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Tips For Avoiding Misinformation In SEO Resources & Conversations

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Tips For Avoiding Misinformation In SEO Resources & Conversations

There are many contradictory ideas about the best way to approach SEO.

For every idea proposed, there are others in the SEO industry who disagree.

Turning to Google for help isn’t always helpful because Google ranks information about SEO that Googlers themselves are on record saying is wrong.

There is a way to cut through the noise and figure out which information is likely valid and which information is smoke and mirrors.

Googlers Statements On SEO Information

What Googlers say about SEO is generally limited to four topics:

  1. Actions to avoid a negative outcome.
  2. How to increase indexing.
  3. How to help Google better understand your webpages.
  4. Confirmation that site promotion is important.

Googlers don’t offer loopholes for how to influence rankings, of course. But the information they do provide is useful and consistent.

For example, a Googler can’t necessarily say that Google has an algorithm that’s specifically for hunting down and killing guest posts for SEO links.

But they can advise that guest posting for SEO is done and that publishers should stick a fork in it.

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By doing that, the Googler is helping publishers avoid a possible penalty or spending money on a service that won’t produce the desired results.

It makes sense to seek out what Googlers say. What Googlers say is literally the most authoritative statement about how Google works.

Why Google Has A Webmaster Outreach

The whole reason why there is a Webmaster outreach is that former Googler Matt Cutts sees value in communicating with the search community to help them avoid mistakes and misinformation.

So, he began communicating with publishers at various SEO forums under the nickname, GoogleGuy.

Here’s a post from 2004 where GoogleGuy introduced himself and explained the origin of Google’s outreach and his motivation:

“About three years ago, I was waiting for a program to finish compiling, and I was reading what people online were saying about Google.

I remember seeing a question from a site owner about how to structure his site for better crawling, and thinking it would be great if a Googler could just pop by to answer technical questions like that.

And then I thought, I’m a Google engineer. I can answer technical questions like that. So, I did.

Since then, I’ve managed to post around 2,000 messages in various web forums, setting the record straight whenever possible.”

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Are Googlers Inconsistent?

It’s common to hear people complain that Google is contradictory. If that’s true, how can you trust what Googlers say is not SEO misinformation?

But, the reason for the contradictions is usually not the Googler’s fault. It’s consistently the fault of the person who is writing about what the Googler said.

In my experience of several years of listening to the Google office-hours hangouts, Googlers are very consistent about what they say, even when you backtrack 10 or more years to previous statements, what they advise is consistent and not contradictory.

Paying attention to what Googlers say has always been a good practice. And if what a publication reports seem to contradict a previous statement, listen to the statement itself.

For example, there are some sites that post about ranking factors based on what an ex-Googler says in a video.

But when you listen to the video, the ex-Googler never said what people say that he said.

Even so, the erroneous statement about a false ranking factor keeps proliferating on the internet because no one stops to listen to the video.

Don’t take what someone writes for granted.

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Always check the video, blog post, or podcast for yourself.

Google Search Engine Is A Source Of  SEO Misinformation?

While Googlers are a trusted source of SEO information, Google itself can be an unreliable source of SEO information.

Here’s an example of Google’s John Mueller debunking LSI Keywords in a tweet:

Screenshot from Twitter, May 2022Screenshot of John Mueller stating there is no such thing as LSI Keywords

Searching Google for SEO information yields inconsistent search results.

For example:

  • Searching for LSI keywords (which Mueller above says doesn’t exist) shows several websites that say that LSI keywords do exist.
  • Searching PBN links (links on blogs) yields a top-ranked page that sells PBN links.
  • Searches for “Link Wheels” (building blogs and linking to your own content) yields results that recommend the practice.

In general, the top search results about SEO topics tend to be fairly reliable nowadays.

Google tends to show search results that promote risky strategies if you search for risky strategies (like link wheels or PBN links).

Sometimes it might be more helpful to find an SEO forum or Facebook Group and ask a real person (instead of an algorithm) for information about SEO.

Should You Ignore What Googlers Say?

Googlers are on their side of the search engine and publishers/SEOs are on the other side. We both experience search differently.

So, it makes sense that there are differences in opinions about some topics, particularly about what is fair and what is relevant.

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However, there are some areas of the internet where it is commonly held that it’s best to not listen to what Googlers say.

Some consistently advise others to literally do the opposite of what Googlers say.

Others appear to have a grudge and offer consistently negative opinions on the topic of Google.

Then, there are news stories about Google AI researchers who were fired after raising ethical concerns.

Should Google Be Believed?

It’s helpful to focus on the Googlers who liaison with the search marketing community.

Googlers like Gary Illyes and John Mueller have a long history of sharing high-quality information with the search marketing community.

The record of all the information they shared is on YouTube, Twitter, and on Google blog posts.

When John Mueller is uncertain about an answer to a question, he says so. When he is certain, his answer is unambiguous.

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Danny Sullivan used to be a search marketing reporter before joining Google.

He is on our side, and he, too, has a solid track record of answering questions, passing along concerns, and responding to concerns in the search community, like publishing an article about Core Algorithm Updates in response to questions about what they are and how publishers should deal with them.

In general, be wary of anyone who consistently advises people to ignore what Google says.

Discern Between Opinion And Fact-Based Insight

It’s important to verify if the writer is citing and linking to an authoritative source or is simply offering an opinion.

When someone writes about Google and then links to supporting evidence like a Googler statement, a patent, or research paper, their statement becomes better than an opinion because now it’s a fact-based insight with supporting evidence.

What they write might still not be true about Google, but at least there is supporting evidence that it could be true.

Unless a Googler says something is true, we can’t really know.

So, the best anyone can do is to point to a Googler statement, a research paper, or a patent as supporting evidence that something might be true.

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For centuries, common sense dictated that the earth was at the center of the universe. Common sense is not a substitute for evidence and data.

Opinions without supporting evidence, regardless of how much “sense” it makes, are unreliable.

Googler Statements Must Be In Context

Some people have agendas. When that happens, they tend to cite Googler statements out of context in order to push their agendas.

The typical agenda consists of sowing fear and uncertainty for the purpose of creating more business.

It’s not uncommon for search marketers to say that Googlers contradict themselves.

I find that Googlers are remarkably consistent, especially John Mueller.

What is inconsistent is how some people interpret what he says.

Google’s John Mueller lamented in a podcast that “two-thirds of what he is quoted as saying is misquoted or quoted out of context.

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Correlation Studies Are Not Reliable

Articles featuring correlation data tend to attract a lot of attention, which makes them useful for clickbait.

Data obtained from studying any number of search results, even millions of search results, will always show patterns.

But the patterns are meaningless because… correlation does not imply causation.

Correlation studies often look at one or a handful of factors in isolation, ignoring all the other more than 200 ranking factors that influence search rankings.

Correlation studies also tend to ignore non-ranking factors that influence the search results such as:

  • Prior searches.
  • Geolocation.
  • Query reformulation.
  • User intent.
  • Multiple intents in the search results.

The above are just factors that can muddy up any attempt to correlate what ranks in the search results with any one particular quality of a webpage.

If you want to avoid SEO misinformation, consider avoiding most, if not all, correlation-based SEO research.

Can You Trust What’s In A Patent?

The problem with articles written about patents is that some people don’t know how to interpret them – and that can result in SEO misinformation.

The way a patent can result in misinformation is that the person making claims about it uses just one section of a patent, in isolation, pulled out of the context of the rest of the patent.

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If you read an article about a patent and the author does not discuss the context of the entire patent and is only using one passage from the patent, it’s highly likely that the conclusions drawn from the patent are misinformed.

A patent or research paper should always be discussed within the context of the entire patent.

It’s a common mistake to pull one section of the patent and derive conclusions from that section taken out of context.

SEO Misinformation

It can be tough discerning between good SEO information, outright lies, and pure misinformation.

Some misinformation happens because the information was not double-checked, and it ends up spreading across the internet.

Some misinformation happens because some people put too much trust in common sense (which is unreliable).

Ultimately, we can’t know for certain what’s in Google’s algorithm.

The best we can do is understand that SEO information has tiers of validity, beginning at the top with publications from Google that offer confirmation about what’s in Google’s algorithm, then statements from Googlers. This is information that can be trusted.

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After that, we get into a sort of gray zone with patents and research papers that are unconfirmed by Google whether or not they’re being used.

The least trustworthy tier of information is the one based on correlation studies and pure opinions.

When I am in doubt, what I do is seek a reality check from people I trust.

More Resources:


Featured Image: Shift Drive/Shutterstock

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SEO

8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

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8 Pillar Page Examples to Get Inspired By

Pillar pages are high-level introductions to a topic. They then link to other pages, which are usually more detailed guides about parts of the main topic.

Altogether, they form a content hub.

Example of a content hub

But not all pillar pages look the same. 

In this guide, we’ll look at eight examples of pillar pages to get your creative juices flowing.

Excerpt of beginner's guide to SEO by Ahrefs

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 1,200
Backlinks: 6,900
Referring domains: 899

Overview of Ahrefs' beginner's guide to SEO in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

This is our very own pillar page, covering the broad topic of search engine optimization (SEO)

Why I like it

Besides the fact that I’m biased, I like the custom design we created for this page, which makes it different from the articles on our blog. 

Even though the design is custom, our pillar page is still a pretty classic “hub and spoke” style pillar page. We’ve broken the topic down neatly into six different chapters and internally linked to guides we’ve created about them. There are also custom animations when you hover over each chapter:

Examples of chapters in the SEO guide

We’ve also added a glossary section that comes with a custom illustration of the SERPs. We have explanations of what each element means, with internal links to more detailed content:

Custom illustration of the SERP

Finally, it links to another “pillar page”: our SEO glossary

Takeaway

Consider creating a custom design for your pillar page so that it stands out. 

Excerpt of Doctor Diet's ketogenic diet guide

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 92,200
Backlinks: 21,600
Referring domains: 1,700

Overview of Diet Doctor's ketogenic diet guide in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Diet Doctor is a health company focusing on low-carb diets. Its pillar page is a comprehensive guide on the keto diet. 

Why I like it

On the surface, it doesn’t exactly look like a pillar page; it looks like every other post on the Diet Doctor site. But that’s perfectly fine. It’s simply a different approach—you don’t have to call out the fact that it’s a pillar page. 

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Diet Doctor’s guide is split into 10 different sections with links to its own resources. The links bring you to different types of content (not just blog posts but videos too).

Video course about keto diet for beginners

Unlike the classic pillar page, Diet Doctor’s guide goes into enough detail for anyone who is casually researching the keto diet. But it also links to further resources for anyone who’s interested in doing additional research.

Takeaway

Pillar pages need not always just be text and links. Make it multimedia: You can add videos and images and even link to your own multimedia resources (e.g., a video course).

Excerpt of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 5,600
Backlinks: 2,800
Referring domains: 247

Overview of Wine Folly's beginner's guide to wine in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Wine Folly is a content site devoted to wine knowledge and appreciation. Its pillar page, as expected, is about wine. 

Why I like it

Wine Folly’s pillar page is a classic example of a “hub and spoke” style pillar page—split into multiple sections, with some supporting text, and then internal links to other resources that support each subsection. 

Supporting text and links to other resources

This page doesn’t just serve as a pillar page for ranking purposes, though. Given that it ranks well and receives quite a significant amount of search traffic, the page also has a call to action (CTA) to Wine Folly’s book:

Short description of book; below that, CTA encouraging site visitor to purchase it

Takeaway

While most websites design pillar pages for ranking, you can also use them for other purposes: capture email addresses, sell a book, pitch your product, etc. 

Excerpt of A-Z directory of yoga poses

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 11,100
Backlinks: 3,400
Referring domains: 457

Overview of Yoga Journal's A-Z directory of yoga poses in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Yoga Journal is an online and offline magazine. Its pillar page is an A-Z directory of yoga poses.

Why I like it

Yoga Journal’s pillar page is straightforward and simple. List down all possible yoga poses (in both their English and Sanskrit names) in a table form and link to them. 

List of yoga poses in table form

Since it’s listed in alphabetical order, it’s useful for anyone who knows the name of a particular pose and is interested in learning more. 

What I also like is that Yoga Journal has added an extra column on the type of pose each yoga pose belongs to. If we click on any of the pose types, we’re directed to a category page where you can find similar kinds of poses: 

Examples of standing yoga poses (in grid format)

Takeaway

The A-Z format can be a good format for your pillar page if the broad topic you’re targeting fits the style (e.g., dance moves, freestyle football tricks, etc.).

Excerpt of Atlassian's guide to agile development

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 115,200
Backlinks: 3,200
Referring domains: 860

Overview of Atlassian's guide to agile development in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Atlassian is a software company. You’ve probably heard of its products: Jira, Confluence, Trello, etc. Its pillar page is on agile development.

Why I like it

Atlassian’s pillar page is split into different topics related to agile development. It then has internal links to each topic—both as a sticky table of contents and card-style widgets after the introduction: 

Sticky table of contents
Card-style widgets

I also like the “Up next” feature at the bottom of the pillar page, which makes it seem like an online book rather than a page. 

Example of "Up next" feature

Takeaway

Consider adding a table of contents to your pillar page. 

Excerpt of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 114,400
Backlinks: 2,900
Referring domains: 592

Overview of Muscle and Strength's workout routines database in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Muscle and Strength’s pillar page is a massive database linking to various categories of workouts. 

Why I like it

Calling it a pillar page seems to be an understatement. Muscle and Strength’s free workouts page appears to be more like a website. 

When you open the page, you’ll see that it’s neatly split into multiple categories, such as “workouts for men,” “workouts for women,” “biceps,” “abs,” etc. 

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Workout categories (in grid format)

Clicking through to any of them leads us to a category page containing all sorts of workouts:

Types of workouts for men (in grid format)

Compared to the other pillar pages on this list, where they’re linking to other subpages, Muscle and Strength’s pillar page links to other category pages, which then link to their subpages, i.e., its massive archive of free workouts.

Takeaway

Content databases, such as the one above, are a huge undertaking for a pillar page but can be worth it if the broad topic you’re targeting fits a format like this. Ideally, the topic should be about something where the content for it is ever-growing (e.g., workout plans, recipes, email templates, etc.).

Excerpt of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 39,100
Backlinks: 1,100
Referring domains: 308

Overview of Tofugu's guide to learning Japanese in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Tofugu is a site about learning Japanese. And its pillar page is about, well, learning Japanese.

Why I like it

This is an incredible (and yes, ridiculously good) guide to learning Japanese from scratch. It covers every stage you’ll go through as a complete beginner—from knowing no Japanese to having intermediate proficiency in the language. 

Unlike other pillar pages where information is usually scarce and simply links out to further resources, this page holds nothing back. Under each section, there is great detail about what that section is, why it’s important, how it works, and even an estimated time of how long that stage takes to complete. 

Another interesting aspect is how Tofugu has structured its internal links as active CTAs. Rather than “Learn more” or “Read more,” it’s all about encouraging users to do a task and completing that stage. 

CTA encouraging user to head to the next task of learning to read hiragana

Takeaway

Two takeaways here:

  • Pillar pages can be ridiculously comprehensive. It depends on the topic you’re targeting and how competitive it is.
  • CTAs can be more exciting than merely just “Read more.”
Excerpt of Zapier's guide to working remotely

Key stats

Estimated organic traffic: 890
Backlinks: 4,100
Referring domains: 1,100

Overview of Zapier's guide to working remotely in Ahrefs' Site Explorer

Zapier allows users to connect multiple software products together via “zaps.” It’s a 100% remote company, and its pillar page is about remote work. 

Why I like it

Zapier’s pillar page is basically like Wine Folly’s pillar page. Break a topic into subsections, add a couple of links of text, and then add internal links to further resources. 

In the examples above, we’ve seen all sorts of execution for pillar pages. There are those with custom designs and others that are crazily comprehensive.

But sometimes, all a pillar page needs is a simple design with links. 

Takeaway

If you already have a bunch of existing content on your website, you can create a simple pillar page like this to organize your content for your readers. 

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Keep learning

Inspired by these examples and want to create your own pillar page? Learn how to successfully do so with these two guides:

Any questions or comments? Let me know on Twitter.  



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