What the Google SEO Guide Doesn’t Tell You

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The Google SEO guide, better known as the Google Webmaster Guidelines, doesn’t really tell you anything about actual Search Engine Optimization (SEO). Instead it spreads a false idealism by telling you to just write great content. Don’t get me wrong here, the guide is educational but not really about SEO.

Great content is important—and it’s the number one thing most sites don’t do—but it won’t help you get your site to the top of the rankings in a Internet where everyone else is using SEO. Remember the article I wrote called “Content is Not the Only King“, you should make the effort to read this as it makes some serious sense. I agree that content is important but that is not all you need to rule the internet world. (evil laugh in the background)

So what else did Google forgot to mention in the Google SEO guide?

Choose Your Keywords Wisely

The choices you make early in your website’s life will affect it for years to come, so choose your keywords wisely. The Google SEO guide hardly addresses keywords at all, but the basic facts are clear.

1. Short keywords do better than long keywords because they match more possible search queries.

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2. Small sites must be careful about choosing keywords used by larger sites because out ranking a larger site is difficult. (But it’s not impossible.)

3. Do your keyword research using free or paid tools before choosing any keyword. Make sure the keyword receives the amount of traffic appropriate to your site and try to find any related keywords you can also use.

4. Consider the long tail—infrequently-searched keywords which you can rank for very easily for guaranteed regular traffic.

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Get Incoming Links

The Google SEO guide does mention Google’s original special sauce—PageRank—but then the guide downplays how important incoming links are.

Links are still important.

In fact, links may be the most important thing for your website after high-quality content.

There are many ways to get links for your site from the legitimate—such as guest posting—to the illegitimate—such as link farming.

The Google SEO guide, of course, shuns the illegitimate methods, and so should you—in general. (Many SEO specialists try to walk the fine line between “white hat” and “black hat” SEO, but I suggest you only try this if you can afford to have your site blacklisted.)

The five best ways I know to get links are:

1. Guest posting—every site needs more content, so most webmasters will love hearing that you want to provide them with a free article. Of course, if you’ve run a site for any amount of time, you’ve probably received more automated offers for guest posts than you care to count—so don’t be the person who sends them. When you offer to write a guest post, write a personalized letter and demonstrate that you’re familiar with the other site’s core audience.

2. Link baiting—put up a controversial opinion or valuable (but short) resource to get other people to link to your blog with a response.

3. Run a contest—people love free stuff and they’ll often tell their friends about contests by linking to it. You can pay for the contest prizes out of your own pocket or you can get vendors to donate the prizes for you.

4. Proactive linking—link to other people and you’ll find they may link back to you. One way to do this is to revise an old article with medium popularity on your site to link to someone else’s site. If they don’t link back to you within a month, revise the article again and link to someone else. Note, I suggest that once you do get a link back, you stop revising the article—you don’t want to disappoint anyone kind enough to link to you. See my linkbuilding tutorial for more tips.

5. Ask for help—if you make your readers happy, they’ll probably want to help you, so ask them to go out and link to your site. Be careful with this technique—you may get low-quality links and, if you overuse this technique, your readers will get tired of helping you.

Use Meta Tags

You probably know that there are special tags you can add to the head section of your webpages which will be read by the spiders that build Google’s index. The Google SEO guide doesn’t really talk about these tags, so I will.

The main tag looked at by these spiders is the keywords tag. Before Google came on the scene, this was the tag all spiders looked at to determine what your page was about. Unfortunately, many people used keyword stuffing to make these tags practically worthless.

When Google appeared with its new PageRank algorithm, keywords became less important than incoming links, so a lot of early SEO experts stopped filling in the meta keywords tag. But Google and other search engines never stopped looking at it.

Filling in you meta keywords tag can help search engines such as Google figure out what you think your page is about. Google still has anti-keyword stuffing protection built in, so don’t put any keywords in your meta keywords tag which don’t pertain to the current page, but don’t hesitate to use a plugin for your blog or CMS software to fill in these valuable tags.

Don’t Focus On Google

But the most important thing the Google SEO guide doesn’t tell you—and probably never will tell you—is that Google dominates search less and less every year.

It was true two or three years ago that almost no other search engine mattered, and it’s still true that Google sends more traffic to more sites than all other search engines combined. But unless you want to ignore thousands of potential visitors to your site, you should not focus only on Google.

When you check your search engine ranking, take a moment to check Bing as well as Google. Also scan the search engine optimization guides from search engines besides Google.

Because of patents, all of the search engines work differently—they’re not just Google wannabes. That creates an opportunity for you to make small adjustments to your pages which can help you greatly increase your rankings on these alternative search engines.

Remember also that social media strategy is becoming an increasing important driver of traffic to many websites, and that focusing on the Google SEO guide to the exclusion of non-search traffic methods can be detrimental to your business.

In short, don’t take at face value everything you read in the Google SEO guide.

Discuss This Article

Comments: 23

  • Steve Kent says:

    Good perspective, pretty tired of forum comments insisting that “all you have to do” is write great content and then by some magical process thousands of people will find your site and link to it rocketing you to the top of SERPS, total fantasy, SEO is as relevant as it has always been, people just need to stop trying to cheat the system.

  • Carol says:

    Thank you for this very informative article, I enjoyed reading it!


  • Ryan says:

    Agree focusing on Google is the one thing that many people get caught up on. There are still loyal users of the other main websites, so not paying attention to them all is just plain ignoring almost 40% of those searching.

    • mitz says:

      Yes I agree that there are loyal users on other search engines as some people just plain hate Google!
      I think the other SE will give Google a run for their money one day.

  • Over time a reliance on Google will lead to heartache. Read of several stories last year (2012) about people claiming they lost 99% of their business when Google hit them with a Penguin or Panda update. My reaction – while a little sad for them – was tinged with incredulity.
    Some of these businesses were 10+ years old on the ‘net and relied solely on one funnel for custom. Google.
    A funnel thay had zero control over. As a business model it’s not just flawed, it’s downright irresponsible.
    Niche forums and blogs (community). Multimedia channels and social media as well as the other search engines should all be explored actively from day one.
    Good article. 100% in agreement with several I’ve written myself in the past.

    • mitz says:

      I agree that we need to diversify our traffic methods so we are not relying on Google search traffic.. It is very dangerous to base a business on Google traffic. :)

  • My only concern, aside from all your outbound links, is where you say, “Short keywords do better than long keywords because they match more possible search queries.” This is not always the case. Let’s say your company sells “dog leashes”. It is not going to be beneficial for you to try ranking for “dog leashes” in the face of Walmart, Petco, and Amazon. This is where capitalizing on -longer- keywords is going to help a businesses, especially a small one. Not only are longer and long-tail keywords going to set you apart but they can be easier to rank for too.

    • Poeabby you make a solid point, the longer-tail words make a big difference especially in local search!

    • mitz says:

      You points are right and I know it is hard to rank for shorter keywords and sometimes it is not needed, but wow, if you can rank!!! If you are lucky enough to get a short word while still being relevant it is a fountain of traffic… It is like hitting a jackpot.

  • Bote says:

    Very nice article. Meta tags part was dead-on.

  • I guess, we can only sum up this case about SEO in one sentence: There are just NO shortcuts.. You may get away with shady techniques today, but you can pay a higher price tomorrow. Do you think that it’s better to combine conversion rate optimization with search engine optimization to get the best results for your website? Besides, what’s the point of getting all those traffic if they don’t really convert..

  • Matt Coffy says:

    Great write up, Mitz, I enjoyed reading your insights. And I’m glad and surprised that you were able to mention doing contest. Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t think that many people encourage (or mention even) running contests as a link strategy anymore. Taking into account social media and mobile strategy these days, this could really be huge for businesses.

    • mitz says:

      Hi Matt
      I am from the old school of website promotion and I find that the most basic techniques work. Now with social media though, this amplifies the results if you can find your target market on this medium. If you can get the right people to share and care you will be laughing!

  • Selda says:

    I totally agree with you on Google guideline misleading users. I keep monitoring some sites using black hat SEO and being on the top spots. They clearly buy links, utilize a few more black hat SEO techniques and ranking on top.

    • Silver says:

      Hahaa you are so right.Black hat works as it worked before.I did a link profile analysis for my competitor who just jumped to first or second spot on Google.What i saw was links coming from profile and blog commenting-thats it.This website outranked all the old sites.

  • Dan Janal says:

    Word combinations (2-3 words) work well with Google. It is hard to get any ranking for a single word – it is too broad. The more specific I can be when I write press releases with keywords, the better.

  • susan wowe says:

    I never thought of the Proactive linking, I should give it a try. Thanks.

  • eldy says:

    not easy to run a contest.. although it’s good for link baiting but a lots of work and collaboration need to be done for the pre-launch of contest..

  • Brieferbob says:

    Thank You for this valuable SEO instruction. I goes a long way with a non techy like me.

  • Tom J says:

    Constructing my new website continues to lead me to these kind of discussions. Many thanks to all who contribute.

  • “So what else did Google forgot to mention in the Google SEO guide?”


    Good post. Minor typo. ;)

  • Bill Campbell says:

    Excellent post. I always learn something.

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