Further Questions with an Ex-Search Quality Team Member Andre Weyher

Posted by on Nov 15, 2012 in Google | 19 Comments

Over the last few weeks we have received many questions from readers on this blog and I also received several messages on Twitter to do a follow up interview with Andre (the Ex Google Search Quality members) to answer some questions and provide clarification towards specific points from his last interview here.

Andre-Weyher

Andre-Weyher

Question 1. How have you found the last few week’s after the article went viral, have you been contacted by many parties has Google contacted you?

The week after the interview went live was absolutely crazy. I never thought that it would cause such a stir. The reactions varied from enthusiastic to weird and even bizarre. I learned that the outside world is very divided in it’s opinions about SEO. It’s not that weird if you think about it, being an SEO is not a protected title and if I were to compare the opinions and reactions it stirred, I would almost compare it to a religion. Very sensitive, people can get extremely upset when they hear something that they don’t agree with or goes against their experiences. I think that many people forget that there is no magic formula and believe that they have found the holy grail. I also noticed that a lot of people easily forget the big picture. They are so focused on dissecting every single letter and using it to their benefit, instead of focusing on actually giving the users something interesting to read about which will in return help their rankings grow. So I believe that SEO’s should look at their field as a long term project and not as a “quick win” solution.
Also, an interesting thing I’ve noticed: many people interpreted my comments as a sort of “SEO is dead” statement. This is absolutely not the case. SEO is and should be an integral part of any online marketing campaign. It’s just an element that should come as second nature for someone who is truly passionate about the topic of his or her site. On page SEO is something that needs to be done pro-actively and intelligently. But the content part should flow more naturally instead of being looked at as a mere tool to increase traffic.
As far as contact is concerned, I was approached by many people in the industry to comment on some of the answers. Google commented on the article on Search Engine Land and I was given the opportunity to react to their comments as well, so very fair play by Danny Sullivan.

Question 2. Users on the blog have asked if you can please define further: “Commercial” for anchor text/keywords?

Absolutely, I saw this question come up quite often in the forum threads. It’s very simple really. A “commercial” keyword is a high volume and/or high value keyword! There is no official list of these words but you can make the judgement yourself very easily. Any keyword that has high commercial value like “cheap flights” or “car insurance” would be seen as commercial. People tend to over complicate this issue when in reality it’s very simple. If 90% of the anchor texts on your backlinks are commercial keywords, it’s a dead giveaway of a spammy profile, especially if the links run in to the tens of thousands. This would never occur “naturally”. So ensure you have non-commercial keywords anchor texts in there too – like the url of the website and long tail keywords.

Question 3. Users have asked if you have any examples of directories Google deems as high quality?

Good question, I’ve seen a lot of confusion about this topic and I want to be as clear as I can about it; there is no magical list of quality directories out there. There are, however a few guidelines that you can keep in mind when doubting about the quality of a directory. Pay attention to the following;
1) Does the directory demand a reciprocal link before they accept your submission? If they do, it’s a sign that something fishy might be up.
2) Perform a simple snippet search. Take a random entry, perform a “quotation” search on Google with a random sentence in the entry, are there hundreds of directories with the exact same sentence? You do the math! ;-)
Apart from these 2 simple giveaways, remember the value of moderation and specialisation. Directories with a clear niche or with a very active moderator are for more likely to have value. Also, the SEOmoz list of directories is pretty up to date and good.

Question 4. You mentioned last time when I met you that META Keywords for SEO are still worth including, can you elaborate on this if possible?

Funny you should ask. I tend to mention META keywords as an often overlooked element and this causes a look of disbelief in the faces of the more experienced and “corporate” SEOs. There has been a lot of speculation about this and I appreciate the chance to expand on this topic. Part of the SEO community is of the opinion that META keywords are worthless and can be overlooked. The other (smaller) part thinks they are some kind of magic weapon. The truth lies in the middle in my opinion. It’s obvious that having correct META keywords will not make you rank on the #1 position in a competitive field. But that doesn’t mean that they will not help Google understand what your site is about! Even if Google totally disregards them from a ranking perspective, they are still being seen by the algorithm, and they can’t do you any harm, so why not include them and tell Google what your site is about?
Having said that, you shouldn’t overdo it. I see a lot of sites with a huge amount of them in the META data. Webmasters need to remember that the more of them you have, the less each one of them is worth! The less of them you put in your META data, the more powerful each one of them becomes. They might not make a difference in the battle for the #1 position for the keyword “cola” between Pepsi and Coke, but they might give a head start to the bakery around the corner, competing for the keyword “bakery in Brooklyn”.

Question 5. Finally you have been living in Sydney for a few months now how have you found the city would you recommend it?

I absolutely LOVE this city. I’ve been travelling for the last 10 years and lived in a good few places. All of them have their charm but as far as I’m concerned, Sydney combines them all. The people, the climate and the city itself, it has all the good elements from the places I’ve been before. Not to mention that there is an amazing tech startup scene here. There are a lot of very clever people working on interesting new projects. I’ve had the chance to be a part of it and it’s fantastic experience. Speaking of which, I’d like to invite all your readers to check out my new blog on http://netcomber.com/blog The amount of questions that my first interview generated has motivated me to start my own Q&A blog. I’ll be telling people about my new service and about an ex Googlers view on SEO. I’ll also give people the chance to send in their questions about search, so hope to see you all there!

Finally I would like to say thank you to Andre for doing the two interviews.

Andre will also be attending a new monthly meetup running in Sydney on the 22nd November, so be sure to sign up now here: Online Marketing Sydney

19 Comments

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  2. Paige C. Willey
    November 16, 2012

    The comment about META keywords absolutely surprises me. When I first started, I understood it was for keyword variations like misspelling, but since Google’s autocomplete, among other things, I believed them to be obsolete. Are they really worth the time it takes to implement and write though? As opposed to other things?

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  10. David Luther
    November 26, 2012

    I couldn’t believe it when i read this article regarding meta keywords and seo rankings. I was amazed to see that Google may actually attach value to the meta keywords and recognize them when they determine your relevance. Everything i have read and heard from alternative sources such as Matt Cutts Blog suggests that Google think the meta keywords section is over spammed, i think i’ll include a few just to make our sites as user friendly and relevant for search crawlers as possible anyway. Even if they do ignore it, it won’t count against…who knows.

    Kind Regards,
    The Web-Tonic Team

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  13. Alex Rascanu
    December 12, 2012

    Thanks for doing this interview, James. Andre’s definition of “commercial” for anchor text/keywords and the fact that directory authoritativeness is organically defined by Google make a lot of sense. And his thoughts on Sydney were a good reminder that it would be nice to visit the city someday!

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