The Inconvenient Truth About SEO

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Do you own a website? Do you want to be number one on Google? Whatever you do, don’t spend money on aggressive search engine optimization (SEO). I know that sounds like an extreme position to take. However, a lot of website owners see search engine optimization as the answer to their search ranking woes, when things are considerably more complex.

The inconvenient truth is that the best person to improve your ranking is you. Unfortunately, that is going to take time and commitment on your part. The answer doesn’t lie in hiring a SEO company to boost your website ranking for Google. The problem starts with the term “search engine optimization” and the misconceptions surrounding it.

What SEO Isn’t

Most website owners perceive SEO as a dark art, shrouded in mystery. They have heard phrases like “gateway pages” and “keyword density” or have been bamboozled by technobabble about the way websites should be built. All of this has left them feeling that SEO is the purview of experts. This is a misconception reinforced by certain segments of the SEO community.

The problem is that these kinds of complex techniques do work, to a point. It is possible to improve placement through a manipulation of the system. However, although it can have short term benefits, it will not last without continual investment. This is because the objective is wrong. SEO shouldn’t be about getting to the top of Google for particular phrases. In fact, we shouldn’t be optimizing for search engines at all. We should be optimizing for people. After all, that is what Google is trying to do.

Why You Shouldn’t Be Optimizing For Search Engines

Google’s aim is simple: connect its searchers with the most relevant content. If you are more worried about a good ranking than providing relevant content, then you are going to be fighting a losing battle.

If you hire a SEO company to improve your placement and you measure their worth on the basis of how high they get you in the rankings, then you are out of line with what Google is trying to achieve. Your primary objective should be better content, not higher rankings.

Original, valuable content.1
Image credit: Search Engine People Blog2.

The SEO company can use every trick in the book to get you better rankings, but over the long term they will lose, because Google is constantly changing how it rates websites so it can provide more accurate results.

Remember, you shouldn’t be optimizing for ranking in search engines, you should be optimizing for users.

A Better Way

Google does not make a secret of how to gain a high ranking. It states clearly in its webmaster guidelines3:

“Make pages primarily for users, not for search engines.”

So how do you actually do that? Again Google provides the answer:

“Create a useful, information-rich website, and write pages that clearly and accurately describe your content.”

In short, write useful content. This could include (but is not limited to):

  • Publishing white papers,
  • Writing a blog,
  • Sharing research findings,
  • Producing detailed case studies,
  • Encouraging user-generated content,
  • Creating useful applications or tools,
  • Running a Q&A section,
  • Posting interviews

The list could go on. The key is to produce content people find useful and want to share.

Yes, there are some technical considerations when it comes to search engines. However, any reasonably well-built website will be accessible to Google. You don’t need an expert SEO company for that (at least not if the Web designer does their job right).

As an aside, it is worth noting that if you take accessibility seriously for users with disabilities (such as those with visual impairments), then you will also make a website accessible to Google.

However, setting those technical issues aside, it all comes down to content. If you create great content, people will link to it, and Google will improve your placement. It really is that simple.

The question then becomes, how do you create great content?

The Inconvenient Truth

This is the point where we come to the inconvenient truth. It is hard for an outside contractor to produce the great content that will keep users coming back and encourage them to share. In my experience, this is much better done internally within the organization. The problem is that this doesn’t sit well with most organizations. Its easier to outsource the problem to a SEO company than to tackle an unfamiliar area internally.

Admittedly, a good SEO company will have copywriters on board who can write content for you. However, their knowledge will be limited, as will their ability to really get to know your business. Yes, they can write a few keyword-heavy blog posts that Google will like the look of. However, this won’t fool users, and so the number of links to that content will be low.

The truth is that if you are serious about improving your placement on search engines, it has to be done internally.

This truth is all the more painful, as most organizations are not configured to do this properly.

Organizational Change Required

The more I work with organizations on their digital strategy, the more I realize how few are structured to do business in a digital world. The issue of SEO is an ideal example of the problem.

Responsibility for the website normally lies with the marketing department. Although marketing is well-experienced in producing and writing marketing copy that outlines the products and services the organization provides, they are not best equipped to write content that will be heavily linked to.

It is not surprising that if you search on a term like “call to action4,” the top results are almost exclusively informational articles, rather than companies helping with services in this area.

The problem is that marketeers are experts in the product or service being sold, not necessarily the surrounding subject matter. For example, the marketing department of a company selling healthy meals will know everything about the benefits of their product, but will have a limited knowledge of nutrition. Unfortunately, people are more likely to link to a post on healthy eating tips than they are to link to some marketing copy on a particular health product.

What you really need is the nutritional expert who designed the meal to be posting regularly to a blog, talking about what makes a healthy diet. A blog like this would include lots of linkable content, would be able to build a regular readership and would produce keyword-rich copy.

The problem is that this is not how organizations are set up. It is not the nutritional expert’s job to write blog posts; that responsibility belongs in marketing.

The Long-Term Solution

Ultimately organizations need to change so that online marketing is a more distributed role with everybody taking responsibility for aspects of it. I am not suggesting that the central marketing function has no role in digital, but rather recognizing that they cannot do it alone. Others will need to have some marketing responsibilities as part of their role.

For example a company selling healthy meals should allocate one afternoon each week for their nutritional experts and chefs to share their expertise online. It would become the marketing department’s responsibility to support these bloggers by providing training, editorial support and technical advice.

Unfortunately, these experts are often the most valuable resource within a business, and so their time is incredibly valuable. The idea of “distracting” them from their core role is too much for many companies to swallow.

However, in the short term there is still much that can be done.

A Short-Term Solution

As we wait for companies to wake up and change the way they are organized, there are ways of working within the system.

If you haven’t already, consider hiring an employee dedicated to creating content for your website. You can partially finance it with the money you save by getting rid of your SEO company.

If that is beyond your budget, consider hiring a short-term contractor or a part-time staff member. You could even use an existing member of your staff as long as they have time set aside to prevent the Web being pushed down the priority list. Although this person won’t have the knowledge to write all the content themselves, by being situated inside of the business it will be much easier for them to get access to those within the organization who do.

Arrange meetings with these experts and talk to them about their role. Identify various subjects based on their knowledge and then either record a video interview or write up a blog post based on what they share. Also ask these experts what news sources they read or which people within the industry they follow. Monitor these sources and ask your expert to comment on what is shared. These comments can be turned into posts that add to the wealth of content on your website.

Finally, you may find that the experts within the business are already producing a wealth of content that can act as source material for content that users will find interesting.

For example, our fictional nutritional expert probably already has documentation on the health benefits of certain food types or how certain conditions can be helped through healthy eating. Admittedly this kind of material might be too dry or academic, but with some editing and rewriting it would probably make great online content.

The content you post does not have to be long, it just has to be link-worthy. The key is to share the opinion of your expert and provide content of value to your audience.

As that audience grows, start asking questions. Maybe even get some of your readers to share their experiences or knowledge. Over time you will discover that not only will your readers want to contribute, so will your experts. As they see the value in posting content regularly to the website, they will start blogging themselves. All you will have to do is suggest topics and edit their output.

I know what you are thinking: it just isn’t that simple.

No More Excuses

I realize this is a big cultural shift for many organizations. Marketing teams will feel they are losing control, the person responsible for blogging will feel out of their depth and the experts may resent being asked lots of questions. However, what is the alternative?

For better or worse, Google demands good content in return for high rankings. Pretending that SEO companies can magically find a shortcut that allows you to avoid this tradeoff just isn’t going to cut it.

If you care about how you rank, it is time to take responsibility for your website’s content. Once you overcome the initial hurdle, you will find that producing quality content on an ongoing basis becomes second nature.

Update (17.12.2012)

After a heated discussion in comments to this article, in social channels and via Skype, Paul clarified his position in the article How I See The Role of SEO5 in his blog. We are republishing the article for the sake of making his arguments clear and unambiguous — of course, with Paul’s permission.—Ed.

There seems to be the perception that I want to see an end to the SEO sector. Although I have issues with the name, I do believe they have a role.

Last week I once again6 expressed my concerns about website owner’s obsession with SEO in a post for Smashing Magazine7.

My message can be boiled down to the following points:

  • Website owners are unhealthily obsessed with their rankings on Google.
  • We should be creating primarily for people and not search engines.
  • The best way to improve your ranking is to produce great content that people link to.
  • That great content is better produced in-house, rather than being outsourced to an agency.
  • A good web designer can take you a long way in making your site accessible to search engines.
  • Before you spend money on an SEO company, make sure you have the basics in place first.

An Unfortunate Response

Unfortunately this caused a massive and aggressive reaction in the SEO community. Smashing Magazine was attacked for publishing the post, I was told I was out-of-date and ill informed (which is of course entirely possible), but worst of all there were a shocking number of attacks on me personally.

To be honest this doesn’t entirely surprise me. I have been working with the web long enough to be all too aware of the over reaction it creates in people. However, it is always hurtful when somebody attacks you as a human being, rather than your opinion.

Of course not everybody was like that. I had great conversations with Bill Slawski8 and Joost De Valk9, both of who attempted to put me straight personally and on their blogs. I very much appreciate them taking the time and they have helped to soften my views.

SEO Companies Do Have A Role

I think it is important to stress that I do believe SEO companies have a role. The problem is they are often brought in when there is still much work that could be done internally within the organisation.

To me its about return on investment. Why spend money improving your search engine rankings when you could spend the same money improving rankings and producing more engaging content? Or why not spend money on improving your rankings and building a more accessible website?

There are two exceptions to that general rule of thumb.

Content strategy

First, the SEO industry is changing. They are increasingly helping clients with content and that is great. However, if that is the role they are going to take then they need to stop saying they are about “search engine optimisation.” Creating great content is not primarily an SEO job. They have a branding issue there.

Also, although I am happy for an SEO company to help educate clients about content they shouldn’t be writing copy for them week and week out for them. Take the approach of a content strategist who trains up the client, provides them a strategy and then encourages them to take on the role themselves. Isn’t that better for the client?

Cleaning up after bad web designers

The second exception is where the web designer has built an inaccessible website. As Joost De Valk said in his response to my post10, it falls to the SEO company to clean up the mess.

This is obviously an issue that needs addressing in the web development community and why we need people like Joost speaking at web design conferences.

However, I wouldn’t expect a web developer to provide all of the technical subtleties of an SEO company. That is probably too specialist for most web designers to do.

I don’t doubt that these subtleties are important and do make a difference to rankings. However, once again it is important that we have the basics in place first:

  • Great content.
  • A solidly built website.

Setting The Right Priorities

Hopefully that helps clarify my position slightly. I am not for a minute trying to destroy the SEO sector (as I was accused of repeatedly). What I am trying to do is set priorities straight.

I guess in short it is the phase “search engine optimisation” I have a problem with. It implies we should be accommodating the idiosyncrasies of search engines above the needs of users.

That is something I will never compromise over and I am sure something the vast majority of SEO companies would agree with.

(cp)

Footnotes

  1. 1 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sepblog/3649959481
  2. 2 http://www.flickr.com/photos/sepblog/3649959481
  3. 3 http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=35769
  4. 4 https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=%22call+to+action%22
  5. 5 http://boagworld.com/marketing/concerns-about-seo/
  6. 6 http://boagworld.com/marketing/i-dont-get-seo/
  7. 7 http://www.smashingmagazine.com/?p=150423
  8. 8 http://www.seobythesea.com/2010/03/good-seo/
  9. 9 http://yoast.com/seo-paul-boag/
  10. 10 http://yoast.com/seo-paul-boag/

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Paul Boag has been working with the web since 1994. He is now co-founder of the web design agency Headscape, where he works closely with clients to establish their web strategy. Paul is a prolific writer having written the Website Owners Manual, Building Websites for Return on Investment, Client Centric Web Design, Digital Adaptation and numerous articles for publications such as .net magazine, Smashing Magazine and the Web Designers Depot. Paul also speaks extensively on various aspects of web design both at conferences across the world and on his award winning Web design podcast boagworld.

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  1. 1

    Well written HTML is the best SEO you can have.

    -21
  2. 6

    Great post Paul and to be honest this is what we have been trying to convince our own clients to pursue for years. Unfortunately (to some) it looks easier to “throw Money at it” and hire a silver bullet SEO team than it does to really knuckle down and break the mould of a new approach or process.

    16
    • 7

      Here’s the unofficial timeline of this article:

      1pm: Article published.
      1:10pm: First comment.
      1:15pm: Flood of glowing comments from designers already lurking on the Smashing blog.
      1:17pm: After high-fiving, designers begin to get uneasy, look around and lick their lips.
      1:24pm: First designer openly disagrees.
      1:26pm: Peaceniks shout that it’s only linkbait, don’t get crazy, people.
      1:30pm: First SEO charges in and fires the first shot.
      1:40pm: SEO community crashes in, enraged.
      1:41pm: Designers flee to Reddit, cowering.

      32
      • 8

        Sums it up perfectly lol :)

        Last time I post about SEO*, you guys are like the mafia of the web.

        * Actually i have some more thoughts on monday based on comments.

        3
  3. 9

    Good stuff Paul. A reassuring read for small time bloggers (like me) as well. Just make sure your writing is top notch and ditch the shady tactics.

    0
  4. 10

    Good post, Paul. Ya hit the nail on the head.

    0
  5. 11

    We did this over two years ago. We ditched our SEO company, brought it in house, and changed the focus from explicit ranking methods to working on making the website best for the user.

    The sad reality though is Google are not completely innocent in how they rank websites. We know of competitors in our industry who are using automated link wheel software (the sheer number of fake websites/blogs they create makes it impossible to be manual) and lo and behold, they jump from absolutely nowhere to being top 5 position for the most competitive key phrases in our industry.

    It is so blatant what they are doing, yet Google allows it, and ranks them higher than companies like ours who engage in “genuine” SEO like all of the above.

    Incidentally, we do now rank higher than those we identified were using dodgy tactics. So you could argue it works out in the end. It’s just frustrating that it took so long.

    And when it comes down, purely, to a case of which method is going to get your business to the top and get the cash flow through the business – can you blame many for choosing the dodgier, frowned upon methods?

    23
    • 12

      Agreed. Sadly that’s just the commercial reality. I think we’d all like to produce perfect HTML, original and engaging content. What works in the shortest term is often the route taken. I think google has to really take a huge chunk of responsibility for this because its system is still playable.

      2
    • 13

      Nathan Giesbrecht

      December 11, 2012 5:08 pm

      I agree that it’s frustrating when black hats have success. But it’s always a joy knowing that you can sleep well the day of an algorithm update, instead of seeing traffic fall off a cliff, panicking and having to undo months worth of work :)

      3
  6. 14

    Agreed Paul. What are your thoughts on doing design internally?

    7
    • 15

      Absolutely. I have no problem with that. In fact in many cases that is the more sensible route.

      I guess you expected me to say otherwise :)

      0
  7. 16

    Hi Paul,
    first of all, thank you very much for your article, even so I’d like to disagree in some points at last.

    Just imagine the case that a company, freelancer, artist, musician, band or whoever else created a wonderful website, with truly unique content that has not been published anywhere else but still won’t rank high enough in Google to be among the “Top 10″ then what is it that he or the company has to do?
    Or what about a highly competitive market, a company that has to compete with 10 others (e.g. large format printers in Germany is one of those) and just fails in targeting the user the proper way? Isn’t the

    I agree with you that companies know their products better than anybody else but shouldn’t it be the job of a leading SEO-Company to learn about their client instead of just publishing “Marketing-Content” in the very first place?
    We found a way how to deal with our clients in a honest and good way. We do not tell our clients that we are some kind of magic boys and girls that have some secret knowledge. We care about our clients, about their story, their products, their goals. We take most of our efforts in learning about their products, communicating with the internal marketing department, engineers, sales persons. We spend the rest of our time with writing valuable, unique and honest content, placing it on the right parts of our clients websites – which is working out great so far. So our clients always know that we just do have the experience on how to create content that both (and exactly in this order) user and search engines like and help our clients to gain more success with their business.
    Usually we although tell them about how to do it on their own but as you might have experienced as well, some of them are either too busy or too inexperienced to do it properly.

    In my opinion SEO companies should concentrate a lot more on usability, true and valuable content for the users instead of tweaking a little here and there to make their clients believe that there is some kind of magic in SEO!

    23
    • 17

      I totally agree with every word you wrote. It sounds like you are doing everything right.

      I do however have one question: Why call yourself an SEO company? Sounds to me that you are a content company.

      You are producing great content for your clients and their users. It just so happens that has a SEO benefit. Users first, search engines second.

      11
      • 18

        Companies like Ben’s (and mine) call themselves “SEO” companies because that’s what we were before Google started truly ranking sites with good usability. In the infancy of SEO, Google was ranking sites totally differently from the way it ranks them now.

        “SEO” companies have evolved just as Google has. In my experience, we do operate more like the “content” companies you’re describing, but my gut reaction to the idea of removing the word SEO from our marketing strategy is that we would lose a lot of traffic from companies who know they want to break into online marketing, and only know that that means something about ranking on search engines, thus “SEO” speaks to those people a lot more strongly than “content” does.

        5
      • 19

        Paul, I was going to disagree with part of your premise while agreeing with the main thrust but you caught up with me with this comment. I think companies still need outside expertise in managing content. You say stop calling it SEO, call it a content company and I know of several SEO companies who have made that switch (or branded themselves as infographic firms). The fact is, 1/2 your contents value is determined by it’s use to the user, the other half is determined by how many people actually see it. Content has to be managed and marketed properly. I mentioned infographics, one of my main income streams right now is developing social campaigns around infographics. We develop blogger networks and get links to the bloggers moving on social channels. The bloggers writing about the infographics then feeds the main site. It’s the sort of esoteric skill most companies don’t have in house and doesn’t merit a full time person with a full time salary and benefits package, but it’s necessary to market content. It isn’t traditional SEO, but SEO Agencies are the ones paying my billings here as a subcontractor. SEO isn’t obsolete, it’s just changing with the times. The key for some may be fire SEO, but for many others it is make sure you have an SEO Agency that understands how to navigate a web that values content and connectivity above all.

        1
    • 20

      I agree Ben, but your company should not be named “SEO-Company”, you guys do more than that, you’re doing exactly what old school IT do (analysis, design , and programming). SEO community is totally lost, they don’t know what they are or what they really do, SEO’s intentions since the beginning was to create techniques (a mix of key words and key phrases placed in the </HEAD tag) oriented to cheat Google's ranking engine. That approach kicks them back when Google just did minor changes to their engine(s), and then SEO guys learn again how Google ranks pages, and now they are offering "Content creation strategies" sending millions of un-solicited emails.

      0
  8. 21

    Paul, I couldn’t agree more. You’re spot on.

    My gripe lies with the scammer “SEO companies” who I see getting business and in reality.. stealing hundreds and thousands of pounds from clients.

    1
    • 22

      He’s actually far from spot on you know…

      Your gripe however, is warranted. But that’s targeting those SEO’s who can’t tell their arse from their elbow or are only setting out to rip customers off.

      6
  9. 23

    Paul, I would love to tap away at these keys pouting and defending SEO but you managed to do it for me by filling your author bio full of keyword targeted anchors.

    56
  10. 25

    Do you know what ‘structured data’ is, and what its relevance is to search engines? Do you understand what a duplicate content issue is, and the impact it can have on a website’s visibility in search results? Do you know what a robots.txt does, or what use a meta robots tag has?

    You easily dismiss SEO as useless, but I would bet a sizeable chunk of money that you don’t have the faintest grasp of what SEO actually is. For starters, you don’t seem to understand the nuances between technical on-site SEO – a very important part of a successful website – from the manipulative practices which you so eagerly decry.

    You make some good points about content creation and taking in-house ownership of this, but unfortunately due to your misleading headline and confused introduction this will be mostly lost on your readers. All they will take away is that SEO is evil, content is key (ironically this is exactly what SEO focuses on, but hey, you obviously don’t know), and that hiring a SEO agency is a bad idea.

    You are doing your readers, as well as Smashing Magazine, a grave disservice by publishing such uninformed, misguided disinformation.

    (Also, you seem to have no qualms about using SEO best practices yourself, specifically in the anchor texts you choose…)

    112
    • 26

      Thanks Barry, for showing both the author and the ones that, without any critics, agree with him, the real (Inconvenient) Truth!

      -2
    • 27

      This is exactly what I was about to type before you beat me to it. This article dismisses the technical aspects of SEO and makes the rather absurd claim that “if you create great content, people will link to it.” If I took this article seriously, it sounds like any decent writer with no technical experience can start a WordPress blog and start ranking for competitive keywords just because the Google Gods reward quality content.

      I agree that SEO isn’t a dark art, and there are plenty of “churn and burn” companies out there who try to exploit the system so that they can get top rankings for a few hours before Google burns them. But this isn’t the only type of SEO out there.

      5
    • 28

      I have obviously made you angry Barry and I am sorry about that. You are more than welcome to disagree with me, but that doesn’t mean my opinion does not deserve a voice.

      Please don’t make assumptions about my level of knowledge. I do know about all of things you have talked about, I just don’t see evidence that they have as much value as writing great content.

      My primary argument is a simple one. We shouldn’t be optimising for search engines, we should be optimising for people. You can agree or disagree with that. That is your right, but in saying that I am merely quoting Google.

      In my opinion many SEO companies shouldn’t call themselves that. Good SEO companies are more like content strategy companies and are primarily focused on creating great content. They do themselves a dis-service calling themselves SEO companies.

      -5
      • 29

        “I have obviously made you angry Barry” – oh no. Trust me. You’d know if you really made me angry.

        “Please don’t make assumptions about my level of knowledge.” – that’s funny, as you seem to be making an awful lot of assumptions about what SEO is and what its value is.

        “We shouldn’t be optimising for search engines, we should be optimising for people. ” – Agreed. Guess what? People use search engines. A LOT.

        “in saying that I am merely quoting Google.” – do you understand how propaganda works? Google are masters at it. Don’t take everything they say at face value. In fact, distrusting everything Google says is a rather sensible approach.

        If, however, you want to genuinely believe that Google only ranks great content, I have some great seaside property in Switzerland you might be interested in.

        “They do themselves a dis-service calling themselves SEO companies.” – the debate about how SEO should call itself as as old as SEO. The litmus test is what customers understand. I can call myself a content strategist or inbound marketer or growth hacker all I want – if I have to explain it to a customer, I’m not likely to get the contract.

        I’ll stick with SEO for now, Paul. Why don’t you stick with design. After all, you don’t see me blogging about all that is wrong about web design. It’d be a bad blog, because I’m not a designer.

        And you’re not a SEO. Remember that. Your responsibility stops (more or less) when the site goes live. That’s where mine really begins. It’s easy to criticise whilst standing on the sidelines.

        You make websites – I make websites successful.

        17
        • 30

          Actually I am not a web designer. I haven’t built a website for one of my clients in a long, long time. I provide consultancy services for my client and guess what, one of the things they ask for my advice about is whether they should hire an SEO company.

          Here is the problem the SEO community has been unable to persuade me why I should tell my clients to go for it. Surely that is an issue? Surely it is your job to explain to me what you do in a way that I get and clients get.

          You wrote: “The litmus test is what customers understand.” – Client see SEO as a magic bullet that gets them rated number one on Google. Is that what you offer? I don’t think so, so why call yourself an SEO company.

          5
          • 31

            “Client see SEO as a magic bullet that gets them rated number one on Google.” – yes, partially because of blog posts like yours that paint an entirely inaccurate picture of SEO.

            “so why call yourself an SEO company.” – my company is actually a creative agency, and SEO is one of many things we do (and rather well, even if I do say so myself).

            The ‘SEO magic bullet’ issue has been a pervasive one, and not unique to the SEO industry. Yes, we need to educate people on what SEO really is and what its added value is (and trust me, there’s a lot of added value in proper SEO).

            But blog posts like yours don’t clarify anything – they make things worse. Do you genuinely care about the public perception of SEO? Stop writing ill-informed pieces like this one.

            7
          • 32

            “Here is the problem the SEO community has been unable to persuade me why I should tell my clients to go for it.”

            Do you want searchers to find you or not? I think it’s really that simple.

            4
          • 33

            “Jerry, Jerry, Jerry!!!!”

            I guess this is the geek version of it.

            Ohhh I love being a nerd!

            -1
        • 34

          “Trust me. You’d know if you really made me angry.”

          Oh no, mister, I am so very scared of your implications and accusations on the internet. Please don’t hurt me! /sarcasm

          Whilst I don’t necessarily agree with everything Paul said, the sad fact you will come to understand sooner or later is that at the end of the day, the end-user cares very little about catch-phrases such as “SEO”.

          Most website viewers don’t know what they mean and nor do they care. They’re looking for good quality content, and if you can’t provide that then you won’t sustain a high user count for very long.

          It’s all well and dandy to be within the top 10 ranked sites on Google for your chosen keywords, and SEO companies can certainly help you get there, but it’s usually through means that may end up deterring end-users from ever bothering to visit your website again.

          My point? Getting on the first page of Google means jack-all if people visit your website once and never return. You want to retain users and gain potential customers? Then start writing good, interesting content. Nobody gives a crap about how awesome your keyword selection is or how far up you are on Google.

          4
          • 35

            If no one can find your content, no one will give a crap how good and interesting it is. Ranking well for relevant, well-trafficked keywords is a means to an end. If you can’t understand the value in it, don’t “do” SEO. Maybe people will find your website by typing random things into their address bar?

            1
          • 36

            Much of SEO is focused on the idea that “content is key” anyway.

            SEO and good content should co-exist with each other, and in most cases they do, but to say that other SEO tactics is the “be-all, end-all” of website management and SEO in general is absolutely ignorant.

            Like I said: It doesn’t matter how far up you are on Google’s page listing if your contest is boring, shallow and uninteresting.

            If you’re trying to make money off your website your goal should be retaining a regular atmosphere of viewers, not being in the top 1% of Google’s listings and having a high bounce rate.

            0
        • 37

          I know I’m years late to the party, but just fair warning: your “profession” is slowly dying and will soon be automated. You should probably learn development so that you aren’t left out in the cold when search engines automate you out of a job. :)

          0
      • 38

        Paul –

        These are not assumptions about your level of knowledge as you are blatantly unaware of the conversion improving implications of Barry’s examples when you state things like “I just don’t see evidence that they have as much value as writing great content.”

        Furthermore, ‘writing great content’ means absolutely nothing if no one can find it, whether that be through search engines or offline promotion – content created in a vacuum serves no purpose.

        /rant

        18
        • 39

          As algorithms get better then good content, a properly developed and designed website, with some social networking will get found in the long run. There are lots of good SEO companies that can really help a website get to the masses but this chicken and egg argument is getting ridiculous.

          1
  11. 40

    I am but a small fry in the scheme of the web world but I wholeheartedly agree with this article. I would so much rather spend my time trying to help or inform someone than back linking from a thousand forums or jamming keywords down people’s throats. Being useful rather than spammy just feels right!

    -7
    • 41

      that’s a very small piece of SEO…

      0
    • 42

      Andrea: I’m sorry that this is the perception of SEO that you have gotten from this article or elsewhere. What you are talking about though is Black Hat SEO (read: spam masters who hide under the SEO front). In reality it involves providing all the necessary information for search engine to crawl your site successfully and getting credit and reference from other websites (voluntarily) to help Google understand that your site is legit.

      Please do not be afraid to do research on this and any other topics beyond reading a single blog post (although I am guilty of that sometimes as well, especially when it comes to SM).

      0
  12. 43

    I was on my way… thinking that your article was going to support my views on SEO… because I know it’s all a bunch of crap (dodgy techniques by shady companies). But you lost any authority at the word “reenforced”. I know this is just noise in an article that probably has a whole bunch of merit… but I stand by my point.

    -16
  13. 44

    I see your point, however SEO isn’t only about on-site optimization, A lot of time and effort has to be put into getting quality and relevant sites to link to you. It’d be a mistake to make site owners think that decent rankings can be achieved only by ticking all on the boxes on their sites. Yes it’s very important, essential even, but that’s not all it’s about.

    9
    • 45

      Wrong. That IS what is about. If you are creating sites and content to link back to your site purely to improve your ranking you are being ‘evil’ as Google would say and messing up the internet for the rest of us. Get off!

      -10
    • 46

      Can I ask what you believe the number of reason people choose to link to you? Is it not producing content worthy of being linked to.

      7
      • 47

        Of course it is. And I would never advocate spammy link building techniques or anything like that. All I’m saying is that while quality content is the basis for everything, it’s not all that’s going to make people’s sites rank well and it’s important they’re aware of it.
        @xdoomx Very nice comment. Is such attitude really necessary?

        0
  14. 48

    Thank you. Finally someone saying it loud! I have always tried to explain to clients that there are no magic tricks involved in this issue, they just need good and properly structured content. Next time I will give them this article to read.

    -1
  15. 49

    Nice clear story. Thanks
    Indeed for small companies that drive on the people running it, the website and content should come from them and not from an outside SEO company. Technical articles, advise to customers, news about the market, stories about you and/or the companies ideas. We also try to do those things. Not always easy, but as you say, it’s all about the long term !

    I see in the comment above the remark about other website linking to you. In the long term other website will link to you when you have an interesting story to tell and information to give, not because for instance you pay them money.

    0
  16. 50

    Great analysis Paul. As a webdesigner and developer I try to explain to my clients that they have to provide good content for their websites after I’ve done the design & development part (accessible and with the right mark-up of course) and that it will be their good content that will make the site rise on Google. No way, they simply don’t listen. They want SEO, SEO is the “magic” word and many SEO agencies just let them believe it! I completely agree with your article, but I think it will take a long long time before companies change their minds about this point. At the end, if your website is not first on Google, saying that the SEO company you hired was incompetent is far more simple than writing good content :)

    3
  17. 51

    First things first. I’m a designer that works for a company where a big portion of turnover comes from SEO related services.

    As much as I respect Paul I dislike the amount of SEO bashing posts that appear in the web community and often see SEO related posts that do come out as rather basic and at worst inaccurate. SEO is poorly represented in this industry fueled by much misinformation.

    Our two communities lack the necessary cross flow of information for designers and developers to sufficiently understand the current state of the SEO industry. There’s is a younger industry than ours and while black-hat and spammy techniques are still undertaken in some quarters these are largely the actions of a young industry testing the boundaries, paying the price for failure and thus not undertaken by ethical SEO companies.

    The industry has grown and isn’t about gaming the system anymore instead its about providing expert guidance on optimising that last 10-20% of a site to ensure the site is as good as it can be; built correctly and containing good content that not only serves the users but is relevant to the search terms a company would wish to be found by.

    Much like our industry has grown to sell the services of UX professionals to take a website to the next level and have a website connect with it’s audience better so too can SEO’s come and ensure a website is connecting well with search engines. It’s foolish to think designers or developers have the necessary skills to ensure a site is the best it can be for search engines whilst having to learn and know so much other stuff too.

    Personally I’d like to see more SEO experts be invited to web conferences and not necessarily speak about the minute details of their job but give a better account of what being an SEO involves as too many in the web community have a grossly skewed view of what it means to be an SEO today.

    If that can’t happen then a response in Smashing Magazine from a highly respected SEO would be a good way to present a balanced argument.

    26
    • 52

      You make a lot of good points Kean, but I have a couple of points of my own to make.

      First, it strikes me as strange that after having these discussions with SEO people over many, many years and working with many more, I still am to find a company able to explain the benefit of optimising for search engines. I am yet to be convinced.

      Second you write,

      “Optimising that last 10-20% of a site to ensure the site is as good as it can be.”

      There are so many companies who haven’t got the first 80% right in terms of great content and well built sites. I believe they should have these things in place before worrying about rankings. My problem with SEO is that clients become obsessed with this over anything else.

      11
      • 53

        Certainly clients can become over obsessed with ranking number 1 for so called vanity terms but this isn’t necessarily the fault of an SEO company.

        I know that a good company manages the expectations of clients so much so they would advise against increasing rankings thus traffic if the company is unable to accommodate the increase in customers. Good companies focus on how SEO leads to increased profit and customer satisfaction and not just on rankings.

        SEO is only one small part of a bigger whole and my last 10-20% might be misleading. SEO’s should be hired much earlier in the process and not be seen as people to hire at the end of a new build. This way they become part of the larger team and everyone works more closely to achieve the best results with SEO’s advising early on potential issues they can observe in the build and the content.

        I hope the comments in this post give you (and others) a little more idea about the good work SEO can do above and beyond the more widely known techniques that many designer and developers should simply implement as standard. I think it’s a valuable part of the process and shouldn’t be simply dismissed by so many as it so often appears to be.

        3
      • 54

        “I still am to find a company able to explain the benefit of optimising for search engines. I am yet to be convinced.”

        Paul, I think this right here is 50% of the problem, while many SEO’ers can make arguments for the amount of people that use search, very few (especially those “We’ll get you to #1″ SEO companies) can make arguments for the ROI on SEO. SEO is so ambiguous that it is often not traceable accurately [keyword accurately], making a measurable ROI almost impossible.

        -1
        • 55

          Jonathan, you can measure ROI of SEO practices in the same manner as you would perform A/B testing on your site.

          0
          • 56

            Dmitri, A/B testing is very popular in marketing and business right now. But, in scientific research, while it is used frequently, it is troublesome. First, it is full of potential bias. Second that bias is very difficult to account for. Research papers using A/B testing also have long paragraphs explaining exactly how the tests were constructed ( not just how they were done). A/B testing is hard to get right and even then should be taken with a grain of salt. So I think it is not so easy to just disregard Jonathan’s point.

            0
  18. 57

    It is good to have a search engine optimized website but that is not the only thing you need. Content is very important. Page rank, keyword density and everything will automatically improve if your website is really useful to the users. Well said Paul Boag…

    0
  19. 58

    What a polemic article. And yes, it did work. It raised enough attention (and anger) to make me comment. Well done, Paul. At least for that part.

    The way I perceive your article’s tone you seem to implement that SEO is indeed “dark art”.

    “The SEO company can use every trick in the book to get you better rankings, but over the long term they will lose, because Google is constantly changing how it rates websites so it can provide more accurate results.”

    I could not disagree more! A (good) SEO company does not use “tricks”. It does other things like:

    - Helps you to learn and understand your users and their search behaviour. Simple example: Sony did some years ago a microsite (in Germany) for their projectors. They used the (technically correct) term “Overhead Projektor”. A big failure, because in Germany everyone (aka “the user”) calls them “beamer”. Another example: Notebook or Laptop? Similar usage for the consumer, different search volume makes the difference if you run a small specialized blog or notebook shop

    - Helps you to learn and understand your competitive environment. Who is your (Search engine) competitor? Very often, it is not the competitor ppl have in mind first. Example: For Mercedes Benz, BMW or Audi might be the biggest competitors “in real life”. In search engines, it is rather a used car market or a car magazine because BWM does not rank for many of the same keywords like Mercedes Benz.

    With other words: A good SEO agency/company/freelancer helps you to find or refine your search engine / keyword strategy. And it does more:

    - Helps you to avoid common technical mistakes. There are many websites accidentially have a “no index” mark which was set during the setup of the CMS and has never been deleted. There are many websites which does not have a valid robots.txt nor a valid sitemap. There are many websites having a lot of broken internal links (aka 404). The list is much longer… just some very common examples

    A good SEO agency helps you with onpage optimization so you can concentrate on content instead of technology

    The summary of your post sounds to me like “Just provide good unique content and the web will find you…”? Really?

    What if Google never finds you because you did not get a single link? Not a single social mention? Unrealistic? Not for many SMB or SoHo websites I came across when working with a big international hosting company! Especially for those website owners it is important to understand why (Back)Links are important. It is important to have an idea, a strategy where they can get links (aka recommendations) from. Because (good) link marketing or link building is nothing else than traditional recommendation marketing: just take care that your target group, your potential audience, your multipliers and your evangelists notice you – and if they like you, your content or product, they might recommend you (aka give you a backlink).

    So, don’t get me wrong: Content IS king, yes. You need to have unique, valuable content providing an added value for your users. But take care that your website does meet basic search engine requirements, that you are aware of the search behaviour of your audience and you do some recommendation marketing. And if all that takes to much time from you and stops you to produce valuable content, maybe call a (good) SEO company!

    40
    • 59

      You will be shocked to discover I agree with you. However, what you have described isn’t (or at least shouldn’t be) called an SEO company.

      You have described well designed and built sites. You have described a well implemented content strategy.

      By talking about SEO we are saying to clients that they should be optimising for search engines. But as you say, its not just about that, its about a lot more.

      Dump the name SEO and I think we would find ourselves in much closer agreement.

      Oh and by the way, SEO companies DO have a terrible reputation like it or not. There are those who using all kinds of techniques that are not advisable. That is the reality. Yes, it shouldn’t be that way but it is. As somebody who is obviously doing good work I would distance myself from that crowd by realigning the way you present the work you do. Hence dump the term SEO. It missells you.

      6
      • 60

        Your argument of what the industry “should” or shouldn’t be called is null. The industry Martin is describing is what SEO has evolved into. Changing the name of the industry would confuse less digital-savvy business owners and drive business away.

        7
      • 62

        “Oh and by the way, SEO companies DO have a terrible reputation like it or not. There are those who using all kinds of techniques that are not advisable. That is the reality.”

        - How many web designers are out there who do not think about site navigation or UX? Who code badly and don’t optimise images properly etc etc?? Every industry has cowboys.

        2
        • 63

          while this is true, some of the bad press SEO gets is known by a more general audience. Web Design as an industry does not have the stigma SEO does even though a good portion of both industries are unutterably terrible.

          3
  20. 64

    Very good, content is king, and interesting and engaging content will get you natural links and therefore improve your rankings. But a) not every website is a blog that you update every day. b) Not every e-commerce website is about interesting and engaging stuff (bathroom replacements, hoovers, cleaning services, electricians) and c) you would never rank well in google without having in mind the technical part of SEO (having well set your robots.txt, getting rid of duplicate content, having a website built in flash, loads of redirections…) or doing for example keyword research, not for keyword stuffing, but to look for the right opportunities in a market full of competitors that are doing SEO as well.

    SEO is much more than what you state in this blog post. Smashing magazine of course doesn’t need SEO… but most of the companies with a ecommerce website do.

    1
  21. 65

    Addendum: it seems Paul has a habit of writing misinformed linkbait, and attempts have been made before to educate him about the differences between spam and SEO (http://www.seobythesea.com/2010/03/good-seo/). Alas, it seems he’s incapable of changing his flawed perceptions…

    37
    • 66

      Totally agree. I was thinking this exactly while reading the article. There’s a big difference between best practice to achieve good onsite/offsite results and black hat gaming the system. Of course, black hat is so appealing BECAUSE it works (sometimes rather quickly!), and because updates like Penguin always have white hat casualties.

      -7
    • 67

      I am honestly wanting to be convinced. I have no axe to grind, nothing to prove. I have no vested interest. I just honestly don’t get it and am yet to read anything that changes my mind.

      I am sorry if I have annoyed people. I have not written this or anything else as linkbait. I have written this because this is my honest opinion.

      1
  22. 69

    Link Bait. Well done Smashing Magazine. LOL

    19
  23. 70

    The Floating Frog

    December 11, 2012 1:52 pm

    Possibility the worst, ill-judged article I’ve seen on SM in a long time. Too many disagreements to list, sorry Paul. SEO is too big for a lot of people to understand so I’d say stay away from the topic. Let’s just say is has a bad rep, but with our industry experts pioneering SEO, both on and off site, the web would be a much uglier place without SEO best practices.

    Next.

    8
    • 71

      Fair enough with disagreeing me. I can respect that.

      Lets say for a minute I am wrong. I am happy to admit I maybe. BUT i have honestly tried to understand SEO. I have put in the time and research. I have looked for evidence that this is worth spending money on.

      If I am not getting it then you have a perception problem. If I don’t get it then you can be as sure as hell I am not the only one.

      Somebody show me where I am wrong and prove to me this is the right place to spend your money.

      I don’t like being hated by the SEO community, but nobody is even trying to convince me otherwise.

      4
      • 72

        I don’t understand what you are not getting? Why SEO exists and why it is worthwhile? Quite simply, many people make bad websites, not just from a design and UX perspective, but also in regards to technical elements that Google take into consideration SOLEY for ranking purposes.

        Why do you think Google has guides on ‘Search Engine Optimisation’ (SEO) ??? http://static.googleusercontent.com/external_content/untrusted_dlcp/www.google.co.uk/en/uk/webmasters/docs/search-engine-optimization-starter-guide.pdf

        Take a 301 redirect, using a 301 or a 302 makes no difference to the user (which is all you should care about according to Google) but the difference between a 302 and a 301 can mean huge differences for your search rankings and visibility within Google if implemented incorrectly. Clearly technical elements exist that only matter to Google and not to users. The 301 example is a simple one, many are more complicated. Does this make sense?

        Maybe you should read up on HREFLANG:
        http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=189077

        Having the same content on your US site and your Canadian site does not hurt users (the only thing you need to worry about right?), but it may effect your search rankings in Google. Google recommend implementing hreflang to help them understand your duplicate content better and serve the correct language or regional URL, but implementing this is not simple and doing it incorrectly can harm your search visibility, a good SEO will help you implement this correctly.

        Does this make sense?

        5
  24. 73

    Just because everyone knows it as search engine optimisation doesn’t mean that all SEO’s will only optimise for search engines! *sigh*.

    The industry has evolved, the web has evolved… And those still trying to manipulate search engines or purely optimise only for search engines are getting left back in the 90′s.

    It should be pretty common knowledge in the web industry by now that great engagement, great value and popular content is how search engines largely determine rank, trust, authority etc and as such, those in the SEO industry that are worth their salt, are building programmes and strategies centred around everything that ticks the right boxes.

    Serving awesomeness to users equals great performance in search. It’s a shame so many still debunk the value of SEO and what it really entails to the most technical level (and this includes a great deal of markup, code, structure, architecture, layout, scripts from a design/dev perspective). It really isn’t as simple as producing great content – and even then, many businesses would fail at that.

    In fact, it is a convenient lie to claim that the best person to optimise a website is the owner. They should input into content creation as they know their niche but as for the rest? Seriously. Or is that just because you actually don’t get what else makes a website perform?

    8
    • 74

      “Just because everyone knows it as search engine optimisation doesn’t mean that all SEO’s will only optimise for search engines! *sigh*.”

      So stop calling it something it isn’t! It confuses clients and leads them to place the priorities in the wrong things.

      You may know its not just about optimising for search engines, I may know that but clients are not getting it. Call it what it is… content strategy.

      2
      • 75

        Calling it just “content strategy” would be equally misleading. It’s not just about writing link-worthy content. It’s also about site architecture and clean code that is easy to read and navigate for search engines. These are changes that will go unnoticed by people because they do not effect users either negatively or positively, but they do a great deal of good in terms of getting a site indexed by Google.

        -1
      • 76

        The sad reality is that if they don’t call it SEO business owners/website owners will have no clue what it is. Another way to put it is Search Engine Optimization is a piece of SEO.
        We’re not going to change the world’s perception here in this comment thread :(

        0
      • 77

        When the end user refers to SEO, they generally want their website to be found for high ROI key phrases and the like. This, wouldn’t be a million miles away from search engine optimisation – improving a website to make it perform better in search.

        Just because of the label it has, does not mean optimise for search engines and ignore your customer.

        We’re a digital marketing agency covering all realms of search marketing and SEO has a mention on our website, purely because that’s what the end user can relate to and understand – SEO makes up just one part of many from our service offering and within our SEO strategies for our clients comes content production/marketing, linkbait strategies and the such – but if it stopped there, it also, wouldn’t be SEO. It just forms a section of our offsite methodology or we can offer it as a standalone service if this is all the client requires.

        0
  25. 78

    Great article Paul!

    When I think of great content, sound technical implementation, usability & user experience — i.e. everything that equates to quality and relevance — the *absolute* last place I think of is an “SEO” company.

    I don’t make claims to anyones competence in these areas, but the sad fact is “SEO” only exists as an industry because you could (and can still) game Google. Today I see many “SEOs” trying to transition into user-centric thinking to remain relevant, which is great. But drop the snake oil moniker, please?

    1
  26. 79

    Hi Paul,

    Evidently, you still haven’t learned what SEO is since your last rant about SEO two years ago on Boagworld.

    A person who uses things like keyword density and gateway pages is not an SEO, and never has been.

    But, if you need help with hreflang, canonical link elements, parameter handling, rel prev and next values for pagination, XML sitemaps for pages and images and videos and news, Google Plus authorship markup, Facebook’s Open Graph meta data, schema.org implementation, and many other issues that great content alone will not solve, an SEO can help you with those.

    Your objective should be to make it easier for people who are interested in what you have to offer to find you, and see the great content that you offer. Relevant content isn’t “great content” Someone searches for a pizza on Google, and they don’t want prose from Hemingway or Fitzgerald on the history and origin of pizza – they most likely want lunch.

    An SEO adds value to what you create by making sure that it is presented within the framework of the Web in a way which makes it more likely that it will reach the people that you want it seen by, when they are looking for it.

    112
    • 80

      Hey Bill,
      the following that you wrote is probably the best description of SEO specific things worth doing:

      “But, if you need help with hreflang, canonical link elements, parameter handling, rel prev and next values for pagination, XML sitemaps for pages and images and videos and news, Google Plus authorship markup, Facebook’s Open Graph meta data, schema.org implementation, and many other issues that great content alone will not solve, an SEO can help you with those.”

      This makes sense to me! In all my conversations with SEO experts and all the comments I have read to my posts on the subject, this is the first time I have had somebody list things that either…

      1. Are not essentially content strategy work.
      2. That are not things I would expect any half decent web designers to do as part of their job.

      This I get! Thanks.

      20
      • 81

        I’d agree these are not normal areas for developers to work within, but a good developer can understand and work on everything in that list, and once it’s done you can have them on every project going forward just by changing a few settings in a config or even as part of a custom CMS.

        0
        • 82

          A good developer can definitely understand and work with most of the things on that list but when things change (and things WILL change) is the developer going to be around? Is the developer going to know of the change? Even a custom CMS (which most small businesses cannot afford to build or support) cannot anticipate how search technology will change. Yes some things may be handled with a config tweak, but not all things.

          Most businesses are stuck with sites that are less than perfect when it comes to architecture and UX. Most businesses need help understanding the search landscape as it pertains to their business and more particularly to their business goals. A good SEO helps a business align their marketing to work with the search engine, not game it. Gaming search results has never been SEO.

          0
      • 83

        I guess I’m not surprised no one’s listed these things for you, because it’s difficult/painful to try and explain such things to people who take an ignorant, stick-my-head-in-the-sand approach to SEO.

        SEO is an important marketing activity that any publisher should know, just as much as they try to understand how their sites will appear in different browsers. Absolutely, 100%, having great content is your bedrock to success.

        But if you have great content, and the browser can’t render it, do you think well all that design stuff is mumbo-jumbo? No. You make sure people can view your content.

        Search engines are like the most important browser out there, and if you can’t take the time to understand how they make your content visible, then you’re running the risk of being invisible to them and to potential readers.

        You should know all this, because you’ve been happy to cite Google’s webmaster guidelines, which are full of technical considerations. You’ve focused on exactly one sentence about making pages for users, not search engines. As a basic principle, right. But go back and read the specific page. It’s full of SEO advice over-and-over again.

        In fact, the inconvenient truth for your inconvenient truth article that no one needs an SEO company, and by extension anyone who specializes in SEO, is that Google offers an entire SEO starter guide (Google it) that it encourages publishers to read and follow.

        Apparently, Google itself thinks you should do SEO to the degree of writing a detailed guide about it. Do you think perhaps, given that, it might make more sense to say to you readers that that might want to ensure they understand these things?

        It is ideal if designers or content people understand all often-rapidly changing developments in SEO and implement those institutionally. It is sad that there is definitely plenty of snake oil that gets pushed.

        But the reality is that designers and content people often are actually so busy doing their jobs that they can use help, either a specialist in house or an external firm. You diss that entire concept. You might as well diss the idea that content people don’t need designers, because after all, it’s just the content that matters, who needs some design “professional” pushing things like CSS and other acronyms all around. Just put it on a WordPress template, and you’re done.

        7
      • 84

        If you researched SEO, even a little, you would’ve seen all of Bill’s great writing on the subject and known this list, plus other stuff like:

        Site performance optimization
        Canonicalization beyond tweaking/fixing with rel=canonical

        I could start the list of things that developers and designers SHOULD do, but don’t, thereby requiring their clients to revamp just-launched web sites, but hey, who wants to go there.

        Oh wait, I just did.

        12
    • 85

      Best comment so far…SEO is “to make it easier for people who are interested in what you have to offer to find you, and see the great content that you offer. ”

      Bravo!

      1
  27. 86

    Paul, thanks for this post – an excellent read :)
    Very good points, well made.

    This will be incredibly useful to pass on—to clients and web students alike ;)

    -32
  28. 87

    Paul, slaying SEO agencies as a whole, is simply stupid. While many agencies use “tricks & blabla” and do not educate their clients, many others do exactly what needs to be done: optimize websites, take care of other technical necessary stuff AND help the client understanding how to do their part in a regular, correct and consistent way.

    @Smashing Magazine: Articles like this are not worth sharing. Rethink YOUR content (and maybe your authors), please, if you want to keep your credibility.

    22
  29. 90

    I’m not sure which reply I enjoyed more here. Barry Adams’ well thought out and clear response to this laughable article or Dean Cruddance’s bullseye.

    Bravo, gents. And bravo to Smashing Mag for publishing a perfectly aimed article. Guaranteed to raise the ire of genuine SEOs the world over, who won’t be able to help but respond. Like I have. Here. Now.

    It’s just a shame that a lot of organisations may now ditch their SEO companies, bring content generation in house, lose their vital search engine rankings and a tonne of business and then ask…why?

    9
  30. 91

    This is really a bad post. A good SEO company will help and guide you in how to optimize your webpresentation. Off course your content should be written for users and not for SE’s, but a good SEO company can help structure your content so it will rank better without messing with the tone of voice:

    “Unique content is King, Optimized Unique content is Emperor!”

    Also SEO companies will help you building the website the right way so SE’s CAN index your content and can help you creating a strategy for linkbuilding and content based on Search Behaviour! And a honest and reliable SEO company will tell you the exact opportunities and the impossibilities of SEO
    for your business…

    5
  31. 92

    Huummm…you see, there are sites and sites. What about e-commerce websites, for example. I know a bunch of them who invest heavily in SEO with great results. They will not “lose in the long term”, as there’s no long term for them and they are constantly changing to adapt to search engines modifications.

    2
  32. 93

    I’ve been telling my clients (as recently as today) that search engine visibility can be enhanced on the following areas:

    1) Technology
    2) Content
    3) Linking

    Technological solutions, be it meta-data, canonical urls or semantic markup, can, and should, be done by the web developer. Content should be, as well stated in this post, created for the users, bearing their interest in mind. Linking, referring to external sites linking to your site, is usually a sum of the two preceding factors, and will further improve your site’s ranking on search engines.

    2
  33. 94

    Any SEO agency worth their chops won’t be trying to get you to “number 1 for x keyphrase” – you’re referring to those jokers chancing their luck at some SEO fast-cash there. Times are changing. If you consider that there’s a number of SEO agencies who actually pin their goals on business profit and return on investment, then your whole argument falls apart.

    I work for an SEO company (as a designer incidentally) and I felt the way you did about SEO before I started here – and sure – everybody thinks their own sh*t smells the best – but trust me. If you have an agency who knows what they’re doing and has an ounce of sense about them – they’ll be following best practice, and making difference to metrics that matter, as opposed to touting stats about the “top spot” for whatever.

    3
  34. 95

    This premise of this post is painfully contradictory. “Don’t make content for Google, make content for users”, then going on to say how “Google demands great content”.

    Make your mind up.

    5
  35. 96

    We all must agree to disagree, right?!?! In this post the author states that all people, who own a business, should spend their time writing blogs, content etc etc etc.?? Ok and then who will run their businesses? At the end of the day someone has to do the SEO job (On-page, copy-writing, management, link building, researching, strategies, following the news, updates etc.) and someone has to take care of the actual business day-to-day tasks. Either way both of these guys have to be paid for the job, right? And here the author says that the business owner must waste his time on SEO-like activities, where he will surely fail and pay to someone else to run his business where this someone else may fail either. It’s completely senseless. Sorry Paul, but as long I increase my clients’ sales – everyone is happy and both parts benefit from that! And that is the real SEO – increasing sales, ranking is just a small part of all.

    3
    • 97

      Great point, how many small businesses have the time to dedicate to great content…they have a business to run. Yet large corporations have a lot of their SEO/content done in house. How many of SEO companies work for Nike, Macy’s, Boeing etc…In the end the necessity is the mother of invention. The reason there are “SEO” companies is because there are a lot of small – mid size business owners that want to share their great content, but have no idea how to do it properly.

      0
    • 98

      “someone has to do the SEO job (On-page, copy-writing, management, link building, researching, strategies, following the news, updates etc.)”

      copy writing, management, researching, strategies, following the news are not “Search Engine” optimization. These are content strategy, and general work on your business and website. A lot of what Paul is talking about is that calling these things “SEO” is just misleading.

      you can see Bill Slawski’s comment for some real SEO techniques.

      2
  36. 99

    Having worked as a developer at an SEO firm I can relate to this. Huge sums of money went into the treadmill that was keeping up with Google. We paid a cheap service to write a daily article for websites. All I could ever think, every time I added one to the site, was who in their right mind is going to read this and if they do, they’re going to think this website is a joke.

    I’ve never had any problem ranking my sites and all I do is the basics along with hammering into the minds of my clients the necessity for good content.

    5
  37. 100

    ‘It is hard for an outside contractor to produce the great content that will keep users coming back and encourage them to share.’

    Having worked in publishing and media for major companies, before starting my own business, I can attest to a legion of freelance writers, sub-editors and more who would disagree with this entirely.

    8
  38. 101

    This article has sparked an important discussion and I have certainly learned a lot by reading all the points of view expressed thanks.

    4
  39. 102

    But what if they call it “inbound marketing”?

    9
  40. 104

    I love SM community. Part of the reason I visit this website is to see what are other people’s opinions. And I have to say that the response this one has gotten is brilliant.

    But one thing that gets me disappointed is the fact that the rant of this sort has been allowed on the website of such quality and caliber. Pretend I knew nothing about SEO, I could still tell that this essay takes one-sided negative view on a practice the author is not very informed on. This is sad. C’mon SM, you don’t need this crap!

    And for those who are still curious about wtf is everyone ranting here about, why not learn about SEO yourself? Check out “Whiteboard Friday” video series, maybe even start from their first one – they are brilliant, even entertaining and they will help you understand what this is all about: http://www.seomoz.org/blog

    4
  41. 105

    Hello Paul: I do appreciate the time you put into writing this article. And I do also agree with your assertation that we should be building our content for people not search engines. As a Partner in a Search & Digital marketing agency with +8 years of experience, I caution readers of your article to not assume that awesome content is the panacea. It’s only part of a well-rounded SEO solution.

    Yes there is “techno babble” in our industry (Is there not in yours?). We choose to ignore it and the pesky snake oil salesmen that are in in each and every vertical I can think of.

    The technical stuff (as mentioned in previous comments) is just as important as the content you so frequently mention. We have seen plenty of sites that have great written content that are not being found in searches because of some technical limitation(s). A good SEO Agency will identify these limitations.

    A good SEO will also audit a client’s website and let them know of such mundane (techno babble?) issues as www and non-www occurrences, lack of Meta Descriptions, etc…

    BTW the Headscape site could use some SEO TLC. It’s reachable by the www and non-www version. And I coudn’t find any meta descriptions…. and the sitelinks for your SERP are horrid (who would click on them?)… http://cl.ly/image/1a0l3p3H2O14. Oh never mind…. just depend on your site’s content…… It will get found.. It will convert….. ;-)

    8
    • 106

      Hey Les,
      we are aware that Headscape isn’t very search engine friendly and to be frank it doesn’t matter. Our traffic is driven from boagworld.com that ranks very well.

      BTW, I appreciate your polite tone in the comments. Others have been less kind.

      As for your comment about “We choose to ignore it and the pesky snake oil salesmen”; I do think you have a major perception issue that needs addressing not ignoring. Your biggest problem is in the name SEO. That is my opinion anyway.

      1
      • 107

        Fair enough Paul. As a “responsible SEO” I thought I’d let you know about the “issues” with your company’s website (tongue in cheek). I am happy that you have enough traffic and do not need any more (tongue still in cheek).

        There is no shortage of people that dump on the SEO industry. Rightfully so in some cases. Part of the issue we see is that the “price of entry” is low. So anyone who has a laptop and an internet connection can hang out a shingle and say that they are a “SEO expert”. Sad but true. Plus there is no (real) certification process.

        Eg: Whole businesses were built around link building – some (most?) of it shoddy. Why? Because Google said that you need inbound links. Now they say you need relevant inbound links. And they come out with algo improvements named after happy little creatures like pandas & penguins. These “improvements” will continue as will the flood of content to the Internet.

        Not everyone can afford quality SEO (I am trying to think of new more pleasant term Paul) advice. And as someone alluded to in a prior comment, you have to keep on paying. Of course you do! Nothing stays the same online. A business owner is not only trying to keep up with their competitors, they are trying to keep up with the likes of Google which is always tweaking algorithms. It is the most dastardly moving target!

        Back to your comment: “Our traffic is driven from boagworld.com that ranks very well.” This type of comment drives me crazy. Why? It’s not about ranking Paul… It’s about conversions. Who cares if you get 500 visitors a day to boagworld.com. If none of them click through to the Headscape site….. and then make a buying decision, then you are pi**ing in the proverbial wind. We see it all the time.

        SEO… hmmm What about: “Website Help And Therapy” “WHAT”… Any better?

        Great comments… Too bad some folks are getting so upset. You have stimulated discussion. I like that!

        4
  42. 108

    This is simply a case of old SEO versus new SEO. Old SEO was “tell me you keywords.” New SEO is “tell me your goals.”

    A true SEO agency will look for discovery/opportunities for the client based on what their goals are. They will also help the client make linkable content like infographics for “boring” companies.

    Sure companies can bring SEO in-house. But companies can also bring in-house advertising as well. Why don’t they? Because that’s not what they do. You don’t need multiple managers telling a team how to do SEO.

    Also is the in-house team going to have all the right software, analytics, know-how to make presentable presentations? Probably not, because that’s not their main focus.

    In-house is great if the company is really small. Medium to large companies will generally have in-house and outsource. Diversification is the only free ride.

    BTW I really like this font for your website/comments.

    0
    • 109

      very good point, perhaps the author is just outdated on SEO best practices…they hardly recommended optimizing for search only. As far as the term SEO is concerned, despite changes to what we do we’ll never be able to change that association.

      -1
  43. 110

    If great content is enough, why do we need designers? Why do we need a CMS? We can just post something in our table-based web site from 2004 and the web will find us. Well, I don’t think so.

    1
    • 111

      Design is content. A good CMS will take care of most of your SEO for you.

      Google’s job is to find the best content for the end user, not to find the best search engine optimized content. The fact is they don’t want you to have to worry about it.

      The point of the article was to get people to focus more on content than SEO. Not that SEO doesn’t exist or is bad.

      2
  44. 112

    Thanks Paul this was a very helpful and informative post!

    -8
  45. 113

    This article seems to hint at understanding a larger truth, but gets bogged down in the inevitable trench warfare. The truth is, you can replace “SEO” with “HR”, “Customer Service”, “Accounting and Finance”, and almost any other aspect of business. Some organizations need outside help. Some organizations really need to run certain aspects of their business in-house.

    What really needs to happen is that businesses need to stop treating SEO as some mystical realm. Its an aspect of your business – measurable, definable, and governed by the same rules as the rest of your business. Would you really use “blackhat HR” or fail to ask your accountant for references and measurable results? Would you drive through neighborhoods in the middle of the night planting yardsigns about your business? Do you use UPS and Fedex or do you save some bucks by using Billy Joe’s Package Delivery and Waste Removal?

    SEO is not about sprinkling pixie dust around your site. If you wouldn’t use a canvas tent as a warehouse, don’t use outdated HTML and cheap/slow/insecure web hosting. If you wouldn’t use chat room conspiracy theories to determine sales tax implementation or locating manufacturing partners, don’t use it for web development strategies. Would you hire your accountant, or lawyer, or logistics consultant on Fiverr or Craigslist??

    6
  46. 114

    You forgot to mention that you use SEO as a strategy for your own clients Paul

    “measurement should include review of your analytics to identify user behavioural change, monthly user testing and spot checks to ensure ongoing quality. It should also include removing out-of-date content, a continual programme of A/B testing and search engine optimisation.”

    Source: http://www.headscape.co.uk/news/strategy.html

    8
    • 115

      Yes but we don’t call it SEO. You might, but that is not how clients perceive it. When you say SEO you are saying ‘we will optimise your site for search engines’. All of those things you quoted from my site are not about optimising for search engines, they are about creating an effective site that meets business objectives. The semantics matter.

      2
      • 116

        Paul, that is the whole crux, I understand that you are using the language your potentials are using. Call it by another name, the strategy remains.

        You call it out as the hook, then make some valid points regarding content.

        Sorry Paul the “I don’t get it” just does not sit right. Well played though, objective achieved.

        Lee Colbran below has already hit the nail on the head. Your technique here is your second foray into the SEO industry using the same technique.

        This would have been an even better piece if it was a co-authored one presenting both sides of the coin.

        0
        • 117

          And I will keep saying I don’t get it until somebody convinces me.

          To be frank I am getting a bit pissed off now. I am happy for people to disagree with me, I am happy for people to tell me I have it wrong or am ill informed. However, I take offense at people implying that I am linkbaiting, being argumentative for the sake of it or lying.

          I wrote this article because it is my honest opinion. I gain nothing from linkbaiting (other than shit loads of grief) and do honestly have loads of unanswered questions & concerns about SEO.

          Instead of getting answers all I have got is abuse. I have written many, many posts and I never get attacked like I do when I write about SEO. It does not do the sector credit and dramatically undermines its position.

          There are exceptions. I have had great conversations with Bill Slawski, Barry Adams and Joost. They politely disagreed with me and tried to convince me of their position. But they did so with respect and never accused me of being deceitful in someway.

          If you want to win an argument, the answer is not to slag off the opponent. That is limited to american politics.

          8
  47. 118

    There seems to be a lot of desperate SEO Snake Oil Salesmen who are downvoting any posts that agree with Paul.

    I’ve been telling my clients for years to concentrate on content, not pay money for some magic beans, sorry, ‘keywords’, that will magically shoot them up the rankings. And I’ve seen them part with £500 for some automated report that I’ve had to implement and then seen a big reduction in their rankings.

    Keep preaching, Brother!

    -7
  48. 119

    The problem here is that SEO is not Content Marketing and experience tell US that the biggest SEO issues derive from bad software and poor knowledge of the Industry best practices.

    There is a lot of disinformation on SEO and above all is difficult to explain how important is the technical part of this job.

    If you don’t know seo you tend to over-simplify and attribute strange behaviour to the wrong things simply because you don’t know what SEO is.

    2
  49. 120

    SEO = selling baked air …
    I’m glad somebody comes out and tell us this in our face.

    I trie to convince my clients all the time.
    First you need a great webdesigner who writes structural html and then it’s up to the client/business to make it happen…

    -15
  50. 121

    Despite what others from the SEO industry have said above, I think you’ve written a good article about the subject. I don’t feel any need to get defensive, because you make valid points here. I work for an agency myself and we mostly focus on knowledge transfer and on enabling clients to do the actual work inhouse. When I get calls from prospects they mostly expect me to recommend that they outsource all the work to us, especially “building links”. Offering a different model that empowers them often takes them by surprise because it’s not what they are used to. I still think it’s in their best interest, so we continue with this model. It all depends on the type of business you are talking about.

    I agree wil Bill on technical expertise and experience though: while Google’s documentation is pretty good in most cases, there are professionals who have walked the path before and can offer advice, especially with the more recent stuff such as the canonical link element, hreflang etc. It’s very easy to shoot yourself in the foot with this stuff!

    Regarding content and marketing / PR (aka “link building”), I absolutely agree with you that in many cases, these should probably not be outsourced to typical SEO firms. But training developers / marketing / PR / corporate communications in the basic principles of SEO can help tremendously. That’s where SEO professionals add value.

    4
    • 122

      I have to say Bill presented an excellent point. He went a long way to convincing me there is a role for an SEO company in certain situations.

      5
  51. 123

    What a lot of bulls*it!
    This is like saying to someone “only you know how your body works so don’t pay any doctor”

    What you say may apply to small business and many self declared SEOs, I agree. But if you think everything should be done in-house or by the marketing managers, you clearly have no idea how the corporate world works.

    2
  52. 124

    well, the post deserves my attemp, you can look at goo.gld06wf and see what I mean, you will get relax…

    -2
  53. 125

    There is so much wrong with this piece it’s difficult to know where to start.

    You are painting SEO with a very broad and dated brush. Imagine if an SEO did this to the design community? Trust me, it wouldn’t be that hard but it wouldn’t help readers. But that’s what you’ve done. This is kind of ironic given the thrust of your piece.

    There’s no doubt that there are plenty of bad SEOs out there who aren’t doing the right kind of work. So instead of going for page views lets talk about what SEO really is today.

    Search Engine Optimization is a multidisciplinary activity that seeks to generate productive traffic via technically sound and connected sites by matching query intent with relevance and value.

    I’d link to my article that defines SEO but have a feeling that would land me in spam jail. So I’ll let you Google ‘What is SEO?’ and find it.

    SEO is not about gaming the system it’s about making sure that the great content that is produced finds the right audience. Not only that but we can make sure that the content written is done so in a way that meets the needs of that user.

    Because like it or not, just writing something isn’t going to cut it. This is not A Field of Dreams. Just because you write something doesn’t mean you’re going to find an audience.

    I could go on and on but I fear that it would fall on deaf ears given your past efforts at ‘explaining’ SEO. No the inconvenient truth is your lack of nuance on this subject creates a dangerous mindset for readers who won’t know better.

    You say: “The content you post does not have to be long, it just has to be link-worthy.”

    So you see, you’re nearly as bad as those you see to expose. It’s not about links. It’s about developing content that is valuable and remembered by understanding why and how they are searching for information or services. The goal is not to make it link-worthy, getting links is a result of doing proper SEO.

    17
  54. 126

    Controversial post always boost virility and Mr Paul Baug is using it to his advantage. While you are correct in saying that websites should be made for users, it is an absolutely foolhardy comment to say that it shouldn’t be optimized for search engines.

    Tomorrow if you have a house to sell but don’t tell people about it, no one is going to know. As SEO’s, we are providing a service. This involves ranking your keywords which is an indirect way of attracting people to your website. Plus as Bill rightly pointed out, SEO is just not about keyword rankings, it is a whole lot more. It is about attracting audiences and building an engaging community for your brand. Word of mouth does help in the real world but in the virtual word, it is tougher scenario.

    Your approach follows the adage – Do good and others would do good to you. Sorry Mr Paul, it doesn’t work always. Either in real world or even in the virtual world of Google. This post indeed is demeaning to true SEO practitioners.

    0
    • 127

      I honestly wasn’t being controversial for the sake of it. These are my honest opinions. I do not get the idea of optimising for search engines. In my experience money is better spent elsewhere.

      That said, I do believe in content strategy, well built websites, understanding users, targeted market etc. I just don’t believe these things should be called SEO because they are not primarily about search engines.

      Look I would happily be proved wrong, but in all the years I have worked with SEO companies I have yet to be convinced. All I have done is express those concerns. Apparently this is not allowed but I didn’t get the memo on that :)

      2
      • 128

        Anthony D. Nelson

        December 11, 2012 7:13 pm

        In the comments, you keep falling back on saying “I don’t think that should be called SEO.” Too bad, it is.

        If that was your ultimate gripe, you should have titled your article something like “SEO Needs a New Name.”

        Instead, you wrote a misled piece on an authoritative site that will sadly influence some readers who don’t make through the comments.

        1
        • 129

          The reason the post wasn’t called that is because it is only from posting it that I am hearing that it isn’t about optimising for search engines exclusively but broader issues. If that is what you are going to sell on then the name is causing you problems.

          1
      • 130

        Shucks Paul, this isn’t about suppression, it’s about correcting fallacy. All in good fun, or course!

        0
    • 131

      “Virility”…I may have to try this…

      1
  55. 132

    Great Post, yes Great SEO comes from great content as well as html.

    Here is our companies take on SEO if some of you want to read more on the topic;

    http://gotostudio7.com/2012/12/seo-best-practice-healthy-website-architecture/

    Thanks again Paul for another Great Post!

    0
  56. 133

    A well documented SEO technique in operation – be controversial!

    1
  57. 134

    I loved this article. Not to decry SEO as a whole, but to put emphasis back on content.

    As a designer, I love working with a client who places a lot of importance on aesthetics and is adventurous about the site’s concept. Conversely, these elements must go hand-in-hand with well planned content. I get so frustrated when this step in the building process is pushed aside because it isn’t exciting. If we do not plan thoughtful descriptions of a business then we might as well be creating Flash sites for all the good it will do anyone.

    2
  58. 135

    This is defiantly the direction seo should go in, but unfortunately when you niche is overrun by competitor sites ‘over optimizing’ and excelling in the rankings because of it, it leaves you with no option, it a real pain.

    0
  59. 136

    Make content the ‘KEY’

    Clean coding helps too

    0
  60. 137

    Useful Info. Its often disturbing to see my SEO plugin shows that my SEO key word is week or some thing like that. But now i can focus more on my content than configuring my website with catchy key words.

    0
  61. 138

    Hey Paul,

    The theory behind this post is awesome, as a consultant myself, totally agree. Unfortunately though I disagree with the way that you portray SEO folk. Gateways and keyword density? It hasn’t been used for 6 years, maybe more. So in that case, if anyone’s using an SEO company that does that, yes bin them immediately.

    But the role of an SEO has evolved to basically do what you’re saying here. They’re no longer the dark marketer of 2004. They’re now a multi-skilled, almost media planner in some ways – speaking with multiple influencers to help the content (that they’re advising you how to write) grow and reach new levels of people. But also retaining technical skills that would seriously harm your online business if you neglected.

    More times than not, I find the people doing these “dark arts” of SEO, mis-informed CEO’s or marketing teams that have read a couple of articles from 2008 or read an article like this one, realise that without expertise they’ve failed and try to use that “3000 links for a fiver” option.

    The same as any profession or service, the service starts raw (early black hat and spam), gets to a point of boom and then becomes refined and moderated until it becomes a true profession and skill.

    I believe early offline media took the same route with rogue agencies and ill-advised clients making similar mistakes with those mediums, yet due to this kind of article there’s a bit of a hunt on.

    Agree with the core principles of this article, content is good yes, but disagree with the lack of expertise you declare needed, if nobody needs an expert or an advisr, how do you have a job?

    Interesting debate though, thanks!

    1
    • 139

      I appreciate your positive attitude and I hope you are right. However, I listened to an SEO company pitch like it was 1996 only 2 weeks ago. There are still bad companies out there and they are still confusing the hell out of your potential clients and to be frank their advisors (e.g. me).

      2
  62. 140

    It’s frustrating to see a conversation like this with so much anger, and a huge diatribe against essentially what those 3 letters mean. I know he’s not alone, but Paul definitely is REALLY hung up on that particular acronym and its connotations.

    The truth is, he’s right about plenty of SEO companies, and people claiming to do SEO. They’re stuck pulling scams and tricks and the SE they’re O-ing for is the one from 2008.

    The problem is, there are many, many people doing great work that is SEO. You can write great content that’s perfectly written for users (nothing spammy or bad or written for search engines). THEN Good Marketing (which is a HUGE part of SEO) takes that content and optimizes the ways a search engine will view it so that its potential is maximized. This includes highly technical work, as well as basic outreach to other publishers and content curators.

    All that stuff really is optimizing for Search Engines. It’s SEO. That is what it is.

    Sure the term has a bad reputation historically, but believe it or not, that’s been changing as people are redefining it to be more inclusive of the different ways it is best done, and by doing away with spammy tactics that no longer work.

    And yes, a lot of agencies are moving to broader terms like inbound marketing, which helps in a way, but at the end of the day, when a company is wondering why their site’s traffic is still low despite hiring a great blogger, most of them don’t look for “inbound marketing” they look for “SEO.” And, as good SEO would dictate, we’ll continue to be optimized for a term that has qualified, relevant intent for our own business demographic.

    Just my two cents.

    5
    • 141

      Yeah perhaps you are right. Perhaps I am hung up on the term.

      However, I also need some cold hard numbers. I need to be able to say to my clients that if they invest X in SEO they will likely get Y back and that this is more profitable than spending the money elsewhere (like by hiring a content editor).

      1
      • 142

        One digital PR agency did the “invest X and get Y” thing and got banned from techcrunch (http://techcrunch.com/2012/11/08/we-are-worth-at-least-3k/). It just doesn’t always work like that, similar to traditional PR retainer fees.

        0
      • 143

        Anthony D. Nelson

        December 11, 2012 7:54 pm

        Hey Paul-

        I’m sure you realize this, but every client is different. Some people would be better off hiring a content editor. Others would be better off having a SEO company help their existing content help get found. Most often, it’s a mixture of the two which is what a lot of SEO companies do. They create content, rework and improve preexisting content and more.

        You simply can’t provide one set of cold numbers that will convince every client what they need to do.

        1
        • 144

          Sorry, I wasn’t clear. I am not saying I need specific numbers for a specific client. I just need more solid evidence than anybody has been able to give me to date.

          When I hear an SEO person speaking to a client I have no idea whether they can REALLY help that particular client or whether investing in other things would be better.

          Its all so opaque. I would love to hear an SEO company explain exactly what they will do for a client and why that will make a difference and at least an indication of what kind of returns could be expected.

          I feel like it requires too big a step of faith for me to recommend SEO to a client. I have seen nothing but bad results and until I see success, I cannot take the risk (not with a clients money).

          0
    • 145

      After reading the article and all the comments, I can’t help but feel the only problem here is Paul’s aversion to the title SEO. Just like we call a vacuum flask a Thermos or a box of tissues Kleenex, sometimes the English language evolves. Paul, we can’t always pick what we want for it to evolve to. I’m sure the other manufacturers of tissues would rather that their customers didn’t call their products Kleenex, but they do.

      The term SEO has evolved, sure it may not be what you want it to be called. And now it includes all forms of content building strategies and on page marketing techniques including “hreflang, canonical link elements, parameter handling, rel prev and next values for pagination, XML sitemaps for pages and images and videos and news, Google Plus authorship markup, Facebook’s Open Graph meta data, schema.org implementation, and many other issues that great content alone will not solve, an SEO can help you with those”.

      Just because you don’t like the name doesn’t mean you get to bash all it encompasses.

      0
  63. 146

    Oh dear.

    -1
  64. 147

    Christ alive, is this article a bit of trolling for fun or what? I’ve just come out of a meeting with a business who had hired an “SEO company”. This “SEO company” used blog networks, article distribution, directory spamming & guess what… the client’s rankings tanked.
    They’re not an SEO company, they’re hopeless, inept spammers who don’t know what SEO is. They take shortcuts for short-term gain and run off with peoples’ money.
    SEO’s about increasing your client’s visibility in search engines, and using a mixture of technical and creative techniques to do that. That’s all. It’s a far-reaching discipline, and you don’t seem to understand it.
    You seem to think SEO is spam, and it seems you’ve already been put right so I’ll stop right here, as you’ve already had enough advice from people far more qualified than I…

    2
  65. 148

    SEO should consist of optimizing for the users AND for the search engines. Period.

    0
  66. 149

    Kent Wakely - Fruition Interactive

    December 11, 2012 6:37 pm

    I agree wholeheartedly with the general gist of your piece, here, Paul. Excellent, relevant content is absolutely the highest priority.

    But I think there are some details that could use some attention.

    It’s worth letting readers know that Google still takes signals about how relevant and credible your content is from things like keyword density – which isn’t really that hard to explain in simple terms – and anchor text and title tags and traditional PageRank. Sending those signals well helps you get a lot more bang out of your content buck.

    And I think if we’re telling businesses that their choice is to create content in-house or not do it at all, we’re doing them a disservice.

    A lot of subject matter experts within businesses are either really bad writers, or don’t have time to write consistently. We’ve had really good success as an agency, though, in collaborating with those in-house experts to create content that’s guided by their expertise but that’s crafted ultimately by a professional writer. It’s win-win.

    0
    • 150

      Agreed on the “classic SEO” stuff Kent. When I first saw the title to this blog post, I immediately thought that I was going to argue until I read through. I pretty much am inline with Paul regarding how I approach SEO. I am an in-house SEO. I tell people that it’s not up to me whether the website ranks. That’s decided by the quality of the site and content to the users. It’s my job to make sure everything is readable and “understood” by the search engines.

      0
  67. 151

    Over time, intelligent SEO agencies will become the new public relations mavens since they understand how to connect w/ site owners and bloggers a lot better than traditional PR agencies do to promote client content.

    So yes, SEOs have been guilty of gaming the system and a lot of other stupid stuff but the SEOs I work with are building solid relationships with media outlets pushing valuable and relevant content to their audiences.

    (Hopefully that point hasn’t been mentioned in the myriad comments already posted…)

    1
    • 152

      That I agree with Shawn. I see an opportunity for the SEO sector to reinvest itself as online marketers. However, they have to better educate people and drop this crap about optimising for search engines. It is so much more than that. They limit themselves with that definition.

      2
      • 153

        Thanks for the reply, Paul. The only problem w/ dropping that “crap” is that there are real gains when small on-page changes are made.

        We know the real work comes after that initial step when the SEO takes on the linkbuilding PR role but that initial SEO step still results in positive gains for the client.

        0
  68. 154

    This is one the best link baiting articles I have ever read, well done Smashing Magazine, I`m sure the SEO community will be flocking here to join in the public humiliation of Paul Boag. Leave the man alone, he said whats on his mind.

    Paul I would prepare yourself for some negative SEO heading your way from some of the angry comments I`ve read on here.

    How many SEO`s have wrote articles that are no longer relevant? This post is just another example.

    1
  69. 155

    Ok, so I’m an SEO. I also have an “SEO company”, but I *never* characterize myself that way.

    I appears the Paul’s problem is with the schlubs that hang their hat on 100% “guaranteed rankings”. If you EVER use guys like that, well, may Darwin pay your little operation a well-deserved visit. It’s nearly 2013 gentlemen.

    This piece is undoubtedly linkbait (and the juicy, green-filled kind at that, people love to fight). That said, the fact that Google Webmaster Guidelines is cited as Bible-truth (may The Google index our site) almost made me choke. Surprise! Google doesn’t like people influencing it’s fancy algo. Google commands: put your head down and create, sheeple! If you accept that, then move out of the way and let the rest of us at our slice of the $2.2 billion (legitimate) SEO market.

    0
    • 156

      Why does everybody characterise a post that expresses an opinion as linkbait? I gain nothing from writing a linkbait post? I get insulted, criticised and for what? To drive more traffic to a site I don’t own.

      4
  70. 157

    Oh and holy cow, if I hear another web developer say clean code = better rankings I’m going to do something dramatic. Might as well say, “Yep! Image naming convention is the key to SEO success! Yepper, bet your bottom dollar on it!” I know we’re in the Smashing blog, but c’mon folks…

    -2
  71. 158

    Clay Shirky said it best, “Institutions will try to preserve the problem to which they are the solution.”

    Old SEO vs. new SEO? Really?

    Or maybe Shakespeare said it best, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

    It seems so painfully obvious to me. Understand users, practice good web design and be knowledgeable about the technical aspects of delivering content on the web. And it doesn’t hurt to be passionate about making this stuff for people.

    What some (most) above are labelling “new SEO” is either a natural consequence of this, or is something entirely different that is already defined, valued and owned somewhere else.

    Thanks Paul. I wish more more established voices in web design and UX would opine on this topic.

    3
  72. 159

    Search is one of those things that is measurable- and in marketing, that’s a rare thing. Despite it’s measurable function, SEO is maturing past keyword ranking trends and measuring web traffic from search. Instead, we are moving towards more sophisticated measures of ‘seo performance’, such as the number of qualified leads or sales attributable to organic search.

    Paul’s right… if we look into the future- this ‘search’ function of driving traffic and leads and sharing is no longer called “SEO”- but rather, it’s quality content, user experience, curation, social sharing; it more closely resembles how we communicate and share as humans, without the search robots.

    I love this- “Remember, you shouldn’t be optimizing for ranking in search engines, you should be optimizing for users. “

    2
  73. 160

    Excellent article Paul! Everything you said is spot on. Content is king! I do believe that best practice web development is also a crucial part of SEO as well as user experience.

    I know it’s pretty basic to most developers, but something as simple as a CSS driven list-type menu is much more effective in terms of SEO than say an image-based menu. I converted a menu like this over the summer and web traffic jumped by 30% (and is staying at that level), which was much more than I had expected honestly…but I think that proves something.

    The client has killer content btw, we just “optimized” their website to be more efficient.

    -1
  74. 161

    Yeah, SEO for Google is a joke. No one should try to do that. They should just write their content for themselves (not even for their audience). Google is NOT trying to provide the most accurate results for your search. If they were, they wouldn’t be given pay-based results first. They also wouldn’t be giving me results based on my location. They’d be giving me what I ask for. And they don’t. They give me what they want to in order to try to make money from clicks. Google is the worst search engine because of that.

    -1
  75. 162

    Good advice, but not necessarily practical. Most small businesses are too busy serving their customers. They don’t usually have time to follow Google’s never ending list of updates and demands (quality content etc).

    For example, if you were a local plumber with one or two employees…would you be concerned about satisfying Google’s hunger for content or would you be more interested in serving your customers plumbing needs? I think it’s a no brainer.

    0
  76. 163

    Nice one smashing magazine ;) no please remove “Yoast WordPress SEO plugin.” from your blog it’s becoming contradictory

    2
  77. 164

    Greetings,

    I just want to say two things:

    1. In light of writing great content, one should research a topic in depth and consult people like Bill, AJ and so forth. They have rendered this article redundant in two simple comments and it pains me to think how many poor business owners will read this, think SEO is pointless and never have the opportunity to experience what SEO can really do for a company. I appreciate everyone having an opinion, but this leaves a bad taste in my mouth, and clearly a lot of others.

    2. I had a good chuckle when I saw rel=nofollow in Smashing Magazines comment section, sweet irony.

    Peace out.

    2
  78. 165

    The thrust of the article is correct, but incomplete.

    The problem is, it’s guilty of omission, and thus, mis-leading.

    Omitted, is the fact that proper on-site and off-site white hat SEO techniques (In ADDITION to quality hand written content) WILL improve your rankings. You can’t ignore that fact just because many shady SEO types overcharge and under-deliver.

    0
  79. 166

    This whole article and the comments are all based on the mistaken premise that SEO and SEO companies only optimize for search [It's in their name right?]. SEO no longer means Search engine optimization. SEO is much more than that. SEO is the term used by companies (and rightfully so) to describe inbound marketing. SEO has developed and evolved over time from optimizing for search, but the name has not. Sad realities.

    0
  80. 167

    Paul,
    I am tired… genuinely, sincerely, incredibly tired… I am tired of having to debate with your kind about why SEO IS important. I am tired of having to explain to people why “Great Content” IS NOT ENOUGH to acquire some good rankings, tired of having people asking me the reason WHY their website, displaying such a great, wonderful content is lost in Google index and WHY some low quality MFA set up on a basic WordPress platform is stealing their business.
    I am so tired to see web designers and web developers calling SEO a “scam”, if only I had a dollar every time my SEO team has corrected insanely expensive websites so poorly designed or developed that it could have been done by a 6 years old kid, I could retire on my own island. How many times have I heard clients telling me they could not implement the simplest optimization because their web provider quoted them indecent prices for the slightest change? Web design and web development industry is full of scammers. Please don’t point the finger at us and clean your own side of the fence before coming on ours and telling us what to do.
    In my perspective Paul, YOU are the scammer because what you are saying in this article is just NOT TRUE, plain and simple, whether you are lying to people or just being ignorant is irrelevant here – it is NOT TRUE.

    0
  81. 168

    The number of straw man arguments in the comments is astounding.

    I do think that Paul is right that websites should be optimized for users and that if built user proper techniques, a website will naturally rank well because of that. But I also have seen in the comments what seems to be the assumption that traffic only comes from search. In reality, most web content we see comes by referral, not by cold search.

    And I see every day the starry magic in the eyes of clients who think that SEO will make them successful on the web. A lot of these clients don’t have a great site that delivers quality content using best practices. Rather than addressing their website’s deficiencies, they believe that there are magical people who can put them at the top of Google’s rankings and that simply being “#1″ will ensure their success. I see the budgets of these projects, where half or more goes to “SEO” and the website remains an aftertought. This is not “maximizing the top 10-20%.” This is the generally held assumption among many clients that they can just do the “top 10-20% stuff” and the rest will just sort itself out.

    I think we as designers, website optimizers, and content strategists all need to do a better job of setting realistic expectations about what we can deliver for our clients and empowering them to make the most out of what they can afford.

    7
  82. 169

    Thanks for sharing. Rank Tracker Tool is a must have tool if you want to automatically track keyword rank, alexa rank etc Check it out: http://www.ranktrackertool.com.

    1
  83. 170

    All of you people need to stop defending SEO. It IS evil, despite the hype, and the commercial industry that was developed around it to suck customers’ monies with no return.
    The reason ‘SEO companies’ exist is because people are LAZY.

    This article is great. It serves a great purpose. It’s controversial. People go into a feeding frenzy over it cause they get their little feelings hurt. Who cares? Get a life people, and get out and get some fresh air. Stop whinging on and on. Unpucker and take a breath. And for god sake, go get laid.

    SEO companies are bad. Period. Write some good content and post a controversial article like this that gets people talking, posting, linking and searching.

    Paul proved his point with this. You dont need an SEO company. Look what this little article did all by it’s little self…..

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  84. 171

    I agree. Content + SEO = WIN

    I understand the overall logistics of those that are arguing against Paul’s opinion on the matter, but let’s take this down to extremely basic levels. When a customer finds a website, what’s the number one thing they are expecting to find? Content. What helped them get to that content? SEO. Without both, and with content playing the first large role in this marriage, a customer will not find the website. Plain and simple. In sequence order, there is a reason why I feel Content + SEO = WIN – Content being first, SEO being second which equal to winning results.

    You need both, but Paul’s point is that content is much more important if one had to choose between the two. Why? I’m more than sure within industry standards, and if you know your industry well, you will be using SEO keywords by complete accident within your content. I say this only because I’ve done it myself. I know from experience.

    However, I will state this yet again, to make my point clear. You need both Content and SEO. :)

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  85. 172

    Paul, to me it feels like you’ve had some bad experiences with seo companies thus have decided all seo is bad.

    I’m sorry, good content is not enough, it’s part of the picture – will good content have your business appearing in google maps? Will it have the products from you online store appearing in google shopping? Will it fix those massive canonical issues your crappy web developer created because they know nothing about how search engines interact with websites?

    Seo is much more than a top 10 ranking and certainly a lot more than good content, sure there are a bunch of sleazy seo companies on the market who do deserve a beating but by that same logic there are probably even more web design and web dev companies in the market who are doing as much or even more damage than the sleazy element of the search marketing industry

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  86. 173

    Hi Paul, just wondering: who tell you the SEO is just about “search rankings”? This could be the first thing people believe the SEO is. But that is wrong.

    Do you remember the phrase: “Content is the king”? Since I can remember, this has been the main focus of any SEO effort. That´s what you call: better content.

    But not only having a “good content” made you better than your competition –even now. You will need a (SEO) marketing long term benefits, right?

    Your ideas are really good, but most companies’ won´t have the expertise to do it in the right path. That´s why their hire an SEO company or consultant. And that is not a crime.

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  87. 174

    Nice one Paul,

    Been telling clients, and colleagues, this for a long time now – I’m not the expert on your industry! Sure we can help tidy the site up from a technical position and give some solid advice but once that’s done that’s pretty much it…

    0
  88. 175

    Does anyone know the code to make comments number themsleves but not allow the replies to do so? I love the effect in this thread!

    0
  89. 176

    Great Stuff! Valid arguments on both sides of the SEO issue.

    0
  90. 177

    Web developers aren’t even taught what duplicate content is. And that is one of the biggest problems SEOs run across. I know. Because I’m teaching developers what it is EVERY single Day.

    -Love,
    An In House SEO, thanks for the laughs

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  91. 178

    Excellently put. I couldn’t agree more!

    Perhaps we should develop a new phrase to replace SEO:

    UO – User Optimisation – the practice of tailoring websites and their content for the benefit of the users that visit them.

    0
  92. 179

    SEO, like everything else on the web, is a changing game, and judging by some of the comments above, it seems that there is a strong disconnect between Developers and SEO types out there.

    What’s important to remember, is that like anything in life, there will be people who are good at what they do, and people who are not. There will be people who try to swindle you, and those that try to do right by you. I have no major problem with SEO ‘gurus’, ‘experts’, ‘wizards’ or whatever, as long as they are not gaming the system, or giving clients unrealistic expectations. The same thing applies to development and ‘hacking’ things beyond their intended use to get them to work or bend them to meet unrealistic needs of a client – and let’s be honest with each other, sometimes, it’s our CLIENTS that are unrealistic.

    So often I hear about e-commerce startups or businesses in a highly competitive market who want to be “number 1 on Google”, in the face of staunch, well established competition. I mean c’mon, if this person asked the same thing of you in terms of a real world store, e.g. “Hi i just opened my own shoe company, I want to compete with Nike, can you make people come to my shop instead of going to the Nike Megamart?”
    You would laugh, yet in digital, these requests are entertained: “Yes I will get you number 1 rank above a company that has been around for 10+ years online, has a database of 50,000+ registered users, post daily content, and are heavily SEO’d, developed, and scaled already”.

    This is probably one of the reasons a lot of dev’s don’t like the recent trend of SEO companies out there, because sometimes, they promise the impossible, or sometimes, they just trick the client and say “non-organic search ranking”.

    SEO, Development, Content, all of this is a mix, it all goes hand in hand. These days the speed of your server/hosting will even impact your SEO rank. The SEO ‘tricks’ or techniques worked in the past, might soon be wiped off the map by a single Google algorithm update (I’m looking at you ‘Panda’), it’s not a perfect science.

    To wrap it up is this, if SEO was an exact science, and development was an exact science, then there would be no such thing as number 1 rank, because every site under a given search term that had been SEO’d would be number 1. A paradox and a farce.

    We can’t all be number 1, can we?

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  93. 180

    Hi Paul,

    I agree with some of your points, I think their are some really dodgy SEO companies out their who rip clients off and offer the world yet deliver nothing.

    I have worked with numerous enterprise level development teams over the years, and yes when you start working with developers they will hate you, they will thing you are jokers, because they all seem to have had a bad experience with SEO in the past.

    From my experience the best way to change the mind set with these developers is to include them as part of the SEO project, test things, when things work then assign more budget to it.

    SEO is not just SEO any more it entails many areas of online marketing such as UX, Analytic’s, CRO, On Page SEO elements, Off page, you can even take it to the next level and incorporate offline elements ect ect.

    Businesses who are busy running their business do not have time to mess around with all of the areas of online marketing they are busy actually making money for the business and running the day to day operations.

    From my experience working in the field for the last 8 years, I feel now then ever their is a need for quality services, if you do good work with proven results and entrust businesses then they will provided references to other friends.

    Kind Regards

    James Norquay

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  94. 181

    Talking about SEO is stupid. None of it matters. The only thing that works is paying Google and Yahoo to be listed higher.

    0
  95. 182

    The only thing different about (most of) the responses from the pro-SEO crowd on this thread and the SEO denizens that used to clog the arteries of the Sitepoint forums, when I was an adviser there, is that most of the responses here feature better spelling.

    Not to say there aren’t some good arguments in favor of SEO techniques in these comments, but when most of the arguments against Paul’s observations boil down to “You suck, you don’t know anything, did I mention that you suck?” then there’s no rational discourse being presented.

    Let’s invoke Sturgeon’s law: 90% of everything is crap. Hard to dispute that one. Are 90% of Websites crap? I think it’s safe to say that 90% of them (or more) have crap elements to them. It’s doubly safe to say that 90% of SEO techniques are crap, and that’s a conservative estimate. The problem is that a bunch of half-literate Web-illiterate, money-obsessed yahoos have long since taken over the SEO paradigm and have drowned out the legitimate purveyors of solid SEO/content improvement techniques with their incessant, badly written yammer. The folks who purvey real SEO techniques to offer real improvement have long ago been drowned out by the tsunami of static from the yammerheads.

    Sitepoint shut down its SEO forum because it was a sewer of idiocy, and the advisers got very, very tired of weeding out the garbage, banning the idiots and spammers, and correcting the thousand and one wrong-headed tropes and outright lies being promulgated there on a daily basis. The few people who had legitimate knowledge of legitimate optimization techniques either left in exasperation, or stayed behind long after my own stores of patience would have been exhausted.

    Content and site optimization techniques are legitimate and valuable. The relatively small number of people who offer these services in a legitimate, knowledgeable and aboveboard fashion are tough to find — like finding the one guy on the Brooklyn sidewalks who is selling real Rolexes from his card table. :)

    The griping, screaming and pearl-clutching in this thread comes from the legitimate providers, who have no doubt grown very weary of having to defend their work over the years, but more so from the snake-oil salesmen who are terrified that knowledgeable and outspoken people like Boag will expose them for what they are and cost them business. I sympathize with the legitimate SEO folks. As for the rest, they are termites and deserve nothing except polite contempt.

    My dad was the only honest used-car salesman I ever knew. (Seriously, this is true.) He was also one of the least (financially) successful ones I knew. He couldn’t change the paradigm, either in how he was selling his product or how he was being lumped in with the thieves and scalawags. I imagine some of the legitimate SEO folks must be in a similar position… How you guys cope with the monolithic, top-volume idiocy in your profession is beyond me.

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  96. 183

    I agree with you way more than disagree.

    However, it would have been fair to put a quick sentence that not ALL SEO’s are bad or worthless.

    The article’s on a pretty high profile site, and while I totally respect (and agree with) the opinion that MOST (95%) of SEO’s should be avoided, there’s still 5% of SEO’s out there who don’t fit that bill, and don’t deserve to get wrapped up or generalized with the rest!

    -Dan

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  97. 185

    The article is great in itself describing the need of quality content for a website in the long run. As latest google algo tells us that informative content would receive the highest priority in terms of rankings, content has become costly and no one else can understand the business better other than the owner. He can only supply the right content with right kind of industry terminologies.

    There could be a win win situation for the seo agencies as well and this is the art of making the client to work for you. Ask the client to supply contents, white paperes, interviews and snippets so that your content team can design the right article for websites. Remember while you post the website contents, keep the users in mind as they dont read, they only scan the content and you have to tap them within 3 secs.

    -1
  98. 187

    Ok, coming in a little late down here in Australia, but better late than never.

    Great content for all! What are you babbling about? You have done some pretty poor research on this topic and the SEO community have called you out on it. Simon says – Google says – Paul says blah blah blah…

    “Your primary objective should be better content, not higher rankings.” – too bad nobody will see your great content.

    If you are in business your primary objective is to be profitable. This doesn’t end with creating a great product or (content) but getting that content or product in front of your target audience.

    SEO when done properly with a balanced approach (content + serp positioning) = higher profits.

    As for the great content = people linking, this is a nonsense if there is no SEO involved, as nobody is going to see that content in the first place.

    For example:

    If I am a local plumber, what great content does Google suppose I write? If someone is searching for a plumber it is not because they want to be engaged in “Great content”. They want to hire a plumber because the taps have just burst or something equally mundane.

    The only inconvenient truth about SEO has been uncovered here in the comments section by the people who know the topic well.

    As someone else higher up pointed out too bad for the business people who don’t read this article all the way through and take what you have wrongly pitched as gospel truth against SEO.

    0
    • 188

      A few keywords will do the job here… don’t take yourself too seriously + bigger search engines (google, bing, yahoo) narrow the results by the location of the user.

      If I search for a plummer. I will write something like this -> plummer services CITY_NAME… or something similar.

      And everything will be just fine :)

      2
  99. 189

    SEO always was a mystery for me. Thx, for bringing some light in this dark corner.

    0
  100. 190

    Well, I’ve trying to explain this in my country for a couple of years now. Glad to see I am not the only one that sees things this way :)

    It seems that SEO company services look cheaper at first glance and the customers are happy not to know what’s happening, this somehow makes them believe they are paying for a special product.

    1
  101. 191

    We all know what needs to be done and that it is all about creating a holistic loving web yada yada. But not everyone is good a writing ‘good content’, just because we can write great code, or produce visually engaging designs does not mean we are trained, educated, skilled, or naturally talented in writing articles, talking sh*t for 40minutes on a podcast or even producing a good case study. Even when you have done that it doesn’t magically get your racing to the top of the pile in SERPS.

    Yes, SEO is total bull, and the idea of paying some clown to create 1000 fake twitter accounts to share my page isn’t going to suddenly get me more jobs.

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  102. 192

    SEO is about delivering positive ROI for most businesses. Why would anyone waste money on SEO, Social Media, Link Building, etc – if it didn’t work?

    “The UK SEO sector is now worth over £500 million annually, according to Econsultancy’s new SEO Agencies Buyer’s Guide”. And it keeps growing.

    However I have to agree with most of the article: seo has always been smoke and mirrors. And even though the advise given is a little extreme, you have to add only a few words, and then it will make a perfect sense – “don’t spend money on SEO, if you have no idea what that is”.

    21
    • 193

      The homeopathy sector is worth over £40 million in the UK.
      Why would anyone spend money on it if it didn’t work?
      Ergo, homeopathy must work.

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      • 194

        …and it DOES! (Even if you won’t believe it…)
        ;)

        -13
        • 195

          Homoeopathy works? Like a lot of SEO only because the patient and practitioner believe it does. The moment you place the claims about a particular technique under any sort of scrutiny there is (usually) no evidence to show that doing x instead of y made one whit of difference of itself.

          0
          • 196

            I know that SEO works because the activities I do achieve goals (i.e. increased rankings of preselected keywords). I also know that if you ONLY publish great content it will be a waste of your efforts 9 times out of ten.

            However when you combine everything: great content, great distribution with link-building in mind & social media – it does work like black magic.

            SEO was never ONLY about search – it has always been about ROI.

            A good designer can make a nice website, and a good copywriter can write an awesome copy, however a good SEO can connect all the pieces together and make the site profitable.

            It just happens that in a young industry like SEO some activities cost you as little as nothing to deliver and you can ask as much as you want from the clients.

            0
      • 197

        It’s is called the placebo effect.

        1
    • 198

      I would like to differ with you on a certain terms. It is seriously smoke and mirrors. It is such only for those that are looking for a switch-hit miracle that would rank up their ranking in a jiffy. But it does not work like that, especially not now after the Google updates. And if anyone does not have any idea of what an SEO can be, then he better should start learning or hire a consultant (if looking for a serious virtual business stuff, rather no use of reading this either.)
      Quoting- “Google’s aim is simple: connect its searchers with the most relevant content. If you are more worried about a good ranking than providing relevant content, then you are going to be fighting a losing battle.” Certainly the right approach to go for in today’s time. The better the content and it’s related strategy, the better your position.

      0
    • 199

      It’s very difficult to find good seo sever to me. Normally I use SEO services from http://www.adsurf.net its very help full to me and cheap one.

      0
  103. 200

    Despite of being this article one of the biggest misleading articles about SEO (mainly because its published in Smashing Magazine), the comments show us what is the REAL truth about SEO and let us knows important people to follow seeking real SEO like Barry Adams and Bill Slawski

    -66
    • 201

      I assume that you are using blackhat for your SEO sessions and i also assume that you were hit by Panda & Penguin updates. My advice is to scream your frustration some where else. The article is gold for bloggers taking care of their content not making fast money, so this is not a place for you.

      8
  104. 202

    Looks like the whole argument is over the SEO acronym.

    And while it’s not the most precise one, it stands for everything one does to bridge the gap between how search engines and people perceive the web.

    Quality content is paramount, SEO is making that quality content more accessible to search engines and people. No need to dismiss one, because of the other, yet.

    26
  105. 203

    Pretty much matches the philosophy I teach (via agencies but also now on the client side). Paul, don’t worry too much about the people hating on this article. You’re spot on, and for those of us who have managed to build sites the right way, without the gimmicks and outdated techniques Google is finally cleaning up, we appreciate it.

    I see a lot of “self preservation” in these comments.

    32
  106. 204

    As a designer I would like in theory to agree totally with Paul, however one has to live in the real world and I think often the web designer/developer community doesn’t, and can often be very navel gazing (this is evidenced by how many tutorials there are about designing blog sites and websites for web apps) while I think most people agree great content is always going to be a a good thing, it has to be acknowledged that there are different kinds of sites out there. Somebody running a web development blog can easily publish rich daily articles with good content that gets linked to, but what about a local plumber or shop, they can hardly be expected to regularly write new articles as they probably don’t have the time or the material and that where they need help from good SEO. So I think just saying you can do away with completely is wrong it needs to be a balance.

    22
    • 205

      Spot on, in a perfect world, all you would need to do is create fantastic content and visitors will come. But the real world isn’t the field of dreams, some times you are in a very competitive space and great content is everywhere. You have to do something to make your self stand out in that crowd of content. I’m not saying it’s the old SEO techniques mentioned in this article, because lets face it, the last time a real SEO mentioned Keyword density was 1995, but there are plenty of SEO techniques that are still very useful and helpful to both the user and the site. SEO at it’s core is great, create web pages that speak directly to users searches. Where it got ugly is when people took the easy way out.

      4
  107. 206

    I totally agree.
    All the clients want to have grate SEO, but they are unable to write valuable content.

    For many people (clients) grate website is full of attractions with grate SEO behind it, But once you let them sketch a simple structure of their website and write something about their business, they start to clean their nails a look for toilet.

    0
  108. 207

    To me, the underlying theme of this post is that owning a web site requires a lot of work for the web site owners, and that adding fresh quality content often will help the owners climb higher in the rankings.

    An amazingly designed responsive web site with perfect code is just the essential building blocks of a solid foundation.

    Many website owners don’t put much effort into their content. They may blog routinely for a month, then completely stop for three months, and wonder why they aren’t attracting new leads.

    10
  109. 208

    I’m wondering what happened to my comment from yesterday, so trying a little test here. If you could, perhaps check the spam filter?

    0
  110. 210

    You make some good recommendations here Paul. As an SEO I do disagree with parts of your message though. To say that SEO needs to be done entirely in-house is no more valid than saying SEO needs to be done entirely by an outside agency.

    A health expert may be great at writing valuable content, but that doesn’t mean that he knows how to make that content work to his company’s advantage. That’s where a quality SEO comes in. It’s a team effort.

    A real SEO will guide the in-house content creators so they can use the content in the best ways possible. It’s not smoke and mirrors; it’s analytics and research. No need to guess. The data doesn’t lie. If someone claims to be an SEO, but doesn’t work in the real world of data then they’re just a hack.

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    • 211

      Great read, thanks Paul. I agree with David and the others when they say you can’t rely on the internal organisation when it comes to producing great content. If your clients are large companies with a lot of resources to put behind that content yes, but if you’re clients are local brick & mortar businesses or even the 10-20 people organisations they never have the will or the time to write good content. I have yet to see it happen. Then again, they should realize they can’t be on #1 in Google for the term “lawyer” and we are here to educate them about that fact.

      5
  111. 212

    WOW! When will designers and content managers/SEOs learn to work together? Designing a page/site/blog/feed and optimizing should be a seamless collaboration. Paying for an outside SEO service that knows nothing about your niche truly makes no sense. Educating an outside source is a waste of time, money, and resources. Educating your visitors from the inside of your business is priceless. Motivating employees to share information and then optimizing that seems to work the best for me. I am hounded multiple times a week by SEO companies to give their services a try. Once bitten twice shy. The ROI is just not there. I’m sure there are honorable SEO firms out there, but doing the research and testing yourself pays off in the long run.

    4
  112. 213

    While this article has some good points to make about taking responsibility for the content of your website, I don’t believe that it presents a balanced view.

    “Whatever you do, don’t spend money on aggressive search engine optimization.”

    I think that’s an irresponsible statement as it doesn’t respect the variety of approaches and various levels of quality you will find among SEO companies.

    While there is a lot of crap content produced and many tactics that make search results less beneficial to the public, there are also many SEO companies who work closely with their clients to produce relevant and well written content that does benefit the user.

    Sure, there are many shady SEO practices to avoid that would not reflect well on your business and make search less useful. But it’s not fair to propose that the SEO industry should simply disappear.

    I think a better approach is to educate people about what is good SEO and how to choose a company that can help them improve their search rank in a responsible way.

    2
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  114. 216

    I provided SEO consulting as a freelancer when I was going through dry spells. When I was helping one particular client with SEO, I must have said at least 30 times, “it’s not about search rankings, it’s about content” and I don’t think he ever got the message. I was trying to teach him how to write content and all he cared about was making sure we got in a keyword 2 dozen times on a page. I was a bad SEO consultant because I cared about content and information architecture, not rankings.

    So many of these businesses want simple formulas, so they see SEO exactly that way; x + y == good rankings – and only these SEO firms know the formula. What stinks is that these SEO firms feed into the lie.

    I work primarily as a CMS developer, and one client (who was a fortune 500 company) insisted on every page being at the root folder; they didn’t want any page to be more than a single directory deep. Why? An SEO told them that this boosted their search rankings. Never mind that the company had 10,000 pages of great content and was already an industry leader. When I told them that this was a ridiculous recommendation, the response was, “but no one really knows how Google works, who’s to say”. So I showed them Google’s patents on their search engine, and Google’s own pages which explains how it works. The response? “But what do we have to do?” They wanted a list of variables and a formula. To say, “write good content” is way too subjective of an answer. An SEO gives you a list of bullet points.

    Suffice to say, everything you’ve written is spot-on, but that doesn’t change the ignorant and lazy business, or the conniving SEO.

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  115. 217

    Wow. This is a bold statement, but so very true! Recently (4 months ago) I have started to re-structure our own product offering to include more focus on “Content” and less on “SEO” – or at least traditional seo services. It’s refreshing to see someone who shares my views as usually my position against seo starts an all out war about why seo is critical, blah, blah, blah.

    Good Show! Thanks for posting this. Now I have an article for reference!

    0
  116. 218

    ah well, unfortunately the old mantra “If you create great content, people will link to it, and Google will improve your placement.” doesn’t seem to work with Google either anymore. There was recently a story in circulation, where a blogger changed the format of his very unique content; he went from postings of 250-300 words (considered an “average” length) to much shorter postings of 100 to 150 words, which was more condensed, but highly informative. His regular readers loved it, he received more re-tweets and other incoming links from readers – and at the same time slipped considerably in Google rankings!
    His traffic went up, people loved the new format, and at the same time Google punished him for the change…

    I guess we all have to learn, that we cannot rely on Google anymore to get our traffic, and once this becomes the new trend it might even spell the “end” to Google’s dominance – which would be good!

    5
  117. 219

    I am predominantly a website designer/developer running a small freelance business. In the early years of my business, I was creating stunning websites that weren’t really achieving anything. Which is when I realised that I needed to learn SEO in order to generate traffic to client websites.

    To dismiss SEO (and especially the technical aspects) is a big call. I have seen dramatic improvements to my clients websites once I have started implementing every single white-hat SEO trick under the sun.

    But then Paul does have a real big point. I get some clients coming to me and saying that they’re paying $1,000.00 per month on SEO and they have no idea what they’re getting from it. I think the issue is that clients perceive SEO as a “make or break” for their website so they foolishly jump into contracts without exactly knowing how it all works (and they’re pretty easily convinced).

    Quality on-site SEO is a MUST. I believe every web developer needs to know the Google Webmaster Guidelines back-to-front otherwise he shouldn’t be developing websites.

    Secondly, educating clients beforehand about SEO is another MUST. They must first know how Google and the whole SEO game works. I think only then they would realise that SEO isn’t all about “tricking” search engines and paying excessive amounts of dollars per month on “optimisation”, but instead about writing good quality content and ‘giving back to their community’ of followers.

    Technical on-site SEO cannot be dismissed! However, clients need to be properly educated and lead to a path of ‘house keeping’ their website with good quality content.

    As the saying goes: “Hard work pays off!”

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  118. 220

    What an excellent article. Nothing more to say! Well done and thank you!

    0
  119. 221

    Print some flyers, buy FB adds, link through directory sites.

    Essentially if your ‘keyword’ hit is broad and you are up against the big players, nothing you can do will get up up the rankings.

    Sites selling toasters bloated with spurious content about toasting things don’t help me as a user.

    Good content, clear tags, meaningful URLS – all these are best practice in design and development because they are good things to do. None is going to promise you a google hit on page 1.

    Bulk buying redundant content, link farming, fake reviews and social. All these things are bad-practice and offer no use to the user, but they may help you sneak up the rankings a little. SEO is a form of marketing, and like all marketing it isn’t pretty. If people were ever going to consume things because they were ‘good’ not because they were pushed in their faces then the majority of leading consumer brands would fall over in a heartbeat.

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  120. 223

    I think this is a good article, however, SEO should not be dismissed entirely, but rather strategized properly so it coincides with the new updates. SEO, social media, and content strategy all compliment one another and should be adapted as a strategy TOGETHER. Hiring a reputable SEO company is still really important, and if they know what they are doing they will incorporate these other aspects as well.

    To say we should dismiss SEO completely is not necessarily the best idea…it just needs to be organized differently. Especially since you brand your SERP’s. It’s true that SEO is fading out, but it’s still important.

    2
  121. 224

    That info is legit from a theory POV, but here on planet reality it doesn’t ring much truth.. As long as there are search engines people will need SEO, mostly b/c people are too busy trying to run a business to deal with B.S. like publishing quality content. Not to discount the power of quality content, if done correctly it can carry a lot of weight. However, most business owners if left to their own devices will likely do more harm than good to their business by attempting to become SEO / content experts.

    Most small business owners have to outsource these type of things or they will simply never get done. I mean it is better to do your own taxes as a biz owner but most people still outsource it. It is better to grow your own vegetables but most of us still go to the store to buy them. All great in theory but not realistic in application. Sometimes it’s better to realize your shortcomings and let the experts handle things for you.

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  122. 225

    Intersting point of view on content – but consider the source. In the real world, it all needs to work together, including SEO. One will not be effective without the other. And contrary to your POV, companies can outsource content very effectively. There is also the type of business that needs to be considered. An auto dealer publishing white papers? I doubt it. Transactional sites are a whole different ball game, something the author fails to mention. Unfortunately SEO has earned a bad wrap because of snake oil marketing salespeople. But, not all companies operate that way.

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  123. 226

    Sorry, but I will destroy your “content” with a few well purchased back-links and proper page titles. Sure good content is great….but thats because it created backlinks on its own.

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    I think it just comes down to balance – you have to make great content but it is pointless to make alot of great content if no one can find it via search

    3
  125. 228

    Paul, I can understand what you’re saying, and I do think that businesses need to develop a vested interest in the development of their online content (as nobody knows their business better than them), but I cannot agree with the notion that every business out there should go and learn how to use Google Webmaster Tools. The fact is that achieving a stable, respectable online presence is a very time-consuming process. I do not believe that SEOs should shroud their practices in secrecy and leave the client in the dark (something that seems to happen too often). I think a large part of being an SEO should be to educate the client on how to develop proper content, but it’s insulting for you to completely write us off as all being a bunch of hacks who are screwing clients out of thousands. I personally know many business owners who are still computer illiterate. What’s your solution for them? I think your article is shortsighted and overreaching.

    P.S. I love the response Joost over at Yoast wrote for you.

    3
  126. 229

    It has been very interesting reading the your article Paul and the heated debate from the readers. If there are any clients who have managed to develop their in house content and then enlisted the help of an SEO adviser, it would be nice if you can share your experience into the debate?

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  127. 230

    I have been there.

    I hired an SEO company that produced keyword peppered articles, and did other complicated and nifty tricks that SEO experts typically do. My site did benefit from this SEO work, but after the job was done, my site plummeted in rankings back into abyss and it took only only 2 months. My other site however, for which I did not do SEO, even though it receives a lot less traffic, but it receives quality traffic and makes me more money.

    What I learned from this is most so called SEO practices are shady because they are designed to outsmart the system. What essentially happens to your website when you hire an SEO guy, is the SEO guy pumps your website with a heavy does of SEO steroids and suddenly the site gains traction and life. Things go good and dandy for a while, then the drug no longer works effectively, but you always have to keep it pumping to sustain the flow of traffic. Once the contract with your SEO guy expires (because you cant pay the SEO guy forever) your site goes into depression, and you go into depression as well because you learned all that money went to waste.

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      I understand why your experience left you with that sentiment. However, based on your very own testimony, your SEO guy was shady. That is not the case for everybody. You’ve got black hat and white hat SEO. How a particular SEO chooses to operate is their choice, and not an accurate representation of the entire community. I like to compare shady SEO tactics to trying to live off energy drinks. You’ll crash. If, however, you choose to get plenty of rest, eat healthy, and exercise, you won’t need energy drinks anymore. In the same way, if you develop great content, and then use basic SEO techniques to optimize that content for the search engines, you won’t need to practice shady SEO tactics. Just like anything else in life, you reap what you sow.

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    • 232

      Actually, what you learned from that experience is that ONE seo company didn’t do its job. You can’t paint an entire industry as shady because you selected the wrong company to work with. There are bad apples in every industry. But to bad-mouth the entire category based on one experience is incredibly unfair (and uninformed). It’s your responsibility to do the diligence necessary to hire the right people for your business. And frankly, with companies operating leaner every day, adding the difficult and time-consuming job of content creation onto an employee’s job responsibilities is bad business practice. This article makes ‘some’ good points, but overall is incredibly harmful in giving such obviously jaded/biased advice.

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    Ok if it does not work for you it does not mean it does not work immediately. The point is that companies are capable of performing optimization themselves.

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    It’s a balance – most businesses don’t have the in-house expertise to generate ‘good’ content and neither can an external SEO, however working together, i.e. optimising contexual content, a site can begin to climb the rankings.

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  130. 235

    Whoop! *Jumps into the fray*
    First, I’m an SEO Analyst myself but that does not mean I completely disagree with Paul post above.
    Yes, content is king. There is no denying that.
    But I think you might be mixing up black-hat and white-hat SEO practices. Being an SEO is simply properly knowing all the guidelines to getting indexed on Search Engines. It is like being a lawyer. Why do we go to one? Because he knows laws and the subtle ways to manipulate it to suit your case. Well, they are most of the times lying sh!theads so, I guess this wasn’t the perfect analogy.
    But despite knowing that, we still turn to them to fight our case in front of the judge (Sir Google *bows*)

    btw, I read through the first page of comments then gave up. I apologise for creating duplicate content. (if any)

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  131. 236

    I think my last comment was just lost to the ether…

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    Perfect review. It really is an issue that requires much analysis. Congrats. Sorry for my bad English.

    1
  133. 238

    So, good post and I do agree. I currently work as Sr SEO Consultant, and he has a point. SEO is easy, just write the text and it will be a way in the right direction. And how about the content then, you should write for users not search engines I do agree with that. Just because users will search on what they are looking for, and if you sell what they wan´t you will have that in the text also. Some sites doesn´t have the text about the product, and they still think they should be nr 1 in search engines.

    So because I then work on one of the nordics biggest Digital marketing agencies, and we have huge clients, why do they buy our services? Just because of two things, they don´t have the time to do everything themselves and they don´t have the knowledge!

    They often need more text, and an understanding in how it all works. SEO is about user experience, so faster sites, easy to find and all that and that´s it what a user want´s and the SEO just love all that! And off course there will always be the SEO companies that will try the fastest way to the top, but don´t say that about everyone.

    (and you could guess, I don´t like link networks, link building and so on…)

    People search for a couple of things:
    Navigation – the intent to reach a certain website
    Information – the intent to gather a certain type of information
    Transaction – the intent to execute a certain type of activity

    Help them find what they are looking for!

    Like Luvnish I haven´t read the comments, to many..

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  134. 239

    I really don’t have anything new to say here, but I think it’s worth repeating that a lot of your ideas of what exactly a SEO is/ does are outdated. If you tune in to what industry leaders have been saying lately (e.g. Rand Fishkin and Wil Reynolds, just to point out a few painfully obvious ones), they’re all preaching that ‘content is king.’ This post agrees with them and supports that idea, so you shouldn’t really be advising people against investing in SEO- just make sure they’re well educated on what current vs. outdated tactics are. SEOs need to stop thinking of themselves as “Search Engine Optimizers” and start rebranding themselves as “Search Experience Optimizers.”

    And for the record, fellow readers, Joost’s response over at Yoast is worth reading too: http://yoast.com/seo-paul-boag/

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    Owen E. Richason IV

    December 14, 2012 11:19 pm

    I agree with everything–that is, accept the part about not using copywriters.

    Matt Cutts keeps giving the same bit of advice about how to rank well in search, and that is create original, quality content that gets shared organically.

    As you point out, Google has gotten smarter and is moving steadily toward the evolution that is the semantic web. It’s even gone so far as to return to earning links rather than building them–that’s accomplished with content, not manipulative SEO techniques.

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  136. 241

    SEO is just a new digital marketing “keyword” :) SEO sales same old “sh*ts” but masked like a new staff. You create a content – old name “brochures”, make a lot of spam – snail mail in you post box and other like this:)
    No differences, only use of different way to serve the services.

    1
  137. 242

    Great piece, thanks a lot.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about the kind of content needed for the new Appeos website and this really made me think about the relative benefits of the content vs SEO approaches. I guess I always knew content was prime, but SEO seemed like a quick fix.

    Anyway, I’m determined to put up a load of great quality content about what Appeos is and how it makes life so much easier for business and then let Google do it’s magic.

    Thanks again.

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  138. 243

    Paul – plenty’s been made of how inaccurate this article is, but one other thing to bear in mind… if you’re spouting this rubbish to your clients then you’re potentially doing them out of a huge amount of traffic and, therefore, revenue. Yes, great content is vastly important, but there’s so much more to SEO than that (none of which involves doorway pages, spamming, or any other ‘tricks’).

    Also, looking at headscape.co.uk, it has some pretty basic technical issues – as do some of your client’s sites – if you need a hand I’m sure there are plenty who have commented, including me, that would be more than happy to consult for you ;)

    4
  139. 244

    If you have ever bought a Smashing Book or followed Paul, you would know that he gets the big picture. This article’s point was well taken. The only thing that I would have added, to keep the SEO community tame, was that in addition to content strategies, you need to take a progressive approach towards web development. This isn’t smoke and mirrors, “SEO Guru”, mumbo jumbo, its simply keeping your code clean, pages loading fast and maximizing the visitors experience.

    6
  140. 245

    I have to echo what many others have commented: this article is inconclusive and bombastically dismissive of totally relevant SEO techniques. Sure, all that old black hat stuff like “gateway pages” and “keyword density” is poor practice–but we’ve known that for nearly decade now. Google, in its Webmaster Guidelines, offers a distinct set of structural best practices that contribute to improved rankings and visibility.

    While “linkable site content” is great, it’s not all “if you build it, they will come”. Active digital PR, such as social media and pitching online press outlets (and thereby garnering backlinks) is an essential part of a healthy SEO campaign. Agencies can help website owners with that, too.

    Effective SEO is a complex mix of many strategies and it does indeed cost money.

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    • 246

      I would have to agree – this article seems a little outdated and overly insulting to people who specialize in SEO. Yes, creating good content is important, its one of the first things we do at our agency. We help the client create targeted, specific content on a per page basis so both google, and people know what that page is about very quickly.

      Not every client is a copywriter, most of our client’s are just sales people and have no idea on how to translate their voice to the web. There are also many other things SEO companies can do for a client, like create press releases and push those to the correct outlets, troll specific forms for the client and answer or post questions specific to the client’s business to create back links or get the people who have the same questions to your solution. Those are just a few examples of systems SEO companies will use to up your rank, get you more visits without gaming the system, but instead getting your message and content out faster and to the right audience.

      To say no one needs a company who specializes in SEO is not intelligent, not everyone will know how to do these things or even have the time to learn it. Also, it can take a full time employee to do these things which means a salary, payroll taxes, benefits etc… why not get someone to do it for you who knows what they are doing and can give you different services based on budget..

      Developer at Atomic Interactive

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    I agree with almost everything in the article. But SEO is a tough one to pin down and I think maybe that is where some of the confusion is coming from. I’m a developer and I’ve always been baffled by the very existence of SEO as a job in its own right. There are things that developers can do to help SEO and there are things that content writers can do to help SEO. But that, as far as I am concerned, is as far as it should go. A good dev & design team will make sure that your webby is seen by search engines, and a good copy writer will write content that fits with your site. So… where does SEO as a job fit into this? In my eyes it doesn’t at all. SEO is a part of my job, as SEO is part of a content writers job, as SEO is part of a designers job (to a degree). The web would run along just fine without SEO ‘professionals’. Take away the developers and you’d have a very sorry situation. There is nothing massively technical about what an SEO’er does… its just very boring development and user tasks.

    I think what the article is tending towards is this. One day Google will do away with all its guidelines on how to SEO a site. One day Google will just work. At that point SEO people wont be helping, they’ll just be scamming people/companies that don’t know any better.

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  142. 248

    “Admittedly, a good SEO company will have copywriters on board who can write content for you. However, their knowledge will be limited, as will their ability to really get to know your business.”

    It’s true. Copywriters can’t do research, or get a feel for business. That’s why no successful companies use third party advertising agencies.

    Wait… That’s the opposite of what happens!

    Stick to telling us about the wonders of drop shadows.

    3
    • 249

      Well said Andy.
      I like that SEO copywriters apparently can only deliver keyword rich, spammy articles as well. Apparently we can’t write link worthy, original or useful content…

      0
  143. 250

    I feel so much dumber for reading this.

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  144. 252

    Thanks Paul! Heard your clarification on your AudioBoo on this subject and just had to read. I will be spinning it for churches for one of my weekly blog posts geared toward that audience. Of course I’ll be linking back here… hoping that this great content gets extra SEO juice from my link! :-)

    Thanks again for your insights and expertise on this touchy subject.

    0
  145. 253

    Finally, someone had guts to tell and publish the truth. Thanks to Paul Boag and Smashing Magazine.

    5
  146. 254

    Another regurgitation of the classic ‘All you need is Great Content’ Epiphany. Which is fine and a bit of wheeze.

    I particularly like the dramatic title… ‘The inconvenient truth about SEO’…

    The old saying goes, ‘There are no truths just facts’ and in this case the facts are this…

    People buy stuff…

    More often than not that purchase starts with typing relevant words in to ‘Search Engines’…

    Search engines match those written ‘Queries’ with written content from the websites that they index, they are after all invariably a Database, or in more simple terms a giant library.

    Your content could be the greatest thing since the 10 commandments, but if it’s marked up in a way that a ‘Search’ engine can’t or doesn’t want to index it won’t show up in a set of ‘Search Engine’ results above ‘Great content’ that is.

    In the same way that if your 10 commandment smashing self-help tome is bound in a cover that the librarian can’t or doesn’t want to read, it is unlikely that they will then be able to find it on the shelves of the library when someone asks for it.

    Good SEO is not provided by snake charmers, it is supplied by disciplined house-keepers and informed number crunchers.

    Producing and distributing well-presented content that relates to well researched market intelligence.

    ‘Great Content’ does not trump SEO, SEO informs ‘Great Content’.

    1
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    Whether you like it or not, you have to make your content searchable and follow Google’s present laws.

    1
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    Why in the world can I not share this article on FB?

    Good article by the way.

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    1. My clients tell me: Make the menu align a little more to the right; we would like to have a slideshow, and yea, don´t forget, we need to be Nr.1 in Google. We have a budget that fits our needs – $ 500
    2. If I tell my clients – okay for the keyword “mpfummmpf” I make you Nr.1 for free, but “airport taxi” is not that easy – at least you are new in the market and there are 99 companies delivering the same service (cheaper) in your area since many years – then my clients does not understand.
    3. Next step: client wants no blog (no time), no twitter stream (no time), no information about his person (thats not mine) – photographs: stock (“I think there are many free services…?); text: last print-advertising.
    4. At least – I ask client to write a few lines about company and himself, I get the statement (in 99% of this “start up” cases): “If I am true, Google is not that important in my case.”
    5. Client hires an “Nr.1 in Google in 10 days for $99 or money back” agency.

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  150. 258

    If you want hits present the people with something worthy of a hit.

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  151. 259

    What is going on here?
    @the author of this article: The article consists of a bunch of assumptions and airy understanding of the SEO idea. Furthermore you have written things in the first few passages, which contradict with the last passages and the most funniest thing is additional information like using name-dropping, taking the victim position and so on. Finally it does not matter if you want to destroy the SEO as an industry or not, because you can not (Some daydreaming is always good for the character, as long as one makes the difference between imagination and reality)

    @Smashing Magazine : Come on guys, it is a bit disappointing to read something like this here.

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    • 260

      “Finally it does not matter if you want to destroy the SEO as an industry or not, because you can not ”

      He doesn’t need to, the “SEO Expert” industry has been self destructing its own legitimacy for years now. Just because read horoscopes doesn’t mean they are legitimate.

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  152. 261

    “We should be creating primarily for people and not search engines.”

    There needs to be balance between the two, understanding across both spectrum’s otherwise you might end up seeing things like:

    Welcome to my website.

    Maybe an extreme example but at doesn’t help people or search engines in regards to the content of the site.

    Copy writing and SEO are like the finer ingredients that gives a well prepared meal that delicious taste, there has to be the right understanding / proportions to bring the dish to life, to much or to little can make it unpalatable.

    An experienced chef will know that balance like an experienced person or team for copy writing and SEO will make the content perform positively for the audience and search engines using proper modern day techniques.

    0
  153. 262

    The article was good for a laugh, especially for those of us who have been reading “SEO is dead” articles for years now. Of course SEO is still relevant. As long as search continues to drive customers to websites and as long as search engines continue to use complex algorithmic to determine keyword rankings, SEO will be relevant. Has SEO changed? Will it continue to change? Was there ever a time when great content wasn’t important? Yes, yes and no.

    1
  154. 263

    I’m very sorry to hear about the personal attacks you have received. Doesn’t speak to highly of these peoples professionalism!

    While I am a novice at SEO or content optimisation – whichever term is better, I have spent a lot of time reading about it and you are correct that Google is in a constant battle with the less scrupulous people in the SEO field to make sure that the results they provide are what they deem the best and not what a black-hat SEO person (note the lack of the term professional here!) want the search engine to believe.

    Like any industry there is a good side and a bad side and there a lot of bad people and agencies out there taking peoples money and using various disreputable tactics to try and create a better search ranking – the amount of comment spam that hits my blog is testament to that!

    The good sources online tell you up front that there is not a magical panacea – it takes hard work, good copy, and cultivating an online relationship with your target audience. Yes there are some things that need and can be done to enhance this, but at the end of the day you are right – good content wins out in the long term. The good firms tell you all this and provide a service to assist you.

    Makes me wonder if the people who are attacking you are those that feel threatened because they are the ones using unscrupulous techniques to get money out of people. People with nothing to fear usually do not respond like a wounded animal – they may respond forcefully but that is different from lashing out and threatening people.

    1
  155. 264

    funny, sad, and strange considering the source.
    here is what google (well a spoksperson) says about the matter:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=BS75vhGO-kk

    0
  156. 265

    So clear in writing! It the most useful article about SEO I’ve ever read.

    0
  157. 266

    “SEO expert” has been a laughable term for a long time now.

    If you have (or hire) expert copywriters, expert web designers, expert web programmers, and expert business strategists, you will already have all your SEO bases covered.

    Write good copy. If you can’t, then hire good copywriters. Hire good programmers that know how to set up a website and url’s correctly. It’s not rocket science. There is no black box, Google spilled the beans a long time ago on how to rank well. “SEO experts” have been trying to pull the wool over their customers eyes ever since then.

    3
  158. 267

    Paul, thanks for writing this article. I think it provides really good insight into how SEO could and should be done. Thanks again.

    0
  159. 268

    An excellent article. I have lost count of the number of times I have asked a client for their website copy only to be told that that was something they expected me to produce! I am thinking of changing the term from SEO to SVO (Site Visitor Optimis(z)ation)

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  160. 269

    SEO is always changing and I have been forced to constantly educate myself on the best practices. Not something any business can do or even a web designer can do because it becomes a full time job and you can’t do everything. Having good content writers in place is crytical for online marketing today along with social media, posting content correctly, and not to mention staying on top of twitter, facebook, pinterest and google+. There is so much online marketing necessary most business do need to hire an online internet marketer to help them with all the task. Paying someone $1000 a month probably isn’t enough to get the job done right but maybe $2,000 a month could. So do you hire someone in house to do the work for $2,000 a month or more or do you find someone that will work within your budget. That is not a lot of money for someone that has such vast knowledge to take your business where your wanting to go online. I agree with most of the article but I have yet to personally talk or meet with any web designer that does the real marketing necessary to get a site found in the search engines and I know some good web designers. There is a place for web designers and online marketing so maybe we should stop calling ourselves SEO experts and strive to be online marketing experts.

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  161. 270

    for me I have to agree with Paul’s sentiment and this is something you cannot deny; in a perfect world we shouldn’t need SEO.
    The search providers spend a huge amount of effort trying to make sure their results are useful, natural, hard to cheat and above all ‘human’ in it’s algorithm. Then SEO companies try to find ways to beat it.

    One commenter hit the nail on the head – you can make all the great content in the world and the ROI will be terrible if no-one can find it, unless you are lucky enough to have an established brand of course.

    I’ve always felt more comfortable with the phrase “findability” which I first saw coined here: http://buildingfindablewebsites.com/an-event-apart/

    SEO is a key part to getting your content out there…

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  162. 271

    Thanks for for the information it will really help me grow more customers through seo. :)

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  163. 272

    “The inconvenient truth is that the best person to improve your ranking is you.”

    This is so far from the truth it is (almost) funny.
    This is like saying you should be your own doctor or lawyer.

    Unless you FULLY understand what SEO is, you stand a better chance of screwing things up than you do improving your search results.
    There is so much misinformation in the “professional SEO” industry it is hardly a surprise that supposed pros mess up.

    When I see an article like this the first thing I do is got to the author’s site and look at his portfolio.
    Often they have not used used the SEO elements properly, (Correctly formatted markup, proper use of semantic hierarchy, etc.),

    Despite reams of information, SEO is NOT just well written content.
    The article states:
    “Why You Shouldn’t Be Optimizing For Search Engines”
    “Google’s aim is simple: connect its searchers with the most relevant content. If you are more worried about a good ranking than providing relevant content, then you are going to be fighting a losing battle.”

    Again this is just plain silly.
    If you took the BEST, MOST RELEVANT CONTENT and buried at the bottom of your page under some large graphics that force the readers to scroll to get to this worthwhile content, it would not rank.

    “The SEO company can use every trick in the book to get you better rankings, but over the long term they will lose, because Google is constantly changing how it rates websites so it can provide more accurate results.”
    Not it’s not.
    They do not change how they rate, but they DO change how strictly they enforce their TOS.
    I have sites that have been in the top 3 for the site’s primary keyword phrase for well over a decade, without any changes being made.

    You do NOT have to keep adding content.
    You do NOT have to write exceptional content.
    You DO need to present the information in a manner that conforms to how people read, where they read, what they read, how they determine relevance and what they do when they find a page is relevant.

    You also must write for search engine in a manner that tells them EXACTLY the same thing the visual presentation tells the human eyes.

    If the author cannot understand the concepts, he should not be writing about them.

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  164. 273

    I have some sympathies with Paul’s position even if I don’t agree with everything he has written. I think it would be useful to differentiate between “integrated SEO” and “bolt-on SEO”.

    The latter is in the mark-up, the server-side code, the styling, the images, the page design, the social media integration… in every element of the site. When a site is put together from an SEO perspective from the ground up, that will give search engines the best chance of being able to “see” a site the way a human sees it.

    The former is when an outside agency is invited to make the best of an already-existing site – which then either has to be ripped apart and properly reconstructed or else reinforced with reams of tape and string. Under pressure of time and budget, the outside agency called in to polish the unpolishable may turn to tricks and cut corners in order to produce results (at least in the short term) which cheapen the discipline of SEO.

    The reason that bolt-on SEO exists at all, when integrated SEO is so much the better approach is because there are so many SEOs who do not know how to design / code / mark-up (that’s not to say there aren’t many who do) and so many designers who do not know how to SEO.

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  165. 274

    Paul,

    Great article! As a paid SEO company, there are so many times I would love to hit a web designer over the head with a dummy stick – or just SEO for Dummies. They design webpages that push people away rather then draw them in and … wait for it…. CONVERT them. I just don’t get it.

    I do agree with you – that the best content writer for a website is THE OWNER (or you, or whatever.. u get the idea). We couldn’t possibly write a kick butt article on how to design the most romantic bedroom (for an interior designer) or how to understand your roof (for a roofing contractor), but we can take what THE OWNER has written (based on our encouragement) and jazz it up for the web and make it human. We have a great team of copywriters, who could probably write a great article for THE OWNERS, but it would smell so fake. Visitors know the difference.

    SEO is becoming more like Social – so be human – at all costs – be humans.

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  166. 275

    While I agree with you on many aspects (content is king, cookie cutter SEO companies should be avoided, etc), I still think many companies lack the knowledge and expertise to perform the necessary due diligence required to boost web traffic. They need at least some guidance in terms of a consultant.

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  167. 276

    I agree with your thoughts about SEO, but optimizing website for users internally is not possible for everyone. You have to hire SEO agency to make your website good for visitors as well as search engines. I know Google always tells that make your website better for real users than bots. If a website is good for visitors, real users then by default it will be good for search engines also. Google always keeps changing its algorithms to make search results better and keeps websites on top which are really good for human visitors. SEO is must either you do by your own or hire an agency, but expecting top ranking by SEO is not good. NO one can guarantee top ranking, but there are agencies which can optimize your website for better visibility.
    http://outsource.techndu.com/

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  168. 277

    I completely agree with Alan L about “integrated SEO” and not “bolt on SEO”. SEO works best when we can work with the stakeholders to develope content. I do not believe however, that all stakeholders are the best sources for content. In my experience – and we maintain several corporate blogs – is that a good SEO facilitates and researches what online users needs are and then works with the company to create content that satisfies that need. If left unguided too often we get content that reads like self promoting marketing babble telling long stories about how the company has succeeded at this or how they plan on doing that. Many times we will need to guide the client to what makes for good content from both a technical side AND creative.

    There is certainly a technical side to SEO but there can also be a very creative side to SEO and one that is much needed. The successful shops will be the ones that can do both.

    Chris Gregory – DAGMAR Marketing

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  169. 278

    I realize I’m a bit late getting to this but…Spot on Paul! Kudos!!

    I’d like to add I don’t believe it’s how companies are organized. It’s much more basic than that. It’s how they perceive marketing in 2013. For outfits that still embrace spin as the primary tool of marketing, traditional outsourced SEO makes sense. Silly, as you noted, but to them, sense. On the other hand, growth-mind brands that embrace the conversation, the interaction and live to add value to their audience know that gaming the algorithm is passe and suboptimal.

    As for SEOs, well by definition the name / acronym is dated, yes? At this point it should be CO (Content Optimization) or UXO (User Experience Optimization) or even UXCO (User Experience and Content Optimization). I agree with you. It certainly seems as if many (too many?) SEOs haven’t caught up to the state of their own art / science.

    Thanks again. This was a great read for starting 2013.

    p.s. I do believe content production can be outsourced but both parties have to actively participate. What I’ve witnessed is that for SMBs that aren’t used to sharing and thinking like publishers there is a steep learning curve and a need to adjust expectation as to what a resource can accomplish effectively without quality input and feedback. Yes, it can be done – with time and effort. But isn’t that true for anything worth doing?

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  170. 279

    hi i think thats this is real , the seo it’s a continuos work

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  171. 280

    hi Paul,
    very impressed by your ” cutting away the jargon” and expressing some simple truths —- “excellent content” and ” solid website” are almost 80% of the work —- rankings will eventually happen as the site speaks for itself…

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  172. 281

    In my thought “SEO is required if there is perfect content available in any web page”.

    I recommend to use any of the available WP SEO Plugins like Yoast to try out what will be the real SEO. And how you can get the traffic to your website if you had the related content for that keywords..

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  173. 282

    Thanks for sharing your opinion here Paul… though I don’y fully agree with it.

    It’is true that the best SEO is the website owner as the content he will produce will of major important to rank on search engines. But it’s true to some extent and he will also need to to have solid on-page basis to put all chances on his side before. You don’t learn this in a coding lesson and I know by experience that most developers won’t optimize much, it’s not their job after all.

    Actually Search Engine Optimization is part of a whole strategy that includes branding, content creation, social medias…
    We – SEO Consultants – are more training & giving recommandations but it still matters. Our clients don’t have time to do the market research in order to continually optimize their actions, we’re here for that and it makes a difference.

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  174. 283

    Just to say, that it is very nice, that you have written this article. It opend my eyes.
    My philosophy doing websites is to have beside apealing design and a seo structured site, a great content.
    It is usually tough job for the clients to make the content. And it takes effort and time to do it. But I encourage them, that it is the only way, to get to the top of google and other search engines. And stay there. And if they on a regular basis (monthly) post what new are they offering, it is a plus.
    If they do not have time to make the content, I offer them, that I can help writing it, if they agree.
    I think it is a waste of my time, when the client doesn’t care, what is on their site. Just to have a site is not enough. I am seeing it that this attitude is showing in their business as well. They have difficulty making the ends meet.
    I think it is necessary for every business to have a solid presentation on the website. It is a safe way, that there will always be new clients. And with their business they will make it through the month, quite good; becuase they will always have new customers, who bring them money.
    Thank you for your article. It showed me, that I am doing websites the right way :).

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  175. 284

    If I knew I could get paid by smashing magazine by stating the obvious I would have wrote this article myself.

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  176. 285

    Kudos for writing this article, taking heat and working towards clarifying your position. Inbound Marketing is important, and SEO has evolved into this new trade, and is still highly valuable. Though I can certainly sympathize with website owners who have employed SEO to only find no ROI, I have to note that with any trade that has just come into existence there will always be “experts” and actual professionals.

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  177. 286

    Guido Zecckine III

    January 25, 2013 12:01 am

    3 words about SEO from a self proclaimed SEO junkie.

    LOCAL, MOBILE, SOCIAL.

    That should pretty much sum up the entire future of SEO as a whole.

    Thanks for the great article, and as always… CONTENT IS KING. Google isn’t

    P/S. Don’t forget Bing, or Yahoo, they’re making BIG strides in the SEO arena, and guess what Search Engine Facebook uses. Yep… BING

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  178. 287

    Ok so here’s what I’ve learned … A) You know basically jack about search, social and how both interact with content and design … and B) You’re unwilling to take responsibility for the fact that (though it’s evolved into an increasingly separate animal) the need SEO grew out of the web dev/design community’s unwillingness to dev/design as if sites would ever have to interact with the web (read: search engines).

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  179. 288

    Let me start by saying that you are one of my heros. You, Mr. Boag, have the only podcast that I listen to (for the most part).
    This article would be great – if you rewrote and integrated your later remarks.

    Here’s the deal – you just outlined what someone should and shouldn’t look for in an SEO company, you didn’t give any truly solid reasons as to why someone shouldn’t hire one. It comes down to what you define as SEO, the role of an SEO company, and what a good SEO company would do/recommend. A good SEO company will help you have a well rounded approach to the web, a good SEO company acts similar to a marketing agency in that respect and with the web results focus, of course.

    Have you worked with a small business before? I’ll bet you have. Have you tried to have them write useful, concise, edited content before? You may have, and if you have then you know you have decent chances that their content needs a bit of work – IF you can get them to even deliver.

    Also, do you think those clients know how people are searching for their services. You know what happens you assume right? Bad things, that’s what happens. You see, you don’t know (without research) what people search for most when looking for you, what terms carry the most value, etc.

    You’re a very smart guy, but you know that this article isn’t realistic. To be honest I think you’re fully underestimating your knowledge (thinking too much of it to be ‘common sense’ of sorts, and overestimating the average net savvy of a biz owner.) Of course, they don’t want to have to spend the time on it, their time is very valuable.

    I challenge you to rewrite this in a concise way that shows how to find value in SEO, rather than shooting it down. Besides, I think my small local client landing gigs consistently online because of a slid web presence and SEO would beg to differ. :)

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  180. 289

    Well let’s not forget, that what Google is describing in their web master guidelines effectively IS SEO, i.e. write for users, have good information etc.

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  181. 290

    First, let’s define SEO. If you define it as Search Engine Optimization aka spam and pure manipulation, yes, it’s not worth it. Today’s SEO has changed, though. Today’s SEO = MARKETING. So yeah, black hat will not bring long term results. White hat (aka Marketing) will benefit a site tremendously.
    Good content alone is NOT enough. Good content + Good marketing = My site kicks *s*. That’s where SEOs come in.

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  182. 291

    Google most of the income is through PPC nowadays , though people are opting for ranking their keyword in first page perhaps its giving good results, So the truth about SEO Given here is not true..
    In todays World SEO is going to be massive.

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  183. 292

    This is an awesome article, Paul. A great summary of a complicated subject in language that non-technical people can understand.

    There are too many businesses out there being solicited by dubious SEO companies that are still engaged in black hat techniques. And the price tags attached to those types of SEO packages is pure robbery. The biggest problem: The average business owner is concerned with running his or her business, not with learning and understanding the intricacies of the web. And they’re too often trusting the wrong people. Google’s Panda and Penguin initiatives are working to rank deserving websites high and punish those relying on technical trickery. The web is evolving and it’s beautiful.

    I’ve been actively sharing your article with colleagues and clients since the day you first posted it. And I’ve been meaning to comment ever since. My own content-focussed SEO approach is proving itself by ranking my clients’ sites high for relevant search terms and locations, and your article reaffirms that I’m doing things right. Thanks, Paul.

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  184. 293

    Just thought I would share my thoughts, I am very thankful for your blog Paul I have been in deep depression with the state of affairs with google, seo, adwords etc.
    I have 2 websites and trying to get people to see my site is very frustrating as most of the competition owns first page, even if you search for a genuine person like myself you then enter into the gauntlet laid down by the big corporations that have tons of money to spend on google adwords, the ppc has jumped now to over £5.00 a click.
    I found it refreshing that people would like to view content on information and new ideas etc instead of damn adverts that sell a way to get to the solution instead of giving you that solution.
    The other thing I have noticed is that there are tons and tons of people selling seo services that say they can get you first place on google, too be fair I don’t rate these people as there are so many of them it must be easy to do. And is it worth paying 500 plus to do that when like I think you were saying, you will be on first page for maybe the wrong reason.
    Anyway thank you for the refreshing thoughts.

    Ame-Luna

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  185. 294

    Great article. It seems like some might feel that his standpoint is either heavily to the right, or heavily to the left, but it seems like he is trying to be smack dab in the middle.

    SEO is important, but it should start in house. Organizations and companies who have a business that can write about a topic that is at least somewhat interesting should hire a great writer which is an expert on the subject to create valuable content. Meanwhile I feel like that same organization should also hire an SEO to optimize that content. Great content is often out on the Web, but not able to be found because the writer themselves knows NOTHING about a meta description or keywords. So an SEO should come in and not only do some off page work, but help and teach the content writers in the organization to optimize their own content so it can be found. Good clean white hat SEO is a positive and helpful practice that many organizations can benefit from. It’s black hat SEO that gives other SEO professionals the bad name because of mal practice and putting Google’s standards above their clients.

    I do believe that it would be great to have the web designer/developer know some basic SEO from the get go but in all honesty that will probably never happen because the work itself is quite different. A good website designer, and a good SEO can be hired and work together to help an organization that has great content get put on the map in their respective positions.

    So as SEO is concerned I think it is a great practice, and I’m learning more everyday, but i do agree it all starts with good content.

    Now cut this out of my comment if you may, but if you search ‘Lodi website design’ you will find ‘feedbubbles.org’ because of decent SEO and relative content.

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      “Now cut this out of my comment if you may, but if you search ‘Lodi website design’ you will find ‘feedbubbles.org’ because of decent SEO and relative content.”
      Brandon, I think you mean relevant. I agree with the comments on good writing! Word selection is a key skill.

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  186. 296

    Pretty interesting article. But there is nothing new I did not recognize. All approaches are standard. You talk about the site. But it must be relevant knowledge. And if there is no knowledge? It may take a long time to learn the material. If resources permit, and time to spare, I think. you should turn to professionals.

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  187. 297

    I really hate poorly researched articles like this one. I think this guy watched one crappy Matt Cutts video and now he thinks he can write an article about seo.

    The reality is, most business owners don’t have the time to learn what to do for their seo campaigns. Sifting through thousands of crappy articles like this one trying to learn the basics is extremely time consuming. Just getting Google Analytics/Webmaster Tools set up or listing their business on Google Places/Maps is already too much to ask of them.

    That is why they pay SEO companies to do their work for them, because they have to focus on what they are good at, at running their businesses.

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  188. 298

    For as long as businesses have money to throw at marketing; someone will be there to catch it!
    We used to throw good money at magazine advertising, until magazine sales slumped. I guess SEO companies are filling the void. Of course you’re going to get a strong reaction Paul; it’s like telling the NRA, we don’t need guns!

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  189. 299

    Thanks Paul, for putting this inconvenient truth into words so clearly – I am in total agreement with you, and this is coming from me, a web designer who lists “SEO” as one of his services.

    I am becoming increasingly frustrated by clients approaching me with more or less this premise: “I need a new website, I don’t really mind how it looks but I want to be on Google’s front page”. Half the time they don’t even know what search they want to be on page 1 for, and I feel like saying “No problem, I can easily get you into page 1 for the key search ‘deluded, ill informed business owner who has no intention of actually spending any time promoting his own website and would rather hand the responsibility to a total stranger who can design websites but knows absolutely nothing about pet supplies/thai massage/vintage clothing (or whatever it is you sell)’…”
    Of course I can’t do that, because I want the job, and if I give them the truth, which is exactly what you mentioned in this post, they will go to someone else, some cowboy designer who will build them a shoddy website but promise top rankings they can’t deliver.

    I am fed up with this culture of aggressive SEO. The next time an ex-client writes to me saying “You know that website you built for me a year ago? It’s not doing very well in Google” I will just give him the URL to this post and add “You know that website I built for you a year ago? The one where you insisted I integrate a blog page, Facebook and Twitter widgets, a forum and about twenty pages with barely any content that you were going to expand thanks to the CMS I installed? Well, it turns out your last blog post is the one I wrote when I launched the site, you updated your Facebook status once and posted two Tweets in the last 6 months, you haven’t made a single contribution to your own forum and the content has not been touched at all. So get out of my face you imbecile”.

    Thanks, feel better now! End of rant.

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  190. 300

    Paul,

    great article, I concur with everything you’ve said. It is an inconvenient truth not only for service providers but for all business. All business is digital whether companies realise it or not. So as you say they do need to reorganise themselves to operate effectively in the new paradigm.

    But most are resistant to change and will always be looking for quick fixes to preserve the existing structure. Not much we can do about that. As Brian Solis keeps saying we are going thru a process of digital Darwinism where slow moving unadaptable businesses simply won’t survive.

    And even the SEO industry is now undergoing that process.

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  191. 301

    I couldn’t agree more with the author of this article. I have experienced everything he speaks of first hand. If I had to write an article about my experiences with SEO and my websites, I would write almost exactly the same content that has been written here. Of course the little SEO bitches are going to complain – it’s their bread and butter at risk here.

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    Juan Carlos Garcia

    April 11, 2013 9:25 am

    Hi Paul,

    Really interesting article, I do agree with most of what you say here, although I think it depends mostly on the company, size and industry to determine whether or not they can do thins inhouse or they have to hire an SEO agency to do the job.

    Your entire post as a concept is completely true, although I do feel SEO agencies do play a big part on your strategy. The problem here is that most CEOs of SMBs only want to rank at the top, they don’t have a clue about basics SEO, yeah you can talk to them about backlinking, about landing pages focusing to different markets, gateway pages, keyword density and whatnot, matter of fact, they probably don’t know about this and don’t even care. And an SEO agency will help you start going the right path and even if they are not fully aware of your sector and know little about your business they have a lot of functional tips you can go about SEO.

    I actually wrote a piece myself and actually used some of your content and linked your article in my post. Please have a look at it here and let me know what you think. http://www.mktstick.com/2013/03/seo-how-to-do-a-good-seo/ I hope you don’t mind me quoting you and linking your article in my post. If you do, please let me know and I will immediately take it off.

    Regards,
    Juan Carlos

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  193. 303

    Thanks for a refreshing and realistic post. Snake oil salesmen/women are always going to get threatened when someone points out that they are selling snake oil, so I regret the personal attacks. Keep up the good work!

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  194. 304

    Bottom line is you are saying that businesses and companies should employ someone to write the copy (£15k – £20k per year) or take someone from doing a specific job and to ‘add’ blogging or copywriting to their job description. This could involve a period of training with costs involved, the employee could become complacent, take time off, not do things properly and with no one really watching over them who would know?. This is wrong, if the business takes time and finds the correct SEO company that are priced correctly, doing things properly and can boast a handful of results and ROI for clients then what is the problem. Surely using an all round and focused, experienced web, internet marketing, ethical SEO company that simply have to get results for clients to keep them on board is the way you should look at it as a business owner. I have to admit, reading the article I really did get the impression you had it in for SEO companies and am not surprised by the reaction to the article.

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  195. 305

    I believe that with Panda release, SEO has become what it should have been. Companies getting rewarded for having good contents on the site as well as spending time to promote their products/services.

    Most SEO companies know how to get you backlinks but real SEO in my opinion is to promote the company in the digital media. Ensure that the consumers are using the information being put out there.

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  196. 306

    I could not agree with your article more. I am right now, working with a client after he has been abandoned by his SEO outfit, after the most vile and bitter email fight imaginable. The SEO company now has threatened to call the police if he asks one more thing from them, the tangled mess of tricks, and sleazy tactics to merely improve the ranking, is horrendous. Meanwhile, the average click is about 550 per month and no one here has the slightest idea whether or not ANY business comes from it. The cost? A mere $11,000 per month to maintain an illusion of optimal search results, to feed another illusion that any of this translates into good or even incremental business. Certainly it is not recouping the $11k per month! Yet the owner continues to defend that ranking is somehow worthwhile.

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  197. 307

    Wow, I thought the “white hat hippies” and “CuttoPhants” all died in 2009. Obviously the 4/12 massacre resurrected their ghosts.
    SEO still works. It has always worked. Try to rank for “online cash loans” or “NY injury lawyer” by using only good content. Best of luck :)

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  198. 308

    I’m looking for an SEO company with the goal of helping us optimize our current site. What are indicators of a good seo company and can you mention some red flags. There are so many and how can one separate the bad ones from the good ones? Most companies just don’t know how to start. Please advise.

    Thanks in advance. I find your article most helpful and honest.

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    Alice Cornelios

    May 20, 2013 5:46 am

    You are saying that it is inconvenient to hire SEO experts to do SEO for you. As a matter of fact, due to flooded information about SEO and the fact that some recommend the use of tools that I am not quite familiar with. Hence, it will take me about a year to start myownseo.com.au/ if I will rely on myself alone. Most of the small scale are left with a little to no choice but to rely these experts in doing the first base of SEO.

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  200. 310

    Whoop! *Jumps into the fray*
    First, I’m an SEO Analyst myself but that does not mean I completely disagree with Paul post above.
    Yes, content is king. There is no denying that.
    But I think you might be mixing up black-hat and white-hat SEO practices. Being an SEO is simply properly knowing all the guidelines to getting indexed on Search Engines. It is like being a lawyer. Why do we go to one? Because he knows laws and the subtle ways to manipulate it to suit your case. Well, they are most of the times lying sh!theads so, I guess this wasn’t the perfect analogy.
    But despite knowing that, we still turn to them to fight our case in front of the judge (Sir Google *bows*)

    btw, I read through the first page of comments then gave up. I apologise for creating duplicate content. (if any)

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  201. 311

    I am new to the web, I am not wealthy enough to afford some one to make my website. I used, kicking and screaming, wordpress to pull together this site. It may not have the look it could or should, but it is there and I have not had much help answering questions as pressented. I have had to go beyond for the answers. The same thing is happening with SEO. I have no way to pay for someone to tell me what I need to write when my pages are full of tables displaying my product. Tables I have found out that these web crawlers do not look into. So now I need to find answers to get up off the floor. This is where I have found my business. Not listed at all even on the very last page. Help. What do I need to do. EXPLIANE it to me in English, please.

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      Margaret – if you can’t afford a budget then you do have to do it the hard way. Starting point is MOZ’s Learn SEO. It’s been around a while but still very relevant. http://moz.com/learn/seo

      Next once you have digested that and tried out a few things on your website (cautiously) then get involved with the rest of MOZ excellent blog postings. Pick and choose what’s relevant to your business or you’ll be overwhelmed.

      You give no clue as to what your website is about so I can’t guide you more accurately than that. My guess is that you have some kind of ecommerce setup? If so, then go and watch what MecLabs are doing in their excellent wevbinars – be warned this is heavy duty research based education – it will give you a serious headache for months but their information is astoundingly useful once you have grasped the first steps above. And I would say, before you go and do any of my suggestions read this article again and digest what Paul is getting across. The keywords are critically important and the technicalities are too; but write for the people you want to visit the website and buy your stuff.

      Good luck – it’s a big learning curve.

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    • 313

      SEO isn’t a simple task which could be completed over night or it’s not something that a firm or indivisual can promise to hand over to you. But as we are professionally doing SEO for our clients, That is why we are always being updated with Google’s latest algorithm releases. After researching and analyzing a lot, we’ve demonstrate a proven penguin safe best affordable seo method to dominate Search Engine Result Page (SERP).

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  202. 314

    Alice Cornelios

    June 19, 2013 7:45 am

    That is well said, but as a blogger I cannot simply wait around fr Google to index my post. There are ways I can implement as my d-y-i seo and not touching the dark matter of seo stuff in the process. Too much of everything is not good, and so with seo. Hence, I can still do seo while waiting for Google to index my post right?

    Alice from myownseo.com.au/

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    • 315

      Olav Alexander Mjelde

      July 3, 2013 3:35 pm

      There is a lot of misonception of what SEO is.
      SEO is a lot, it’s not keyword stuffing (this doesent work any more) and it’s not a lot of meta tags that google also does no longer look at (due to abuse). This is what many people think SEO is.

      SEO is making a good website, it is making a website that is easy to crawl. It is also making a website that loads quick (you get penalized for slow pages). And it is creation of content, preferrably each week at least.

      Also links, incoming and outbound, preferrably they should intersect, so they increase in value.

      Then there are a lot more stuff going on, you have sitemaps that include all the pages and posts, you can make sitemaps with geolocation data, you can host sitemaps with the images on your site, etc. These can be fed into the webmaster tools of both Google and Bing/Yahoo.

      Then there are content markups like RDFa, Microdata, you can add metadata from FB too. You can do A LOT. SEO is not keyword stuffing, it is contextual data, the semantic web.

      What is:
      99 33 22 11 99?

      Is it a phone number? Is it a social security number? Or how much money the next iphone costs?

      If you enter the semantic age, you can mark products, organizations, phone numbers, reviews, aggregated reviews. You can even push images to the search results, you can add metadata for recipies and enter in the recipy sarch.

      What is SEO? It is A LOT, it’s not one thing, it’s an idea of a better web, a web that is understandable for both humans and bots. It includes speedoptimalization, metadata, content creation, links, etc. You can compare it to tuning a car.. If you want to go racing with the professionals and you bring your toyta prius, you stand no chance..

      But if you get the top gear team to tune your prius, suddenly you can finish the race and hopefully get a better position.

      SEO is not everything though, content is king. (If you have no content, you will not get a good ranking, unless you have a very narrow subject that you search for).

      Here is a good example of SEO / semantic web:
      https://www.google.com/search?q=chicken+pasta&tbs=rcp%3A1

      You see how some of them feature stars (reviews), and pictures..
      They will get more clicks and a better ranking, because now Google knows that it’s a recipy.. And therefore it will know that it’s more relevant to your recipy search.

      The added benefit of stars and image, also increases the click through rating. But again, without content, there is nothing to add image or stars to…

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  203. 316

    Thanks Paul for making SEO sound so simple to do in your post. Well, that is what most people are looking for especially those who are doing d-i-y. But, with your suggestions mentioned above, is there a specific time frame where I can see tangible results?

    Dave from Ideas In Business

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  204. 317

    THIS WAS ABSOLUTELY THE BEST SEO ARTICLE I HAVE EVER READ! I’ve seen so many articles and confusing, contradicting information about SEO and SEM etc, but this is clear, to the point and precise. There are some SEO companies out there who are so convincing when selling their lines about how they will get you to the first page of google search results through cracking some Google algorithm, knowing the secret to getting 1st page results. I praise you for this article. Thank you

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  205. 318

    Christopher Parker

    July 22, 2013 7:31 pm

    very good article, i recently created my log and was really not sure how to go about SEOing my blog. now I will do it the long way rather than paying some website ho do it for me

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  206. 319

    You have some valid points in here. I do agree with the content coming from within because the business owner knows there product/service better than anyone else.

    The part of SEO that I think must be done by an SEO company is the load time optimization, w3c validation, title tags, header tags, pixel installation, etc….

    Also, things like info graphics, guest posting etc…

    Thanks

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  207. 320

    After a looong round trip from a web designer to an SEO expert to a joomla coder, searching for someone to “do” our site… I’ve also come to the exact same opinion; internet marketing is simply telling your value story, but at internet scale. And because it is an enduring two-way content medium, marketing departments need to shift the language from one-way copy to genuine conversation.

    And this conversation can’t be outsourced.. For best results!

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  208. 321

    Thanks for a great, informative and easy to read article.
    As a novice in the world of blogs and websites, I have been looking for things I could do to improve my site. I am of the same opinion (i.e. about writing my own content) and as a retired English tutor, do not have a budget for an SEO firm anyway, so it is nice to read that others agree with me. Of course, it is extremely time consuming to write all one’s own stuff – but there you have it, it has to be straight from the horses mouth to be worth reading.

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  209. 323

    If you read the article it makes such sense, anyone that disagrees is probably selling snake-oil off a dusty old cart. SEO is about optimizing your offering’s visibility once the offering is there and all too often people are too busy getting pay-check’s in the door than focusing on their customers. Attack, flame whatever the bottom line is I think Paul has posted the clarifications as some thugs etc have intimidated him, this is disgusting they should be ashamed of themselves and should not hold any professional position while acting like common hooligans.

    1
  210. 324

    Its a great pleasure to read your post on SEO.Its full of information, professionally written and I feel like the author has extensive knowledge in this subject.

    0
  211. 325

    A very well written article. I’ve been in the SEO industry for 13 years and at all costs avoid companies that are not transparent about there strategies. There really is nothing to hide! A good firm will put in the hours required to make your campaign successful and focus on quality vs quantity. Focus on delivering quality content to your customer. Make sure it’s content they will want to read and make sure you’re honest with yourself about the goals you’re trying to achieve. You and your SEO firm need to set the right expectations from the very beginning.

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  212. 326

    Thank you for sharing the information.

    I would like to inform that I have came across a site called Top 3 Media who is providing the services of internet marketing, website design, SEO, PPC etc.

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  213. 327

    I am too tired to make a long comment here, after having worked day and night at the protest site.This is not anymore about Samak resigning, who is right and who is wrong. The situation on the ground is that any little spark could incite civil war. What i have seen today is the collapse of democracy, how politics of patronage has won over the law.Please be aware that if the powers in this country don’t find a solution very soon this will be the end of the Thailand we know and love.

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  214. 328

    Nice Post ! excellent information, I am glad to see this.I would like to inform that I have came across a site called Top 3 Media who is providing the services of internet marketing, website design, SEO, PPC etc. Visit us for SEO Services. Thanks alot.

    -1
  215. 329

    Great Post. As an SEO I do disagree with parts of your message though. To say that SEO needs to be done entirely in-house is no more valid than saying SEO needs to be done entirely by an outside agency.

    -2
  216. 330

    It is Very helpful post about SEO strategies, i have also found it and useful this add. i am sharing you 1strankseo site as like good seo strategy.

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  217. 331

    Thanks for your article which i think was intended for those who own a website ,like me, and want to learn about SEO. It seems like there are experts that want to keep their nest full and resent any education of others that may put a sqyeeze on their pockets.

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  218. 332

    You must be smokin crack.

    You don’t have the first clue and you are buying into Google’s BS.

    Google’s Goal: making seo so complex and seo efforts so ineffective that everyone pays for Google adwords. Sites with great content fall way behind sites with poor content or no content but that have teams of article writers and linkers.

    You need to wake up and smell the BS that Google is shoveling and get your head out of your but before writing articles to convince others of your flawed thinking

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  219. 333

    Dear Paul,
    First of I am really thankful that you are guiding people in the right direction !!

    And I always wanted to share the same things you have mentioned above in your blog each and every things is true about SEO, and how it is made a unachievable peak.

    but the truth is anyone can do seo, like me I am doing it on my site.

    you can also visit to it sugapple.com, but you have not shared how to make a content so I would really appreciate if you do so for the people and new online Entrepreneurs

    Regards
    Prashant Varun
    prashantvarun[@]hotmail.com

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  220. 334

    Christopher Visser

    August 28, 2014 11:09 am

    This is really an awesome post. I would like to appreciate the admin of the site for posting such a wonderful articles.

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  221. 335

    Awesome post dude I have found some cool ideas from your post that might help me to increase comments on my blog.

    -1
  222. 336

    Thanks designed for sharing such a good thinking, article is pleasant, thats why i have read it completely..

    -1
  223. 337

    I passed over every thing without reading any because excuse seems to have replaced truth. example Google used to allow bad site and outdated sites to be removed or commented on. that became inconvenient and Google took it down.
    I don’t what cop-out and excuses I want truth and not the phony Philosophical answer people give when they mean they don’t like the truth that blocks their goals no matter how big small, important, or trivial. Personal example I went to prison because someone told a lie, 16 years I stayed because I wouldn’t lie and say I was guilty. No one cared about the truth even those officers of the court that knew no crime was committed. I could have got off with 2 or 4 years if I did lie and said i was guilty. That is how much truth is important to me. what happened to us that easy is better than truth!

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  224. 338

    Yes! SEO is a way to improve the ranking of websites on Search Engine Result Pages. So, If you hire an SEO Company, you must read their review.

    Paul..Thanks for sharing this blog. this blog is very informative for those who wanty to improve their website ranking.

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