Google’s Incomplete SEO Advice

    December 4, 2006

If you do any research on SEO you’ll find this statement repeated more then any other – “make sites for users not for search engines.” It even appears in the the guidelines of the webmaster help center right on It’s one of the core fundamentals in what’s considered “white hat” SEO or SEO that conforms to all of the search engine guidelines in the interests of improving the web.

From a strictly logical standpoint, the “make sites for users not search engines” is a fundamentally flawed statement because users find sites through search engines, so by definition, if you make a site for users, you have to take in consideration how they’re most likely to find it – via a keyword search.

This doesn’t mean you have to disobey any guidelines or try to “trick” or “fool” algorithms; you just can’t look at this concept as an independent vacuum. For example, it’s very important for sites to use keywords in header and title tags. If you took the “make sites for users not for search engines” statement literally, you may be tempted to use creative page titles, but for most sites this would be a huge mistake. For Google or other search engines to understand what your page is about, you need to actually use the words people will be typing into the search engines when looking for content. It’s your job as a website owner to use keywords in your links, pages, headers, etc that are actually relevant to your document.

Further, if you research specific niche keywords that are less competitive, but will still bring you traffic, and then slant your content to be more attractive to people looking for that topic, you’re “making sites for users using search engines to look for relevant information.” I feel this is a more accurate statement than the old meme that is spouted repeatedly.

I believe you should take search engines into account every aspect of your site from the design to the monetization strategy. Consider what the user will be thinking about and what their needs are in conjunction with how the search engines work.

As Aaron Wall of SEO Book says in his post “Bad Advice That Sounds Good“:

“Create your website for users, not for search engines. Why do I hate it? Search is marginalizing many publishing business models. To pay for the costs of creating link worthy content it makes sense to add a significant amount of lower cost highly monetized filler to a website. ”

It’s a good post; check it out if you have the chance. Websites that make money from PPC advertising (like Google Adsense) really need to take into account users and their interactions with the search engines. I call this “monetization with search in mind”

For example, say your website revenue model advertiser-based through Adsense and you have one page of great content. If you add filler and expand it to 3 or 4 pages, you could potentially make a lot more money through a greater number people clicking on your ads. By diluting your content, you could make more money and thus be able to afford to create more content, build a better site, and service your users. By filler, I just mean average content, like ___ basics, top ten _____, or _______ FAQ; stuff your visitors may read, but may not win links over all the other available content. This example takes into account both the user and how he or she will find your site, instead of only thinking about everything one-dimensionally. (I’m not actually advising this; it’s a specific example and would only apply to a select set of sites).

So even though it’s repeated on Google’s Webmaster guidelines and restated over and over again by SEO consultants. I think it needs to be clarified or given a context to have any real meaning. So I like to say “build your website for users using search engines to find it.”



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About the Author

Solomon Rothman is the CIO for Social Media Systems; an online marketing company that helps its client succeed by providing web development bundled with search marketing. He authors numerous blogs including 3net Search Engine Marketing Blog and loves the ongoing challenges of the online marketing world. Besides technology, Solomon’s other passions including filmmaking & screenwriting.