In episode 2, Mike King and Zach Chahalis of iPullRank discuss the issues with Google’s documentation.
They share their thoughts on why Google’s documentation is so hard to rely on and how SEOs can be using it advantageously.
Mike and Zach also give some advice to Google on what steps can be taken to right the ship.
Zach’s Take: No.
At a high level, it can provide some helpful value if you’re looking for something like, “How should I properly mark up this structured data syntax?”
But more often than not, it tends to be out of date, tends to provide different guidance than what has maybe been provided to the public in a news article or a statement by a Googler, or just tends to go against the actual fact of what happens within the SEO space and the data that we see coming out of our implementations.
It’s pretty difficult to trust it.
To Zach’s point, I think it would be great if when they made those updates, they actually told us. And I know just recently they added some sort of functionality that does that, but here we are, 20 years in or whatever, and they never had that.
A lot of it contradicts what we know to be true based on actual practice. A lot of it’s just out of date. There have been multiple occasions where Google has come out after the fact and said,
“Hey, remember that thing that we said was best practice in our documentation? We actually haven’t been following that for about five years.”
And, it can be very difficult as a consultant because you’ll know something will be wrong and then an engineer or another SEO or somebody will Google and then look at this documentation, and then they’ll say you’re wrong because Google says this.
And that’s a very dangerous thing.
Zach’s Take: I would hesitate to say, “use it to guide your strategy”, because I think about what I just said and what Mike said, oftentimes it’s inaccurate and out of date.
I think where it can be valuable is just maybe the syntax that you’re using for something. If I’m adding an element of structured data, I may double check to see how Google refers to how to show a 24/7 business in schema and make sure I’m using their appropriate syntax.
Do you take that as the gospel of how to actually mark everything up? No. Cause I’ve even had situations where Google’s own documentation, on structured data, was different than what their own tool (Google Search Console) says to do.
Mike’s Take: I think it’s difficult to take any of that stuff at face value. If anything, I kind of look at it as here’s something that’s worth testing.
As an example, there’s an update to how Google recommends that you manage a migration between sites. And one of the things they talk about is they want you to maintain two sitemaps, one on the old domain, and then a new one for the new URLs on the new domain so that there is complete parity between the two.
And so that may or may not have been something that people did before, but it definitely wasn’t considered best practice. Right? If you look at that, you could say, well this is something worth trying out and seeing if it actually makes my migration any better.
You can use these things directionally in some cases, but for me, I mostly use them as opportunities to test something and learn what actually happens from the behavior of Google.
It’s an interesting debate, right?
Because in theory, we’re trying to get our site to rank better and to manipulate search engines and manipulate the results.
But we’re also trying to provide the best value and experience that we can for our users and for their users. So to me, they should be updating the documentation anytime they actually change their guidance, or anytime someone says something publicly that differentiates from the previously provided recommendation.
Mike’s Take: I think the responsibility is to keep it as up-to-date as possible.
As far as what they wanna share, that’s obviously up to them.
I don’t have any illusions about them suddenly being like, “Here’s exactly how this works and here’s what it’s gonna do, and here’s an example of it live.” I don’t think that’s ever gonna happen, but what I do expect is that they would keep it up-to-date.
And then the other element of it is I think they need to have different levels of it. So instead of aiming for the middle with all the documentation, I think they should have a beginner’s level documentation and also an advanced level documentation. Or maybe enterprise documentation versus small site documentation or whatever.
Because there are different needs for all those different groups. And it would be really awesome if they were able to segment it in that way, but also keep it up-to-date.
Title: Founder and CEO
Bio: An artist and a technologist, all rolled into one, Mike King is the Founder & CEO of the enterprise SEO and content strategy agency, iPullRank. Mike consults with companies all over the world, including brands ranging from SAP, American Express, HSBC, SanDisk, General Mills, and FTD, to a laundry list of promising eCommerce, publisher, and financial services organizations.
Mike has held previous roles as Marketing Director, Developer, and tactical SEO at multi-national agencies such as Publicis Modem, iAcquire, and Razorfish. Effortlessly leaning on his background as an independent hip-hop musician, Mike King is a dynamic speaker who is called upon to contribute to conferences, webinars, and blogs all over the world.
Title: Director of SEO
Bio: Zach Chahalis has over a dozen years of experience in digital marketing focused on developing and executing SEO strategies for Fortune 500 brands including Genuine Parts Company, GameStop, Michaels Stores, Sodexo, CoStar Group, and Global Payments Inc.
Zach also has experience working both agency-side and in-house with companies of all shapes and sizes ranging from local universities and regional home builders to national hotel groups and multinationals. Additionally, Zach leverages his experience and degree in business administration to develop data-driven marketing strategies beyond SEO, including developing several national loyalty rewards programs as well as leading analytics implementations and PPC campaigns for large brands.
Zach is also the co-founder of the ATL SEO organization.
Referree: Garrett Sussman
Title: Demand Generation Manager