The SEO Files: The Truth is Out There

When you start out in search engine optimization, it’s hard to evaluate all the available information. How do you find sources that are more trustworthy? How do you keep a critical view on them? Here are some tips on finding and evaluating the SEO information sources.

The SEO Files

Is it Still Being Investigated?

During the first weeks of every large-scale search engine update, people try to get consensus on the intent with which the search engine has rolled it out. Then they start to mention every potential way a search engine could have reached that goal. Everything that seems to match the similarities of all affected websites is then perceived as the truth.

The main question for you should be: “Do I need to know right now?” If not, it’s wise to give it some time until remedies have been tried and the real cause of ranking shifts starts to reach the SEO blogs.

When Was the Article Written?

One of the first in-depth articles on a subject will get many websites linking to it. This causes the article to outrank all its (more up-to-date) successors.

When you use Google to find specific SEO information, you’re more likely to get a raw first version of an idea than the current situation. If you find the information on a blog, always search it to find newer/updated articles on the same topic.

How Reputable is the Source?

When you start reading blogs you’ll find very contradicting stories. Even when a certain aspect seems to get much consensus, it might still be nonsense. A page ranking high for “Panda update” is even less likely to hold the truth than one that doesn’t rank at all.

No single source holds the truth on every aspect of SEO. Individual articles on respected search industry sites represent the opinions of just a few experts and even the experts get it wrong sometimes.

When there have been multiple experts collaborating on an article the amount of support makes it more likely to hold the truth, especially because someone with conflicting evidence would take the effort to comment it to such an article. In many cases a large amount of media attention makes an article more trustworthy than just the reputation of its creator.

Should You Believe Information From Google?

The short answer is yes. I’ve rarely caught Matt Cutts in a lie. By listening very carefully to his choice of words, he reveals more than the topic he addresses. The webmaster guidelines also contain a lot of quality information and tips.

But it isn’t in Google’s best interest to reveal too much about their algorithm, so they will only sparsely disclose such information. The lack of detail is the main drawback of using Google information to gain SEO knowledge.

Is a High Ranking Proof of a Successful SEO Strategy?

What is successful for one site may be the wrong strategy for another. What was successful once may not be reproducible anymore, because the guidelines have changed (even if the site still holds its original ranking).

The main problem with accepting ranking as proof is that you can’t easily dissect all influencing factors. It happens all too often that someone writes “I changed my … and a week later I ranked number one” without taking all other changes into account. Changes made by competitors, changes in algorithm factor weights, the ripening of links, and many more factors change ranking independent of website changes.

Is an Algorithm Change Logical?

When rankings are changing for many similar websites within a short timeframe, algorithm changes are often blamed. The initial stories on these changes are often wild guesses, so evaluate them carefully.

When you look at the routes Google has taken in the past it is obvious what future steps lie ahead. Most changes have always been a logical step toward this future. Assessing what is logical or not requires some practice, but this ability is an essential trade for every good SEO specialist.

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