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Seth Godin interrogates SEO


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 11:01 AM

Seth Godin has much to say about the "black art" of SEO...

The problem with search engine optimization


I just got a note from someone asking me for a recommendation, and when I said I didn't think that most SEO was worth the money, he asked me why. So here goes:

1. Because it's a black art, it's really hard to tell who's good and who's not. Andrew Goodman is good, there are people who are less reputable... no matter what, it's hard to guarantee you'll get your money's worth.

2. my real problem, though, starts with an analogy. Imagine your retail store was on a road that no one ever drove down unless they found it on a map. And then imagine that they redid the maps every week and the mapmakers refused to tell you exactly how they went about deciding which roads to draw and in which hierarchy to place them.


I agree to some extent. SEO has changed from the days of trying to accommodate every engine, directory and algorithm. The emphasis on one - Google, and the popularity contest pressure behind PageRank, removed some of the challenge and skills needed for true SEO.

It became a war game.

But, for all the manipulation and underhanded tactics that evolved, and all the resistance by engine companies to being challenged at every turn, two things persist.

Clicks do not always convert to sales.

Organic SEO still works.

This is why when I recommend an SEO, I refer to people and companies who include some sort of usability perspective in their service. Those that care as much about the people who use a web site, I think, are a more valuable hire, than those SEO companies that take risks that can destroy online businesses or get them banned from engines. Those companies have no concern for the client. It's their bottom line that matters, and they'll do whatever it takes to get away with what they can.

Much of what goes into organic, "natural" SEO, also works towards web page ease of use.

Is Seth on the mark, or not being objective?

Is SEO a black art, dying art, was never an art at all?

<<<Edited, because I keep thinking about this :) .

#2 BillSlawski

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 11:35 AM

Online, it's about adwords and site design.


I can't bring myself to agree. I think Seth oversimplifies here, to the detriment of his readers, and himself.

I'm not saying that someone can't do well with a web site without hiring an SEO, but someone who thinks that they can't design their web site without search engines in mind deserves to spend lots and lots of money on adwords.

Imagine your retail store was on a road that no one ever drove down unless they found it on a map.


I would say that would be every web site in the world except for ones that have spent so much money advertising that people know the brand name, and just append a "www." in front, and a ".com" at the end in the browser address bar.

And then imagine that they redid the maps every week and the mapmakers refused to tell you exactly how they went about deciding which roads to draw and in which hierarchy to place them.


The map and search engine analogy is questionable. Search engine results do change, but a site that uses words customers will look for, and expect to see, that intelligently uses page titles, headlines, subheadlines, body text, well organized site architecture, and smartly labeled anchor text for internal links stands a better chance of doing well in search engines than one that doesn't.

A site that follows a linking strategy that benefits its visitors by providing value to people who link to the site, and by providing value to its visitors in the sites it links to will do very well in terms of building link popularity and page rank.

If you build a destination that people want to visit, you are doing so though pages other than just search engines, and the search engines, if they are doing their jobs right are recognizing your efforts by making those pathways to your site more evident to others. It's not the search engines that build maps to your site - it's you. The search engines are just recognizing those pathways.

Could you imagine finding investors for that sort of store? Could you imagine being confident enough in your ability to grow that business that you'd want to work there?


Yep. :)

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top slot of a great word on Google is not a business plan. It's superstition. It's blind faith.


It's only luck if you refuse to acknowledge that there are intelligent ways to build a web site, and that a business that can cater to a specific niche market, and can do a great job of attracting that market.

SEOs are not a shortcut to success, at least not for 99% of the companies out there.  


SEOs should not be considered shortcuts to success. But it is possible to build pages that do very well in search engines.

You won't win by fooling Google into listing you first for a common search term.


Nope. But I didn't see anywhere that said that was what SEOs want to do. I "listened" to Purple Cow. I know of a number of people who do SEO and SEM for a living who have also. We know that it's easier to capture someone's attention by trying to sell them Jalapeno ice cream than Vanilla ice cream. Chances are good that we even knew that before reading or listening to your book Purple Cow.

You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.


I'm not sure that you need to be friends with your customers. It would be a much nicer world if you did. And it truly is great when it's a pleasure dealing with your customers, and you've built relationships with them that are close.

But I will say that if you can treat your customers with intelligence, respect, and compassion, than you stand a much better chance of success than if you don't. And you'll enjoy what you do for a living a whole lot more.

#3 cline

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 12:41 PM

I tend to agree with Seth, but his sweeping generalizations are troubling and are full of weaknesses.

SEO is akin to public relations. PR is a great marketing tool. Some companies have been built on it. It's hugely important in the marketing mix of many companies. But, it's unreliable. If you're in business for the long run, it's dangerous to depend heavily on PR.

Although there are plenty of exceptions, if a business cannot make PPC work for them, there's something profoundly wrong with the business.

#4 Black_Knight

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 06:57 PM

Through the wonderful interactive nature of blogs, Seth has himself already seen and agreed with a counter-claim made at ConversionRater.

So while Seth's advice is good about using keyword buys and optimizing your site, don't ignore search engine optimization. Either find someone reputable by doing diligent research to help you, or learn it yourself through many of the free resources out on the web.

of course, you're right.

Seth


My own greatest dissappointment with Seth's posts (and indeed thought process) was with the following statement from his original blog post:

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top slot of a great word on Google is not a business plan. It's superstition. It's blind faith.

From a man who usually has such a smart mind for marketing, this seemed to show an oversight that would have been incredible, and therefore seems to indicate a personal 'bigotry' against SEO.

You see, running any form of advertising involves guesswork and faith. Oh, you can place your ad for cash, but how many people will respond? That part is always guesswork to the exact same extent.

Usually, with other forms of advertising, the guesswork is in the needs of the audience. You try to get a demographic breakdown, by age, gender and broad interest, and then place an ad in front of those people. You hope that this isn't the week when that audience will change. Or the week when people won't tune in.

Even then, you are only hoping and praying, pretty much on blind faith, that if you pitch to enough folks in the right general demographic group for your needs that x percentage of them will take the ad well, remember it later when buying.

SEO has far greater targeting and involves far less 'faith' in that respect. I'm never having to guess that people might just possibly be interested in what I offer, but am instead replying to their own independant assertion of interest. Less guesswork. Less 'blind faith'.

Seth shows a sad lack of understanding of how people use search. I don't need to be #1 for one and only one phrase. 50% of referrals that end in a sale come through unique searches to them. Searches that turn up only once in a thousand referrals.

The 'window shopper' searching for 'cameras' is attractive only to the SEO doing a PR campaign. Where the site isn't ROI focused and is focusing on branding as the place for cameras.

The average person searching for cameras is nowhere near the buying part of the shopping process, and statistically speaking, will not go through the entire shopping process on the same site. That only happens with impulse buying - not shopping.

People online shop much as people offline do. They start with an idea of what they want. They go to a few stores to see what's on offer. They may already have a preference for a certain brand, but mainly are looking for information.

They shop around, touring not just one site in the first and only search, but many of them in several searches. They see what many stores offer, what models and makes have the right balance of values and features. They inform themselves and research the purchase.

They'll probably ask folk offline that they know about what cameras, or at least makes, they'd buy (assuming that it wasn't a friend's purchase that inspired their shopping in the first place). That friend may also recommend a particular site too.

They may well search more. This time they'll be qualifying their search a lot. They won't search for cameras, but will instead search for something like "Kodak camera that takes panoramic view photos" or ", etc.

Once all that is done, they'll usually not be searching for cameras. they'll have a make and model that they want. That's what they'll search for, to find the best price and value of deal they can get. This is when the buying process starts, and they may have already visited over 20 sites to get here. They will now be using real buying terms like "Pentax camera suppliers in Cleveland" (see that they are looking specifically for a store or supplier, and have given a region to keep shipping costs low or non-existant?)

'Black Arts' my Aunt.

Real SEO isn't based on 'secrets' but on knowledge that is rare only because it may be hard-won. We give away much of this information right here hour after hour, day after day. It is not a black art, but a specialist knowledge gained from working at it.

If you want to see 'Black Arts' ask ad sales people how they sell ads. Most will ring up a company and say "competitor X is running a double page ad this week, and since we're pals I thought I'd give you a heads-up and see if you'd wanter to counter that with an ad of your own". That happens every day.

The people who see your ad on AdWords and ring all your competitors to use that as a spur to get those competitors to open or increase their own AdWords budget and compete against you, driving up the costs, diminishing the benefit, and making the ads companies very happy.

There's guesswork in all advertising. In whether or not a competitor will be running a bigger and better ad that will overshadow your own. SEO involves less guesswork than many forms of marketing, and to highlight the guesswork of SEO alone is frankly disappointingly naive-seeming of the usually insightful Mr Godin.

#5 gravelsack

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 06:59 PM

People are frightened of what they don't understand.

2. my real problem, though, starts with an analogy. Imagine your retail store was on a road that no one ever drove down unless they found it on a map. And then imagine that they redid the maps every week and the mapmakers refused to tell you exactly how they went about deciding which roads to draw and in which hierarchy to place them.

That analogy is 'pants', as we say in th UK.

The roads that go past my sites don't change every week, and even if they did it wouldn't hurt me too much - got belt and braces, multiple sites and multiple markets. As one rises another goes down, its a numbers game and SEO is crucial to maximising the return.

I approve of him spreading this nonsense though - suits me well if Joe Public gives up on the idea of SEO - more money for those that DO get it :)

#6 peter_d

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 07:22 PM

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top slot of a great word on Google is not a business plan. It's superstition. It's blind faith.


Eh? Seth has a lot of good things to say, but this isn't one of them.

SEO is a publishing strategy, not a singular event. The true benefit of SEO comes from covering thousands of keyword terms and/or knowing which terms to target, and doing so in a cost effective manner. It's like the single line fisherman scoffing at the fisherman who builds a net and travels to a particular spot. Both catch fish, but one fisherman is failing to grasp the true potential of his endevour.

I approve of him spreading this nonsense though - suits me well if Joe Public gives up on the idea of SEO - more money for those that DO get it


Heh. Agreed :)

#7 cline

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 09:23 PM

Real SEO isn't based on 'secrets' but on knowledge that is rare only because it may be hard-won. We give away much of this information right here hour after hour, day after day. It is not a black art, but a specialist knowledge gained from working at it.


That's of course all true, but it's still insider knowledge. I've got clients who still don't grasp what I'm actually doing. It takes a certain ability plus a lot of background knowlege to wrap one's head around this. It's reasonable to call it a black art -- even if the practioners know it's not magic -- because to normal people it is magic. IMHO, that's the definition of a black art.

#8 Black_Knight

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 10:22 PM

That's not quite the classic interpretation of a 'black art' though, Cline.

http://www.google.co...efine:black art gives us

the belief in magical spells that harness occult forces or evil spirits to produce unnatural effects in the world  http://www.cogsci.pr...&word=black art

Black Arts always imply evil or dark powers. That's not true of SEO, though there are folks who use SEO in a somewhat diabolical way. We all know Google's views about 'evil'. We need to stop this pathetic belief that SEO is akin to evil, sacrificing morality, or otherwise anything other than simply applying an obscure, but not black nor arcane, knowledge.

#9 peter_d

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 10:24 PM

My technique is largely dependent on the sacrifice of bats. During a full moon.

But you can't tell clients that...

#10 Black_Knight

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Posted 03 July 2004 - 10:56 PM

I just sacrifice a pizza (by eating it), and/or burn some incense we call 'tobacco'.

#11 peter_d

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Posted 04 July 2004 - 12:47 AM

incense we call 'tobacco'


We call it something else....

#12 Guest_rustybrick_*

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Posted 04 July 2004 - 12:58 AM

Does Seth not understand how SEO is practiced? I have spoken to many people who feel SEO is all one big gimmick. In that case, is Seth to blame for his post or are we to blame for not stepping up and doing something more about those who make this profession look bad?

Anyway, SEO is far from black magic or even luck. Amazing that someone at his level would say something like this.

It is late here, but after reading Ammon's post, I was under the impression that you feel that general marketing is more luck then seo. Advertising in a newspaper has less of a conversion rate then seo or ppc. Actually, there are very few advertising venues as ROI centric as seo and ppc.

So this whole luck and black magic thing really confuses me. :)

#13 Black_Knight

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Posted 04 July 2004 - 05:54 AM

after reading Ammon's post, I was under the impression that you feel that general marketing is more luck then seo.

There's a certain element of luck in all undertakings. Skill comes in making allowances for bad luck, and being in a strong and versatile position to take advantage of good luck (or a competitor's bad luck).

However, if Seth thinks I've just had an amazing run of luck with over 500 clients during the past ten years then I think he may need to redefine 'luck'. :)

#14 DianeV

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Posted 04 July 2004 - 06:32 AM

Sounds fairly medieval to me: if I don't understand something, it must be a black art. Please.

Properly explained, SEO is not that hard to understand. But I'm with gravelsack. Let them revel in their "the world is flat" belief.

#15 cline

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 01:59 PM

That's not quite the classic interpretation of a 'black art' though, Cline.  

http://www.google.co...efine:black art gives us  
Quote:  
the belief in magical spells that harness occult forces or evil spirits to produce unnatural effects in the world  
http://www.cogsci.pr...&word=black art  

Black Arts always imply evil or dark powers.  


It's all a matter of perspective. To insiders the subject is illuminated. To outsiders it is dark. What is done in SEO seems like magic to outsiders, and the techniques of it seem like harnessing occult forces. Add to this the massive disinformation produced by some SEO firms, the constantly changing ranking systems, and the references to things that normal human beings never see, and you end up with what is perceived as a black art.

#16 BillSlawski

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 02:21 PM

Good points, cline.

I was a little disappointed to read Seth's post because he often does such a good job of undercutting perceptions like that one -- of illuminating areas that are unclear and filled with misinformation.

#17 Black_Knight

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Posted 05 July 2004 - 11:36 PM

The problem is simply that Seth just doesn't understand what SEO actually is. Not even the difference between SEO and pay-per-click.

This is underlined very swiftly and conclusively. Seth's post is supposedly all about SEO and is titled "The problem with search engine optimization". Yet Seth is obviously confused about what is SEO and what is SEM.

Because it's a black art, it's really hard to tell who's good and who's not. Andrew Goodman is good, there are people who are less reputable...

That's a nice plug for Andrew Goodman, and I'm delighted for him. But Andrew might be horrified. Andrew himself would far rather deal with SEM and PPC than with SEO, as he stated outright in the "PPC Masterclass" roundtable discussion we shared for Search Engine Blog.

If the question were "why should an SEO do PPC," my answer would of course be "they shouldn't - they should leave it to me and I'll send them my SEO business."

It seems to me that Seth simply hasn't done 'due dilligence' on researching this particular topic. That may come back to haunt him. It only takes a couple of poorly researched articles to diminish a reputation.

#18 Ron Carnell

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 04:25 AM

Danny Sullivan apparently emailed Seth about the article, as reported at SEW, and a follow-up piece with more clarifications will likely be out today or tomorrow.

#19 Advisor

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Posted 06 July 2004 - 11:01 PM

I think it's really just another example of the seedier side of SEO giving us all a bad name.

Pretty amazing in this day and age that it still happens, but until we are rid of all the scammers and spammers in SEO it's going to be an uphill battle for us to be rid of our dastardly reputation.

Jill :evil:

#20 glengara

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 04:17 AM

* the seedier side of SEO*

FWIW, no surprises, but Doug has something to say about this, seems aimed particularly at SEO forum owners...

#21 peter_d

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 05:10 AM

The marketing industry has ethical guidelines. Many marketers adhere to these. It is indeed a shame that some do not.

Back on topic...will be interesting to see how Seth responds. His comments were more about the marketing benefit provided by SEO - he implies (incorrectly, IMHO) that SEO is mostly ineffective.

#22 BillSlawski

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 05:31 AM

If you missed it, here was Seth's response: Better living through hyperbole

#23 cre8pc

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 09:01 AM

FWIW, no surprises, but Doug has something to say about this, seems aimed particularly at SEO forum owners...


I saw that, and I disagree with his feeling that it's our responsibility to "out" SEO spammers and scammers. Teaching our community members what to look for, and what to avoid, is more empowering for them than setting up a tattle-tale community.

#24 Advisor

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 09:49 AM

Hmm...strange response from Mr. Godin! I do understand the going a bit overboard to make a point, as I've done that a bit myself, but it would have been nice if he went into a bit more detail.

Where is Doug's latest rant? (Can someone send it to me?) If it's about forum owners needing to "out" spammers, then of course, I also disagree. Nobody has a responsibility to out anyone.

#25 bwelford

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 10:01 AM

Hi Jill. Was it perhaps this rant by Doug on Traffic Power? I didn't see anything about Seth Godin over there.

#26 cre8pc

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 10:54 AM

Yep, that's the one I was referring to anyway :)

Hi Jill! :wave: Good to see you here. I know it's not because of our smilies (cough). :wink:

#27 cre8pc

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 11:01 AM

I am calling on ALL search engine forum owners to stop hiding the spammers. We are hurting the SEO industry by doing so.

The goal of all of us should be to put an end to search engine spam and those who blatantly practice search engine spam.


Doug's welcome to his opinion of course, but it's not a "goal" of this community to "put an end to search engine spam...".

I'm still not understanding what Seth's goal was. His followup is just as mysterious. I'm looking forward to Danny Sullivan's response. I'm expecting any dialog between them will be fun, frank and hopefully avoid the sensationalism and focus on facts.

#28 Advisor

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 11:57 AM

It is interesting how these subjects ARE tied together. Prominent people like Seth Godin think all SEO is spam, and therefore it is only natural to think that we need to clean up our own houses in order to stop that perception.

I agree that we need to do something to help the perception of SEO to the general public, but I think we all do that all the time simply by having forums like ours that tell people in easy to understand terms what's good and what's not so good.

Of course, our forums don't necessarily spread the word to regular people like Seth G. But then again, naming names in forums wouldn't get to the general public either.

I think we've all been doing a good job for many years to get the word out, and things have definitely been shifting. It's much easier to see that all SEO is NOT spam, if you do even the tiniest bit of research on the subject. You may have to use your own brain and common sense though to sort through the conflicting info. But anyone who has either of those two things can usually tell by the tone and comments of certain people, who is credible and who may not be so credible.

It's just a shame that Seth G. used his old perceptions of SEO in his article, when he obviously does know better. It made for a more dramatic article and those who don't know better would nod their heads in agreement.

#29 bwelford

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 12:09 PM

Perhaps he's been taking some coaching advice from Jakob Nielsen. :)

#30 peter_d

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 04:00 PM

This thread isn't related to outing spammers. As Kim says, Doug is entitled to his opinion, but that isn't the purpose of this board.

Back on topic...

Seth Godin is a marketing guy. His feeling expressed in the first article was that SEO provides negligible marketing benefit. If SEO is to be credible, it needs to show return on investment - the client needs to "get their money's worth". The credible SEOs do this. Those that don't, will never be credible, no matter what moral high ground they claim.

And he is right.

All marketing endevours must prove their worth. Just because an SEO claims "best practices" and "no spam techniques" does not therefore mean they provide value to the client.

Show me how you turned $1 into $2. That will always be credible.

#31 cre8pc

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 06:30 PM

I'm not inside Seth's head, and of course, someone with his background and experience can likely see around the dust in many corners a lot of us plow on past.

But I just can't help thinking he wrote to get the jolt he got. Perhaps he's seen the TrafficPower mess. And others. Maybe, like Doug, he really wanted to express some strong feelings and who cares if he's patted on the back for it?

Taking this out of context, he writes:

All other things being equal, is an optimized website better than one that's not? Sure.


Some people may wonder at what "better" is? For Peter and a lot of us, conversions, ROI, or proof of some sort of positive productive value, is the pot of gold. For others, its ripping off unsuspecting customers and who cares what the site looks like, or the ramifications of their efforts.

Seth couldn't refer anyone for SEO, he stated, in his intitial post. I thought that was sad, if true. I know many SEO's whom I respect and I know will work hard for a client, and do it honestly.

I've yet to understand why Seth had no one in mind that he could trust.

#32 Black_Knight

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Posted 07 July 2004 - 11:20 PM

Maybe it was all a secret ploy to get some top SEOs desperate to prove themselves and so offer him so free samples of their power? That'd be a more 'Seth-like' thing to believe in than that he's really so ignorant about good SEO, the difference between SEO and SEM, etc. ;)

I can't help feeling really disappointed that Seth seems to have such a huge, (and given the research power of the internet, inexcusable), gap in his knowledge, which before this had seemed so extensive and well-rounded. :(

#33 dannysullivan

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 01:33 PM

I'm looking forward to Danny Sullivan's response. I'm expecting any dialog between them will be fun, frank and hopefully avoid the sensationalism and focus on facts.


There wasn't much to it. I'd fired off a quick email and posted what I said on our own forums. This is what I sent:

Saw your recent post on SEO. Let me try replacing SEO with the word PR and a few other similar changes, to see if you still have the same feeling:

PR is the purported science of getting your story into the headlines of media outlets.

The theory is that a huge number of people find what they're looking for via media outlets, that virtually all of these people only look at stories in the top outlets and that if you don't reach out via PR, you're doomed.

I just got a note from someone asking me for a recommendation, and when I said I didn't think that most PR was worth the money, he asked me why. So here goes:

Because it's a black art, it's really hard to tell who's good and who's not. I know some PR firms that are good, there are people who are less reputable... no matter what, it's hard to guarantee you'll get your money's worth.

Lucking into (and it is luck) the top headlines is not a business plan. It's superstition. It's blind faith.

PR firms are not a shortcut to success, at least not for 99% of the companies out there. You won't win by fooling major media outlets into writing stories about you. You will win once you figure out the simple mechanics of turning strangers into friends and friends into customers.


OK, enough with the illustration. There's nothing wrong with SEO per se, and I hope you'll revisit your views. It makes just as much sense to pay attention to how search engines index your web site as it does to perform basic public relations by getting a press release out. A few simple changes are often enough to bring you free, lasting traffic from search engines. Why wouldn't you want to do that. And there are indeed plenty of good, reputable firms that can help you, if you can't master the basics yourself.

The REAL problem with SEO is when people depend on it entirely. I've long written and spoken to people that SEO is like PR, and companies in the real world generally don't do just PR. You can't depend on it. That's why they also do ads and other types of marketing. The two combined -- SEO and search engine advertising, that's search engine marketing. The combination is very powerful.

But SEO alone? Yep, no one should build a business around just that. And extremely aggressive SEO, where you might go after tricks and chase any small algorithm change? Not at all what I'd recommend to someone. But don't mislead your readers into thinking all SEO is like that. It's not. Good SEO starts with having quality content, then making the important changes that even the search engines will tell you to do. There's nothing wrong with that.


He quickly replied that this was what he was trying to say but perhaps too hyperbolic, then he later blogged the same.

Overall, I found the post rather alarming with some other things I've seen recently. Anil Dash also expressed his "low opinion" of the SEO industry: http://www.dashes.co...nigritude_ultra. The issue with Traffic Power is another blow to it.

Personally, I'm rather tired of the entire SEM industry being tarred with the same brush. I'm giving a lot of thought to what I'll say about this in my keynote for the next SES show. My feeling is that something needs to happen to clean our image up. We can reopen the whole "ethical/white hat" debate, but I don't see that as the solution.

I see any solution as involving the search engines themselves, as I about recently: http://searchenginew...cle.php/3344581. They need to be part of the process, and I think they've got a big stake in doing it.[/url]

#34 Advisor

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 02:53 PM

We can reopen the whole "ethical/white hat" debate, but I don't see that as the solution.


How can it not be at least part of the solution?

Let's face it, there are highly unethical companies calling themselves search engine marketers and optimizers who are stealing people's money and getting their sites banned.

How can the solution NOT involve something that has to do with standards and/or professional ethics?

I do agree that the search engines need to be involved. Afterall, it's their resources and algorithms that are getting used to cheat people and companies.

#35 Black_Knight

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 05:00 PM

How can it not be at least part of the solution?

Because it is part of the problem. Self-appointed and self-proclaimed 'ethicals' (where ethics is nothing to do with the difference) spouting nonsense that still isn't about proven success, but instead focuses on whether the person chooses to make SEO even more obstruse and disconnected with what matters - providing value for money and accountability to clients.

It would be hard to clearly define me as a white-hat SEO, and therefore only the term 'black-hat' could be applied to me. I regularly use doorway pages when the client has a need that they answer. I have used cloaking (and will again when the situation justifies it). Most convincing of all, I treat Google's webmaster guidelines as simply being what Google tell me is okay - not a limit on what I can do if I'm prepared to take a risk (and know how to minimise and manage risks).

So, by the way things are generally defined in these over-simplistic either-or debates, I am very much a 'black-hat' SEO. So tell me, Jill, am I an ethical professional SEO? Is every white hat SEO a better person to hire (or recommend) than I am? :D

#36 Advisor

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 05:19 PM

Oh great, try and make things confusing to me, Ammon! Don't you know that this is all black and white? Why do you have to stick your ugly gray in here where it doesn't belong! :D

That said, as ethical as you obviously are, I doubt the search engines would be happy with your doorway pages.

Like you, I could give a crap what the search engines say is right or wrong cuz they're not the boss of me. BUT...it makes sense that we have an obligation to show the engines what we're showing the users, or else we are "cheating" the engines.

Now, I know the arguments that who cares if we cheat the engines, they are cheaters themselves, and all that, but cheating is cheating. We're making a page appear to be relevant according to a search engine's algorithm, when it really isn't relevant according to what a user sees.

If the search engines were to be part of an organization, I would imagine they would want to exclude the companies that create pages like that. (Unless of course they are paid-for pages such as trusted feed, etc.)

At any rate, there have got to be some professional standards that can be applied to search engine marketing, just like they can be applied to any profession. Aren't there? Why is our profession so hard to pin down some simple, honest guidelines?

Now stop confusing me, Ammon. Every darn time I think I have this all figured out someone like you comes along with a good argument against it and it makes me want to scream. Instead I'm going to finish my wine and just get drunk and not think about it any more...

:celebrate:

#37 peter_d

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 06:32 PM

Here we go again :D

Agree with Danny. The search engines must come to the party and legitimate SEM. If they don't, the enivitable will happen: people will be left thinking that spending money on search marketing is a highly dubious activity, it they're not doing so already. See Seth Godin. See Anil Dash. See marketing directors the world over. The search engines should be aware that PPC is getting tarnished along with the rest.

The whitehat/blackhat definition is nonsense. Pretending that professional ethics is about literal interpretations of search engine guidelines does not make it so.

A credible seo shows they add value. The "ethical seo" appears to spend an inordinate amount of time grandstanding about morality. How does this solve anything? This merely directs attention away from what really matters when it comes to how our industry is perceived and what will make it grow:

Accountability.

#38 Black_Knight

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Posted 09 July 2004 - 08:44 PM

That said, as ethical as you obviously are, I doubt the search engines would be happy with your doorway pages.

I honestly think that most of the time they'd be quite happy with them, strange as that must sound.

The pages have been manufactured to gain rankings, adding new content that wasn't there before, and that the client would not have added but for the existance of search engines, but, once commited to building the pages for search ranking purposes, I ensure that they answer the question that is at the root of the search. People have a motivation in mind when they search, and my doorways expressly exist to answer it, and do so pleasingly enough to encourage and entice that searcher further into the site.

The search engines and I both share an awareness of the importance of serving the searcher with a great experience. I want the surfer to feel happy to use that search engine again, just as they do, because I know how to gain high rankings on it. :)

I never pollute the SERPs, because they are just as much the source of my living as they are to the SEs themselves.

#39 Aaron

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 08:48 AM

Excellent rational Ammon,

Wish others shared your same thinking of co-existance and cooperative measures to ensure the searcher finds exactly what they are looking for without hassle or endless frustration.

--
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#40 Advisor

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Posted 10 July 2004 - 03:02 PM

I never pollute the SERPs, because they are just as much the source of my living as they are to the SEs themselves.


That's great! Come over here ya big lug...I have a brand spankin' new white hat for ya! ;)



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