There are many in the SEO community that get very frustrated with Google, and one of the reasons for this is simple: there is a communications gap.

This is not a simple case of US English vs. UK English, but more like Swahili vs. Latin. Many publishers — and many who profess to be SEO professionals — get upset or angry every time Google communicates. In fact, I’d suggest this Eye Chart captures how many feel Google communicates:

Google Clarity in Communication?

In other words, people see that Google does a lot of communication but believe the search giant is deliberately vague and misleading about it. On the other hand, Google feels it is making every reasonable effort possible to be clear. Why does this gap exist? Let’s take a look.

Tactics Vs. Principles

The first part of this problem is that people are always asking Google about SEO tactics. Is this tactic ok? From Google’s perspective, some of these questions are like wolves in sheep’s clothing. To them, the flow of questions looks like this:

  1. Is guest posting ok?
  2. Is issuing press releases ok?
  3. Is participating in DoFollow networks ok?
  4. Is dropping links in thousands of forums ok?
  5. Is taking candy from a baby ok?
  6. Is writing great content ok?
  7. Is corporate corruption ok?
  8. Are links I received that I never asked for ok?
  9. Is incest ok?
  10. Is being interviewed by the New York Times ok?
  11. Is getting fantastic links as a result of sharing my content on social media ok?

Clear Tactics Invite Spammers

Even the very first question in the above list is controversial. Illustrated another way, the person who asks, “Is guest posting is ok?” may actually be asking, “Is it ok if I spew out thousands of article spun blog posts to low-quality sites that have no editorial judgment at all?” This is what Google fears every time they hear a question about a potential SEO tactic. In short, Google hears something like this: “Do you mind If I spam you this way?”

In addition, Google’s challenge is that being clear on a tactical level about what is and is not ok sets them up for spammers to become more effective. Any time Google provides clear guidelines on what is an ok tactic, spammers will begin to devise ways to abuse it, either from a quality perspective or a volume perspective (or both). For example, for the guest posting question, the answer really should be yes, but the SEO industry has scores of businesses that have totally abused that concept.

We can illustrate the way Google looks at the danger of communicating precisely on SEO tactics as follows:

Google Sees Spammers at the Gates

Truth be told, I hate equating spammers with Vikings due to my Norwegian heritage, but you get the idea. As a consequence, Google focuses on discussing principles that publishers should follow. What they have to say ends up looking a lot more like this:

Google Prefers to Communicate Principles

Principles Vs. Tactics

Google focuses on principles, because many of the questions get into gray areas. To go back to the guest posting example: done the right way, it is perfectly fine. Focus on very high-quality sites with strong editorial policies, and give them great stuff. Then back that up with a strong social media push (yes, promote your guest posts in your own social media feeds; it’s a great tactic), and promote the content effectively so it accumulates its own links. Hence, any attribution link back to you can gain some weight. This is in stark contrast to the article-spinning example I used above.

There is another reason for Google to be a bit vague on SEO tactics. Google is happy to have spammers wasting time pursuing tactics that Google can easily detect and discount. If Google provides too much clarity, the spammers will move on from tactics that don’t work to try other tactics that may not be so easy for Google to detect. A world in which spammers can easily expose themselves is a good thing.

Strategies That Build Authority

Don’t expect Google’s approach regarding clarity on SEO tactics to change. The best thing to do is to understand the principles they are espousing, take them to heart, and then focus on producing great stuff and promoting your business (and its content) very effectively.

From an SEO perspective, instead of looking for a tactical way to pile up the links, focus instead on strategies that build your real-world authority that result in your getting recognized by other established authorities. That is what Google wants you to do, and chances are pretty good that it is the best link building strategy you can employ, anyway!

Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.

Related Topics: All Things SEO Column | Channel: SEO | Google | Google: SEO

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About The Author: is the president of Stone Temple Consulting, an SEO consultancy outside of Boston. Eric publishes a highly respected interview series and can be followed on Twitter at @stonetemple.

Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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  • davidquaid

    You nailed it again (as always) Eric.

    “Clear tactics give away the game”

  • Doc Sheldon

    Great points, Eric. I’m constantly amazed by the number of people that fail to understand why Google HAS to be so circumspect.

    I also loved this line from your G+ post: “… the fact that SEOs are often asking about tactics, and Google is speaking about principles.” That’s it, in a nutshell!

    If only common sense were more common.

  • Guest

    In a perfect world, off site SEO shouldn’t really exist. Links would be built almost exclusively as a consequence of a great content marketing and PR effort. Unfortunately we are not in a perfect world, but the direction is clear.

  • Guest

    In a perfect world, off site SEO shouldn’t really exist. Links would be built almost exclusively as a consequence of a great content marketing and PR effort. Unfortunately we are not in a perfect world, but the direction is clear.

  • http://www.dpom.co.uk/ Brett Dixon

    Great post! I hope it helps some SEOs start understanding better: Im sooo tired of reading the “Google Hates SEO” posts.

  • Trish Anderson

    This is really good logic. I think of all the people who complain about Matt Cutt’s web-master video series and now see his answers and their complaints in a new light.

  • eDigitalFields

    Yes, you are right. It’s time to work on strategy for SEO rather using tactics that already Google is treated as spam.

  • Motupally Pavan

    I agree with these lines ” The best thing to do is to understand the principles they are espousing, take them to heart, and then focus on producing great stuff and promoting your business (and its content) very effectively “…because , i am the best real time experienced person by implementing ( building author profile ) this i got good result ….but still some where i am confusing on link building strategies to get top SERP… without doing these ( above mentioned ) tactics , how can we get top position in organic results ? can any one can help on this , how we can do this strong link building to get top SERP ?

    Thanks in Advance…..Cheers!!!

  • Eric Muhanji

    The SEOs who post these questions act like Google owes them a living but big G answering just feeds spammers. I was very surprised when Matt Cutts gave a green light on guest blogging in a webmaster help video which led to a scramble on that tactic. As the song says “you say it best they say nothing at all”!

  • HoggRob

    I think the reason SEOs focus on tactics is because that’s what differs them from PR, marketing and web dev.

    We need our little specialties or else we lose to our clients other, and likely more established, agencies.

  • Syed Zain

    Good Explanation Eric, But Eric i would just show you an example “We all are tired of Spammer on our blogs so we use some captcha or some other plugins to stop spammers and we get success as well. but it is not mean we do remove Comment Section from blog, because we know if we did we would lost comunication with our viewers and more we will face”. Same as for Google it is not creating anything to stop spam but it is Turning SEO off. it is understood thing.

 

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