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SXSW: Google's Amit Singhal Talks SEO "Experts," Mobile, Search

samzenpus posted about a year ago | from the using-their-keywords dept.

Google 54

Nerval's Lobster writes "Google senior vice president Amit Singhal, one of the executives heading up the company's search-engine operations, sat down with Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist for Apple and author, at one of this year's SXSW keynotes in Austin, TX. 'Our dream is for search to become the "Star Trek" computer, and that's what we're building today,' Singhal said. But he seemed reluctant to share much about his company on a more tactical level, parrying Kawasaki's queries about everything from the amount of code in Google's search platform to recent cyber-attacks on the company's systems. But the two did have an interesting back-and-forth about SEO. 'We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don't need to worry about anything else,' Singhal said. 'If people want that content, your site will automatically work you could make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn't hurt.' When Kawasaki followed up by asking, 'Is SEO bull****?' Singhal replied: 'That would be like saying marketing is bull****.' That drew a laugh from the audience—and maybe some gritted teeth from people who position themselves as SEO experts. The two talked about much more with regard to Google's future plans."

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I hate unexplained acronyms (3, Informative)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43137601)

SEO - Search Engine Optimization.

Re:I hate unexplained acronyms (3, Insightful)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43137631)

SEO - Search Engine Optimization.

With this particular acronym, expanding it doesn't decrease the hatred much...

Re:I hate unexplained acronyms (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about a year ago | (#43143093)

I'm more comfortable with Stupid Engineering Opposition

SXSW (3, Funny)

srussia (884021) | about a year ago | (#43137645)

You missed the one in the headline: South By South West

Re:SXSW (0)

0xdeadbeef (28836) | about a year ago | (#43138207)

That tells me nothing, and it is easier to bing the acronym.

Re:SXSW (1)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | about a year ago | (#43138223)

Oh, I thought that was a mathematical equation...

S x SW = S^2W

Re:SXSW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138591)

S x SW = S^2W

?

S x SW = down

Re:SXSW (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43142737)

How the hell is "By" = "X"??

Marketing is bullshit (1)

h4rr4r (612664) | about a year ago | (#43137629)

Since Marketing is bullshit that means SEO is bullshit too right?

Hey assholes, take Bill Hicks advice already.

Re:Marketing is bullshit (2)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43137683)

Yes, but they're both successful bullshit that help the most diuretic shitters rise to the top of the giant manure heap that is the modern economic system.

Re:Marketing is bullshit (1)

micromoog (206608) | about a year ago | (#43139251)

I think the word you're looking for is "diarrhetic". You see, one involves excessive pooping, whilst the other is for excessive urination. A subtle distinction, yes, but nevertheless an important one. The fact that these words are homophones is just a happy coincidence of linguistics.

Re:Marketing is bullshit (1)

i kan reed (749298) | about a year ago | (#43139513)

Yes, my mistake. They're also urinating all over us.

Re:Marketing is bullshit (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43137969)

You got the joke! You win!

Search Engine Optimization (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43137653)

Yes, sites with high quality content will succeed regardless of SEO tricks. But that's not what SEO is for. SEO is about getting clicks when your site has nothing useful to offer. And looking at the amount of rubbish I get in Google results (e.g. endless wikipedia copies) it is very successful.

Re:Search Engine Optimization (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43137709)

No no, those sites DO offer something, It's about getting clicks when your site has malware to offer!

Re:Search Engine Optimization (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138779)

Bullshit.

Sites with high quality content get drowned out by SEO tricks - if you don't get a good google ranking, you're relying on "going viral". The likelihood of which ranks up there with a lottery win.

Google is a one-trick pony for search - it analyses text and uses extremely sophisticated algorithms to determine which text should match up with which search term. But google doesn't "understand" what it's parsing. To force google to understand what my website is about, I am obliged as a website owner to include certain keywords within the text of my page.

SEO just highlights the enormous divide between "Star Trek" google and what we have now. Who genuinely thinks google search has improved in the last 5 years? (I'm not suggesting there are other better search engines BTW, although I wish there were)

SEO as a bug (5, Interesting)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43137695)

The 10% of "SEO" that is "fixing your website" is fine - good even. Make your URL's friendly, make your site accessible (to both handicapped humans and robots), follow standards, validate your code, organize your pages, etc.

To the degree that any of the other 90% works, that's a bug Google should be (and usually is) actively fixing in their search ranking algorithms. In the meantime, thank goodness for Akismet for keeping the leeches away.

Re:SEO as a bug (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#43137981)

Not for large scale sites its not 10% try migrating major online brands with knowing exactly what you are doing and you will lose a metric fuck ton of money - i know major publishers (no names no pack drill) who've have wasted 10's of millions on botched site rebuilds.

Re:SEO as a bug (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about a year ago | (#43143071)

Try describing your SEO experience in complete sentences and use grammar. You could lose out on a metric fuck ton of money when employers don't hire you because you can't communicate.

Re:SEO as a bug (1)

mjwalshe (1680392) | about a year ago | (#43144187)

Oh sorry precious I am a fucking dyslexic deal with it - sorry to make you read for meaning. Exactly which Janet and John book did you get up to at school.

Ok i said with rather than without whoop do fucking do - its fucking obvious what I meant.

Re:SEO as a bug (1)

sdguero (1112795) | about a year ago | (#43144601)

Hold on. Lets break this down because your post wasn't obvious at all. That is why I replied with my snarky comment. For starters, original message said:

Not for large scale sites its not 10%

Double negative and no period on that abortion of a sentence.

try migrating major online brands with knowing exactly what you are doing and you will lose a metric fuck ton of money

This could me a decent, understandable sentence if it was completely re-written. But to your point, I can decipher two very broad unsubstantiated claims here.

- i know major publishers (no names no pack drill) who've have wasted 10's of millions on botched site rebuilds.

And then there is this sentence. I honestly have no idea what you are trying to communicate in the parentheses here. Ignoring the terrible grammar, the rest of it appears to make another broad claim with no explanation or references.

Now, for your reply...

Oh sorry precious I am a fucking dyslexic deal with it - sorry to make you read for meaning. Exactly which Janet and John book did you get up to at school. Ok i said with rather than without whoop do fucking do - its fucking obvious what I meant.

Dealing with your dyslexia isn't anyone's problem other than yourself dude. And I have no idea wtf you are talking about in the rest of this breathtakingly stupid comment.

Re:SEO as a bug (1)

cayenne8 (626475) | about a year ago | (#43140639)

Make your URL's friendly, make your site accessible (to both handicapped humans and robots)...

Seriously?

Google rates you based on if your handicapped friendly or not??

Re:SEO as a bug (2)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | about a year ago | (#43140803)

Google rates you based on if your handicapped friendly or not??

Yes, indirectly. Accessible sites are easy to index. Go ahead and put your text in images without ALT tags and see how well Google indexes the site. Use ALT tags and screen readers can help blind people use your site.

Google tells you how to do 'SEO' (4, Informative)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43137817)

OK, just at a basic level, but it's still all good advice.

http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=34397 [google.com]

Re:Google tells you how to do 'SEO' (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138833)

Fuck me, this page is pathetic.

A seven year old would laugh at the obviousness of the "advice" on this page. Whoever modded the parent up to +3 should be fucking ashamed of themselves.

Re:Google tells you how to do 'SEO' (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about a year ago | (#43139643)

Hey, calm down. I said 'basic'.

I don't have the time, money or inclination to act as unpaid web consultant to all my friends and acquaintences.
So I just point them to this and other resources. Google analytics, for example, is far from enterprise-strength, but good enough for hobbyist sites.

Non-experts, by definition, don't know the 'obvious' stuff.

Do you help people out? From your really informative post, I would guess not.

Re:Google tells you how to do 'SEO' (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43146151)

Well, I don't do a search for "adding site to google", take the top answer, and then make out like I'm sharing some useful information with the world.

Anybody who couldn't find that link by themselves genuinely has no business running a website.

Fuck Bill Hicks (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43137869)

Fuck Bill Hicks and his assholes!

Visitors seek out our content... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43137887)

Well that's our experience too, visitors seek out our content, and find it on other people's scraped SEO sites.

It seems the web is full of sites that mechanically scrape a handful of related sites, merge pages to meet a keyword target and appear high in the google ranking, often higher than the sites they scrape.

Google doesn't of course let you report a site for copyright violation as an SEO spam site, because then they'd know about the copyright violation and would lose their DMCA protection (which requires the ISP have no prior knowledge of the infringement, so ISPs try to be wilfully ignorant about infringement unless you file a DMCA request, thus acknowledging their DMCA protection). So you can either file a DMCA notice with them, which isn't really what scraped copied spam is about, or you can do nothing.

Really I'd like to file a SPAM site report, because the fact a scraper ranks high isn't about copyright, it's about a crap scraper site ranking high! But the submission forms dead end if there's even the hint of a copyright problem, unless you file a DMCA takedown. Google then parade the DMCA takedown notices as a sort of badge of honor.

Re:Visitors seek out our content... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138987)

This is rubbish. You don't think Google can detect duplicated content?

Look at a site like copyscape or plagium. They can tell you exactly when a chunk of text was created, and which site that text is attributed to.

The sites that rank second, third, fourth etc .... well, they get no credit whatsoever for that text. It all goes to the first site.

They might legitimately outrank you for that keyword through their own unique content.

I'd like to see some examples of these commercially successful autoscraping/autoaggregating sites that are outwitting google, because I've never seen them in my corner of the internet, and I frankly doubt that they exist

Re:Visitors seek out our content... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43141035)

Well that's our experience too, visitors seek out our content, and find it on other people's scraped SEO sites.

Your site should rank higher if it was the first with the content.

If it's not doing that, there is something wrong with your site. Perhaps, your site went down at some point when the googlebot indexed it? Perhaps you're in Google's penalty box because of bad SEO practices. Perhaps, your site was hacked at some point. Perhaps, your comment's sections are being flooded with spam. I have no idea.

In any case, you should carefully read Matt Cutts' blog. He works at Google on Search, and he's their official mouthpiece on the subject. There is no better source than him for that kind of information. And his content is completely free (unlike the questionable advice coming from the people claiming themselves "SEO experts").

What I don't understand... (2)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | about a year ago | (#43137965)

I can understand that there will be people who do SEO, just as their are people who do spamming, send junk mail, and phone scams aimed at vulnerable old people.

What I don't understand is how these people function within broader society? Do they lie about what they do? Do they hang out mostly with others of their kind? Are real people too cowardly to shun and loath them?

Re:What I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138367)

I'm one of those spam SEO types. I don't know what SEO actually is although it sure brings in a lot of money to my bitcoin account. The best part about it is people buy the line “it'll take time to see the results” and then “just wait a little longer”. Eventually your gone with mega $$$$. Suckers. Don't worry. I don't target smart people. They would never respond to spam. And you can't make a mistake here with all my mis3pellings.

Re:What I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138635)

The same way members of corporations, religions, or any other large organized criminal enterprise cope with individual guilt.

Each member takes part in just a small portion of the overall scam. Viewed individually, outside of the larger scope, each task seems innocuous or mundane.

Re:What I don't understand... (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about a year ago | (#43139121)

The same way members of corporations

Corporations don't have members.

Re:What I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43139949)

Actually an LLC (limited liability corporation) is made up of members.

Re:What I don't understand... (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138737)

SEO falls into three categories:

1. optimising your website for maximum search engine exposure (reducing page times, making it bot-accessible etc). Nobody has a problem with this, and most reputable companies with an important web presence have an "SEO" team that does it. You'd think this was already done by web designers/developers, but you'd be unpleasantly surprised.

2. Link building - asking people to link to your site. For example, contacting suppliers, local directories, asking customers to link to you as part of a promotion. Not seen much these days, as most social networks are near worthless for SEO (nofollow and/or low algo weightings), and most companies generally will only do it these days if you're in the same group. It can be fairly innocuous (even useful in some cases), but tends to "slippery slope" down to:

3. Link farming - setting up sites with links to sites you want to promote, often with stolen content in an attempt not to look too spammy. Spamming links to other people's sites. Setting up fake reviews (or even stealing real reviews) linking to your product. Even compromising web servers to insert your links in otherwise-legit sites! This kind of "black hat" SEO is very expensive, very unethical, and unfortunately often very effective... until Google adapts their algo.

For anyone outside the field, it's hard to tell the difference between website-tweaking white hats and nefarious black hats; small businesses often get suckered by the latter, to the point where it's basically no longer profitable to be the former.

Re:What I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138937)

I think your problem is that you associate it with spam. Ultimately, in Google's algo, links are votes. Some links are better than other links. Some can be bought and sold, some can be stolen, but some can also be earned. A new popular example is a type of link building called "Broken Link Building". Basically, SEOs find resources on the Internet that are now abandoned or 404d. They then recreate, update and improve that content that is now missing, then reach out to the webmasters who are still linking to that broken, missing resource to let them know they have a broken link and that there is an alternate available on their site. This kind of relationship, where SEOs are finding ways to repair the web, create useful content and perform the outreach necessary to acquire links is pretty germane.

Of course, most people never see or hear about these kinds of campaigns. Instead, they see that spam number go up in Akismet.

Re:What I don't understand... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43139877)

It's perfectly possible to do SEO in a reasonable way.

We are in the process of a major redesign of our site (a top 100 by traffic website), and had a couple of SEO guys come in and talk about how we should use redirects, what to deal with to make sure that the search bots pick up the right keywords, and how to deal with translations. We discussed things like: Should we have rel=canonical to a single translation, or to each individual one? Is there some good way for us to indicate that different pages are just different translations of the same base? What's the relation between rel=canonical and redirects? What's the best way of structuring the HTML so the search engines pick up the keywords we think are relevant for the page, instead of ranking the page as being about something unimportant that's mentioned as a side note in the page? Everything is completely above board - the idea is just to make the search engines better able to understand our site, and to do better ranking between the many, many pages we have on our site.

We're not interested in ranking over better results in search; this would be bad for the user in the short term (they'd go to our site instead of the alternative), and it would be bad for the trust in our site in the longer term, as users found out they couldn't trust us to be the best result even if we ranked in search.

Instead, we play the long game: Provide good content, make the structure apparent, SEO so users can find it when it is the right content for them.

So while SEO is clearly an industry with a lot of shady characters, it doesn't have to be a shady occupation - it is possible to work it completely clean.

Accessability (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138067)

I've found that when you pay attention to accessability for non-sighted users the site is also more accessible to robots. This is probably a better approach to SEO because it helps humans at the same time as making a the content easily indexable.

No worries (1)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138073)

'We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don't need to worry about anything else,'

What's Google for then?

SEO isn't the only problem (0, Flamebait)

rudy_wayne (414635) | about a year ago | (#43138093)

Maybe Mr. Singhal, "one of the executives heading up the company's search-engine operations", needs to spend some time explaining why Google's search results suck so much and have gotten steadily worse. But that will never happen. Because then he might have to talk about what a lot of people already know -- shitty search results are good for Google's bottom line.

Shitty search results increase the number of links you click on, trying to find what you want, and if any of those links belong to people in Google's AdWords program, more clicks means more money for Google. Shitty search results also increase the chance that someone will click on one of the paid ads trying to find what they are looking for.

SEO is just one aspect of advertising (4, Insightful)

schneidafunk (795759) | about a year ago | (#43138215)

In my opinion, SEO is just one form of advertising, just like buying an ad in a phone book. I have done "SEO" professionally many times, but in my mind assume my employer wants more than just search engine optimization. It really comes down to being an online advertising expert, which is a real job. For example, determining the ROI (return on investment) on advertisements has real value for any business.

The problem is that the employers do not understand what SEO really means. If you are spending money on SEO, maybe you should spend money on advertisements as well and track everything to see what pays off. Run a small marketing experiment, find ads that make you money and then focus all your money into those ads.

In reality, SEO is usually just a one time short job of renaming directories,images & files, adding alt tags, and generally cleaning up HTML code to follow standards. Some companies charge monthly fees to post blog comments and other content regularly, which may actually help your site gain rank, but rarely is worth the monthly fee.

Full disclosure missing (4, Informative)

slapout (93640) | about a year ago | (#43138313)

The summary should mention that Guy Kawasaki now works for Google: http://www.businessinsider.com/guy-kawasaki-joins-google-as-an-advisor-2013-2

Re:Full disclosure missing (1, Insightful)

Swampash (1131503) | about a year ago | (#43138557)

Mod parent up. This is just a Google circle jerk.

What the fuck is a SEO? (1)

aliquis (678370) | about a year ago | (#43138627)

Google hit says search engine optimization. Is that it? Deliever a good site rather than trying to get people to find the shit you've made?

stupid idiotic puritanism (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43138705)

shit shit shiiiiiiiiiiiit!!!!

SEOs are the enemy (3, Interesting)

DrXym (126579) | about a year ago | (#43138721)

I wonder what an SEO could do for its money which is actually acceptable to Google's aims of delivering relevant search results. They might optimise the site so it loads fast, or that the landing page includes relevant keywords, or that content is frequently updated - things like that. It doesn't seem like rocket science though and I expect Google and Bing offer tips which enable sites to do these things for themselves.

It's the scummier things that some SEOs might do which make them the enemy of search engines - padding sites with meta tags, astroturfing, incestuously linking to the site from shill sites, hiring people to do automated +1 ranking, spamming forums & blogs with links, click jacking and any other scummy practice they can come up with. I wouldn't be surprised if some of these tactics actually count against a site's relevance if they are discovered.

Re:SEOs are the enemy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43140053)

I wonder what an SEO could do for its money which is actually acceptable to Google's aims of delivering relevant search results. They might optimise the site so it loads fast, or that the landing page includes relevant keywords, or that content is frequently updated - things like that. It doesn't seem like rocket science though and I expect Google and Bing offer tips which enable sites to do these things for themselves.

It's not rocket science, but it can include a fair amount of detail, and having an expert around is useful. What's the relation between rel=canonical and permanent/temporary redirects? What order should you put your site structure? Are metadata headers worthwhile to have around, or are they so disregarded these days that spending time putting them in (and download time for the users) is pointless? URLs with keywords in them - how important is it? Is rel=canonical'ing these going to work? How should we deal with renames (change of title)? How about legacy content that don't have this metadata? Should we remove stopwords (too common words, like the or and)? What's the right way to deal with translations? Should we have different language content on country based URLs or a common URL?

These are just some examples of questions that have come up in a discussion with an SEO expert. Yes, I could find out most of of these for myself, by searching the net. But it would take me a fair bit of time, and I'd not know if I'd forgotten some part of the equation. Having an expert available is handy, and if you're revamping a major site, it's a very small part of the overall cost.

Hey, Google, fix your own site first! (0, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43139113)

Google, if you provide high-quality results that add value, people will seek you out instead of fleeing to competitors. Your results are getting useless, Google! I searched for "Barker" the other day and got results for "Baker". Your results are so sloppy and useless that I am looking for other sites. Forget SEO and Star Trek and get back to your core search functionality. Revert your code base back to 2008, when searches were more exact and the unary + still worked. Throw out the sloppy results and let people search for precise terms again. Let me know when you're done, because I'll be looking for alternatives. Better get your house in order while you're still relevant.

Re:Hey, Google, fix your own site first! (1)

stephanruby (542433) | about a year ago | (#43141125)

Searching for Barker [google.com] works just fine for me (right now, at least). It's not even trying to correct my spelling.

Yuk (1)

notknown86 (1190215) | about a year ago | (#43141533)

The converse of the "If people want that content, your site will automatically work" argument is well proven by Truemors and Alltop.

Why would Google would hire this two-bit hack...?

Re:Yuk (0)

Anonymous Coward | about a year ago | (#43142823)

Unless you actually link to something useful, we have to assume you made "Truemors" and "Alltop" up on the spot, and are a moron and a liar.
Actually, we already know you are. Because otherwise you would have already added that link.

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