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Myth of the SEO Boondoggle

Posted on Tuesday, July 21st, 2009 by Print This Post Print This Post

Categories - SEO

I recently came across an article on Search Engine Land written by Jill Whalen entitled “Is Most of SEO just a Boondoggle?” which deserves some discussion.

“Boondoggle”  is defined at Wordnet as “work of little or no value done merely to look busy.” Now Jill does go on to say “This is not to say that all SEO is a waste of time”

This is a very interesting article in my opinion. Although I will admit that I do not agree with Jill for most of it, with the exception of the meta keywords tag stance. But this does bring up a good point that maybe some “Old School” SEO practices do not carry as much weight as they once did. We include a lot of these as our best practices now, H1’s, clean keyword-rich URL structures, XML sitemaps, etc…… , but what does it say when a recognized figure in our industry (Jill Whalen) is saying lots of this doesn’t apply anymore and calling it boondoggle! Is she testing these statements and proving them not  to be effective anymore or is this just opinion? I don’t know the answer to this.  No-one will ever know Google’s algorithm  in its entirety, but we can test and prove certain aspects to be absolute, thereby dispelling any myths or opinions. Another point I would like to bring up is a phrase I once heard from a highly recognized figure in this space that said, the best thing to do when optimizing a site is to be the “least imperfect” in every area. I’m not 100% sure that is the case anymore. For my own testing on my wife’s e-commerce site, which I did all the SEO for, I applied that principle, but I’m noticing something lately that  has me thinking….

When creating my URL’s,  I used clean keyword-rich URL’s and the anchor text that I pass to the pages is an exact match. Yet,  75% of my competitors —  the top 10 results on Google SERP’s — seem to be intentionally creating URL’s that make no sense, some dynamically generated, and do not match the anchor text perfectly and they seem to be getting rewarded for it?? Of course my testing has compared domain age, link profile and on-page content and I seem to be lined up in all those areas, but they are seeing a boost that I am not. Does this possibly speak to over-optimization of a website or page being devalued by Google? If that’s the case, then why does Google have Webmaster Guidelines for us to follow if it makes no difference in the end.

Anyhow, just some food for thought.

I would love to hear any feedback or thoughts on this.

About Rich Scaglione

Rich Scaglione is an SEO Architecture Analyst for The Search Agency’s SEO Architecture team. Rich has worked in the SEO Field for the last 3 years. His past experience includes 15 years as a Network Architect and Engineer for Fortune 500 clients in NYC, designing and supporting LAN and WAN infrastructures. Rich also plays the drums and enjoys writing music in his spare time.

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5 Responses to “Myth of the SEO Boondoggle”

  1. Jill Whalen says:

    Hey Rich,

    thanks for mentioning my article. As to your own findings– interesting!

    Also, I’m pretty sure the google guidelines don’t mention anything about keywords in URLs altho I could be wrong. I don’t typically read them as I don’t really trust them to tell us how to SEO

  2. Rich Scaglione says:

    Hey Jill,

    Thanks for the response! I found your article very interesting and provocative. As far as the keywords in a URL, Google doesn’t mention anything specific. However, the reason I mention it is for the visitors benefit. If you can include your keywords in the URL and make it plain for the visitor to know what the page is about….why not. Our goal is to give our visitors the best experience possible while making it easier for the search engines to get through our sites 😉

  3. yvonh says:

    On recent post from Google is about the way they might shorten the url in order to display the useful part of it, no need to say more :))

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