How to we get ongoing SEO education? By every word that comes from the lips of Matt Cutts - Google Employee/SEO spokesperson! Reading between the lines, hearing reports of his seminars, reading his Matt Cutts blog. And before you get ongoing education you certainly need to attend one of my seminars so you can sort the wheat from the chaff.
Matt Cutts has recently been to WordCamp 21-22 Jul 2007, and has been widely reported on his speech there. I first read about this via Rootly - see the news links on the bottom right of this page.
In the world of SEO the following are very significant:
Highlights as follows: Underscores are now word separators - or at least they will be very soon. Until now, Google could not see any of the individual words in domain.com/a_list_of_keywords.html. This was because the “_” was treated as a word in its own right. No longer! This certainly makes things easier, another barrier removed for people that have not known better, or have been stuck with a CMS that had underscore as a default, or requirement. However, I still advise that you don’t use underscores, but use dashes. Underscores can still be easily confused with spaces when shown on a webpage - domain.com/example_url, and certainly when printed out.
- Use alt attributes with photos - yes, since Matt mentioned it, there is definitely some weight attached to alt attributes.
- File extensions in the URL won’t affect rankings - something that I have known, but good to hear it confirmed. Some people have thought that because you have say .php, that its treated differently to having .html - dynamic compared to static pages. With the Jojo CMS that SearchMasters is created in, we don’t use extensions. They add little value to a user and take up screen space. So I would say best to just miss them out.
- Google apparently treats url’s with query strings in them no differently than static URL’s. ie domain.com?a=1&pageid=123&page=3 is treated no differently in the search results to domain.com/the-best-since-sliced-bread-123/3. The caveat that you should not have more than 2-3 variables in there. Another thing that I have known but interesting to see confirmed. However, which url as a user would you prefer to see? The query strings mean nothing to me when searching. The second is so much more clickable. So while query strings are acceptable on a website, I always recommend that user friendly url’s be considered.
- The number of slashes in your url does not affect your Google rankings, but it may in MSN/Yahoo. Cool. But again, from a user perspective, better to keep the url’s simple as possible. And note that Google uses “…” in its search results to show long url’s, so another reason to have shorter url’s.
- Google does not use its status as a domain registrar to access domain details as a ranking signal. Hmmm. “According to Matt, being a registrar doesn’t grant one special access to other registrars’ customer data. “ - cnet.com - okay, something to change in my SEO notes. However, somehow Google does know when websites have changed ownership / purchase of expired domains is risky for this reason. And the Google patents have talked about length of registration of domain names as a possible current/future ranking factor. So the whole area is still rather up in the air.
Many of the above points I have effectively said - “so what”. Yes, Google may accept things that it once did not, but usability and clickability, and other issues are also part of the SEO mix. You have to be very careful what you read and how you put that into practice, even when it is from someone as highly regarded as Matt Cutts.