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The Feature that Never Was

In my last working notes, I alluded to the fact that bullshit was endemic not only to content marketing, but to all activities related to marketing. Being an intrinsic part of latter’s modern practices, the business of SEO is not immune to the modern plague we call bullshit. Case in point: a recent revelation by Google about one of its own practices -- or, as it turned out, non-practice.

Let me start by saying that while search engine optimization is often technical in nature, is not a science. In fact, it is more akin to a collaborative, incremental form of art than to anything you could practice in a lab, or by ways of elaborate computer modeling. Your results may vary.

A few days ago (at the time of this writing), Google revealed that the company does not use one of the page markup features it originally recommended. The feature was originally documented in 2011. It is commonly referred to as “rel prev/next,” and has been ignored by Google spiders for quite a while, according to representatives of Google itself. This came as a surprise to many practitioners in the SEO community, who typically included this markup in their customers’ site audits and maintenance plans. Let me emphasize what this really means: SEOs have been charging their clients for years for relatively complex work that did exactly nothing.

You can see why marketing agency owners were upset. The revelation does throw a layer of shadow over an industry (SEO) that already suffers from a bad reputation in the public eye. Yet SEOs should have known better. Following the rules doesn’t always provide for better results.


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