This is what I heard coming out of my car speakers on the way to a client today:
- “Google is going to penalize sites that use backlinks…. It’s apparently bad”
- “If you’re really good at SEO I’m not going to hire you because you’re too good…it’s not going to work.” (relating SEO to spam and manipulation)
- “We can look at a site that’s SEO optimized and go “C’mon, please” or a site that is genuinely trying to make good content.”
That was on a This Week in Google netcast (netcasts you love from people you trust).
A few days ago:
Two days ago that same client, who I’m training to optimize with a focus on audiences over keywords, emailed me this Mashable article which, among other disjointed facts, states “When you search now, Google gives you results based solely on the text and the keywords that you put in that search.”
A few weeks ago:
And about a month ago a friend of mine who is starting a mobile game trailer business in the UK sent me the quotes he received for SEO services asking who he should go with. Word-for-word, here is some of the stuff in proposal #1:
- typically a website will retain it rank for 12-36 months
- We will take your website onto the 1st page of Google for your selected key-phrases, using “white-hat” optimisation techniques, where it should maintain its position for many years to come.
- Due to the level of on-site optimisation your website system already possesses, I believe you will not require an on-site optimisation package. (LL note – did you see that website?)
This proposal was more than $7,000 to optimize off-site only (build links) for 6 keywords, none of which even mention games.
The other proposal is sadly typical of what most low-brow SEO “agencies” offer: Plop a few keywords on the page, build links from crap directories and bogus blogs, and provide a “report” of a few metrics that don’t mean a thing, like the report in the proposal #2:
- Number of external links
- Number of indexed pages
- Site PageRank
- Robots.txt file exists or not
- HTML site map exists or not
- XML sitemap exists or not)
Jesus, at least run some SEOmoz reports.
The problem: (Lots of) bad SEOs fuel (lots of) haters
The reason I point these things out is because it is all wrong. Very, very wrong. This SEO blasphemy is not new. But it’s not getting better.
And it’s not limited to newbie SEOs. I often work with clients who have lost faith and/or trust with their current SEO consultant/employee/agency, some of whom are long-time SEO experts I’ve been seeing at conferences for a decade.
Amazingly, even way outdated tactics are still being employed in droves, like companies who guarantee first page search results which (impossible) is a sad and desperate lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie, lie (< seriously?!)
Here’s the thing. It’s not just the guys at TWIT talking about SEO in complete congruency with spam (side note: spam is spam, SEO is not spam).
I plugged SEO and SEO companies/agencies/consultants as topics into NetBase to see what kind of sentiment is out there. Luckily for us, there is still a lot of good stuff being said about SEO (although I’d guess a lot of that is coming from SEOs).
But then there’s the haters, the disbelievers, the misinformed and the generally jaded. Here’s a chart of the top 10 dislikes around SEO. I didnt scrub the data, so there is some stuff that might look a little weird like three pie chart pieces for time consuming. True, the time consuming part is kind of a drag sometimes, but is SEO really a waste of time? A lot of people think so.
SEO companies/agencies/consultants also have their fair share of haters:
Funny enough, a lot of those haters are SEOs saying not to trust other SEOs (hey, wait a minute)… But there are also plenty of legitimate remnants of SEO scorn:
And then of course there’s this:
Maybe we (SEOs) get lucky and just take the heat and end up like lawyers – highly in need, expensive, relatively hated, but still in business. Maybe the droves of imposter SEOs get forced out of business by an eventually better-informed public that stops hiring these thieves. Maybe SEO actually (you knew this was coming, right?) dies.
But right now, when business big and small are being burned, everyone is getting misinfomed/outdated/simply wrong information and no one knows who or what to believe, and even those with good intentions are still doing it wrong, the SEO industry is in a crisis.
SEOs are less often the heroes of the web increasing site traffic and making lots of money for clients, but instead are increasingly seen in the mainstream as crooks, tricks, spammers and snake oil salesmen. The many who really are full of shit are ruining it for the fewer who really aren’t. And then people like Michael Arrington say Google search results are “a shit show of layer upon layer of SEO madness vying for my click.” and people like Jeff Jarvis say things like “If you’re really good at SEO I’m not going to hire you because you’re too good…it’s not going to work.” And then people believe that and the problem multiplies.
What can we do about this? Those of us who get it have been trying to spread the word rampantly, but is it working? Are we getting through to the masses who are being sprinkled with the dirty little secrets of SEO published in the New York Times, the neverending SEO horror stories and the bad SEO companies that seem to multiply like gremlins?
I can tell you that this is why How’s Your Pony exists. But can that ever be enough?