SEO for sake of SEO misses the point

A nice post by Jill Whalen makes the point that,

without knowing the ultimate reason for doing the things they do, they [search engine optimiser professionals] don’t get it done correctly. You don’t create titles for titles’ sake. You don’t get links for links’ sake. Everything that we teach people to do in SEO has a purpose, and that purpose is not to make the search engines think our site is better than it is. The purpose is to actually make the site better than it is.

— Jill Whalen, Avoiding Clueless-Is As Clueless-Does SEO, Search engine land, September 27, 2007 (Emphasis is original)

In a way, this is obvious, but Whalen’s point is that many SEO people simply go through the motions and almost forget about creating good content; the technical on-page factors such as a good title, link text, etc are there because these are naturally important for good content, not solely for search engine optimisation.

As I mentioned in a previous post on SEO, “the task of getting good ranking is ultimately a business/marketing strategy: sites need to have compelling enough content for others to want to link to them.”

It reminds me of a few people I have talked to in recent months about SEO who say they would put extra title attributes (tooltips) on links, images, and even headings and paragraphs! To me that is excessive (and way out-dated); if it doesn’t help the end user, it is very likely not to be useful for search engines.

12 thoughts on “SEO for sake of SEO misses the point

  1. Glad you liked it!

    Regarding link title attributes, if those people would ever test things for themselves instead of just listening to what others say, they would know that the search engines all ignore title attributes, so they cannot therefore help rankings.

    Jill

  2. “I have talked to in recent months about SEO who say they would put extra title attributes (tooltips) on links, images, and even headings and paragraphs! To me that is excessive (and way out-dated); if it doesn’t help the end user, it is very likely not to be useful for search engines.”

    It seems to a general consensus that alt tags on images are beneficial to your SEO efforts. Of course, there’s the accessibility factor for using alt tags as well.

    As far as title tags, I’ve never heard of anyone stressing the importance of these other than to as you say “help the end user”. They are also helpful to drive click throughs with a message for example “Click here for you free report!” or something of the like. I’ve never heard of anyone using them thinking that it will help them in terms of SEO.

  3. Going Natural 2.0: thanks for your comment. You mention a general consensus that image alt attributes are beneficial for SEO.

    Do you have further information on that? I find the general consensus is that it does NOT help. Years ago this was one of the first ways to try and trick search engines, by stuffing the alt attribute with any old keywords (like meta keyword stuffing), so search engines stopped using that for SEO purposes.

    If you follow the top 10 ranking factors link mentioned in in an earlier post on SEO you will not see image alt attribute mentioned as a factor.

    However, I agree with you that it is important for accessibility.

    About the excessive use of title attributes for SEO on all sorts of elements, I found more than one person saying this on their CV/resumes when interviewing them for positions where I work. I was very surprised to hear anyone mention this!

  4. Just came across a post by Google, which included a video from Matt Cutts showing how to use the alt attribute in an image.

    The basic rule of thumb seemed to be to use a short description (he said 20-25 words may be too much). He kind of mentioned keyword stuffing not being helpful to anyone, etc.

    It seems like it is useful for Google Images. I am still not clear on if it is useful for general searches (and if so, how much compared to other factors, especially the top 10 factors mentioned earlier.

  5. Nowadays, many SEO people simply go through the motions & almost forget about creating good content; the technical on-page factors such as a good title, link text, etc are there because these are naturally important for good content, not solely for search engine optimization.

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