This is a post about search engines and online advertising. The title is meaningless, it is meant to be meaningless, after all, it forms a test about search engine optimisation.
An advert claimed results in 60 seconds. I call bullshit, but rather that use their software I’m going to do it myself, ‘cos SEO expert myself, or at least good at it, if I can be bothered. So, I googled the term ‘SomeLongUselessName’ and found nothing, which should be about right. Now I’m writing this product review of ‘SomeLongUselessName’ to see how long it takes to get Google’s attention. So far I’ve used the term five times of this page, six (actually 8) with the image below. Close to keyword stuffing, probably OK* as it is separated into:
- 1) page ul
- 2) page title
- 3) header
- 4) content (1st use)
- 5) content (2nd and last use)
- 6) image file name
- 7) image alt tag (‘cos accessibility rules)
- 8) image title tag (‘cos good design)
- 9) image caption (rarely use these, myself)
- 10) page tags (valid use)
- 11) Not gone further (yet) but I could have added it to the meta data…
- 12) Wrote about it on Facebook (which I will)
- 13) or all the other social media platforms
- 14) Or advertised it on Google Adwords, Facebook, etc
- 15) Sneaks it in again further down the page 😉
Well, you get the idea. Shouldn’t – and probably won’t – take me long to get a NEW keyword listed on Google (etc).
As at 14.52am (GMT) 1st Aug 202, the word in NOT found on Google, and I’m still writing. We’ll see how long it takes from being posted live to being listed.
Posted: 19:56 (8pm), 1st Aug, 2020f
Listed and rank on Google: tba
Found on Yahoo, Bing etc: tba
Forgot to recheck for a several days, to be honest, but it was there when I looked again. As I said, it’s easy to get a top listing with a unique word or term.
Update: April, 2021. The only entry for that term is mine.
As an aside, I am working on this site, refreshing it, updating entries, fixing broken links, so forth. Google notices things like this. Fresh content. Or if you play Diablo, you may prefer the expression, "Fresh meat!" Amounts to the same. I am getting Google’s search bots visiting hundreds of pages a day. I am not using any extra software or services.
SEO claims busted
The featured image was grabbed from my Facebook stream. I am aware of the company behind it, and while their products do (more or less) work reasonably well, their marketing is basically a scam, in as much as it is intentionally disingenuous.
Here’s a made up (and extreme) example:
Fact: 100% of people that tried the product liked it!”
Truth Only one person tried it, their mother.
As you can see, there’s a big difference between not lying and telling the truth. (It keeps lawyers and marketing people in business!)
Me and 99 of my competitors all tried SomeLongUselessName and were astounded! All 100 of us were in the top 10 entries for the same keyword
There’s a few problems with such claims, some obvious, like my fake review above, some less obvious.
Firstly, in the featured image, they are lying.
OK, Probably lying.
Or if you wanted to give him the benefit of the doubt, exaggerating with an extreme bias towards their product.
This, my claim, is a FACT.
How do I know this?
Because Google do not revisit every page on every site in the world every minute. Not possible.
Nope, there have rules, MANY rules, several hundred in fact, and while SEO experts have worked out many, and Google themselves have released some, the basic rule of thumb is this:
If you are consistently more active, in a legitimate way, Google will visit your site more often. If you break their rules, you will be dropped off the face of the world, as far as ranking goes.
See: Backlinko: Google’s 200 Ranking Factors: The Complete List (2020)
One Backlinko may miss, which is pure conjecture on my part, is the Adsense check. Not so much on a conspiracy theory level, but firmly in the “this information never leaves the room, capiche!” ballpark.
This is more a nagging feeling, plus if it was me, and I was them, it would be buried in there for sure, ‘cos it’s gold. It is obvious if you think about it, but if not, what, you may wonder is the hypothetical ‘Adsense SEO check’? Have you ever added those things to your site? Used to be more discrete, blend in, now they are more intrusive.
Anyway, it goes like this: Google makes their money selling links; for those links to sell they have to be seen – and advertisers want results to be motivated to reinvest. Before the whole world became enslaved to Google’s search engine that meant embedding the links in web sites, forums etc. Though less important to their long term strategy, they still matter. Therefore, given two sites of equal weight, it would make sense to rank the one showing their adverts higher than one not, ‘cos free exposure.
For instance, a NEW site covering (say) SEO that is updating regularly on their own site, active on Instagram, Facebook, et cetera will, perhaps within a MONTH, eventually catch the attention of the search engine bots. Having caught their attention, the bots will now return – perhaps within 2 weeks. If they see new material – that’s relevant – they may return in 2 weeks. Then weekly, daily, then given a major site, hourly or even more often. If the site starts missing days or weeks when they post, or if the posts become less relevant, the bots come less often, the rank plummets.
Second point, largely the (exposing) point of this test, the value or obscurity of your search term directly affects the ranking (and the cost of using the keyword in advertising.
For instance, Googling:
Seo Experts Skye returns over a million results
SEO Experts Isle of Skye returns over 800,000 hits
SEO Experts ‘Isle of Skye’ drops it to 565,000
Seo Experts “Isle of Skye” drops it to 216,000
You see there this is leading?
Well, first I should point out that the population of the Isle of Skye is only 12,000. The millions of search results are either due to bad results, or keyword stuffing, like a plumber adding Isle of Skype to his tags, despite the facts he’s in London.
The next one is more interesting: hippotherapy (a specialist type of physiotherapy involving horse-riding)
hippotherapist returns only 6,960 results
hippotherapist Skye returns 286,000 results!
hippotherapist ‘Isle of Skye’ returns just 9 results, only 1 includes ‘Isle of Skye, and it’s a generic site promoting Scotland.
hippotherapist +”Isle of Skye” and we jump to nearly a thousand.
So, it’s not just what you type, but how you type. People trying to flog SEO products can use this against you because they can legitimately claim a result that – in real life – would never happen because most people don’t know how to use search engines. (Hence seeing a gazillion results that aren’t what you wanted).
I’ll come back to this shortly.
Next, which again most people – including it seems academics, and some SEO ‘experts'(!) – don’t get is also related to how search engines work, ‘cos search history.
If you have a brand new computer, in a new address, in a new country, using a new email account, IP etc, and you have all geo-location, cookies, scripts, etc blocked, and are using VPN, you will get a pure result, maybe. If you are paranoid or hiding it possible to stay off the grid like that, but real people, not so much, so what’s happening?
The result you get is not based on what you entered!
OK, yes, if you asked for cats pictures, you’ll mostly get cat pictures, but which ones will be different for everyone. For instance, you search for ‘cats’, but your flatmate searched for ‘Maine Coons’: you are going to get Maine Coons in the mix. As well as logging and cataloguing everything you do, the various platforms link your searches with everyone at the address. And with partners – like Amazon. And this builds up over time.
So, if the ‘SEO expert’ is showing you how they got ranked for ‘SEO Hollywood’ it’s because THEY are searching for related terms. and if they then tell you to search for ‘this’ the engines will see you visiting their IP (and its search history), see you are seeing for the same terms (‘cos the SEO experts told you what to try) and like magic, you get the result they hoped. If I – separately – searched for the same term, my list might be similar (depending on keywords) but it might also be considerably different.
Finally, if you aren’t on page one of the listing, you effectively are not listed! Some people, like me, might go 10 or 20 pages in, most won’t. There are a lot of acceptable ‘tricks and tips’ that will move you higher up the ladder, but the only one that matters, that is guaranteed to help, to write regularly, clearly, and honestly. ‘Cos if you try to game the search engines, they will know.
SERPs: Search Engine Results Pages
Every SERP is unique, even for search queries performed on the same search engine using the same keywords or search queries. This is because virtually all search engines customize the experience for their users by presenting results based on a wide range of factors beyond their search terms, such as the user’s physical location, browsing history, and social settings. Two SERPs may appear identical, and contain many of the same results, but will often feature subtle differences.
The thing to remember is there not ‘a’ list of rules, simply the current rules, which can change on a whim, but invariably change in such a way that Google (etc) are the prime benefactors. They may claim they are doing it to get better results, but how much is better (search) results for you, and how much is to better (quarterly return) results for them, that’s another matter.
So we have sites like Entrepreneur considering what Google’s New Algorithm Update Means: New SEO Best Practices For 2020, and their recommendation to “Optimize for voice and stay focused on quality content for best Google search rankings”. (Think in terms of asking Siri, not in terms of site content).
The interesting point of this article, and something the nakedly greedy Google have been pursuing for nearly 20 years, it appears to be Googles intention to kill organic (natural) search engine optimisation in favour of “if you want listing, pay up”. So, basically, the more money you give Google, the better your rank. But remember, millions of results, and you want to be in the top 10? Good luck with your advertising budget!
This is an off the top of my head list of considerations for online searching, marketing, advertising, and search engine optimisation. In varying degrees, there will apply whether you are an end-user, an advertiser, a (so-called) SEO expert, or some hack trying to create the next Google. Google, through their dominance, became a household name in a matter of years, crawling over the corpses of Altavista and all the rest, but these ‘rules’ apply to Facebook, Bing, Amazon, Alibaba and the rest.
Search something for me, anything, something that matters, something you really want.
Or did it returned garbage?
Here’s the thing, one people looking for experts don’t appear to understand: SEO experts are generally techies. Unless they or their marketing team employ psychologists (unlikely), they think like a techie. They (we) like rules, data sets, we like our tricks. What someone like me would enter is nothing like most people. You/they need to understand both, or all of it. The more you are inclined to spend, the more it matters. In order of importance, top-down, here’s what I think makes a difference:
How people search:
Mostly it will be something like “Cats” “cute cats” “funny cat memes” “cats near me”.
What it is unlikely to be is “scholar: Felis catus +Anytown”. If you are optimising for the search engines, and not how your customers are using the search engines, you are getting it wrong.
How search engines work:
This comes down to bot minions going out, lifting all they can loot from your page, and running back to their overlords to drop the data off for sorting.
From here, would fair make your head spin, but they most definitely know what you did last summer and have a pretty good idea what you’ll be up to next winter, why, how often, with whom and how much you’ll spend.
It is insidious!
But here’s the thing, along with the contents of the page, who links to the page (and whether they trust them), who the page links to, whether they think the number of outgoing links is appropriate, whether the page is secure (that’s a big thing now), and all the rest, they know what’s NOT there.
One of the reasons I am not a wizard consultant is people get on my nerves. They would come to me and ask for my help, I’d get them in the top 5, top 3*, and tell them what to do. Then there site rank would, over time, disappear from the listing.
“Why?” they’d moan.
“Did you what I told you?” (e.g. usually to simply add more content)
“No, I was too busy, I didn’t think it mattered.”
*(This is going back maybe 15, 20 years, the Internet was a different place then!)
Getting listed is easy, staying on the first page or so, not so much. Even then it’s not that simple. If I search for ‘Ackadia’ there are about 12,000 results, with seven pages of links, mostly related to this site. I’ve been on the internet with this site since 1998, and I predate Google – yet the buggers still ask “Did you mean: acadia?”
SearchEngine Journal: “Optimization techniques that worked years ago fall by the wayside, and SEO as a whole evolves into a more intelligent discipline that evolves beyond spamming Google with links and keywords.”
How bots work:
It might be easier to imagine bots like little minions. Small, blind, grumpy, minions. If bots were an animal, they’d be a house cat.
Things change, so this analogy, while accurate, may lag behind current artificial intelligence. If you code your pages for visually impaired and blind visitors, while keeping in mind bots will scratch your furniture and knock ornaments off the shelves if you poke them, then you’ll be ahead of the game.
Old school developers will understand this better, but if a bot came to your site and it was coded by a professional, it would lovingly rub against your leg and present you with a freshly killed mouse, ‘cos it loves you.
However, if your site was drafted as a Microsoft Word document, exported as a ‘web page’ and uploaded to your site, the moggie would claw your leg to ribbons and take a dump in your favourite boots. Bots do not like trudging through garbage code.
Bots have adapted to the prevalence of WordPress and other content management systems, but this disdain for garbage remains: they detest superfluous scripts, badly written add-ons, and gobbets of naff plug-ins.
Also, while being wary of keyword stuffing (which never ends well if detected), bots are essentially blind*. To your aunt Mabel visit your site, ‘this‘ picture of your cat is simply adorable, but what about the bot? The bot has no emotions, and it can’t ‘see’ the cat*.
Here’s what the bot can ‘see’:
alt tag (if present),
title tag (if present),
caption (if present),
rel data, if present.
It may also be able to read meta data, but that’s another article, relating as much to cyber security.
If the file is called dsc1110100101.jpeg with no tags, the bot, stomping and grumbling, with drag the image for analysis* and hate you.
If the file is called “Manqs-the-ginger-tom.jpg”, with a tag and title saying “Manqs the ginger tom cat playing with a Rubik’s cube“, well, happy bot, ‘cos someone, somewhere will want it. How it goes.
I picked the example out of the air. Googling it, there were nearly ten million results.
*(Bots maybe not able to look at pictures, but A.I. most certainly can, and is getting better at it all the time).
See also Backlinko: Crawl budget
How search engine and social network advertising goes
Not my field, but I understand it. An expert should know it inside out AND be up to date. Different platforms, different systems, but essentially similar rules, whether Facebook, Google, Yahoo, or whatever.
Google, for instance, believes words have power, and they have value. London will have more value – and a higher price tag – than the Isle of Skye for paid advertising. The widget may be worth more than thingamabob – until everyone suddenly decides they want to sell thingamabobs, in which case the cost of using that word can increase in cost ten or a hundredfold.
As far as I’m aware, you cannot and never could pay for a ‘top’ ranked listing, you can only buy the best (ad) words and pay to get enough exposure. After that it depends on – everything else. I’m of the opinion Facebook – done well – is a far better option than Google etc, but again, it depends what your target audience is, it could be that neither of these is the answer.
This, from the long-established SearchEngine Watch, is especially good and, in the parts, it covers, reiterates what I’ve said above, including about dodgy ‘experts’.
“Is SEO dead in 2020?
Wondering if you should invest hard-earned cash in SEO, if it’s still a viable marketing strategy for 2020, or whether to spend more wisely elsewhere? Read on.”
The answer, obviously, is no, it’s not dead, but the rules have changed.
Links and better searching
Well, I was going to do it myself, but no need, Zapier have it well covered:
Use These 33 Google Search Tricks to Find Exactly What You’re Looking For
Coforge offer a similar page: 37 Advanced Google Search Tips for Smarter Searching