John Dvorak has an interesting article today about his own misadventures with SEO – specifically URL renaming to improve Google indexing. Based on advice from a friend and SEO expert John renamed the URLs at his website and wound up suffering a huge loss in traffic.
In my opinion he makes some good general suggestion about SEO: beware the SEO snake oil salesman and beware any extravagant claims, and try to simply work on basic and obvious issues relating to the structure and content at your website.
Ironically, though, his main beef about URLs is probably wrong – ie URLs are best named for the post and not with a number and ?. This “best practice” comes from the advice of no less than Matt Cutts at Google who is as close as you come to the final word on best practice SEO. Matt’s been the senior webmaster contact person at Google for years and has given countless presentations on the topic.
What likely happened in Dvorak’s case was that the *change* of URLs confused his Google rankings leading to they problem he describes which was a large traffic drop which has now recovered. Best practices would have him naming the URLs at the beginning, not after they’ve been indexed with the inferior naming structure.
Generally massive changes at large sites is to be avoided as I have learned the hard way … twice.
So, is SEO snake oil? Sometimes, but I think it’s fair to say that as with so many things it should be used in moderation.
Want some simple advice on best practices? Matt’s happy to oblige at his SEO Section which is “must reading” for anybody with any interest in Google ranking. The big caveat is that Matt does not talk much about the specifics of how the Google algorithm works, and for many websites it is algorithmic penalties and downranking that have hurt you. For specific questions a new excellent source of advice are the Google webmaster forums where there is an abundance of free and excellent SEO advice that is under constant monitoring by many, generally keeping things very helpful.