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SEO Reality Check; Ideals from glass houses

Posted by on in Search Engine Optimization
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If there's one thing I hate it's having to do forensic and clean up SEO work. Sure, I like solving mysteries and that's what makes it interesting. But all too often I can't help but think about the price-tag. Sometimes it's a larger corp where the penalty or dampener won't hurt them all that much. Other times it's smaller businesses that can be crippled. Or heaven forbid, blasted beyond the ability to recover. At the end of the day I can't help but think somebody is losing a job, or worse.

Now, it would be great to sit here and tell you that it's totally Google's fault. That they should simply be devaluing all the crap links until we get the message. That would solve the problem right? Not so fast.

SEO Reality Check


Look into my eyes

My buddy and co-host, Terry van Horne has made more than a few analogies as to why that doesn't work. Apparently SEOs and even the client base, just don't learn that easily. For example over the last while I'd seen RFPs, sales contacts and other client initiated sales enquiries for things such as;

  • article posting
  • blog posting
  • PR submission
  • business directory submission
  • Social media links

One even had things like the need to understand 'search engine ranking algorithms' and having excellent 'communication skills'. Ok, let me try and handle that for you; Don't be a fucking idiot or said algorithms will crush your nuts.

That some good communicating or what?

And I've also seen services in the last few days (some of them offered by a site claiming to be 'Canada's #1 SEO company' no less) such as;

  • Articles Submission
  • PDF Submission
  • Wiki Submission
  • RSS Aggregates
  • Press releases
  • Social Bookmarks
  • Social Networks
  • Web 2.0 Profiles
  • Forum Profile Creation
  • Blog Comments
  • Traffic Blast Included
  • Link Wheel Setup
  • Directory Submissions

Woo hoo... step right up and get whacked by the Penguin for $100... of for $500 a month we can get you a full blown Manual Unnatural Links penalty!

The question remains; Would SEOs REALLY learn if Google merely devalued links? Or is Terry somewhat right? They (and clients) need to be beaten around the head to get it? I am starting to wonder.

So therein lies the rub my friends. Regardless of judging Google and it's morality/ethics, I for one would rather start by looking in the mirror. I am not entirely sure how good a job we're doing at educating potential clients and getting a higher profile of the potential risks, out into the places where they lurk. I doubt they watch our hangouts nor read our blogs.


Google is your friend

First things first, those web spam guys do something called adversarial information retrieval, (AIR).

Let's get Googly with that word [adversarial];

ad·ver·sar·i·al - ˌadvərˈse(ə)rēəl/

adjective: adversarial

  1. involving or characterized by conflict or opposition.

    "industry and government had an adversarial relationship"

Does any of that sound like we're playing nice? In fact, Matt's a pretty toned down AIR guy from what I gather. I've read enough papers, watched video lectures etc... to know that many of those skilled in the art, aren't really fans of ours.

Try this on...

Or maybe this guy...

If you ask me, Mr Cutts is down right pleasant compared to many of his AIR breathing brethren.

Get Past Google

Now, before ol Barry Adams comes along and starts calling me a Google fan-boy, let's get this straight; At this point I don't give a rats ass about Google. They can move the goal posts all they like. It's my job to stay on top of that. That's what a good SEO does.

What is truly pissing me off to no end are those that seemingly are ignorant of the evolution and existing reality, or they are willingly leading clients down a road they know might end badly. Regardless, it's bullshit. To grasp at a reality where Google is the only one at fault, is a fools game.

I truly feel like doing searches like these (uhm Google? Why even index these guys?); [link building services] or [SEO link services] and shitting on any of 'em selling toxic crap. But I guess that would be 'outing' or some such shit and the SEO world would get mad at me. Meh.

Worrying about Google's morality/ethics? I'd much rather see the industry come together to start better educating clients and stomping out the crap service providers that don't deserve to call themselves SEOs.

Then we can get back to talking smack about Google. Aight?

As you were...

SEO Service Audits


David has been in the world of web development and marketing since 1998 helping clients succeed in more markets than he can remember, (probably 'cause of his advanced age). He's best known as an avid search marketing blogger and information retrieval fanatic.


  • Guest
    Barry Adams Tuesday, 06 May 2014

    Mostly agree

    Yes I think we as the SEO industry have a responsibility to educate our clients and deliver services that add lasting value. Ethics cut both ways, and we definitely need to ensure that what we do is right for the client - not just now but also in the future.

    We do our best by writing about SEO best practices, by speaking at conferences, and by providing as much learning material as possible. I personally also lecture on SEO for local universities and post-grad programmes, so I feel I'm doing my share to spread the word about what makes for 'proper SEO'. At some stage I will have to rely on the ethics of individual SEO providers to do what is right.

    And, I have to admit, for a client there are precious little excuses to not be educated about what makes for good SEO. It's all a Google search away (hah!). But clients are lazy and some actively revel in their ignorance, better to claim plausible deniability and all that. We as SEOs can only go so far, the client needs to make some effort as well.

    Having said that, the moral issues the SEO industry struggle with are of an entirely smaller scale than the moral issues Google is trampling all over. That wouldn't even be that bad if Google was honest about being a profiteering, morally comprimised enterprise. But they're not. Instead Google is cultivating an image of being the 'good guys' (something the SEO industry is not particularly burdened with) whilst at the same time rolling out algorithm updates and manual penalties that, as you correctly state, cause harm to small businesses and make people lose their jobs.

    If in that scenario you still feel we should not criticise Google, that's your perogative. I for one will not stay quiet about it. Obviously. :D

  • Guest
    Andrea "Judge Seo" Scarpetta Tuesday, 06 May 2014

    Educating clients should be our top priority

    Google changes so fast that most companies cannot really understand the difference between "updated" information and "regurgitated 4-years old information". That's why cheap and toxic strategies are still being proposed to unsuspecting people: they just don't know how to evaluate a good strategy.

    Moar training!

  • David Harry
    David Harry Tuesday, 06 May 2014

    There's ma' bruddah!

    Yea man, as you may have noticed I fully expected as much. At the end of the day, as I mentioned, I don't think myself or even the collective of SEOs, is really going to have much affect on how Google does business. So, for now, I am going to start worrying about things from the other side. I know I can reach a lot of SEOs and maybe the odd potential buyer of our services.

    You know that for years I have always had an issue with the 'penalty' approach over merely devaluing links and telling webmasters which tactics are currently pointless. That also doesn't seem like it's going to happen and to a degree, I can understand why.

    Ultimately I simply can't take the never ending streams of business owners or more likely, their employees, that are hurt in this battle. While I still believe the approach Google has taken is somewhat mis-guided, I also have grown tired of seeing providers that are willingly putting people at risk and further tarnishing the name of an industry I love. I see some culpability on our end as well.

    I just wonder at this point how we can better educate those that are the buyers of SEO services... I really don't think many read industry blogs and even less go to our conferences.

    Anyway bro, you know my long running frustration with the crap-hat SEO... it was just bothering me a shit ton last night and I had to get it outta my system.

  • Guest
    Ethan Hays Wednesday, 07 May 2014

    SEO traffic is risk

    I've been doing SEO for 12 years, so you could say I've been personally involved in the evolution of Google's services. For the most part, that involvement has been in the form of trying to put my sites, or my clients' sites, in the best position to rank and earn traffic. But my focus has shifted over the years.

    In 2005, I got few of my sites a manual penalty for manipulative linking. And these sites that had previously been flying high and earning great money fell off the face of the earth, gone. This was before Google Webmaster Tools and penalty notifications and reconsideration requests. Back then, when you got your site killed, you didn't know when or if it would come back to life.

    This led me to a realization: For the long-term health of a small business, organic search traffic equals risk. When you look at the ability of your web business to earn money over the long term (and you should be looking over the long term) you should consider traffic from organic search an unexpected gift, not a core part of your revenue plan. Your long-term plan should be to make your site to be self-sustaining from direct, referring, and email traffic alone.

    Make a website, a service, that's so great that your customers keep coming back and telling their friends.

    Too often, I've seen businesses start to get some white hat SEO fundamentals in place, and they begin to see some increases in search traffic. Great! 2 weeks later, the CEO is forecasting what a year's worth of SEO traffic gains will look like based of 2 weeks of data, and baking that into the revenue forecasts he's presenting to the board. Not great.

    SEO traffic is a fantastic, but when you're building your business you should be using it as a buffer while you grow traffic from other channels. Use the revenue from organic search traffic, and reinvest it to build an email list, start remarketing, etc.

    Organic search is variable, and for the most part, entirely out of your control. Search engines get to do whatever they want with their businesses. If you're doing a good enough job finding and servicing customers through a variety of channels, you can build your business to the point that it would get along just fine even if Google turned off the lights.

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