Every few months, someone seems to attack search engine optimization. SEOs are often quick to rise in defense of their profession. I’ve done that plenty myself, in the past. But a barrage of recent cold-call SEO pitches in my inbox even has me hating SEO.
Of course, I don’t really hate SEO. That’s because I know the difference between:
- SEO and search engine spam
- SEO and snake-oil promises
SEO remains the act of gaining free traffic from search engines, and also to me, gaining that traffic in ways that don’t put you at risk of being banned or penalized by those search engines. It’s a perfectly acceptable activity that even the search engines encourage. That’s why Google itself offers a guide to SEO.
White Hat, Black Hat & No Hat SEO
OK, then we have two types of SEO, “white hat” and “black hat.” And it’s black hat SEO alone that cause all the problems, right? Nope. That’s because you’ve also got some supposed “white hats” who don’t violate any rules but also don’t actually provide any SEO value. Let’s call them “no hats.”
The No Hat Pitch
I’m pretty sick of no hat SEOs. That’s because they send me crud like this:
The end of the year is quickly approaching, which means holidays, parties, family, friends, and a lost chance to save money on search engine marketing, Website Designing/Development.
We saved the best promotion for the end of the year! ONLY $50!! HuRRy UP!!
Search Engine Optimization. Love your website? Save initial SEO setup fee and see your website on first page of search engines.
No Black-hat methods.
Take a trial for just $50 and get linked with 100 quality websites having page rank up to 5.
Our team works directly with you to meet our target which is #1 position on search engines. We sincerely believe that the above services will merit with the requirements of your Organization
I’m pretty sure spending $50 will do absolutely nothing for me or anyone using this firm. Maybe they’ll somehow place 100 links on the web, and maybe, just maybe, they really will do it without “black hat” methods.
But those links probably won’t really give my site any benefit. What’s the anchor text going to be? If it’s the same for each page, going up all at the same time, might that trigger some unnatural link warning from Google? And even with low cost labor being used, $50 simply doesn’t cover the necessary time to understand what a site is about, to research other sites and then engage in communication to obtain quality links.
Another No Hat Pitch
Here’s another, sent to me and all the Marketing Land editors through our contact form:
I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough organic & social media traffic on your website.
I would like to update you that your website is still not ranked on the top pages of Google SERPs for your popular keywords (Products). Your loss is your competitor’s gain i.e. the traffic which could have generated quality sales for you goes to your competitors as they rank well in the Search Engine Result Pages (SERPs) organically. Reasons:
- HTML and other on-page errors are present on your website.
- Low number of internal and external quality links present on your website.
- Duplicate or low quality contents present in your website without any regular update.
- Need to update fresh contents on your website and blogs as per the latest Google guideline.
- Broken Links and Poison words might be present in your website.
- Social media profile needs to be updated regularly.
Long gone are the days when Google used to give priority to websites of keyword based domains or websites with huge number of links. Now Google counts each and every detail to verify if your website is relevant to the keywords you are promoting for. A single un-wanted link or a duplicate content can lead your website to be penalized by Google.
We are a leading website promotion company providing online promotion, SMO, Reputation Management, Content (both web and promotional content) fixing services to clients.
We have a team of 240+ SEO professional working 24*7. Our team of dedicated Google Analytic and Adwords certified professionals excel in promoting and increasing the visibility of a website in various search engines (including the latest Google Panda and Penguin updates), which will directly help in increasing traffics for your website.
Unlike other SEO companies we do not believe in talking rather we believe in delivering what we promise to our clients. We provide guaranteed services or money back-guarantee to all our clients who consider working with us.
If you are getting rigid by paying a huge amount in PPC then Organic listing by using white hat technique will be definitely a right choice for you. As the rate of conversion is more in organic listing as compared to PPC, eventually it will be an absolute gain for you.
This email just tells you the fraction of things we do, our optimization process involves many other technical factors which can be sent to you on your request. If you would like to know more about our services then please write us back else you can give us a call us in our number below.
The email is crap right from the first sentence, given that the person sending this has no idea what keywords are important to our site.
The itemization of problems isn’t correct, but then again, neither is some of the grammar in the itemization. But some people might believe this, in the way they might believe someone pitching an unnecessary product to remove mold in their home or to prevent a car from developing rust.
If this company really does have a team of certified Google Analytics and Google AdWords people, I’d hope Google would pull those certifications, which mean nothing in terms of guaranteeing SEO results. It’s like saying you have a team of certified carpenters and electricians who are going to try and fix your plumbing problems.
The Terrible Public Faces Of “SEO”
Pitches like these cause some people to hate SEO simply because they’re so so damn annoying. Others end up hating SEO because they’re taken in and waste their money on something they thought was SEO but wasn’t. Either way, it’s not a pretty public face that some associate with SEO.
This leads to what I’ve called crap hat SEO. Crap hat SEO produces the second terrible public face that people see.
Crap Hat SEO
A crap hat SEO doesn’t give a damn about anything. They may be generating hundreds or thousands of pages of nonsensical copy using software, then using more software to comment spam the hell out of sites and pretty much not caring about what type of mess they leave behind, as long as they rank.
And mess it is. Publishers who own those comment spammed sites have to deal with the garbage, and they blame the damn “SEOs” for causing it. You also have some searchers who encounter junk pages that don’t really deliver what they’re looking for eventually realize there’s this “SEO thing” that screwed everything up.
The SEO Reputation Problem
I wish I had an easy solution for these things, but I don’t. What I can say is that SEO is not alone among industries where some bad actors can give the entire profession a terrible reputation.
For example, anyone who’s ever taken out a home loan knows that in the following weeks, you’ll get inundated with “official letters” of all types, stamped “time sensitive” or “important notice” and sounding authoritative by listing your loan balance or lender.
These pitches for insurance policies or refinancing offers are crap, public facing crap that give the insurance and mortgage industries a bad name.
But both industries provide necessary services, and there are good people and companies in those industries. That’s why they continue on, and it’s why SEO continues on despite every few months someone writing an article declaring that it’s going to die.
The Attack & Response Pattern
I pretty much stopped responding to those types of articles back in 2011. After I’d written things like these:
- Worthless Shady Criminals: A Defense Of SEO (2005)
- Yes Virginia, SEO Is Rocket Science – Defending Search Engine Optimization Once Again (2006)
- From My Inbox: More Defense Of SEO (2007)
- A Bad Month For SEO’s Reputation (2008)
- Thoughts On Web Developers, SEO & Reputation Problems (2009)
- SEO Is Here To Stay, It Will Never Die (2010)
- SEO Remains A Viable Marketing Strategy For Anyone (2011)
What else was there to say? And that’s just a sampling. I’d written many more articles on this topic stretching back into the late 1990s.
In the end, I decided to generally ignore articles that are often written by people who really don’t understand what SEO is about. In the past, I might have fired up a 3,000 word response to such things. Now, at best, I might leave a comment.
Someone on Forbes wants to declare SEO will be dead in two years? It’s not worth the effort. Anyone with any real knowledge of the SEO space knows that’s absurd. And anyway, it’s not a real Forbes writer. It’s just one what I call Fake Forbes writers, where that publication that had a name that once meant something now seems to let anyone write anything for page views.
Some designer wants to warn the world against why a good designer is all you need for SEO? Hey, I was heartened to see Bill Slawski and Will Critchlow step up with a response. But how many times do we have to do this? Wasn’t 2004 enough? How about 2009? Does it have to always repeat? Why on earth doesn’t anyone gripe about how the development and design industries continue to fail to get SEO over and over again?
Well, part of it is that bad designers and bad developers aren’t crapping all over the web in ways that are easily seen and pinned to those industries. You encounter a bad web site. You blame the site, or a code error, not the people that created it, who aren’t associated with those annoying emails you get.
Part of it is also due to the fact that plenty of designers and developers do get SEO, get the need to either understand it and use best practices themselves or work with actual professional SEOs who do.
Education Does Help
And part of it is that yes, I suppose the wheel will keep having to go around and around, that education will always be needed. Personally, I’ll likely continue to ignore the flare-ups from places that don’t deserve attention. But in places where education might indeed help, maybe the good fight continues to be worth waging.
Along these lines, it would be nice if the largest industry body associated with SEO, SEMPO, actually seemed to be doing some of that outbound education when these flare-ups happen rather than individual SEOs themselves having to step forward.
Education won’t stop the crap that’s out there, of course. But maybe it will help people understand how to distinguish the crap they assume is SEO from the real SEO that is beneficial. Maybe it will help the professionals who provide quality SEO get more of the respect they deserve.
One thing I know. Bad reputation or not, SEO has continued on despite 15 years now of people declaring it will die. I fully expect it’ll keep going for another 15 years, if not many more.
- Infographic: The Death Of SEO, Failed Predictions Over The Years
- SEO Gets Dissed by CBS TV Series “The Good Wife”
- Importance Of SEO Makes Front Page Of Los Angeles Times
- Survey Says SEO The Single Most Important Marketing Channel For SMBs
- Search Industry Well Represented On Annual List Of Fastest-Growing US Companies; SEO Cited As A Top ROI Tactic
- Google Says SEO Is Not Spam
- What Is SEO / Search Engine Optimization?
- What Is Search Engine Optimization? The Three Minute SEO Video!
- The Periodic Table Of SEO Ranking Factors