On my way home tonight my Twitter notifications started to chime. Apparently there was some chatter about SEO being similar to “nasty oil salesman, slimy tactics” and I was being brought into the conversation.
For the last year I have been a very loud advocate for SEO within the WordPress community and I’ve really tried my best to remove the remove SEO lies and other BS discussions from SEO conversations, blog posts, and webinars.
Today’s Chatter on SEO Lies and BS
Here is how the Twitter conversation started and why I couldn’t help but write a quick post about it.
The original tweets from @jeffr0:
My disgust for SEO is a psychological thing that is hard to get over.
I equate SEO to nasty oil salesman, slimy tactics that aren’t necessary to get results, you can get results without resorting to that though.
Oh bless Jeff. I love him and his big heart.
This was followed by a reply by @corymiller303:
@jeffr0 yep – this is one reason I love @rebeccagill – she’s none of that BUT gets results #truestory
Cory and I are friends and he and I have had many discussions on SEO and what it really takes to win on search.
While I’ve never worked with Jeff on SEO or even discussed it with him, I felt like he needed to know not all SEO consultants are untrustworthy. My response:
@corymiller303 @jeffr0 I try hard to pull the BS out of SEO.
Next @bgardner chimes in with:
@rebeccagill @corymiller303 @jeffr0 Sounds like the start of a really good blog post.
Now I might have let this all die, but I did also receive an email today from a random person who uses WordPress:
By the way – I’m a web designer here in the UK and do read your emails / check your blog etc on occasion, always inspiring to see what you’re doing, especially your down to earth, helping your clients do SEO right – without all the seemingly transient catch-phrasing and trending one minute phases, the next not *blah* that seem to litter the web and simply distract from the meat of what is actually relevant to an end user’s attempt at an otherwise confusing world of technology. If you get my drift!
Are you seeing a trend here? And this is only one day of feedback the general public’s view of SEO!
Oy. This is like a dagger through my heart.
SEO Doesn’t Have to Be Full of Lies and Slimy
SEO is good. Or it can be when it is done right and with good intentions.
SEO consultants and the SEO consulting industry can be a huge benefit to a business. The problem is there is no governing body to regulate who calls themselves an SEO expert and/or who throws up a website pushing SEO consulting as a service.
The WordPress community is also to blame. I’ve attended WordCamp presentations and started to listen to podcasts that have speakers on who are talking about SEO. In a lot of cases their views are completely wrong, outdated, and beyond the basic level you pull from a blog post.
It pains me, because it leads people astray on what good SEO is and the real ROI SEO can generate.
In the WordPress examples, intentions are good. Unfortunately WordCamp organizers and podcast hosts don’t generally know who really is knowledgable about SEO and who just dabbles in it. They can’t tell presentation slides that are fully accurate versus slides that are a bit off. Both organizers and hosts are volunteers and this subject matter is not their expertise, thus they have a hard time finding the real SEO experts.
Guess what, website owners do too. They can’t tell who is really knowledgable about SEO and who is just throwing about lies.
But Be Warned: Bad SEO Can Hurt You
Each week I receive emails or read social media posts from people asking for SEO advice and help because someone led them astray with bad information. It could be website developers who forgot about 301 redirects, SEO consultants who took money and paid for links, or marketers who flooded a press release with keyword rich anchor text are all part of my normal.
All of it can hurt SEO efforts and do longterm damage.
Recently a website design prospect stated this to me in email:
Any and all knowledge regarding SEO is great, right?
My reply was heck no. SEO knowledge isn’t all great, because the wrong SEO information can get your website removed from search engines, it can derail your sales funnel, and it can kill your business’ revenue.
I’ve seen the outcome of bad SEO myself over a decade ago when I did it myself (by mistake) and more recently when I’m providing advice to website owners who have felt the harmful ramifications of bad SEO advise from inexperienced SEO consultants. Statements like “almost my entire website is now missing from the Google index” should never come from a business owner.
And when I start really educating people on what SEO really is, they start to wonder what they’ve been paying for since their prior SEO consultants didn’t do any of the things we discuss. So what did they do? No one ever knows, which means they spent money and lots of it for vapor.
SEO Isn’t About a Green Light in a Plugin
If you use WordPress and you’ve heard of the Yoast SEO plugin, you’re familiar with the green light it gives for what should be considered an SEO friendly piece of content. Now I like the Yoast team and I know they are very very knowledgable about SEO. That green light and feedback is there to help people write better content.
The intentions of the Yoast team are honorable (I even mentioned the SEO plugin on my list of favorite website resources) and Yoast isn’t the issue.
The issue is WordPress users mistake that green light for search engine optimization. An SEO plugin does not produce SEO, nor is it search engine optimization. The SEO plugin is just a tool.
An SEO plugin is only a small part of the entire search engine optimization process. Real SEO is research, keyword mapping, site mapping, content generation, on-page optimization, and off-page optimization. It takes months of research, planning, and execution.
SEO plugins will not produce SEO. They are only tools to help you execute a thoroughly researched SEO plan and strategy.
Taking the BS Out of SEO
So how do you know what is good or bad SEO? Remember that old saying if it’s too good to be true, it probably is? Yep the same applies to SEO.
Let’s start with some classic warning signs of SEO BS. If you read or hear these comments from anyone, these lies should send you running like you’ve never ran before. Run Forest run!
- Unsolicited emails from SEO consultants. Quality SEO consultants have people come to them – through search – so they don’t reach out to website owners via email. I’m too busy to randomly review your website and give you free advice. All good SEO consultants are the same.
- I personally know the experts at Google. Ok Matt Cutts did tweet directly to me years ago and Bing has tweeted to me too, but I don’t know them. No one, except for the really well known and long-term SEO experts, know and speak with the employees of Google. And don’t mistake Google’s search team with their Adwords sales reps. Totally different groups of employees.
- I can guarantee you position one on Google. Nope, they really can’t. And this is because only part of SEO is controlled by the SEO consultant. You can work hard to get to page one and rank at the top, but no one can definitively say they can get you there.
- I’ll do all the work on the SEO project. False again. SEO is hard work and the work is distributed across a team that includes the website owner and the SEO consultant.
- I know the algorithms. Nope, you really don’t. As SEO consultants we can only make assumptions and educated guesses based on quality information, plus instinct, and my favorite – good old fashion trial and error.
- Link building is all you need. Wrong again. SEO only works when it is a holistic blend of many tasks. Link building is only a portion of the overall deliverable list.
- You won’t have to write any content. I almost think that statement is the most painful of all. SEO require content that is of high quality, based on specific topics, and optimized for SEO best practices. Without content, there is nothing to rank in search.
- You can’t do SEO yourself. Wrong! DIY SEO is possible, but it requires education. It’s why I offer an online SEO course, coaching, and a soon to be onsite SEO bootcamp. I want to educate you so you can empower yourself to know good SEO and perform your own SEO. Why? Because you can really do it yourself with education.
Putting Integrity Back into SEO
I realize this entire article may sound raw and a bit of a rant. I’m passionate about SEO and I truly believe in the goodness it can offer. I’m also really tired of the lump in my stomach when I have to listen to another person tell me SEO horror stories and darn right blatant lies they’ve been given.
I want to put integrity back into SEO. I’ve based my entire life on integrity and I want to infuse this back into SEO.
In doing so, let me set the record straight on what SEO really is:
- SEO is hard work.
- SEO requires months and months to truly produce longterm results.
- SEO is about planning and execution.
- SEO requires effort on the part of the website owner.
- SEO isn’t voodoo, but it requires education.
- SEO is more than algorithm updates.
- SEO isn’t dead. It is alive and well.
- SEO works but only if you – the website owner – make an effort.
- SEO requires education on the part of the website owner or marketer.
- SEO isn’t hands off.
- SEO isn’t industry specific, but it does require industry knowledge. Your SEO consultant must know your industry or be willing to learn the basics really quickly. This is my superpower and why I’ve had good success with SEO across multiple types of B2B and B2C industries.
- SEO isn’t the devil, nor are the search engines. The search engines want you to do good. The question is will you?
- SEO is best when the user experience is placed as a top priority. Good SEO never trumps what is good for the actual website visitor.
- SEO should empower the website owner to do good and do good for themselves.
If it takes me another year to preach about what is good SEO to the WordPress community, I’ll continue to do so. It needs to be done.
Not because WordPress is filled with bad SEO consultants. We actually have few SEO consultants. It’s because a huge portion of the WordPress community thinks SEO isn’t possible or it isn’t necessary. They’ve given up on it.
I don’t want that to be the case. I want WordPress users to see SEO plugins (like Yoast and All in One) as marvelous tools to help them succeed. And that’s because you can really succeed.
SEO is about education, planning, hard work, due diligence, and perseverance. But those things together and you are bond to find success.
Educate Yourself and Be Empowered
Want to educate yourself on what SEO really is about what really works? Start by downloading my free eBook on The Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization.
If you like what you read, venture over to my course site and learn SEO at your own pace. I’ll warn you now, the course is eight hours of education and that doesn’t even begin to include the time you’ll spend doing homework.
Of if you prefer in person training, consider signing up for our SEO Bootcamp workshop. It’s three days of intensive SEO training in an interactive setting.