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Why SEO Fanatics are BAD for Business

A fair amount seem to think discussions about rankings is same as converting clicks



7:03 pm on Aug 29, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Caveat: This post is sure to pull someone's chain the wrong way. I can't say that I really care but I will say that this is one of those, "If the shoe fits, wear it" scenarios.

Why is this relevant to the Adsense forum? Because a fair amount of posters here seem to think that discussions about their rankings in the SERPs is the same thing as discussions about converting a visitor into a customer (in this case, a person who clicks on an ad).

Premise: Getting people to your site is a completely different topic than converting them once they get there. As a chain of events, they are related but as a matter of process, they are two different things and people aught to learn how to separate their fruit from their vegetables and also how to stay on point!

Background: I'll start by saying that I've been designing/developing for the web for almost 15 years now. I have built more websites that I'll ever be able to count (most of which are based on brick and mortar businesses or organizations rather than on topics or keywords). I'm a web programmer, database designer/developer, graphic artist and UX designer. I build custom content management solutions from scratch and use my own solutions for projects rather that throwing up a new Word Press site every time I have a new idea for creating a revenue stream. Having said that, there are many who know far more than me and even far more that know less which makes me just another face in the crowd. The point is, everyone's a web developer these days but you would find my skill-set on the more advanced end of the scale if you cared to look.

SEO What? So everyone wants to be number one in the SERPS. Hurray! If my memory serves me correclty, an entire section of this site is dedicated to that topic and I encourage you to have as much fun or misery with that as you can handle--over there! You may not like to hear it, but, if you spend the majority of your time thinking about how to get to the top of the SERPS, then you're very possibly part of a very large problem that affects us all.

I have never sold my SEO services to a client, EVER! Why you might ask? Because I design sites that search engines like, plain and simple. It's nothing special, just good design, good content and making sure that the needs of my brick and mortar clients and their customers are met. SEO is just a standard component of a well-designed site in my book: not something extra. The only portion of SEO that doesn't fall under good site design is getting good inbound links and to me, if these are natural (i.e. based on natural relationships) then it doesn't take some complex network of sites to get the job done. Most business (if they are willing to collaborate with others in their industry) can build the natural links they need without any help from contrived methods or systems. Promotion, real promotion, is still alive and well and one well-placed testimonial can still be worth its weight in gold.

To all of you who thought it was a good idea to spam/deface someone's forum in pursuit of the almighty dollar/euro/etc, I say, wallow in the results you greedy pig! If you've been spamming people's mail boxes, the epitaphs for you are all over the Internet but I can't post them here. If you thought link farms and your brilliant unnatural linking schemes were the cat's meow, then you need your non-forward-looking eyes scratched out. If you think the Internet exists solely for your personal success, then you have missed the point and you're probably guilty of defacing it in the process. If you're focused on manipulating the search engines to your own ends then you more than likely helped create the very problems you are complaining about these days. The list of injustices to the World-Wide-Web committed by webmasters is far too long to detail here and they range from well-intended to down right despicable. Suffice to say, I've heard enough.

Frankly, if throwing together some new sites because your old ones got trashed in the SERPS is your modus operandi, then your old sites probably deserved to get trashed in the first place because you probably threw them up there with the same attitude i.e. "slap something together, target a bunch of keywords, spam the web and make money." Good for you. Your standards are right up there with the folks who brought us the recent and ongoing global recession, the savings and loan debacle a few decades ago and the Great Depression (just to name a few greed-oriented calamities to befall the human race).

There is an age old question that artists and their audiences are familiar with. It goes something like this. Is real art a product of needing money or the product of needing to create? My answer to this question is that if the primary focus is on making money then the art will suffer. Artists need to eat and it's just a sad fact that for most, not selling out can make that difficult, hence the term, "starving artist." It's not a pretty description but many wear it like a badge of honor and I have a certain level of respect for those that do. Still, there's nothing wrong with being a good business person at the same time, so…

…here's a bit of my personal philosophy when it comes to using the Internet as it relates to my long-term economic agenda and my need to feel like a contributing member of the human race.

1.Consider your interests first. If you want to build a website that makes money, start with a topic that you have a real passion for. If you disregard this, the quality of your work will suffer eventually.
2.Provide real content and services that YOU AND YOUR VISITORS deem relevant to the chosen topic. Avoid fluff at all costs. If it's just filler, let it go! Be useful, stay relevant and care about the quality of the information and the user experience you provide above all else. This is your foundation.
3.Focus on building a long-term relationship with your visitors. Yes, the SERPS can provide a steady stream of fresh eyes and fresh revenue but if you can build a solid base of returning visitors AND AREN'T LAZY about how you market to them (this may be too much to ask but one can always dream), they can provide a substantial and (more importantly) stable revenue stream that won't be subject to the whims of the major search engines.
4.Don't neglect traditional marketing approaches and avoid using any marketing technique that you would personally find offensive, misleading or underhanded Granted, some people will need to raise their standards to achieve this but it should be easy for anyone with a passing degree of empathy to grasp. In other words, are you capable of walking a mile in another man's moccasins?
5.Give the competition a break. Stop worrying about others and just focus on being the best you can be at what you do. People recognize quality and are drawn to it even if a BOT has difficulty with such concepts.

Well, that's a start anyway. Follow the above principles and what you'll have built a nice little rest-stop on the Information Super Highway where your audience can pause and enjoy themselves. Then, you can market to them. One way you'll know if you've done well is if you find yourself spending more time engaged with your site than you do looking at your Adsense account. You may even find that you want take a different approach to monetization, one that doesn't interfere with your own enjoyment of your site and act so unpredictably as Adsense does.

Having said that, you may find that Adsense isn't even a good fit for you. There will always be a lack of control over what is shown on your site with that platform and you may find you can do better with some other approach i.e. selling ad space, promoting an affiliate program related to your audience, etc. This is up to you of course but at least your foundation will be solid and you'll have a lot fewer disinteresting chores to manage.

Conclusion: Building sites just to use them as advertising platforms is a cause. It causes the Search Engines to react and it's no wonder that people are frustrated with a game that keeps changing. Pushing these sites at Search Engines using every White Hat or Black Hat technique known to man or woman and inventing new ones along the way is a driving factor in the way your sites (and mine) are treated in the major indexes. How you get people to your site is your business but someone needs to tell you that it also has an effect on the rest of us. Yes, Google, Bing and Yahoo have their own greedy agendas which makes them a part of the problem too. All in all, SEO is a completely different subject than converting visitors. Build a site you love and then let's talk about how to monetize it. Otherwise, I'd like to suggest that you stick your discussion of SERP's where they really belong.


2:48 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I get different advice every time I talk to a new one. Which one was correct?

I've found that to be true, too. Since all communication, except at Adsense events, is via email or chat, I keep a copy of every communication they send. So if I follow one rep's advice and it gets me into trouble, I have proof of what I was told. It is not a fail safe system but better than nothing.


3:11 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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People have to find it before they can come to it, so SEO matters.

Also, what do you mean, built to rank? Low quality content with a lot of SEO effort? That was always a short term plan. High quality content in the hope of ranking without a lot of SEO? It used to work.

IN fact looking at some of the high ranking content farms, I think the a route to success now is to be big, have non-spam (not high quality, just minimal quality) content, and excellent SEO>


5:23 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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In looking back at this thread a couple of points pop into mind. Perhaps the title should have eluded to the historical aspect of how SEO has tainted the business because my grip, to some degree is how, over time, the SEO game has caused the Search Engines to respond (leading us to where we are now i.e. the edge of uncharted territory, wondering what to do next).

Gaming the system is as old as the human race and I've no illusions about that changing any time soon. So too, I have no doubt, that those being gamed will continue to respond in kind. I'm convinced (for me) that focusing on the quality of my product is the responsible way to go. Again, if yourprimary goal as a webmaster is to make money, there will always be the urge to try and "manipulate" the outcome to your advantage. It's basic human nature and a fact of business. I just don't think continuing down this path will be good for the Internet and may not even be in your own best interests either (long-term).

We can thank the #*$! industry for pioneering many of the techniques used in marketing today (popups, pop-unders, link farms, etc. ad nauseam) but it doesn't mean there's not a better way, a more responsible way.

There were a couple more points I wanted to make but football is starting so will have to pick this up later. I'm guessing it's gonna be a slow Adsense day today.


6:57 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Half-time is time for another point.

It's been mentioned here that there is a difference between SEO and web site optimization (WSO). I'm now fully behind this second term because it much more accurately describes 1. what search engines want webmasters to do, and 2. incorporates best practices for web page development and good editorial methodology to boot. If we start thinking of SEO on these terms, it may not prevent junk content from getting listed ahead of us in the SERPS (at least not in the short term) but I think in the end, the rewards are coming. Call me a dreamer and an idealist but I think those that cheat in Vegas are always gonna be one step from an arrest record and those that build empires on gaming the SERPS will always be one step away from having that empire vanish into the dust from whence it arose. I'm all for perpetuating the process of removing the sand from the gearbox and would happily side with anyone who believes that quality still matters. In short, I believe the rewards of gaming the system are on the decline and the long-term benefits of acting responsibly toward the health of the Internet are on the rise. We'll see. One solar flare and it's back to smoke signals for the lot of us.


9:01 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Lets put SERPs manipulation (ranking mediocre site because of SEO only) to one side.

So you have a site with a great content. And it is nicely designed and looks really pretty. BUT (just for example):
- owing to inconsistent URL capitalisation the site has created many duplicate pages.
- Lets say the site sells something that require information on dates, and it has been developed to put dates in URL. This creates more pages.
- Lets assume there are links using javascript that cannot be 'read' by Google but the pages the links lead to have a brilliant content.
- Lets assume that site shows a great custom error page for an URL that does not exist, but the response code is 200 OK, creating infinite URL space
- Lets assume that the users, who were handed this brilliantly designed site, have products that are the same in all respects apart from colour and size, so they create a separate page for each of these products - as it make sense for the user.
- lets say that on a multilingual site someone decides to redirect the user to a page language version based on IP address, so Google sees nothing apart from English
- ... and so on... I could come up with many more examples

What I am getting at is - you can have a brilliant site, great content with a superb design, but without the knowledge of SEO and without SEO best practices being applied, the site will under perform in SERPs.

Now we could argue that this should be developer's job to know and do these things.

In reality - most don't. Or don't know enough. Or the knowledge they had gets outdated. They don't even read boards like this.
In fact, web developers that do know all these things (and more) are rare and if you find a developer like this - stick to them - they are worth every penny!

Most web developers are great coders and when the site is tested operationally from the user point of view, everything is great, but how is developed may not work for Googlebot.

So for this reason SEO is needed.

In a way, you can look at it as if a website has two types of customers. Visitors are one of them. Search engines are the other. And a website must perform great to both.

[edited by: aakk9999 at 9:11 pm (utc) on Sep 8, 2013]


9:09 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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@aakk9999 et. al. I agree with your point but lets add another group to this discussion e.g. anyone who can only view your web page via assistive technology. Now we have three audiences i.e. average surfers, bots, and people using devices to overcome disabilities, etc. Can't have this discussion without considering accessibility. Best practices would consider all which is something bigger, more comprehensive, than SEO.


9:18 pm on Sep 8, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Yes, I agree, there are certainly other aspects.

A good SEO will know of all the aspects that website tries to achieve and will make sure that the SERPs performance is not compromised by HOW these other aspects are implemented.

What I am trying to say is that a good SEO does not need to know how to design the site for better accessibility, i.e. they do not need to be accessibility expert. What SEO job is is to ensure that the choice of accessibility implementation does not compromise the site in SERPs.

So ideally the end result (accessibility) for the user is the same, but the technical implementation may differ from the choice that may have been made if SEO consultant was not involved.

I think "SEO" is unfortunate term as it is often connected with manipulation. Today's SEO has expanded on what it covers, also because of the usage signals, but ultimately the task is still Search Engine Optimisation.


3:05 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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I think "SEO" is unfortunate term as it is often connected with manipulation. Today's SEO has expanded on what it covers, also because of the usage signals, but ultimately the task is still Search Engine Optimisation.

The point I'm making and I'll credit this point to others who introduced it in this thread, is that if you take concept of "Web Site Optimization" (WS0) and break it down, you will find that SEO (White Hat SEO) fits very neatly inside of it.

I disagree that the task is simply SEO unless the only objective is fast money. There are also many other means of promoting a legitimate business concern, i.e.

Business cards,
Flyers and other printed materials,
Articles and press releases,
Door to door,
Word of mouth,
Social Media,
Traditional mailing campaigns,
Paid advertisements in any media,
etc., etc.

SEO (even in its most angelic form) should be primarily a foundation for getting along with the main search engines (not dominating them). Any other motive (like dominating a keyword) (I'll qualify this with the admission that there may be some some good motives that aren't crossing my mind right now) belongs in the category of manipulating the results, pushing the latest fad or otherwise going for quick money. If one is looking to build long-term success and one thinks that the search engines (which are fighting a constant war with Black Hat SEO types) are gonna keep one in the game forever for any reason, then that particular personage is delusional. To bolster the point, say goodbye to InfoSeek if you already haven't done so. Spamming of the Keywords meta tag basically rendered that Search Engine useless in it's final days.

Another point I've been trying to make is that if you're constantly trying to push yourself to the top of the SERPS, then you're not spending as much time as you probably should be creating valuable content that, in many instances, can sell itself. I'm not gonna devalue the comments by publishers of high-quality content who have been shoved down in the SERPS by junk competition (because it's happened and will continue to happen) or by scrapers or other devious types but I am saying that people can either keep playing the game of artificially manipulating the SERPS or they can just focus on business as it should be and not be part of the ongoing problem.

I'm really loving the acronym "WSO" because it reflect my ongoing attitude toward this whole subject, namely, build a real website, offer something real and let it stand on it's own "real" merits. Make sure you follow best practices (which include suggestions from search engine services). Forget the inequities (particularly the ones you can't control) and just be the best you can be. Don't rely on one means of promotion (i.e. don't let Google dictate your success) and stop feeling like a failure for not dominating a world filled with other people who are also trying to dominate the world. Oh, and stop thinking that the SERPS are the extent of the known world. Of course I could go on but this dead horse is not gonna move.

If you want to make money with a website, fine. Just don't expect that Google, the USPS or any other entity has a stake in helping you do it or that their gonna help you get it done.


3:47 am on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

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Now we could argue that this should be developer's job to know and do these things.

I would argue that a lot of "developers" shouldn't call themselves "developers."


9:28 pm on Sep 9, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I have to say, I dont like to reading the word "SEO" in the same sentence as spam or link schemes, etc.

Honestly, if you are spamming forums, link scheming, etc. -- that to me is NOT SEO. What you point out: good site design, quality content, natural links, IS SEO.


2:22 pm on Sep 10, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I have to say, I dont like to reading the word "SEO" in the same sentence as spam or link schemes, etc.

Well, that horse long since left the barn (IMHO). I think many here agree that the association of a legitimate skill-set with the darker side is unfortunate. Is is too late for the reputation of SEO as a label or is perhaps a little re-branding all that's needed? Perhaps a full-scale PR campaign to restore its image is required? I don't know. There is a bigger picture though and my preferred approach (certainly not for everyone) has been to market comprehensive website development services, namely

1. Follow best practices for markup (as much as possible and practical given the ongoing nature of the browser wars). The Internet needs to be machine-readable as well as human readable (this isn't an SEO-only consideration).
2. Consider the needs of people using assistive technology. People are people too.
3. Follow best practices for client and server-side programming which includes the topics of security and scalability (just to name a couple).
4. Offer something of value from a content or service perspective (content addresses the needs/desires of both humans and machines so why narrow its definition by emphasizing it first and foremost as an SEO component?). Which came first? The keyword or the content and why did the meta-tag cross the road?
5. Make it intuitive, useful, and dare I venture, "fun" for the end user.

If you can do the above (not a comprehensive list by any means) and then monetize successfully, now that's a think of beauty...something to write home about (which is another excellent form of marketing BTW).


I'll also add that the needs of the client (i.e. the web development client if there is one) is a pretty darn big consideration in development and I don't mean to leave it aside. Translating business rules, goals and objectives into a web solution is a developer's most important craft, again (IMHO).


11:30 am on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

well the current google algorithm has a massive hole because of the value it places on high pr links. As long as that remains the case, SEO will remain the easiest source of getting traffic. On the other hand getting traffic from social media takes a lot of work. Besides social traffic is not as consistent as search traffic.


4:08 pm on Sep 18, 2013 (gmt 0)

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well the current google algorithm has a massive hole because of the value it places on high pr links. As long as that remains the case, SEO will remain the easiest source of getting traffic.

Well, they say "people who live in glass houses, shouldn't throw stones." I say, people who build their empire on a house of cards shouldn't do things that only encourage the dealer to re-shuffle the deck. That's the environment webmasters find themselves in today where the SERPS are concerned. Here today, gone tomorrow. Of course, if only the bad apples were subject to being ejected with the bathwater, I wouldn't mind so much but, again, one bad apple has a tendency to spoil the whole barrel and I happen to like my applesauce.

Analogies and witticisms...that's all this post is...what's the world coming to?


3:42 pm on Oct 25, 2013 (gmt 0)


Great Post webcentric !


9:05 pm on Oct 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

5+ Year Member

I hate any kind of SEO and hopefully it will be less and less useful.


10:54 pm on Oct 31, 2013 (gmt 0)

SEO is the Magic Online Snake Oil sold by online scam artist who never owned a high ranking website of their own.

People always want magical solutions to get out of work, and SEO is the new "Make Money Fast with No Work" systems are being sold to fools the web over.


2:56 am on Nov 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

SEO is the new "Make Money Fast with No Work" systems

<mock shock and awe>Dear gawd, it's new? </mock>

Did you just walk out of a time machine from 1999? Because I think that is when I saw my first "get rich quick with SEO" e-book.

Sorry, I could not help myself...


8:23 pm on Nov 1, 2013 (gmt 0)

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and SEO is the new...

Did you just walk out of a time machine from 1999?


Fast forward to now and witness the "new" SEO which is already dead but never fear, there will be an even newer version tomorrow and the next day and the next...until the SE's just starting using random number generation to quell the practice once an for all. Who knows? It feels like that's what they're doing already. Roulette anyone?

@hannamyluv ;)


2:43 pm on Nov 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member

My "let us help you rank higher in Google" emails have partially switched to "let us help you rank better in Facebook."


6:08 pm on Nov 2, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member netmeg is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

Yea, none of those are SEOs, but that's another topic.


12:19 am on Nov 3, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Yea, none of those are SEOs

If only they would understand that themselves.

Just wanted to point out...

SEO is the Magic Online Snake Oil

scam artist who never owned a high ranking website

Funny how you mention "high ranking". If you don't care about SEO, then you don't care about ranking. You should care about traffic. I have lots of "high ranking" websites. I only have one high traffic one.

And if, by chance, you own a "high ranking website" and you have no idea why it is high ranking (because you don't do SEO)... my condolences.


7:06 am on Nov 16, 2013 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member Top Contributors Of The Month

I hate any kind of SEO and hopefully it will be less and less useful.

If by SEO you mean strictly snake oil and black hat techniques then your statement makes sense.

If you start thinking of SEO more in terms of developing an engaging and friendly user experience then you might want to rethink that thought. Today's SE's are trying to understand and emulate user appreciation for a site so if you start thinking about how to optimize your site for the best and most authoritative or engaging experience you can possibly provide your visitors, then, in essence, you are naturally headed in the same general direction that the SE's are headed. This discussion separated snake oil and black hat techniques from website optimization quite a ways back. Snake oil is a roulette wheel or maybe better described as Russian Roulette. Focusing on your users is the new SEO and if it doesn't get you rankings, so be it, but it can definitely help build a loyal audience and in the end that may prove more valuable because that kind of audience is less subject to fluctuations in the SERPs which snake oil is designed to manipulate (or present the appearance of controlling) and which caused all these fluctuations in the first place. Rankings are always going to be subjective and flighty but the quality of your website can be measured in terms of user engagement, return visits, etc. Call it something else if you like but meeting the needs and interests of your audience is and always has been the most important thing unless you're running an MFA site which is now counter intuitive to the new paradigm. Google won't like it an neither will your visitors so good luck getting anyone to come.
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