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Taking SEO Advice Blindly Can Kill Your Business

 6:40 am on Aug 28, 2010 (gmt 0)

This is a rant that's been building in me for a long time.

Recent years have seen a flood of interest in SEO. Unfortunately, a lot of recent entries into SEO have no sense of perspective and no idea of how to evaluate advice that they read or hear. And still they write blog articles ;( There's a lot of regurgitated second and third hand learning being spread today - and it's even being sold to clients.

SEO began in the 90s, back before the acronym itself was even created. Most of the pioneers were early affiliate marketers who personally reverse-engineered the search engine algorithms of the day. What they learned was privately shared, until it stopped working so well. At that point, the tidbits began to bleed into the wider pool of knowledge.

Why do I bring up this old time stuff? The same pattern still holds. And taking anyone's SEO advice at face value is a dangerous practice. Anyone who is not doing their own testing and measurement is at a disadvantage. They may be buying into advice that's outdated by many years - and some of it may even come from back in the 90s!

An entrepreneur today cannot hope to reverse engineer SERPs the way it was done in the early years of SEO - the field of information retrieval has become much too complex for that. But the disciplined state of mind that SEO pioneers used, the logic and rigor, all that still needs to be part of a successful SEO mindset.

Whenever I read any SEO article, one of the first things I look for is a sign of that logical rigor. If the author doesn't use technical vocabulary accurately, that's a danger sign. If there's no hint of HOW they arrived at their "knowledge", that's another. And if there are bizarre jumps in logic, that's even worse.

Watch out for "post hoc ergo propter hoc" fallacies. Watch out for confusion between a statement and its converse - the truth of one does not imply the truth of the other. If you can't think logically, you cannot be a good SEO.

Even more, always watch out for the DATE of the advice you read. And most of all, look for your own evidence - through testing and examples or anecdotes. Otherwise you might well tank your business.


Robert Charlton

 7:14 pm on Sep 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Figure out what they 'want' at G, build that, and let them figure out how to make you rank as a result.

Often this comes down to the most user-friendly, informative site you can build, with original and useful content, promoted well enough to get started in the index and grow over the long term. In both SEO and promotional terms, the bar is getting higher. Content should be good enough that it's really worth sharing.

It helps a lot if you research how people in your niche search and what it is they're looking for, so you present the content from the user perspective.


 8:40 pm on Sep 2, 2010 (gmt 0)

Yes . . yes . . yes . . but . . it feels a bit . . tragic(?) . . feckless(?) to approach the good-vs-bad-choice issue from the perspective of "How to size up what's wrong with this SEO candidate?" It's a bit of a statement on the industry that objective and verifiable credentialing or selection criteria aren't available. :( (Probably, a circumstance that in it's first cause can be traced back to G's propensity to keep the ranking process 'a big secret' . . and the fact that the ranking algo keeps changing . . and the configuration of the SERPs keeps being tweaked . . and . .)

A few examples of the "choice dilema":

If SEO's don't publicize* their success stories then how do you tell good from bad? Just by identifying the bad?

If SEO's don't publicize when in G's "ranking factors history", at what budget, and using what now outdated tools they achieved their past success then how does a prospective client tell a current + good SEO from a bad one?

If an SEO has "vertical experience/success" is that always transferrable? Would a PPC (Pills, Pron, Csnos) "expert" be the "right hire" for another service industry?

I could go on.

Honestly, when it comes to SEOs how does a potential SEO client tell a "good for my company/industry now" SEO from a bad one?

Only by picking up on the bad signs?

(*Most SEOs/clients shouldn't tell because of confidentiality or non-disclosure agreements that protect BOTH the client's interests and the SEO's special methods/tactics.)


 7:44 pm on Sep 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

As far as taking advice, I would suggest to ask the person what they have worked on, i.e. get the keywords, example sites, establish a track record for multiple projects, get a confirmation that so and so does our seo work, and if all holds true, take their advice. If they won't say, run away. Be your own judge if you think the keywords and site competition is competitive enough. Our company is publicly tracking our SEO campaign on our site.


 8:13 pm on Sep 3, 2010 (gmt 0)

Honestly, when it comes to SEOs how does a potential SEO client tell a "good for my company/industry now" SEO from a bad one?

For the run of the mill company that wants a web presence it's virtually impossible. Even if one tries to do some due diligience there is so much differing information out there it simply leads to confusion.

Much of the stuff I do for the handful of clients I work with involves answering the "Should we?" questions with "No, save your money."

This, fortunately for me, usually involves an afternoon's meeting worth of education with some of that saved money going in my pocket :-)


 9:22 am on Sep 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Here's something that I know I do but shouldn't. I've quoted various Google Patents about ranking as if they are now part of the algo. Matt Cutts, however, has cautioned this is not necessarily valid. Just because Google applied for a patent doesn't mean it uses it in the algo now or will ever use it in the algo.

"We have a lot of ideas, and we file a lot of patents, and that doesn’t mean that all of that gets used in our rankings."

Source: [youtube.com...]


 4:53 pm on Sep 11, 2010 (gmt 0)

Just because Google applied for a patent doesn't mean it uses it in the algo now or will ever use it in the algo.

But mentioning them isn't necessarily bad advice.

There are things that as professionals we have to be aware of to try to stay ahead of the curve. Not necessarily implementing strategies for each and every patent that comes out, but playing the "what if" game as we look at the ones we already use and how they might be affected if certain patents were implemented.

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