Bear with me here, the reason for the title will soon become clear! The problem with the term SEO is that it feels as though it’s become a dirty word and that’s actually the fault of SEO Companies themselves.
Let me clarify: There’s two types of SEO in my book. SEO that is right and SEO that is wrong, by wrong I mean doesn’t comply with Google Guidelines which by default makes such SEO practices unsustainable which often results in penalties for a website.
The problem is, many website owners are disillusioned with SEO and that’s often down to the majority of SEOs that circumnavigate Google’s Guidelines in order provide clients with rankings fast. These rankings often later fall off a cliff when they get a penalty (be it algorithmic or manual). Many of these tactics work for a short time, but ultimately often leave webmasters to pick up the pieces when it all goes wrong later.
SEO is not the art of finding loopholes in Google’s Algorithms to rank better. SEO is the art of implementing Google Guidelines and best practices whilst simultaneously providing users with the best possible experience.
So here’s my list of 10 reasons why 89% of SEOs are frankly, idiots.
1. They think ‘Link Building’ is SEO
Link Building is not SEO and SEO is not Link Building. Whilst Links are important (they are after all a significant factor in Google’s algorithm) but it’s important to understand why they are so important:
Links are votes, a link from another website to yours is essentially a vote. Votes, just like an election should be given by choice – or they’re not valid. If someone likes your content they will link to you (or vote for you).
Unnatural Link Building is essentially Vote Rigging – Unnaturally creating links to your site is against the whole idea and this is why Google is heavily penalising websites that obtain “unnatural links.”
In Google’s Guidelines it states very clearly that the best way to get links is to create compelling content that people want to link to:
“The best way to get other sites to create high-quality, relevant links to yours is to create unique, relevant content that can naturally gain popularity in the Internet community. Creating good content pays off: Links are usually editorial votes given by choice, and the more useful content you have, the greater the chances someone else will find that content valuable to their readers and link to it.”
It’s not easy, but neither is winning an election, unless you rig votes of course, then you’ll get the short term benefit until you’re busted – same goes for “building” links.
Earn links, don’t build them.
2. They think Search Engine Optimisation is only about Search Engine Optimisation
Search Engine Optimisation (SEO), in my opinion is no longer an accurate description of the process of getting a website ranked well to get converting traffic in search engines.
Google’s objective is to give the best and most relevant results to users. If your website is of a high quality, earns natural links and answers a user’s search query then it will do well in Google (and other search engines). It’s not easy, but it shouldn’t be.
Essentially, optimise for people and not search engines and the search engines will follow. Optimise for users, think of SUO – Search User Optmisation.
3. They are algorithm chasers
SEO’s and webmasters often dissect Googles algorithm to focus on perceived areas of importance. The problem with this is, that no one outside of Google knows exactly how the algorithms are made up. Yes, understanding the factors is important and helpful (See the following chart), of course it is, but comments such as the below wind me up:
Google’s updated their algorithms, we need to change our SEO approach.
If you’ve said that (or heard that from an SEO) they (or you) are not doing SEO properly. Google updates its algorithms to improve search results. If you’re following the Google Webmaster Guidelines and doing a good job of your SEO (or SUO) then updates are good news, you’ll likely see ranking improvements.
A recent survey of ranking factors based on the opinion of 128 SEOs
So if you are, stop chasing the algorithm and every loophole you think you’ve found and concentrate on following the rule book – the Webmaster Guidelines and providing your visitors with the best possible experience.
4. They wear hats
I hate this, I saw a comment on Moz.com the other day from an SEO claiming he was “Grey Hat.” I assume he meant he was halfway between White and Black Hat, i.e. following the rules and not following the rules.
SEO’s do not wear hats, you’re either conforming to Google’s Guidelines or you’re not.
5. They are traffic chasers
Webmasters do not usually want traffic alone – they want conversions, be them sales or enquiries (or another desired action). SEO should not be intended to simply increase traffic to a website, SEO should be designed to increase conversions.
Traffic has to be relevant and targeted for it to convert. Simply aiming for the numbers won’t always work and whilst 1000s of visits a day may be great for egos, they may not be great for business.
6. They use “Get Ranked Quick Schemes”
Yes, there are loopholes to Google’s algorithms, yes it is possible to get quick rankings and yes it’s relatively easy.
But, rankings obtained in this way are not sustainable.
There are plenty of “Get Ranked Quick Schemes” available but these loopholes are rapidly closing and when they do they often lead to Google Penalties resulting in the destruction of your online business. The ONLY way to perform sustainable SEO is to do it properly and ensuring it conforms to not only the written word of the Google Webmaster Guidelines but also the spirit of them: Don’t assume because the guidelines does not expressly mention you can’t do something it means you can. That’s flawed logic. In real life there may not be a law that expressly states:
“It’s illegal to run naked through the street wearing a cowboy hat” You get the picture.
Google is regularly improving it’s algorithms so keep sustainability in mind and don’t just focus on the written word – think about it.
7. They do not manage your expectations
Client expectations are always difficult to manage. There is a widespread belief that achieving high rankings can be done quickly and those that provide quick rankings are doing a great job.
Well, not always. Again sustainability comes into play here. If you achieve great rankings and get lots of converting traffic relatively quickly then great, if your SEO doesn’t land you in hot water later.
The problem is, misplaced expectations often leads to “Get Ranked Quick Schemes” that in turn result in penalties. It feels like it’s every week I have a company contact me asking for help with their SEO and that the previous two SEO companies have not met the clients expectations. More often than not it’s the clients misplaced expectations and the SEO firms inability to manage these expectations which is to blame.
Many SEO’s need to do a MUCH better job of managing client expectations, there is absolutely nothing wrong with telling a client that it is highly unlikely they will get ranked for “Credit Cards” in two weeks – it’s called honesty and it really is the best policy.
8. They think Google will never catch up with them
Google are never going to catch every website that’s being naughty. Search Engine Algorithms are incredibly complex but they are improving all the time. It is incredibly frustrating when your website is doing everything by the book but is outranked by a website that isn’t. – I get that. However, it doesn’t mean the other website is doing it right, or better and you should follow suit. Again sustainability is key: Be patient and don’t risk taking shortcuts.
9. They deliver vanity rankings – not sanity rankings
By vanity I mean this:
Hi Client, you now rank on page 1 for “Perceived Best Search Term”
Many clients want to rank for what they PERCEIVE to be their “best” term but actually, they don’t. They want to rank for the terms that give them sales and what the terms clients want to rank for might not achieve this, it’s as simple as that. It’s OK for an SEO to explain this to clients, in fact, it’s essential.
The fact is, not everyone can be number 1 for their “main term.” Smart SEO concentrates on longer tail terms that are more likely to convert – and lots of them.
I see it everyday, longer tail terms convert MUCH better than broad all encompassing terms. Everyone searches a little differently here’s some examples:
- Credit cards under 20% APR
- Credit cards for bad credit
- Poor credit credit cards
- Free balance transfer credit cards
Now as long your offerings are relevant to the above, you will likely convert better on these terms than just “Credit Cards.” You’ll potentially get there MUCH faster too. Ranking for hugely competitive terms can take an awfully long time and when you get there you just might be disappointed with how this type of search term converts. I’m not saying you shouldn’t focus on “Big Terms” but they shouldn’t be the entire focus.
The best SEO’s will find opportunities for you to make sales, your ego and craving to be number one for a term shouldn’t come into play. Lets make money and not worry about vanity: Conversions are sanity.
10. They are full time members of the “Google Guidelines Can’t be Trusted Conspiracy Theorists Society”
There appears to be many SEOs that subscribe to the theory that Google can’t be trusted or lie. Lets be objective here, why would Google lie?
The fact is, Google wants to provide searchers with the best possible results, to do this it needs to constantly tweak it’s algorithms to ensure sites that manipulate the system (or are poor quality) don’t artificially rank higher than they should and sites that rank well really deserve to be there. In addition by publishing it’s guidelines to Webmasters, Google is giving us clear advice on how to fit in with this logic and ensure our sites rank well – if they deserve too.
Here’s a comment from a popular forum from someone who claims to know a thing or two about SEO:
This particular individual is essentially claiming that following the Google Webmaster Guidelines will not get you good rankings. Seriously? Where is the logic here? This is typical of many comments on SEO related forums and blogs that i’ve seen.
Unfortunately, it’s this logic which has given the SEO industry a bad name. SEOs such as the above example subscribe to the opinion that because it’s possible to rank a website without adhering to guidelines it’s the way it should be done.
That’s like saying:
There are two ways to get rich, work hard or rob or bank. Both are true, but one will LIKELY get you into a lot of trouble. It’s exactly the same although a bank robber would probably disagree.
Interestingly, a recent Poll on Search Engine Round Table asked: “Is Google Lying To Us?
The results at the time of writing are:
So in other words, roughly 89% of SEOs (Surveyed) think Google tells lies.
In my opinion, that percentage is probably proportional to the percentage of SEOs that are cowboys / clueless / conmen and idiots (See, I told you the title would become clear!)
Google does not want a scenario where sites rank at the top that give a bad experience to users. If it did, it may find less people search Google which means less people to click ads and less revenue for Google. Of course it happens, but it is happening less and will continue to happen less so don’t get caught out.
This alone makes the many statements of “Google wants you to pay for ads rather than rank organically” frankly stupid.
If people don’t search, adverts won’t be clicked. Simples.
Doing SEO properly and to Google’s Webmaster Guidelines ensures your site ranks naturally and sustainably: this goes hand in hand with Google’s ethos of giving users the best possible results.