Why Most SEO Professionals Suck

Kristen Holden

Since the dawn of the profession, most SEO “professionals” have been looked down on by programming peers. They’re seen as people who do “magic,” but are unable to quantify the value they bring to a company. People gain this opinion for various reasons, and sadly, a lot of them are true. I recall a conversation I had with one of the developers here at SitePoint when I started, which went a little like this:

Andy: Hi, how are you?
Kristen: Yeah, good thanks mate. I’m the new SEO guy, so I’m sure I’ll be dealing with you a bit in the near future.
Andy: SEO guy? What’s that? I didn’t think SEO was a real job. You just fiddle with some title tags and do some other black magic, right?
Kristen: Ha-ha, I don’t blame you for thinking that; however, there’s a lot more to it than you think!

Horror Stories

Now that conversation isn’t verbatim, but you get the idea. This is very common to how programmers look at SEO providers, and there’s a very good reason for this a lot of the time. I’m unable to think of another profession in the online world where I’ve heard as many horror stories about customers being burned. Providers quite often take money without delivering any real work whatsoever. My favorite of late is the SEO providers that offer “unlimited traffic” for a set fee, say $1,000.

I guess the point of this blog post is to admit that there is a problem. So, I’d like to officially consider this post a confession on behalf of the SEO industry. Yes, there is a problem and we need to fix it!

SEO = scam?

Every industry has their scams associated with it, and generally I think that if an individual is silly enough to believe wholly unbelievable claims, then there’s little you can really do to help them. SEO, however, lends itself to these kinds of scams due to the nature of the secret sauce used to make up the search algorithms. Gullible business owners desperate to beat out their competition are easy targets for unscrupulous service providers. Mind you, these companies may still benefit their clients; it’s just that they generally tend to claim inflated numbers in their advertising material. For instance:

  • 10,000 Backlinks for only $99
  • 50 Social Bookmarking Backlinks in Our Plus Package
  • Unlimited Traffic for Just $1,000 per Month

I’m sure that these kinds of claims are familiar to almost anybody who’s engaged an SEO company, or has been around the Web for long enough. But let’s go back to the topic at hand: most SEO professionals suck. Sadly, I truly believe this, having interviewed hundreds of people when hiring for jobs, as well as gone to industry events, and read forums and blog posts. I’d say that roughly 80% of people I’ve spoken to have no idea what they’re doing beyond the fundamentals of SEO. I liken their level of education to what I know about gardening: I’ve done it, and know that I could do most things with little or no help; however, I sure as hell would stop short at calling myself a landscape gardener. And yet, these charlatans boldly claim to be SEO experts. More often than not, these providers do more harm than good for their clients, giving little to no value beyond the basic meta restructuring and site architecture issues (that’s if they’re even able to understand this!).

Get REAL Results

My gripe is aimed at those providers (you know who you are!) who constantly try and cut corners. Automating every aspect of their work. Using automated directory submission software to build those “10,000 links” with a value of less than one good link. If these providers just took the time to research their clients, investigate real linking opportunities for them, and integrate SEO with the clients’ overall business strategies, they would achieve REAL RESULTS. That means not submitting re-inclusion requests via the Google Webmaster tools interface.

Please note that this is not an attack on everybody in the SEO industry. Far from it. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of great and reputable SEO providers online who deliver amazing results for their clients. Tools exist that can take your SEO practices to the next level quite easily, such as SEOmoz’s new PRO tool. Then there’s Raven Tools and various others that can guide you through most of the processes you should be carrying out. Pull your finger out, SEO profs—it’s time to start delivering real value to clients. It may cost you double or triple the amount of effort for each client you service, and you may be unable to claim big numbers like before. But you can take a big step forward and start to really make a difference.

I’ve done black hat, gray hat, rainbow hat, and even invisible hat SEO over the course of the last ten years. I officially renounce my evil ways (technically I’ve been white hat for four to five years now), and would like to see the industry as a whole move forward and stop trying to milk as much money as possible from clients.

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  • Dave

    Hello Kristen,

    I am on web industry since late 2004, and I can see same things you pointed out. Massive usage of hype words, obscure contracts, and so on are spread out for this job.

    I agree with you when saying SEO professionals should start to really aggregate value to their work, making less buzz and more work (go further than on-page optimizations and poor link building).

    Actually, the first thing SEO professionals should have in mind is “WRITE QUALITY CONTENT” and “THINK ON PUBLIC FIRST” in my opinion.

    This is what I do now. I have more web writers working here (yes, I sell SEO) for publish content than programmers and designers, and guess the results: success to my clients.

    Not fast, but consistent. Sometimes it takes 4-6 months to results shows up, but when it happens, it really happens.

    Well, thx for posting this “against bad seo manifest”. I share your point and your pains.

  • Shanester

    I have a client who is paying $90 a month for SEO “maintenance”. However, the SEO “professionals” haven’t done maintenance in three years. I’ve told my client this, so they talked to the SEO company. The SEO company said that if she stopped paying the $90 a month that her web site would ‘no longer appear in search engines’.

  • Andy White

    So as the developer guilty of those slurs (the first time I met Kristen, no less; classy, Andy) – I’ll be the first to say that I’ve seen the light. Good SEO works, and it works hard.

    Nobody’s ever accused developers of being the most tactful people in the world, but in my defense I was more curious than anything. My questions kinda came out wrong. D’oh. Sorry Kristen. :P

    Most of the key SEO advice seems obvious at first glance, but it’s amazing how often you skip over it (esp. as a developer) in pursuit of features or a particular way of laying out a site. Things like: the order that HTML elements appear in a document can effect search ranking (man, seems obvious in hindsight… and this is just the basics!)

    I think SEO folk have an advantage in that they can show a measurable increase in site traffic and customer response over time, independent of many other factors. Few devs can make the same claim.

  • Kristen Holden

    haha don’t be silly Andy, it just happened to be a great example of the kind of questions SEO people generally get asked when entering a development environment :)

    @Dave – I agree Andy, content is still king in SEO. Beyond links and tagging, its the most important thing to focus on. I particularly liked the big focus SEOmoz’s LDA analysis tool and set of posts put on content from an industry perspective. I am still waiting for a tool which will help us SEO’s quantify time spent on content production though. Something which goes beyond pure rankings and which helps us to justify the investment needed on a large scale for content production. The reason why i say a tool, is something which is verified by a third party generally goes over much better with stakeholders than anecdotal evidence or predictions from an SEO consultant :)

    • Andy White

      Hmm, seems like it wouldn’t be too difficult to create a tool that would assist with content editing, and track time spent on finite chunks of content (whether they be whole pages, or even particular paragraphs or insets…).

      Could easily include a few fancy features like keyword suggestions and stats based on the content, tracking of links in specific chunks of content and pretty graphs to show to the client at the end of the process….

      • Kristen Holden

        I was moreso thinking of a way to be able to show that X effort spent on content = an improvement of Y in rankings, traffic etc..

        A lot of tools allow you to grade content or to keep track of writing it in a pretty basic fashion. None however do something which will show the before and after ‘score’ of the content and its effectiveness very well.

  • http://www.gwapito.com Jeffreyw

    Good SEO is writing good content using words that are searchable on search engines, and so unique and informative that readers want to link it and submit it to social network sites.

  • http://www.iraqtimeline.com/maxdesign Black Max

    It’s the mindset among many (not all) SEO “experts” that makes me grind my teeth. They tend to exhibit little or no interest in the content or purpose behind the site; to them it’s all MARKETING, usually communicated in SCREAMING CAPITAL LETTERS and lots of hyped-up gobbledygook that I suspect many of them really don’t understand. Combine the relentless fixation on marketing and profit with narcissistic self-absorption and an inability to communicate using real words and grammar, and I don’t take that segment of the industry any more seriously than I do the Sham-Wow guy. Unfortunately, that element of the SEO industry has tainted everyone else in the group as well.
    I was glad to read your final section. Keep preaching it.

  • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

    It is with absolute disgust that I look upon the SEO ‘industry’ — that it has even managed to spin off from web development as a hoodoo child mojo bag scam to the point it can even be CALLED an industry is scandalous.

    SEO is a VERY important part of developing and promoting a website — but it is NOT the be-all end-all your SEO scam artists make it out to be. So many of these SEO jokers will throw away almost every other aspect of building a site; Accessibility, maintainability — these mean NOTHING to them.

    The worst of the lot are the ones who spout their SEO rhetoric without even understanding concepts like semantic markup; MOST of these jokers don’t even know enough about HTML in the first place for their opinion to mean anything.

    Take this one joker I was having a roll with over on another forums. Claims to be a “SEO Expert” and has a website devoted to SEO… that is built on shoehorning some crappy late 90′s shopping cart system into being a CMS, if you spell out the abbreviation of the website’s name it doesn’t even show up in searches, hell, using the most obvious search term it doesn’t even show up…

    With such WONDERFUL gems in his code like having the keywords and description meta’s 1:1 copies of each-other, separating the ‘elements’ in said tags with vertical breaks (which he insists on calling pipe’s — it’s only a pipe when used in BASH), tables for layout, HTML 3.2 for most of the markup, FONT tags…

    WORSE, like most of these jokers he actually seems to think that STRONG means ‘bolder’, EM means ‘italic’, and h1 means ‘bigger text’ becuase he cannot separate the meaning of a tag from it’s appearance.

    That’s the real kicker with these nimrods — a programmer takes one look at these sites by the alleged “SEO Pro’s” and they have zero accessibility, a hodge-podge of half-assed copypasta for code, coding techniques that while commonplace were NEVER the right way of doing things (like say… three tables before you even get to the h1, the h1 of course in a colspan TD)

    It’s even funnier when they claim that the legitimate techiniques are bull… Techniques like looking at the site in LYNX to approximate what the search engines see? Techniques like “view outline” in the FF web dev toolbar? Seeing what a screen reader does to it? Making sure your keywords meta is actually key WORDS, is less than 80 characters and preferably 8 or less terms that have relevance to the COPY on the page?

    Of course, they all artificially inflate their successes as well saying things like “over a billion pages beaten” or some such crap, when they are referring to perfect phrase matches against sites that aren’t even about the same SUBJECT!

    Though the worst part is that all their bull ends up little more than nube predation — saddling the ignorant with fat bloated websites that don’t work and generate nothing but first-visit bounces.

    GAH.

    • Kristen Holden

      The days of scamming SEO professionals are starting to look more numbered. it’s great that Google / Yahoo and others algo’s are aligning with user experience and usability more and more. So there end up being big benefits from on page work from a proper, usable site which benefits users as well as the search engines.

  • http://www.davidclick.com Zygoma

    SEO is no shortcut to SERP success if you think its just about semantic markup and link building. You have to face what quality content means and if you dont have the resource to write top end content good enough to publish in a quality broadsheet newspaper for example for forget it your just filling up cyberspace with meaningless floating letters…

    • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

      To be fair, there are plenty of valid uses of the web that don’t involve high-quality content, and there always have been. Blogs aimed at friends are one example. As is almost all of Facebook. It’s about the purpose of the site.

    • Kristen Holden

      Yes this is exactly true. Content needs to also bring value and be unique well above and beyond simply being useful for marketing purposes. That being said, most unique and original content around these days will also find its roots where there is user demand, whether that is identified via a keyword tool or a discussion with a co-worker.

      SEO should help sites to rank for keywords which are logically and topically related to their actual purpose. So any content which adds to that experience is obviously going to be a big plus for many more reasons than just rankings.

  • http://www.patricksamphire.com/ PatrickSamphire

    I have a problem with much SEO. My problem is not whether it works or doesn’t, not whether it knocks your site a few places up google or doesn’t.
    My problem is the “content is still king in SEO” attitude. Content *is* king for websites, but if you start thinking about content purely as an SEO strategy, you’re basically spamming the web. If you write content for the sole purpose of increasing Google ranking or pulling in clicks, then you’re spamming the web.
    Content should be there for a reason, and that reason shouldn’t be simply to draw visitors into a hellhole, advert-laden joke of a site where the content turns out to be both worthless and virtually hidden in the crap. But that’s what happens when SEO providers start writing content.
    Now, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t consider SEO when you’re writing something that you were already going to write. There’s nothing wrong with structuring your content in such a way that it is search-engine friendly, as long as it doesn’t interfere with the readability for humans and doesn’t diminish the content. But, honestly, this still doesn’t outweigh the need for interesting, relevant content that will attract and keep human visitors.
    I guess what I’m saying is that even much of so-called ‘white hat’ SEO drives me crazy.
    I know it’s possible to do good SEO which doesn’t commit any of these sins, but really, that kind of SEO should be an integral part of every designer’s, developer’s and writer/editor’s toolkit, because it isn’t that hard.
    All IMO. If I’m wrong, I’d like to hear more examples of ‘good’ SEO that really requires a dedicated expert.

    • Kristen Holden

      SEO is definitely best done by the site owner. Not by a SEO professional. They are the content experts in that particular field and they are the most passionate about it.

      Web developers should also be building and delivering sites with best practice SEO integrated from the ground up. Sadly 90% of developers these days are still not considering the fundamental rules of SEO when developing sites.

  • sjerguy

    Ref – Content is king. Love it. So your client spends all their time writing fantastic content that isn’t getting read by the search engines. It is becoming the norm to have all kinds of bells and whistles on your site with no foundation.
    If everyone wants a real eye opener, check out the document outline on this article. It is a thing of beauty.
    My biggest laugh is the default download of wordpress that gives every page of the installation the site name as the h1 element. Nobody even pays attention. The first thing they do is go get a theme that is “PRETTY” that has a worst SEO foundation. I developed a theme that is very basic with great SEO that gets results, and no one even looks at it. I love it.
    It’s all about getting a strong foundation, then make it pretty.

    • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

      Little nitpick…

      Abusing the H1 for SEO purposes is NOT good advice, which is basically what you are saying.

      Without knowing the content, the site title is in fact the BEST choice for the h1 — since by definition all other headings on the page are supposed to be SUBSECTIONS of the h1. (and if you think about it sensibly, so should all content on the page — ALL OF IT)

      The ‘use the h1 for the most important heading’ attitude is throwing accessibility and sensible document structure under the bus — and for what? Next you’ll be skipping over heading levels or using lower order headings that are NOT the start of subsections of a higher level heading preceding it.

      Think of it like a newspaper or book – the h1 is the title of the book or paper that appears at the top of every page; the appearance may differ on the inner pages, but it’s still the primary heading. A lot of people treat the largest headline like it should be the h1, but in doing so you are saying every other heading on the page is a SUBSECTION of that… “MAYOR CAUGHT TAKING MILLION DOLLAR BRIBE” may be the giant headline on the front page, but that doesn’t make the small article heading below the fold “K-6 gets new Building” a subsection of it. (at least you hope not). As such, they should both be H2 even though their PRESENTATION is different. (Though that MAY be one of the rare cases where I’d advocate STRONG inside a H2 from a semantics point of view — even if the engines don’t like it)

      Mein gott, did I just defend WordPress’ default markup on something? I know some folks are going to think the Apocalypse is nigh over that one. There’s plenty of bad code in WP — their use of H1 isn’t it.

      • Kristen Holden

        H1′s and some other on page elements are becoming less important anyway. I’ve seen various studies which highlight that having content at the top of the page and bolded. Produces the same if not more benefit than the same content in a H1. Googles reasonable surfer patent gives a lot of credibility to focusing more on the prominence of content as though you were a user. Rather than worrying simply about tagging things on the old manner (http://www.seobythesea.com/?p=3806)

        With HTML5 there are a bunch of new tags which can be used to more effectively segment and highlight content within pages.

      • sjerguy

        May I suggest this article on this site ……

        Heading Headaches: Balancing Semantics and SEO

  • jeffgtr

    I work for a medium size company and field at least 4 calls from seo companies a week. I’ve heard it all. We’ll build “x” number of backlinks, there are companies that scrape your sites daily and mirror them someplace else with slightly alternate content, they say they will build blogs, it just goes on and on. The moment I start asking how they could help building a blog that would actually be useful to people so they would naturally visit and then use that as a back link to some other sites, the conversation starts to become labored on their end. Then when you say “ok, right now our pages are coded properly, google understands them, we check our traffic and modify page content accordingly, always keeping the visitor in mind, we know how to purchase a url that reflects the content of our site and on about the normal best practices” what can you do for me beyond that? The conversation pretty much dies down then and they move on to the next unsuspecting lead.

    When we acquire another business I get the invoices from seo companies and they are for crazy amounts. The invoices are littered with terminology a person not involved in the web would not understand. It’s really sad to see people being taken advantage of like this.

    I’m sure there are good seo experts out there that would be worth their fee, however 98% of the calls I field really don’t offer much if you build your site right in the first place. If you have good content, do a good job of promotion, study your analytics and adjust accordingly it will take you a long way. It’s not magic and all the information you need is out there on sites like sitepoint.

    Then there are the kajillion time wasting calls “We can put you on the first page of Google this week or your money back”. My reply is the ONLY way you can do that is with adwords or if you are going to create a story on our company that winds up on the headlines of CNN, ABC etc. We can buy adwords and do keyword analysis but I’m curious about the other magic you have to offer. Again, the conversation is over.

    I’m sure there are many real seo and adword experts out there, but you have a ton of others that are giving you a bad name and wasting a ton of my precious time.

    • Kristen Holden

      Yeah these kinds of practices are exactly what i was trying to highlight. Total and utter scammers who make too good to be true sounding arguments. These arguments in turn then influence the people who have heard it, their friends and everybody else until they try them out and see that the actual return on investment is horrible.

      There are no short cuts to a strong SEO position which you are sure won’t be ‘slapped’ by some algo update. Clients need to be made aware from the very beginning that SEO is conducted over months and years. That the campaign should also align with the sites values and it should deliver value to the end user as well as the search engine.

  • vance

    1. The artificial inflation of the relevancy of information is amoral. If you data is good it will rise.

    2. If you are relying on search engines as a marketing technique you’re stupid.

    3. In 15 years I’ve not met or done business with a single SEO individual or company that did not use link farms, send copious amounts of spam, set of fake blogs not intended for human consumption, try hiding text in page, or engage in other deceitful practices to “trick” search engines.

    4. Any reasonably competent webdeveloper can do the basics to feed search engines what they need.

    5. Instead of tricking search engines, if content owners simply do the things they are paying other people to pretend they are doing they doing; engage communities, understand their target audience and play to it, write meaningfully, produce quality information and products, they would see far more benefits than they will ever get from an SEO huckster.

    SEO is not simply snake oil, it is bad for everybody except the salesman.

    • Kristen Holden

      1: This is not always the case, especially for companies starting out. There is a definite need to have to actually work on promotion. Not in the way you think i may be referring though. Essentially SEO is the same as a good PR strategy. Not trying to create conversations about your business artificially. Simply trying to seed discussions and actually deliver something which is useful to the end user.

      3: As above. SEO is more like PR when done ethically. It’s the sort of thing any small business owner CAN do for themselves if they dedicate the time. Even if they don’t know how the algo’s work, they can still concentrate on developing high quality relationships with related services. Getting their service in front of potential customers on the right sites. The rest flows from those core processes if they have unique and original content.

      4: They can however 90% of the time they don’t. Some of the best developers i have ever come across simply still do not properly take SEO considerations into account. I’ve lectured and taught countless web developers on how to integrate this into their everyday thinking. It definitely needs to become far more standard practise. If web developers were to properly integrate and implement on the actual needs of the search engines and end users. The web would be a much better place.

      5: I agree. See the responses to 1 & 2 above. The best person to be conducting these kinds of activities is the site or small business owner who knows the most about that particular business.

    • David

      Oh please, Vance.
      1. yeah, good luck with that.
      2. if you ONLY rely on search engines as a marketing technique, you’re stupid. Agreed. However, those search engines bring a LOT of money to my clients….depending on the client, 400-800% return on investment is not abnormal.
      3. SEO’s aren’t agents of the W3C, sent out to ensure accessibility for all visitors. We optimize for Search Engines and their stupid algorithms. The morons that still use outdated ‘tricks’ don’t last very long.
      4. Amen. I’m sure they could also learn Chinese and how to tap dance, if they so desired.
      5. Have you ever designed a website for a business owner? Getting copy for a website – much less GOOD written copy, isn’t easy – as I think we all know. Yeah, if you’re a blogger, you should be able to do this without paying someone for SEO.
      Most business owners don’t have time nor do they want to spend the time producing this information – so they pay the SEO or advertising agency or whoever to do it for them. As anything in life, there are those that pay for quality, and those that go cheap. My guess is you’ll never complain about the quality sites that use SEO agencies.
      The fact is, a good SEO gets your site found for the things you WANT to be found for, by the people you want to attract…and hopefully he or she (or they) will also help those visitors take the actions you want them to take, once they arrive. If people think that you’re a giant turd once they land on your site, then all that money you spent on SEO is wasted. That’s where the wheat (good SEO) is separated from the chaff (crappy SEO), so to speak.

  • Blue.

    I’m a developer and I have always looked down on SEO “experts” and that industry (let’s call it industry) with disgust.

    When we look at the source of everything, the way pages should pop up at search engine results is by relevancy of some sort, relevancy being the most accurate way of calculating how important the page is to the keyword and the person looking for information on the keyword.

    And that is great until “SEO experts” come into play and artificially inflate the page’s actual real world relevancy to the term being searched for.

    If I hate something, it must be irrelevant content full of “keywords” that actually tells the visitor nothing about the thing they searched for.
    I tend to run into such websites every now and then and I’m more and more inclined to believe that SEO industry is like common weed among regular crops.

    We have the content.
    We have the markup saying how important a piece of information in document is (h1, strong etc).
    We have people linking the content around if it proves to be useful for specific topic.
    That’s it.
    Please, SEO experts, please let the information get the relevancy in the normal way that google imagined. Please, do not inflate ridiculously irrelevant content with incredibly annoying keywords and please don’t make crappy websites get the attention they don’t deserve.

    • http://www.deathshadow.com deathshadow60

      “making crappy websites get attention they don’t deserve” — I like that… Though I tend to word that another way; Polishing a turd.

      Really a LOT of SEO falls into that category — look at how expertsexchange comes up on damned near every technical question search when they expect you to pay for access to a forums for the answer. They use some of the worst sleazeball trickery (like carefully edited versions of user posts and fake user posts JUST for SEO, endless copypasta of the same question with backlinks to force you to them) to try to get the less than bright to fork out for information freely available if you just click the next link down in Google.

      It’s that type of nonsense that made me realize the advantage of tabs and middle clicking as these days on 90% of my searches I end up having to open five to ten tabs just to find what I’m actually looking for.

      Though “how important” something is in terms of h1, strong, etc is NOT what those tags are for – they are there for structure and to provide meaning, and there’s a difference! Choosing a tag just to inflate the words inside it’s “importance” to the search engine is tag abuse. The tag should say WHAT it is, not how ‘important’ it is. H1 is a heading, all other headings on the page are the start of subsections of that H1. That’s what it’s FOR. Too many people lose sight of that in the name of SEO and shtup their accessibility in the process.

    • Kristen Holden

      #Edited out the mistaken comment#

      I agree with you whole heartedly. There is too much money to be made in too many industries online. Sadly this means that the vast majority of companies are willing to produce content who’s sole purpose is to rank higher in the search engines. This will continue to happen for as long as it still works for the sake of rankings.

      It’s a tough choice to make as an SEO professional. To create a whole bunch of useless crap, simply because it works. Or to take the high road and use only techniques which benefit both users and the results. Trust me there is temptation at every turn. Ultimately though its much easier to go totally ethical and to not worry about a site being devalued down the road due to the algos becoming smarter and realising that all of the content, links and everything else has been overly manipulated.

      Treat SEO like PR. It does mean that you are starting conversations in places which MAY not happen without your influence. However as long as they are really bringing value, leveraging a benefit from that as well. I don’t think there is anything wrong with that. You are just ensuring these conversations are happening in the right place to maximise that benefit. This doesn’t mean go around comment spamming either, far from it!

    • Kristen Holden

      Sorry as i was replying there was a temporary error with the blog and when i refreshed it. Somehow this means it posted my reply to the other comment to yours.

      Sorry :)

  • fn64

    that applies not only to SEO, but to every other profession out there.
    today it’s just too darn easy to claim yourself seo expert or web designer or developer or photographer or writer or whatever. all you need is an internet access. just create a website and start promoting yourself.
    and you know, seo expert sound a lot more hip than car salesman.

    • Kristen Holden

      This is very true. I guess my main experience is with those doing it in the SEO industry why i focused on that.

  • Alex

    I couldn’t agree with you more. That was good read.

  • jnewton

    Thank you all for reassuring my sanity. I’ve just accidentally backed into doing some SEO work on a site that was developed by a local company.

    In a previous life I was an web based application developer for the U.S.Coast Guard and basically developed web based front ends for data bases. Absolutely no need for SEO as no one could access them from outside our intranet. So my exposure to SEO was nil.

    In order to sort out what was needed to help my client get some traffic I started in on a major crash course in SEO. What an eye opener. Real SEO is not easy nor quick. It takes a load of effort and time to get legitimate results. Adwords are like a sugur high and only last a short time and cost an arm and a leg. Keyword stuffing will eventually backfire on you and link farms are a total scam and waste of time. (my opinions)

    It didn’t take long to see the number of snake oil salesmen out there and the garbage that was being espoused. I did find some decent information and it took a while to basically sift it out from the chaff. Good development of a website coupled with some basic concepts of SEO will go a long ways in helping a client garner traffic.

    I’ve learned that SEO is only a part of the necessary overall marketing plan that is necessary to help a company become successful. While not being a marketing expert, or even have much exposure, except during some of my classes way back in the day, I’ve had to over come a steep learning curve. I am making progress.

    I see way too many people relying on a single technology for their success as a business. I see way too many people looking to their websites and SEO to be their magic bullet. More often than not, good solid marketing using a mix of media is going to be a whole lot more successful than just relying on a web site.

    In all likelihood, I’ll never become an expert in SEO, nor do I want to. I do enjoy developing website and I’ll use the SEO knowledge that I’ve gained to develop SEO aware templates for Joomla and WordPress sites that I build.

    BTW, after about three months now, my client is seeing a slight, but steady, increase in web traffic. They are happy, and some am I.

  • sarmenhb

    lol, seo is so dead! the best method today is the social network. run a site where people will find interesting and trow the stuff on there that you want people to know about and they’ll keep coming.

    for example: the iphone jailbreakers have websites that people visit more than a hundred times a day to find out the status on things. i respect what these people are doing but they are dumb in my opinion for not advertising on their site or making any form of income.

    • Kristen Holden

      Sorry but SEO is in no way dead! I completely disagree. Not because i am an SEO professional either. SEO may be becoming more integrated into various other disciplines such as usability and PR. However without any SEO consideration, almost no site will outrank their competitors in any moderately competitive market.

  • http://www.adelaide-website-design.com.au WavyDavy

    Interesting comment you made earlier about html5 tags, which ones do you think are most important for seo and why?

  • Cat Reynolds

    As a not-so-new writer (I write for several successful clients), but a new site owner, I’ve spent months, now, reading about SEO, searching for whatever it is I fear I must be missing–because I just haven’t found any deep, dark secrets to SEO. Everything I’ve read points toward just four things: worthwhile original content, relevant content, backlinks and search-engine-friendly architecture. Aside from those, time and persistence seem to be the next big ingredients. Also, treating SEO as only one piece of the promotional picture strikes me as accurate common sense. Please someone–tell me if my observations are wrong.

    Yet–while I do not pretend I’m an SEO expert; I simply don’t know enough about HTML and site architecture–I do know that when I’m in a small business forum and someone who markets him or herself as an SEO “expert” asks questions that even I know the answer to, I am looking at a charlatan. They seem to everywhere.

    This very helpful and impassioned discussion carries with it the ring of truth. Glad I read it.

  • cfyves

    Great article.

    I’m so very weary when I hear the big numbers and guaranteed search engine results.

    There is certainly no substitute for great content+user accessibility along with sound use of descriptive (non-abusive) data/tags.

    I also loved reading through everyone’s comments.

  • BradMarcus

    I couldn’t agree more with your posting. Companies that promise you “1st page Google” or “100000 links” are just scammers, usually using black hat techniques. My blog, Common Sense Website Marketing, gets hit with at least 20 of their spam comments every day which I manually trash. SEO is not dead, it is quite alive and can truly impact a website for the good. My take on SEO is that you really need to craft the site using proper language in the tags and titles, treating every page as a potential landing page. I had to sound xenophobic, but most of the bad SEO I’ve seen has come from off-shoring efforts to save money. If I had a dollar for every Indian company that solicited my business to off-shore, I’d have a nice savings plan started, but the quality of “my” work would be in the toilet. Like any service industry, there are good companies and bad ones and the trick for companies needing SEO work, which I think all do to some degree, is to check out the perspective SEO company and beware of exaggerated claims. Caveat Emptor!