SEO clients may well be aware of the furor that has been going on in the SEO world. Danny Sullivan described why SEO experts were so incensed in signaling that Google Loses “Backwards Compatibility” On Paid Link Blocking & PageRank Sculpting. It is all concerned with the NoFollow tag that can be applied as part of the code for hyperlinks from web pages.
If you want to understand the implications of the changes then an article, PageRank Calculation – Null Hypothesis, will provide a lead-in to the ongoing discussion.
What does all this mean for SEO clients who have paid their consultants fees for Search Engine Optimization. The aimClear Search Marketing Blog has a good account of what they are telling their clients in a post, NoFollow noWorries: An SEO Linking Update.
Though this 180 degree about-face in what Google had been preaching (literally) to webmasters was poorly handled from a public relations perspective, presumably it was made because the tag was overused, abused and had the potential to skew Google’s rankings. No worries. We actually think the change will bring some positive changes to the SEO process, though as always there are tradeoffs.
Of course this has all been going on in a time of recession where companies are trying to make sure they get the maximum bang for whatever bucks they still have in their budgets. Companies paying SEO consultants who have implemented PageRank Sculpting programs are now told that such programs were ineffective. This only came to light when Google decided to spill the beans since it looked as though SEO experts had not spotted that the Google advice was no longer effective.
It is all rather messy but the bottom line is that clients have spent money that produced zero returns. What recourse do they have? Who should they be talking to?
Unfortunately the biggest culprit, Google, will provide the defense that they are providing a free search service. Too much information given away would mean that webmasters could perhaps manipulate the search results so that less relevant web pages nevertheless would appear high in the keyword query listing of results. If any information is given out, then webmasters should do their own checking to be sure that the information works for them. This is somewhat facile reasoning since it is very difficult to do Split A/B testing on anything other than simple changes to web pages.
If Google is off the hook, this leaves only the SEO consultants to listen to the SEO clients. Here again the discussion is difficult. Reputable SEO consultants use their best skills and knowledge to provide maximum search engine visibility to their client’s web pages but without any guarantees on performance. In this case, they were following information put out by Google and which was never withdrawn or modified until very recently. They put in the effort. Google rendered their efforts for naught. It would appear that the SEO consultants are off the hook too.
If companies were doing their own SEO, then they would have paid the salaries and again would have seen no results from the PageRank sculpting. Using SEO consultants or doing SEO in-house would have had comparable effects. Perhaps this is just grin-and-bear-it time. Search engine marketing is on average very powerful, but its mechanisms are sometimes difficult to discern. The NoFollow confusion has just added to those ongoing difficulties.
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