Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Misinformation Runs Rampant

You know what I find really frustrating? The misinformation that continues to be published by otherwise reputable companies, that is then taken as fact even though it's not right.

Today's case (and believe me, there are dozens of examples) comes from Slingshot SEO, an agency I've always thought to be pretty decent. They don't seem to be engaging in any black hat techniques, and their service to their clients has been relatively well reviewed over the years.

But this post (a guest post on SEOMoz, but we'll deal with that later), is filled with incorrect statements. Below is an excerpt of the infographic that shows (circled in red) the incorrect or incomplete information:

Incomplete: Page load times are a factor in both Google and Bing. While Bing does not necessarily penalize for having a slow load time, Bing representative Duane Forrester was quoted in an interview with Eric Enge as saying:
"We look at it and say, “If we show up and we think it’s slow what does that mean to a human being?” When the industry started to note that page load times matter everybody started to freak out and ask, “What is a good page load time? How fast should I be?”
We saw websites strip features out because they said it made it too slow. They ended up with these slim-down user-experiences that were hyper quick. The problem is when you measure something at a tenth of a second or a hundredth of a second, you make gains by stripping things out. Essentially, this is done by removing features. The issue then becomes, if the user is happy with the 3-second load time then saving a tenth of a second is largely irrelevant."
Taken out of context, it looks like Bing doesn't care about page load times. But what Duane is really saying is that page load time should provide a good user experience. If the load time is too slow, it's not providing a good experience, which will ultimately impact the "Static Rank" (more on this later).
Added: I haven't been able to find the documentation on this yet, but will keep looking... Duane has said on many occasions that it's important to decrease bounce rate as well. A leading cause of high bounce rate is too-slow load time. It is my opinion that what Duane is trying to say above is that changing your load time by a factor that only machines can appreciate isn't going to help your ranking, but I'm sure Bing doesn't want pages that take 20 seconds to load either. It is not responsible in my opinion to make a statement like "Bing doesn't care about load time" without adding some caveats to it.

Incomplete: Age of domain is not a direct ranking factor; this is true. However, older domains tend to have more established link values and penetration. Older domains typically rank better because of their superior link profiles, which is indirectly related to the age of their domain. 
Added:While the statement is technically correct, there is a high degree of correlation with older domains that is important to mention. This is separate, in my opinion, than link diversity, which measures different sources of links, rather than age.

Opinion: Click-through Rates are a ranking factor at Google. Now that all search results are being delivered with some level of personalization (either your search history, your social networks, or your IP address), CTR is a very real and very prevalent factor in how your SERPs appear.
Added: I'm not able to find a specific study or statement to this effect, so I'm willing to concede this as opinion based on observational evidence.

Incomplete: Using "Page Rank" as a non-branded term here is just irresponsible. "PageRank" is Google's proprietary link measuring tool. Bing has a similar tool called "Static Rank".

Unsupported: Webmaster Tools membership has no bearing on ranking. Uploading sitemaps and specifying crawl patterns and timing can help Bing index more of your site, but they do not penalize a site for not being a member of Webmaster Tools. Edited: This is a claim that needs some backup data, research or a source cited. The only thing I have seen Duane Forrester say that comes even close to this is:
We recommend everyone do a Sitemap. It helps us because there is a protocol built around it, and we adhere to the protocol...We will crawl the website, we will go through the navigation as best we can, we will find your content, and we will ingest it that way.

Added: Later, Duane and Eric go on to talk about sitemap submission and whether it is essential...

Eric Enge: If you have a case where the site is too hard to crawl, and given what you know about it, how much you trust it and how much authority you associate with it, perhaps you will crawl it less? If they had given you a Sitemap, would you crawl it more?
Duane Forrester: I understand where you are coming from, and the short answer is no not really. We are voracious about looking for new content. That is the life blood for search, the freshest content available. The beauty of all of this being crawler based is that they just keep going.

Incorrect: Google does use meta keywords as a ranking factor. Specifically, the part of the algorithm that catches items that are outside of Google's guidelines. Specifically, keyword stuffing. So while using meta keywords correctly will not help you in Google (it will in Bing), it can harm you in Google. Important distinction in my opinion.
Source: http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?answer=66358

Unsupported: The H1 HTML tag is absolutely relevant in Google. Google considers all of the content on a page, as well as how it is set off (through standard HTML values like H tags, bold, italics, and font size). I challenge the creators of this infographic to show me where Google says they don't use it. 

As you can see, you have to take everything you read with a big grain of salt. And while SEOMoz includes their nice little disclaimer at the top of the page, I am still disappointed in them that they would allow a piece with so many factual errors to be published.
"This entry was written by one of our members and submitted to our YOUmoz section. The author's views below are entirely his or her own and may not reflect the views of SEOmoz, Inc."
What do you think of all this? Leave me your thoughts and examples of other misinformation you've found in the comments.

Updated after the insightful comments received in this post: http://www.seomoz.org/blog/a-tale-of-two-studies-google-vs-bing-clickthrough-rate#jtc161696

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article! It's so important for an agency to check all the facts before posting this type of information. Also, age of domain is a direct ranking factor in Google. In a live YouTube Q&A with Matt Cutts on September 21, 2011, someone asked if the domain age affects rankings. His response was that he along with others have a patent that "basically saying that you could use the age of various anchors, domains, that sort of stuff to sort of return better search results ."