Thursday, September 19, 2013

Duane Forrester, Matt Cutts, and the Most Important SEO Ranking Factors

Duane Forrester, who is the "Matt Cutts" of Bing (meaning he is the liason between the Webmaster / SEO community and Bing), is out with a new blog post called , "The Single Biggest Ranking Factor." A little tongue-in-cheek, Forrester makes fun of so-called SEO experts (including yours truly) who seek to leverage knowledge of the Google and Bing search algorithms to propel specific companies to the top.

Despite the title of the blog post, Forrester doesn't really explain what factors in the Bing algorithm are most important and why. Instead, he focuses on the "user experience" of a website and implies that if you just focus on the "user experience" everything will be fine.

Search Engine Algorithm Factors: Forrester and Cutts
I can't disagree more. The "user experience" happens AFTER you get to the top of Google or Bing, AFTER you get the click. So to say that "user experience" is the No. 1 SEO factor is to really mislead people. Let's investigate!

Duane Forrester, Matt Cutts and Possibilities


My question when reading this sort of post is always which possibility is correct?

  • Forrester truly does not know that the algorithms clearly rank specific factors (e.g., inbound links, keyword in Title tags) etc., and that SEO is a game of "putting one's best foot forward" vis-a-vis Google or Bing; or
  • Forrester truly does know what factors matter (and in what proportions) but sees his job as one of disinformation - just confusing everyone, muddling the matter, and just getting us all to "give up" on SEO.

Matt Cutts and Duane Forrester: the Press Secretaries of Google and Bing


Whenever you read something by either of these two guys, please please take it tongue-in-check. They get their salaries from Google and Bing, respectively, and those companies make their money off of paid search advertising. There is a huge conflict of interest inside these companies: they do NOT want people to understand or succeed at SEO, largely because the money resides in paid advertising.  Please please please "follow the money" and be skeptical about what they write, say, do. They are great guys - I am sure - but their paychecks ultimately come from advertising. And where one's money is, so is one's heart!

I lean, therefore, at option #2. Both have a good knowledge of what factors can propel you company to the top of Google or Bing, but they do not see their job as imparting this knowledge to the rest of us. In fact, I think it's fair to say a good part of their job is to "spin" the latest information to keep us all confused.

Ranking Factors and SEO


Beyond Matt and Duane, be aware that there are many lists of ranking factors that can propel your company to the top of Google. They do not all agree on everything, but the big general picture is pretty clear:

  • On Page SEO - things like getting your keywords in the TITLE tags of web pages, using tags such as header, image ALT, cross links, and writing strong keyword-heavy but natural syntax prose.
  • Off Page SEO - things like inbound links, social mentions, and the freshness of references on and about your website.
Below are some links to articles on ranking factors and SEO - my apologies to Forrester in advance. Yes, there are indeed factors that make a huge difference, and yes indeed by "putting one's best foot forward" you can get to the top. As for "user experience," that matters a great deal as well - but it occurs AFTER you get the click from Google / Bing not before. The chain of events is:

  1. Know your keywords
  2. Do great SEO to "get to the top" of those keyword queries.
  3. Get the click with awesome HEADLINE (TITLE tags) and awesome META DESCRIPTIONS.
  4. Get the landing experience with an awesome USER EXPERIENCE that ends in a conversion.
Forrester, like many out there, is confusing step #4 with steps 1, 2, and 3.

Links to Resources on Search Engine Algorithmic Factors


Final important thought: SEO is a multicausal effort. There is no "single" factor at work here, but rather "multiple factors." So when you think about your SEO efforts, think about getting "everything to work together" rather than finding a "single bullet."

~ Jason McDonald, September 19, 2013