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“Webmasters who spend their energies upholding the spirit of the basic principles will provide a much better user experience and subsequently enjoy better ranking than those who spend their time looking for loopholes they can exploit.” Google Guidelines, 2008
There’s been an argument for a long time between SEO services about whether there should be SEO standards or not. In depth arguments under this topic include whether or not a set of standards is actually a “best practices” list or an inhibiting factor for SEO.
Now Google has published a set of “optimization guidelines”. Is this best practice or SEO inhibition?
Consider this: Google is the number one search engine. The big Kahuna. If Google says, “This guide will help make your website more ‘crawlable’… these are the basic guidelines for optimizing for our search engine”, should we really be worrying about semantics? Does it really make a difference if they’re best practices or constricting standards?
Better yet, as companies that provide SEO services, aren’t we obligated by our positions to at least look them over? I mean, if anybody knows what works and what doesn’t for sure, wouldn’t it BE Google?
Google Guidelines for Optimization
Providers of SEO services may or may not disagree with the guidelines. After all, SEO is a school of many theories. However, most, if not all, of these guidelines make sense; to turn away because you don’t want to be “hemmed in” by rules or structure is to turn away from success for your clients:
• Make every page accessible with at least one static text link. Definitely “best practices” for SEO services and web designers. Just like users, engines don’t like to have to search for informational pages.
• Have information-rich pages that describe your content well. Again, “best practices”. For example, what good is it to have a site with information that isn’t related?
• Use text to display important content instead of images. While you can put text over an image, using an image to display the text cuts down on the effectiveness of the copy your SEO services provide.
• Check your site with a text browser. If you can’t see all of your site because of fancy flash and script, neither can Google.
• Use an XTML Sitemap. For those sites that are too complicated to be crawled, an XTML Sitemap is especially helpful. If the spiders get lost, they can refer back to the sitemap.
• Don’t try to trick the search engines to improve ranking. If you wouldn’t feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done for a client to a competitor, don’t do it.
The guidelines also lay out a list of “don’t-do’s”, including cloaking, automated queries, and pages with irrelevant keywords, among others.
This is just a small portion of the list; there are many more tips in the Google guidelines. So, to all the other SEO services out there I say, forget semantics, unless it’s semantic web, and read the guide. Whether best practices or SEO standards, the guidelines are there to show us the way. Can I get an Amen!