I recently read an article – that I won’t link to here because I’m not the one to get into a mid-90s East Coast/West Coast style beef about SEO – that really rubbed me the wrong way.
Not as much as all those ‘Content is King is a Myth!’ posts do but still it made me a bit…uneasy.
It was all about why you shouldn’t pay attention to what Google says when it comes to SEO because they’re not in it to help you, they’re in it to help themselves.
They just took a true statement then immediately gave really horrible advice.
I’m going to break down why you, Joe Businessowner or Tina Searchmarketer, should absolutely listen to what Google has to say on organic search and what can happen if you don’t.
Google’s Word isn’t Gospel but it May as Well Be
The first point the author makes is basically that Google says a lot of stuff about what they’re going to implement and what they’re going to count as a ranking factor and not all of it turns out to be true. They like to say that they will start penalizing for this, that and the other and it turns out either they never actually do it or that the penalties really aren’t as bad as they say they are.
This is all absolutely true. Zero arguments from me.
However, let’s imagine I’m Billy Badass SEO over here and my position is the following:
“Eh, you know what, I don’t care that Google said that I should stop buying links and that I need good on page content and they’re going to penalize me – ME! BILLY BADASS! – for not having a mobile version of my site! Who does Google think they are? They can cash me ousside!”
And then they rollout Panda.
And then they rollout Penguin.
And then they rollout Mobilegeddeon.
And then they rollout Rankbrain.
So what just happened to Billy’s site and all the sites he manages for clients?
You guessed it. They all crashed. That’s right, Billy. Impressions, ranking…everything. Gone. All he’s left with are rage tears and angry clients demanding their money back.
Why? Because he thought he was too much of a bad ass to pay attention to what Google had to say no matter how times they warned everyone.
In the article, the author gave the example of the interstitial penalty turning out to not be as bad as advertised for those who ignored it and he’s right. It wasn’t nearly as bad as they tried to make it out to be but you know what? For every ‘well, nothing really happened, did it?’ action google takes, there’s a Panda. There’s a Fred. There’s a Penguin.
Would you rather implement a change and find out that you really didn’t need to or would you rather be like Billy Badass and say ‘Meh, who cares!’ and wish you did after you lost half of your traffic?
So yeah, Google’s word isn’t Gospel but they can and will strike down upon thee with great vengeance and furious anger those who would attempt to poison and destroy the internet with crappy sites and terrible SEO.
Google’s Data is Incomplete but so is Almost Everyone Else’s
The next point the author makes about why you shouldn’t listen to Google is also valid but honestly, I don’t understand his solution of ‘ Just don’t listen to google’.
He starts out by basically making the same points I do in my ‘Spit and Toothpaste Digital Marketing’ article and even takes it farther by mentioning the fact that you’ll never get a totally accurate read on your traffic by relying on Google Analytics and Search Console due to sampling, rounding and that utterly and completely useless ‘not provided’ nonsense that they may as well replace with a picture of someone pointing and laughing at whoever is trying to actually track useful data for all the good it does. I’m with him to that point but then they lose me.
He really doesn’t provide a solution to this because, as far as I’ve found, there really ISN’T one.
Look, I’ve used Moz, SE Ranking, Brightlocal, SEMRush, Raven Tools, Clarity and a PLETHORA of other third-party tools and you know what? If Google is saying ‘not provided’ in Analytics, all those third-party tools are also saying ‘not provided’ for that same data.
If you’ve found a tool that somehow goes around Google’s privacy protections, PLEASE LEAVE THE NAME IN THE COMMENTS BECAUSE I NEED THIS NOW. Until then, don’t expect much more accuracy for that information than what Google analytics is telling you. Ever wonder where all this data comes from? Ever wonder why they make you sync your Google Analytics data with their platforms?
It’s. Because. It’s. All. The. Same. Data. Just. Packaged. Prettier.
So yes, the data’s incomplete and that’s trash but – as far as I know – that’s the best you’re going to get.
Just never ever, ever, ever, ever expect to track Social Media traffic with Google Analytics and be even remotely close to accurate and you’ll be alright.
Google is a For Profit Company? NO!!! You Don’t Say?!
The third point was that you shouldn’t really trust what Google says because they’re not doing these algorithm updates and changes as a public service because they’re a for profit and want to make money.
And here I thought AdWords and the Display network and all other forms of paid advertising, products and services were there as a gag!
But seriously, yeah. We all knew this and like with any business, you have to realize that the changes are, in fact, in their own best interest but Google is not LexCorp. They’re not going to just straight up lie to you for the sake of making SEOs do pointless work just because they think its funny.
They might announce something and then either disregard it later or scale it back but that’s business. I’m almost positive it’s not a running gag just to screw over SEOs.
Another point the article made is to ask your potential SEO firm about how they handle shrinking organic results and the rise of mobile search.
Really, I don’t think Google would disagree with that so I don’t understand why that means you shouldn’t trust them when they say things. Just sayin’.
Yes, SEO IS more Complex and Competitive
To me, that is the exact reason why you should listen to Google.
Look, any white hat advantage you can get is a good thing.
Remember when AMP was first announced and how nobody wanted to do it because it takes forever and Google wasn’t really counting it yet? Well, go look at the SERP and see what comes up first. How many articles are AMP compliant and how many aren’t?
How many people crashed and burned when Mobilegeddon dropped and they didn’t go responsive?
How many people’s local search burned when Possum hit because they weren’t ready?
They also go on to cite how many articles are uploaded to WordPress. Thanks for that utterly random factoid but who’s indexing these blog articles for web search? Google. Unless WordPress became a search engine while I wasn’t paying attention.
Then they mention how many videos are on YouTube. Great but did we forget who owns YouTube? Sure, there are different strategies for YouTube optimization but never forget who is behind the curtain over there.
The Bottom Line
Look, all I’m saying is nobody is out here optimizing pages for Duck Duck Go or Yahoo.
Nobody says ‘Why don’t you ‘Bing’ it and find out?’
When The Big G speaks, you better listen.
Personally, I’d rather waste a bit of time and manpower preparing for algo changes that may never come than to be warned about something and then getting hit by it because I thought it was ‘so much corporate hooey’ or whatnot.
Of course, use your own best judgement – for example, if you are a small shop with no web developers, you may not really want to go AMP compliant – but if you ignore them because you think they just say stuff for the sake of saying it, then if your site crashes and burns and you end up with a bunch of clients demanding their money back, that’s your own fault.
Take what they say with a grain of salt but don’t just disregard what they say because you think you know better.