Google Sitemaps Feature, SEO vs. Making Sites Better

Warning: The following is an incredibly incoherent rambling-type post. This is one of those where I’m writing for the sake of writing. Apologies in advance!

Recently there’s much ado about Google’s new sitemaps feature. If I understand it correctly its basically a means of submitting a list of your URLs to Google along with some supplementary information. For webmasters who currently have all their pages indexed I do not believe this will offer any additional value, as this seems to merely be a supplement to Google’s spider. This is clearly an attempt to assist webmasters who have a large number of pages that are not being indexed.

There’s been alot of speculation about whether this is an attempt by Google to reach out to the webmaster to help them help themselves with regard to getting their pages indexed, and thereby dilute some of the value that a good SEO provides. For many sites, a common piece of low-hanging fruit is getting pages indexed. Its not rocket science, but its certainly not child’s play either, especially not when we’re talking tens and hundreds of thousands of dynamically-generated pages, and complex navigation structures.

My comment on this: Great. I have no problem with it and sort of like it.

Why? It boils down to this: I think the role of a good, legit SEO basically boils down to simply working with webmasters / site owners to help them make – get this – a better site. Make it more valueable. Get better content. Get more relevant content. Make it more accessable. Make it more compatible. Promote it via relevant, targeted channels. If you do that you’ll get good rankings.

In fact I’ve recently begun thinking about whether or not I even like to refer to myself as an “SEO”. That term is so frequently associated with those trying to trick or artificially influence the search engines into better rankings. Sure I want better rankings, but not by trickery or artificial methods. I think the best way to do it is just to make a better site. Not only will the SEO benefits come along, but so will better conversion rates and general usefulness and effectiveness.

Many SEOs view themselves as being in competition with the search engines. I don’t. I try and think about what they want – the best sites about topic ABC. Then go out and make your site the best site about that topic, and make sure others know about it. If you do that you’ll be set. If you worry about code tricks and the latest algorithm tweaks you’re stress level will be much higher, and you’re more likely to fail in the long-run. They’ve (search engines) got teams of PhDs and lots of tools and resources on their side. If I try and “compete” in the long run I’m not going to outsmart them. I’ve found its easier and more effective to give them what they want – a better, more relevant site.

Back to the Sitemaps feature. Some SEOs are afraid that Google is taking away one of their tools and giving it to the public. I think that’s a ridiculous fear. This is Google attempting to improve their search engine. What’s wrong with that? Nada. In fact I honestly have no problem if they release tool after tool to eventually nullify the market for SEO professionals. Why? Because I think the SEO who focuses on taking advantage of the weaknesses of a search engine is building his house on sand – a weak model. Better is the person who spends their efforts trying to actually make a better site.

I don’t get some of these spammy “SEO” black-hat types. They work long-hours and work just as hard as many other people but they spend their time of these sketchy tactics that will work for a short period of time and then get them banned. If you are going to spend time actually working why not spend that time building a legimate site? Why not continually improve the site? No risk. Better in the long-term.