Evidence in SEO

Serious SEO Investigator!I’m a product of a scientific and evidence centric education. SEO’s main discussions occur on forums and between people seeking to rank sites. There are very valid reasons to be secretive about projects and results. In addition, SEO is a black box in that the actual ranking factors and methods aren’t actually divulged by the search engines.

In nearly every forum discussion someone will make a statement and at some point someone will ask for evidence. This is where it gets tricky. What is evidence? Some demand taking two brand new sites with the same urls and applying two different linking methods and then comparing the results over a period of time. This is great, but impractical and the rankings change. Citing your own and clients site is good too, but the internet is inherently bad information. People also make assumptions like they should be seeing immediate results from methods, which since SEO can involve significant age components on many levels is really bad for giving out valid generalizations.

Similarly citing to Google’s official mouthpieces can be a very good source of information or very misleading. Google’s or any search engine interest is in good public relations and in getting good results. Actually saying you can manipulate your rankings is obviously not good PR and the search engines are coming from a history of people misdirecting you to porn sites and nigerian style scams. They can however be great for verifying hypothesis, however. If lots of people are floating an idea and then Google announces they cracked down on something in a specific way you have fairly decent information. Likewise, some people like to analyze Google patents (which are ridiculously complicated descriptions of fundamentally simple ideas that shouldn’t be patentable), and then write an article about how this or that changes search which is stupid because you can’t say if they’re even using the patent and if they are how important it is. However, if you’re discussing search results and something your seeing fits with what you’ve read then it should add projected validity of the analysis. One of the easiest tipoffs that someone hasn’t ranked any or more than a handful sites is that they say things like “Google is really smart” or “Google says this” and then act like that simple reasoning justifies entire and expensive course of actions. (usually involving paying them serious fees).

Recently, there was a serious dropoff in some sites that had been ranked for a long time, that was much discussed. Eventually, consensus came to be it was related to various blog networks being deindexed. Certain individuals who offered linkbuilding services diagnosed the problem as anchor text overoptimization (ie building too many links to one keyword) and suggested helpfully their own service to build links to different anchors. This was clearly not the case if one bothered to examine search results. I examined top results for about ten markets around the country for real estate and determined that most sites still ranking were 80% in 1-3 keywords so that couldn’t be it.

Any person who makes a determination of a major issue without examining SERP’s (search engine rankings ) and the backlink profiles is blowing smoke. There’s a ton of easily verifiable information about sites around. Social media stats are available. Testing is nice but straight up curve fitting to available data is very valid.

Overall, SEO is about getting valuable rankings in search indexes. I don’t believe anything without comparing and contrasting serious and in depth analysis. SEO involves interactions between competing sites, onsite factors, links, and social media. Don’t believe any analysis that discuss a multiple potential factor and keeps in mind that there can be multiple answers and multiple questions. Every drop and penalty isn’t necessarily related, Google really is smart and can pursue multiple projects at once, not just Panda.

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