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Ryan Smith
by Ryan Smith
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Don't go the way of the SEOsaurus

02/06/2014
Don't go the way of the SEOsaurus

As the saying goes, "Neurons that fire together, wire together."

One downside to having been an SEO for this long (e.g.. more than a decade) is that neurons that have been firing together for years are still wired together—strong enough to short-out the relatively young post-Hummingbird circuits. The easier the answer, the harder it is to forget.

Google's Hummingbird algorithm update has got to be the single biggest revolution in IR (Information Retrieval) technology since PageRank. Panda and Penguin were just filtering upgrades by comparison.

So... I very recently suggested to a colleague here at Dirigo that they might insert an intentional misspelling here and there in their title tags to catch a little extra traffic around their target topic. When they asked for an example, I suddenly realized what I was saying made no sense.  Any SEO who's using the very same techniques from a few years ago is actually causing serious harm.

If you're primarily concerned with Google traffic vs. the less-sophisticated search engines, in most cases (where a misspelling doesn't introduce new ambiguities to your query) you should get the same result set as with the correctly-spelled term, because to Hummingbird misspellings are basically just another synonym. Deep within the abstract recesses of this latest learning algorithm, those simulated neurons are virtually firing together, and those popular misspellings are already wired together. Can you out-tactic a synapse?

In making such an outdated recommendation, I was thinking like an SEOsaurus. You know the type. By all rights they should be fully extinct by now, but we do still get these ridiculous e-mail solicitations from halfway around the planet a couple times a day, offering cut-rate SEO services which invariably tout a variety of antiquated and, at this point, unforgivably-ignorant tactics, as if the e-mail came out of some time capsule from 2005 (or worse). Don't they read any search industry news?  The obvious answer is 'no'.

David suggested that their tactics must still be working to some degree, given how flush our inboxes seem to be with these offers. I'm sure he's right to some degree -- some of this crap still works in 2014, sometimes even with Google, but from my experiences cleaning-up after these lowest-common-denominator SEOs over the years, I can hardly imagine they're out there inspiring long-term customer happiness so much as they're burning through their market opportunity as fast as they can. I wonder how many of their low-budget clients are following their KPI's closely enough to know whether those efforts, in the long run, were demonstrably worth the discount? I hate to talk in self-serving cliches, but you really do get what you pay for when it comes to SEO services.

Back to my bad advice—I'm sure that if you wanted to shoot for some misspelling traffic from unsophisticated search engines, you could just stick one in a title tag where nobody will really notice and actually see some non-zero effect. However, I can't help but wonder if Google's got an imputive signal that's effectively a blue ribbon award for perfect spelling...

Either way, the wise SEO sticks to the dictionary, and the wiser SEO remains suspicious of easy answers. Mental calcification needs to be guarded against vigilantly, so break it up regularly with ongoing education, and break out the best-practices shotgun before the SEOsaurus comes back. He looked hungry...

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