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Google breaks long-standing SEO policy

Google recently released its first ever video and support page on hiring a search engine optimisation professional or agency, breaking a long-standing policy of silence on the SEO industry.

This was a surprise to many, since Google has traditionally refrained from making comments about the SEO industry primarily to remain neutral and not seen to be taking sides. They tend to draw the line at providing support via Google Support pages and blogs, as well as commentary from various Googlers at live events.

In fact, the lack of interaction between Google and the SEO industry has given birth to what we in the industry deem Googlespeak, or non-answer answers. Every time a Googler makes a comment, it’s important to not take it at face value but instead read between the lines. This tactic was made famous by Matt Cutts, the very first face of SEO for Google.

In the early years of Google, it was not their policy to announce upcoming changes to the algorithm or even confirm changes that had already occurred. And changes were not widely reported on. But over the years Google has shown a greater willingness to work with the people and businesses that rely on organic search as a form of digital marketing. This includes the SEO community.

One notable example of this is the fact that Google now informs the public about changes ahead of time, especially during the festive seasons. Another example is the release of this 11-minute video providing tips on hiring SEO professionals and implementing SEO.

The video is narrated by by Maile Ohye, a Tech Lead at Google. She shares three important tips in the video:

  1. Timeline:In most cases, SEO professionals need four months to a year to help the business implement improvements before the potential benefits can be seen.
  2. Hiring process: Businesses should conduct a two-way interview with potential SEO hires to make sure they seem genuinely interested in the brand and business. They should heck their references and ask for (and probably pay for) a technical and search audit. Then they can decide whether to hire or not.
  3. Auditing process: A good SEO professional will prioritise improvements in a defined structure:
    1. The issue
    2. The suggested improvement
    3. An estimate on the overall investment
    4. An estimate of the business impact
    5. A plan for iterating and improving on the implementation or experimenting and failing fast should results not meet expectations

Ohye also reveals the biggest finding from her conversations with SEO professionals:

“When I talked with SEOs, one of the biggest holdups for a website isn’t their recommendations, but is the business making time to implement their ideas. If you are not ready to commit to making SEO improvements, while getting an SEO audit may be helpful; make sure that your entire organisation is on board. Else, your SEO improvements may be non-existent regardless of who you hire.”

So what does this mean for the SEO industry?

I expect the trend of increasing interaction and communication between Google and the SEO industry will continue in future.

With more and more algorithm changes happening on the fly, Google will be looking to support SEOs worldwide by making sure they encourage best practices and staying true to the Google mission.

Cheech Foo is an SEO expert and director of Ignite Search.

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