100% Guaranteed SEO Bullshit

100% Guaranteed SEO Bullshit

You know the emails: something lands in your inbox with promises of increasing your SEO Ranking with some sort of black magic. We've all received those emails - but does everyone think that they're bullshit? Christine takes a look.

Earlier this week I woke up to find not one, but two spam emails in my inbox offering “100% Guaranteed Seo Results”. I’m not sure why gmail decided that all of a sudden I needed to see these, but I just marked them as spam and proceeded to read the rest of my emails. However, a few hours later, a random email landed in my inbox:

Hi Christine,

Just found your site through google… Great SEO! ;)

The funny thing is, I haven’t really done any SEO. In fact, I think SEO is bullshit and I’m not alone. I believe in great content and being good as what you do, but paying someone for SEO? Not at all. I thought I would share my “secrets” with you. I can’t guarantee 100% satisfaction, but other than a bit of time, it won’t cost you a dime.

Before I begin though, it’s important to emphasize that I’m a Web developer and work by myself. These tips may not be appropriate for big corporations, hotels, resorts or industries that need lots an lots of traffic. Being a one woman show, even if I had amazing SEO and got thousands of visitors, I wouldn’t be able to take on all the projects and requests that could come my way.

Content is King

I can’t emphasize enough the importance of content. When web crawlers visit your site, they look at content. On any website that you visit, there’s a way to view the HTML source, this HTML is what the crawlers read. Back in the old days when flash was popular, this was the problem. Take a look at the source code of any flash site and you won’t see any content.

Web crawlers or spiders, read this content and then using their algorithms, place your site accordingly. This is why updating your content and keeping it fresh is important, but be very careful how you write your content. Your content should be written for your visitors, not web crawlers. Yes web crawlers are looking for content and finding keywords, but if your visitors find the content dry, boring and unhelpful, they will immediately go elsewhere and they’re your potential clients, not Google.

Over the years, my company has changed and evolved and I’ve updated the content, deleted pages and added new ones. I never once stopped to think of what Google wanted, but rather tried to explain clearly what it is that I do and what I don’t. For me, this is more important. I would prefer to get good prospects contacting me, than random strangers asking me to design business cards or build them a flash e-commerce site, which is not what I do at all.

Meta Keywords are Pointless

New clients often worry about keywords. Keywords are important, but adding keywords in the meta tags, or, worse, writing them in white and putting them on a white background will do no good. In fact, search engines may penalize you.

Keywords are only important as part of your page or article content and shouldn’t be added as an afterthought. They need to be used sparingly. Two or three keywords max per page. Remember, your audience is human, not web spiders. If your articles have too many keywords in them and read poorly, your readers won’t be impressed and will simply go somewhere else.

Writing good headings and title tags, in my opinion, is where the most attention needs to be paid. Just like newspaper headlines, good headings will draw readers in and make them curious to find out more.Titles on the other hand, give your visitors and search engines and indication of what your page is about.

The best way to understand the Title tag is by using the WordPress SEO plugin. Plugin developer, Joost de Valk included a great visual element that allows you to see how Google will display the title and meta information. I love this feature. It makes it so easy to use and explain to clients.

Joost has a lot to say about Search Engine Optimization and his plugin is very sophisticated. To find out more about all the nitty gritty details, you may be interested to have a look at his definitive guide.

Organize your Content

If you’re a blogger, you’ll be familiar with Categories and Tags. Once again, these tools were put in place for humans, not search engines. Categories and Tags are very similar and both allow you to organize your content helping your visitors find related information. Lorelle wrote a great blog post in 2005 which is still very relevant today. To explain the difference between categories and tags, I like to use the restaurant menu analogy.

Categories are your Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner sections
Tags are your Soups, Sandwiches, Pasta, Fish and Meat sections

You probably wouldn’t be impressed with a restaurant menu that has the following sections:

  • Cheese sandwich,
  • Turkey sandwich,
  • Smoked meat sandwich,
  • etc…

The same is true on a website.

Only the one tag, “sandwich” is needed. That way, when your visitors click on it, they will be able to read all the posts that you’ve written about sandwiches.

So if you were a photographer, you may have Family Portraits, Pet Photography and Headshots as categories, and events, promotions, charity or fashion tags. Of course this will vary from website to website, but just remember to think of your visitors and make it easy for them to find the information that’s relevant to them.

Start Early and Be Wary of the Snake Oil Vendors

If you are serious about working with a Search engine optimization specialists, it’s important to start early on. SEO decisions need to be made at the very beginning when you’re planning design, writing your content, and looking at the competition. Content needs to be written with SEO in mind and cannot simply be added afterwards once you’ve launched your website.

Before you hire anyone, be sure to ask lots of questions, find out exactly how your money will be spent and be wary of folks who just contact you out of the blue. Even Google receives unsolicited emails:

“Dear google.com,
I visited your website and noticed that you are not listed in most of the major search engines and directories…”

There’s a lot of misinformation on the web and before you spend a penny, I would encourage you to read Google’s explanation of SEO and do’s and don’t.

Let Common Sense Prevail

At this stage, it might be worthwhile to clarify that most SEO techniques used by “experts” guaranteeing 100% results, are bullshit. All you need to rank highly is to use common sense and write content that your users will love.

Comments

  1. says

    It always makes me laugh when I get emails about that, especially about my personal website. I’ve got no interest in increasing my traffic, and if I was I wouldn’t respond to some dodgy email. Although, I guess they must work since we keep getting them.

      • says

        Yes, you’re both right. I probably should have titled the article differently, but all the titles I had in mind were too long. I think that there are good SEO techniques one needs to know, but in general people tend to focus and worry too much about it and there are a lot of total bullshit SEO specialists. These are the folks that anger me the most and I put them in the same category as folks selling diet pills and offering you tons of money from some Nigerian account.

      • says

        As Matt Cutts said a couple of years ago ( and you are writing in this post ;) ), 88% SEO is use WordPress and follow the recommendations in your themes, and the other 12% (small but the most important) is to teach to your clients how they need to write, work, and tag their information (follow the recommendations for the content).

        With this in mind, and a good communication strategy (publishing recommendations), you don’t need anything else ;). Well, yes. Good content, of course.

        I agree with you. There is a lot of bullshit SEO specialists because there is a bunch of not-so-good developers out there. (Programming is easy! Let’s go coding everybody! Get ALL the works in GetACoder! Become rich!).

        With a couple of clients I (still) use Yoast SEO to change some elements when publishing a content, but it’s because the theme is not working as it is intended to do (AHEM to some commercial themes sites).

        I think that in this cases, you don’t need a SEO specialist. The SEO specialist must be the one who teaches you how do you have to do things. And then, hire a developer to fix your theme if it’s not working as intended. Way cheaper than a SEO monthly fare, and a better experience for you when using your site in the future.

    • Brad says

      Sorry, but I disagree on this one. SEO is bullshit. I’m talking about the industry, not the literal definition of the term.

      SEO is, by nature, trying to game a few high-traffic search engines’ mystery sorting algorithms to be placed higher in search results than your content would otherwise dictate. That makes it bullshit. When a new search engine comes along (and they do, from time to time), or a major one shifts its policies, overly SEO’d sites get buried. That makes it bullshit.

      As search engines get smarter, they get better at determining content quality the way people do, and SEO gets progressively less useful (and more likely to get you punished).

      I guess the real question is: do you think you’re better at out-guessing an army of Google engineers?

  2. says

    Glad to see more common sense coming to the forefront on such matters. I recently wrote a similarly-inspired post and told people that all I really do is write good content and spend a couple of minutes on my title and description. That’s it and it works wonders! This whole SEO market is a fallacy.

  3. says

    Excellent points all!

    Thanks for including my article on tags and categories. I’ve updated it over the years as technology has changed, updating it only a couple months ago, actually! LOL! Good timing.

    These SEO scams make me crazy. I’ve been complaining about them for years, and I get 5-10 a week. They are immediately marked as spam as I want to sent a clear message that these are unacceptable. And they are. Most of these are scams and shams as well as spams.

    Thanks for helping to educate people on the subject. After all these years, we still need the lessons!

  4. says

    Generalizations are often wrong and this fits right in there. There are some contractors that are “bullshit” and some are good. Definitely, those SEO companies spamming your inbox are “bullshit”, but let’s not put legitimate SEO companies in there as well.

    As with most things in life it’s buyer beware. This philosophy can be used when buying a car or many things online. There are good deals and bad. Any SEO company worth their salt, should measure value based on ROI and not ranking. Thankfully there are many tools available that help you track this effectively.

    So what would you say about a company — that increased sales and revenue 1700% in one year — using SEO? Bullshit?

    No offense, while someone found your little blog using a keyword only your mom would want to rank for, don’t discount the fact many keywords are worth 6 figures a month. These aren’t keywords you can rank for by writing a nice piece of content.

    So while you discount SEO, many companies are using to effectively make millions each year.

  5. says

    While I agree with some of your points I think it’s important that we don’t tar everyone in the SEO industry with the same brush. You’re absolutely correcting in advising people to give SEO specialists and companies spamming your inbox a wide berth – remember this is the internet, where not everything is as it seems. Promises of guaranteed results and link building services via email should be avoided.

    You’re fortunate in that you work predominantly with a platform that is fairly robust when it comes to search. However, there are many other platforms that aren’t as good as WordPress. There are also countless developers who build websites that search engines struggle to crawl and index.

    Much of the exposure I’ve had to SEO is aimed at ensuring that websites abide by Google’s Webmaster Guidelines while also improving content, site hierarchy and information architecture for the user (which generally benefits search engines).

    In my experience a lot of the opinions people have about SEO are based upon prejudice and a lack of understanding about how search engines work.

    • says

      You’re absolutely right Alex, dealing with WordPress, the coding aspect of the site doesn’t have to be re-visited and examined. Because of it being well coded it does make the site SEO friendly out of the box.

      You’re approach to using Google Webmaster Guildelines is a good one and when colleagues ask me to refer to them, I choose people who have the same view as yours.

      I think that the bulk of the prejudice comes from there being so many charlatans out there who insist on tricking search engines and keep clients on retainers for years.

  6. says

    As you’ve pointed out I agree with you wholeheartedly Christine. Let me just add some fuel to the fire.

    IMHO the term “Search Engine Optimization” and it’s acronym “SEO” should be retired because they are too closely tied to the ‘old ways’ of doing things – the ways that no longer work or even worse penalize you. Meta keyword stuffing, link baiting and all that crap is detrimental to the reputation of your site and will get you de-ranked, but just as importantly it will do nothing to improve your search engine ranking in the short term so it’s a complete waste of time.

    As some have argued, not all SEO is bad, but the not-bad services offered by SEO companies these days is something all together different and shouldn’t be called “SEO” at all. What works is advanced search-and-share focussed copywriting, search engine marketing and carefully crafted publication and sharing strategies. All these techniques have to do with overall content management and publishing strategy, not quick fixes and tricks.

    When I see claims of 1800% increases in visitors or conversions based on SEO I always ask for statistics and an explanation of what SEO techniques were used. Those types of numbers usually indicate either a complete rebranding combined with a whole new search and share strategy, blogging, social media outreach and tons of other stuff, or something fishy going on behind the scenes (link network, baiting, or some sort of scammy behaviour). Not to say it’s impossible, but it goes against what the experts say will work in the long run and thus these situations are not representative.

    Based on the massive amount of research that has been done on this the answer to the question “how do I get more people to read my site” is simple: Share. Being shared on social networks like G+, Facebook, and Twitter and being shared in other social type settings like on Reddit, StumbleUpon etc is far more valuable than getting listed specifically on search engines. The reason for this is that the search engines now use the sharing sites to generate statistics about popularity, trustworthiness, and value. In other words, the more people share your stuff, the better your search engine ranking gets.

    Add to this the fact that the younger generation is less likely to use search engines (seriously, kids these days search YouTube for answers before they go to Google) and you quickly see how targeting the old search engines with old techniques is a solid waste of time and resources.

    Finally, someone mentioned Yoast’s SEO plugin and said something about it only needing to be used if your theme is not set up properly. While it is true that you need a properly built theme, the SEO plugin still has huge benefits – but they are not related to search.

    Using Yoast’s plugin specifically, you can a) tailor your title, short description, and featured image to target social networks so that when people share your posts and pages on G+, Facebook, and all the other sites that pull the meta content off your site, you put your best face forward. The same thing happens on search engines, but it’s of minor importance. Having the right title, image, and hook in that little box that appears when people share your stuff is orders of magnitude more important than Google indexing. And as a bonus the SEO plugin also generates your sitemaps for you and even lets you hook your site to your Facebook Page.

    If you’re interested in this topic and you’re in Vancouver next week I urge you to come to WordCamp Vancouver (http://2012.vancouver.wordcamp.org) where you can argue with me and Christine (who is speaking) and where there is an SEO talk that is sure to spark some controversy (I will direct the speaker to this post and discussion thread to prime her).

  7. says

    I have 2 remarks and 1 question :)

    - My name is Joost de Valk, not van de Valk :)
    - You say you think SEO is bullshit, I think it’s not. I think it’s a combination of UX, good web development, good information hierarchy, and so forth. If you come to the same endresult by using other terms, fine, but that doesn’t make SEO invalid.
    - For my SEO, could you change the link you have pointing to my wordpress.org plugin page to yoast.com/wordpress/seo/? :)

    • says

      Hi Joost, Sorry for the oversight. I’m not sure how I got both your name and link wrong. I only recommend your guide and plugin to clients and enquiries on the forums every other day. :)

  8. says

    I am an Internet Marketing Consultant and as such, I offer SEO services to my clients.

    While I agree with the methods you used to obtain some success are valid, I do not believe you should be offering generic opinions about services you do not actually understand and calling SEO bullshit. It’s like saying professional website design and development is obsolete bullshit because WordPress is free, there are 1000′s of free templates and anyone can build their own website because it is easy.

    Learning and applying the methods that work to improve rank on search engines is no simple process. However there are effective methods and in many industries, failing to do no more than simply have good content isn’t enough. Most businesses require more than a couple of new customers a month to get ahead.

    The most important aspect of good content is that it should lower your bounce rate which is probably the number 1 factor in Google ranking you high. If you are not offering what visitors are looking for they will leave your site in seconds and increase your bounce rate. This will lower your rank on search engines and ultimately push you out of the first 3 pages into oblivion. Just doing this takes skill.

    I currently have a client that has a bounce rate of 38% and after one year is now ranked on page one of Google for 24 keywords and keyword phrases. Being in a highly competitive market, we used Google Adwords – Pay Per Click to generate traffic in the beginning. Using Google Analytics effectively showed us which keywords worked and which didn’t and whether we could reduce bounce rate. Most businesses owners don’t how to use Google Analytics or Adwords effectively.

    We are slowly dropping the Adwords campaign which will save my client over $750.00 per month. This is a company whose market is local and we are now getting 150 visitors a day with consistent increases. Business is also increasing monthly.

    Without the services of an SEO professional who knew what to do initially, how to evaluate the results, tweak the processes and add effective content this would not have happened, even though WordPress is the best tool available to accomplish this.

    SEO may not be necessary for everyone, but in my experience 99.999% of websites are poorly designed for success and will not generate business unless the owner is willing to use other methods of getting traffic to their websites. Investing in print ads, radio and TV is a far worse way to invest your money than hiring an SEO professional. Who is using those outdated methods anymore to find a product or service – Boomers? Probably not.

    Just as professional website development is beyond the scope of the average business owner – professional SEO is beyond the scope of the average website developer. That doesn’t make it Bullshit.

  9. says

    I also think that SEO is one important part of every webpage. Since those Google Panda and Penguine updates the mechanics for getting pages to the top of search engines result pages has changed to something I personally really like: Doing content and websites for people and not for search engines. Lets think about the content not about the chase for every link…

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