 15 Jul 2007 at 11:54 pm

    I think cloaking is a great example of problems with the Google guidelines on the one hand we have the Google guidelines on the other we have Google actively recommending techniques that while may not be IP cloaking are in the strictest sense cloaking techniques and they certainly seem to be turning blind eye to people like expert exchange which does use such techniques with this in mind I guess its less about the rules but how to interpret the rules.

  6. The ACCC and Googleon 16 Jul 2007 at 10:27 pm

    […] it DOESN’T get indexed? Or is it just because money exchanged hands? Would Google displaying what I wrote about the other day constitute engaging in “deceptive and misleading conduct” by allowing that page to be […]