People in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones

by Peter Young on October 9, 2008 · 9 comments

As a search professional I am all for the reporting of blatant disregard of search engine guidelines such as Danny Sullivan’s conversation with an idiot link broker, however there was something about the a post by Fresh Egg highlighted by Patrick Altoft at Blogstorm that did get me riled.

Legal issues aside – In the Fresh Egg post, ‘Musa’ claimed

If you go to Google right now and type in “Hot Tubs”, you will get a list of Top 10 results which in fact do not deserve to be there. Straight away I come across meta title spamming! When was it ever ok to write a title like this Hot Tub | Hot Tubs | Spa Hot Tubs UK.

Looking carefully at a couple of the case studies on the Fresh Egg site however (and I am not going to mention any examples), there are a number of examples with clients profiled using those self same tactics.

Maybe its just me, but if you are going to have a winge about someone else and their SEO tactics, just make sure you have your own house in order first….

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Ammon October 9, 2008 at 3:02 pm

Hi Pete. Glad to see you are following the Fresh Egg blog.

Personally, knowing Musa, I didn’t think he was particularly ‘throwing stones’ at anyone, not even Google. What he was doing was questioning how good those SERPs actually look from a user perspective. Is that a SERP that Google’s quality control team should be celebrating and feeling good about?

We don’t blame sites that use tactics that work. We do however question whether Google is rewarding the right tactics. When it comes to people in Glass Houses throwing stones, you’d certainly like to see Google stop rewarding the most obvious paid links before spouting all their rhetoric about how paid links are bad, misleading, and how Google is discounting them all. No?

Peter Young October 9, 2008 at 3:40 pm

Thanks for the response Ammon.

In all honesty, I agree with many of the points Musa makes, particularly in relation to Googles apparent lack of response to many cases of paid linkage, link network based linkage and on-page over optimisation. As you say above, I amm certainly one who would like to see Google stop rewarding excessive use of paid linkage and the like.

However the main point of the post above, was merely to highlight that it is very easy to criticise bad practise in SEO (after all thats what many of us do in new business every day), however I personally feel that it serves to be squeeky clean before I pass comment on other sites (in a public domain) – something which didn’t seem to be the case here.

As for the stones headline – seemed to be the best of a bad bunch to be honest ;)

Ammon October 9, 2008 at 4:09 pm

True enough. “People in hot tubs shouldn’t throw electrical appliances” just isn’t as well known or catchy. :)

Musa October 9, 2008 at 6:26 pm

Thanks Ammon

That is totally true.. I think some people have perceived this in the wrong way.

I was stating exactly what you said, that Google should not be happy with the current way in which results are displaying themselves.

As a user and an SEO the results are not as accurate as they should be and this is something that the Google team should take a close look at.

Ammon October 10, 2008 at 8:51 am

Exactly right.

Who at Google built an aspect of the overall algorithm that didn’t think three entire repetitions of the key-phrase in a single TITLE tag was overkill?

Come on, we are talking about a situation where a dynamic TITLE tag of “$keywords$ | $keywords$+s | $keywords$+UK” is actually seeming to help the page rank, when that much repetition really *ought* to be bad sign, and lower ranking, surely?

A lot of Google’s early core of search engineers came from Altavista, and even back in the 90s, the old Altavista knew that three repetitions was a bad sign in a title or any other meta data.

Peter Young October 10, 2008 at 9:34 am

@Musa @Ammon I do agree. Google should be taking a good look at themselves and some of the sites included in the index. I am still seeing sites reliant on Co-Op network links prominent within the SERPS, something which Google itself was supposed to have long since eradicated.

My own personal opinion on focal areas however are not on-page factors, after all I think there is a common agreement that offpage is a far more influential factor in determining position than something like the title tag (although obviously this does play its part), however I personally would be looking at reducing the amount of off-page spam (such as the paid linkage you mentioned, and link network coverage) before focussing my attention on repetition within title tag

Will Cummings October 12, 2008 at 9:39 pm

Regardless of whether or not Fresh Egg themselves have employed keyword saturated Title Tags or Paid Links in the past (debatable I’m sure), I’m fairly certain that the reason that particular Fresh Egg blog post has riled people, is that it has tones of whining because none of those top 10 results contain links to any of the 5 or so Hot Tub companies that Fresh Egg do SEO for.

Probably equally as frustrating for readers as the recent statement in a magazine interview by Fresh Egg that ‘spam blogs are evil’, for any reader that actually bothered to check our Fresh Egg’s own blog only to realise that it contains little more than blog articles whose sole purpose is to get a few keyworded links back to Fresh Egg’s own SEO clients’ sites.

I would definitely insist that the title of this blog post is entirely accurate in this instance.

The assumption that those top 10 ‘hot tub’ results are purely down to keyword-addled Title Tags is a little naïve also.

p.s. Isn’t the following a Fresh Egg site, with the word “glassware” repeated twice in the Title Tag? Glass houses, for sure.–114867-details.htm

Ammon Johns October 16, 2008 at 4:45 pm

As already stated here: “We don’t blame sites that use tactics that work. We do however question whether Google is rewarding the right tactics.”

Which goes right alongside what I’d already stated over at Patrick’s blog: “If that’s what works then those companies are quite right to do it. At least for the short-term.”

You’ll often find us doing what works, because we owe that to our clients, even if we’d rather take a higher path. It would not be right for us to insist that clients pay for our own crusades. If the client is paying for results, and doing something we regard as ‘tacky’ but not risky gets those results, then we really don’t have much reason to refuse.

That’s where having a blog to talk about it, to discuss the issues and ideals, away from what we have to do to pay the bills comes in.

Is it really that difficult to understand that there is a difference between what is, and what we would like to see?

Tom January 12, 2009 at 6:19 pm

Will Cummings NAILED it!

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