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We're not reaching everybody. Why?


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#1 cre8pc

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 05:54 PM

I've noticed this before and have thought about it. After recently attending another SEO/SEM weekend seminar, once again I see how many people don't have correct information or enough information to do their jobs.

I was struck, as I've been so many times before, by how many web site owners, or employees who work in web site related roles in all the fields web design touches, don't know even some of thel basics.

What they do bring with them are SEO myths, tales of being burned by unethical SEO companies or practices and they're feeling pretty beat up. They all come looking for assistance and solutions they can trust and they rely on the speakers of the events to guide them.

I can tell from their questions how much mis-information is out there and you can see from their sites that they're not getting proper help.

And yet the help is out there. I'm surprised at how many people do not visit forums, for examples. Many don't frequent blogs either. They do run searches and make decisions based on what the SERPS send to them to look at. This reliance on search engines for honest answers is not working because manipulating SERPS is still too easy and affordable to do (just pay for the first spots.)

How do people get information? I write about usability issues and the value of it when its added to SEO practices. And yet when I'm a room of 100 people who own or work on web sites, they're surprised when someone mentions usability. Or, they've heard of it, but don't think its important to be concerned with.

That same room of 100 people also think meta keywords have to be stuffed on a page and links pages are the way to high rank. As much education as there is on the web in forums, articles, blogs, etc., I'm wondering if any of it is being read.

The same thing is appearing in small business group I belong to. I can tell from their posts that these small time ecom site operators still don't have the correct information getting to them. They do, however, seem to believe a lot of bad information.

How do we reach people and how can they know what and whom to believe?

#2 eKstreme

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 07:00 PM

Here is a trick question for you:

If I show you two people who both claim can get you to top search engine rankings, which one do you believe?

Answer: The one who has top search engine rankings. You search for their websites, and whoever comes out first is the one you choose.

Take this line of thought and apply it to the webmasters you talked about: if they search for SEO content, they will innately believe the top rankers. After all, they are ranked well, and so know SEO best.

I just did this experiment: Google for "search engine optimization", and you'll see that some of the top 10 hits are good sites and some are for automated submission software. Now add in the word "free" - i.e., Google for "free search engine optimization"... not a pretty sight IMHO.

So to answer your final question ("How do we reach people and how can they know what and whom to believe?"), we, the good SEO people, need to take back the top listings and keep them.

Another solution, that links in but is a rant in its own right: we need well-written, simple tutorials that teach webmasters the basics. Yes they exist, but all of the SEO books I've read and forums tend to dump information on you. Something simpler is needed.

My 2 cents for tonight :)

#3 DianeV

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 09:59 PM

Kim, to be honest, I think this is a symptom of some things we've seen in discussions here and elsewhere. I often haven't said anything because, first, I've been saying this for years starting at SEF and haven't wanted to sound like a broken record, and secondly ... well, I'll say what's second in a moment.

First, as many or most of us know, is that it takes a knowledge of number of fairly distinct fields (and integrating those fields) to create effective websites. Where one takes a stand as a "web developer" or a "graphic artist", the chances are pretty darned good that one didn't look at the whole picture to see what *else* was needed to make the website complete. A kind of disconnect occurs in that one discipline apparently doesn't see the need to look at what another is doing and what the value of that other may be to the whole picture. That there can be discussions, even here, about whether making websites look good is of any value whatever indicates the disconnect, where the idea of making "pretty websites" is intended as a denigration of the presentation of websites.

-- Example: say I have to do a fashion-related website; am I to ignore the concept that, as a selling platform for designer clothing, the thing ought to make both the clothing and the designer look good? To present a look and feel, maybe even a lifestyle, if you will? And that that ought to be done by visuals; that it can't be achieved only by wall-to-wall text on page after page?

-- Example: let's say I didn't bother to learn HTML, much less much of anything else, but am relying on my WYSIWYG tools for website and image creation. Well, I guess that's okay if I'm just working on my own sites, but when one steps into the arena of professional web design, not knowing the differences between HTML/XHTML and other languages, not knowing how to make it all work is just not a professional product. Clients won't know this, but I don't know how I, in putting myself forth as a web designer selling professional services to clients, can ignore the idea of learning what I need to learn in order to put forth a product of an acceptable level.

-- Example: let's say I'm a graphic designer. Graphic design is a good field; aesthetic and creative and all that. If I'm designing for print, I need to know the freedoms and limitations of print. But let's say I move to web design -- for which my graphic design talents will undoubtedly be a benefit. I must (or at least ought to) realize that, with print, someone else distributes and sells the printed work, and delivers it into the consumer's hands -- and that it simply isn't that way with the Web. I need to learn the disciplines needed for proper website building, for usability in designing of user interfaces. And I have to realize that the distribution method on the Web is not the same as for paper, that metatags won't get clients good rankings, and that unless I do something about it, my clients will have to pay an SEO or pay for PPC. Again, clients won't know this, but I don't see how one can simply brush off client concerns with "it's great design work" or "hey, get someone to do the metatags".

The reality, though, is as you have discovered, Kim. One *still* hears about metatags; one still finds that people have no clue about usability; one still finds weird coding, lack of even rudimentary marketing skills, and the whole lot. The fact is that, even if one doesn't want to embrace even the absolutely necessary skills, it behooves one to know that they exist and to do a little education of clients in order to bring those to bear, if not during the initial website creation stages, then later. It's hardly fair to get clients excited about the idea of designing what they think is going to be a complete website without *also* letting them know that they're going to need more. And that dumping all responsibility for marketing issues or mentioning "metatags" as a solution to rankings is ... well, let's say it really isn't okay.

As I said, there's a "second" thought here. It's this:

The fact of the matter is that any Web-related technology is an ongoing study. Even were one to stay within one discipline, the Web moves on. We get slammed with new technologies, often seemingly one right after the other. So even for the seasoned professional, it isn't a matter of learning something and then never having to learn another blessed thing. Because the Web moves on. And doing a professional job means turning out work at a professional level. Is it a lot of work? Yes. But that's just the way it is.

As to how to get people to know about these things? That would depend upon whom you're talking to. If you're talking to website owners, then forums, conferences, etc. help -- though we can't ignore the fact that this information has been out there for years. Though I didn't talk about it so much until I was admining at SEF back in the '90's, I was the sole lone voice -- in the midst of SEF's traffic! traffic! traffic! hysteria -- quietly suggesting that perhaps this was actually a marketing activity. I wrote too many late-night posts suggesting that it was necessary to meld the ad copy with the SEO because, after you'd attracted the traffic, you had to actually do something with it; otherwise, you had to attract even more traffic to make up for a poorly-performing site.

At any rate. Yes. I normally don't say these things because I tired of saying it, because I don't care to make a loud stand in pointing out anyone's educational shortcomings, and because I don't want to come across as someone looking for clients; I'm actually not. I've just kind of quietly gone about my business in doing what I do for my clients.

But I do think it's important to let website owners and those in the related Web fields know that there is actually more to be known. Because the information is out there. And ... because professional is as professional does.

#4 cre8pc

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 11:14 PM

Diane, thank you for the in depth response. :)

So perhaps one of the conditions contributing to the poor or ineffective communication cycle is that the contributors themselves don't convey the whole picture accurately.

They offer their piece of the pie and it's enough desert for someone who is only seeking that particular piece. However, the more accurate guidance should come from someone who has more experience, maybe? Or has tied together more pieces of the process and conveys this value so that it can be acted on.

An observation

I witnessed something that struck me as a possible key to this when I watched participants at the recent High Rankings SEM seminar in Pennsylvania. At the end of it they conduct a session where attendees can ask the speakers questions about anything they want. Someone wanted to understand how each speaker can know so much, provide reputable services and give knowledgable seminars.

The response was that they specialize. They all know a bit about different aspects of the SEO/SEM industry, and they all, through self learning, or working on projects, whatever, have a good understanding of what needs to be done to build a truly successful website. They know that alone, they couldn't possibly do it all and still provide a truly professional service. So they may outsource in the related areas they need to complete a project. They also make it clear to clients that there are many pieces, it takes months of planning and more money than may have been thought.

Client education

What Diane describes is this client education process. I know that many companies will refuse to take a client who is unwilling to understand and accept that the days of throwing up website and getting an instant number one rank position are over unless they pay the piper.

There are no shortcuts to success.

But, what I also see happening is that there is tiny fraction of web site owners who will consider this reality. Sometimes this "client education' comes as a real shock.

Who is responsible for success?

I also watch companies who feed into mainstream fears and support bad information because there are vulnerable, desperate people who truly believe that rank is the only criteria that matters. They really think that if their site isn't working, it's the SEO's fault and the SEO/SEM must do more to get traffic into the site. They refuse to check under the hood to see if the site itself is doing what it can to satisfy that traffic once it arrives.

What is more important?

Interesting too, was that at the High Rankings seminar, there were two workshops that ran at the same time. One was on Pay Per Click advertising and the other on web site usability. The vast majority wanted to know how to advertise their site. Only a few wanted to learn how to make their websites work better.

And yet we know that advertising doesn't always point to professional delivery of services or completion of tasks. As "eKstreme" pointed out, true SEO's don't represent ALL the top ranked information. Rather, the riff-raff swims along up there too and worse, they make phone calls to get your business. They sell guarantees of rank but not a guarantee of sales, and people buy that idea. Why?

We've cornered ourselves

We've had 10 years to build up these fields and our careers. Many of you have loyal followers or are loyal devotees of someone whom you believe is teaching you properly. For myself, I've written countless articles and been moderating clubs and forums since 1998.

And yet when I leave the house to be with people who are actually implementing practices, it doesn't take very long to realize that nobody read my stuff, or that of my peers either. Rather, we're preaching to the choir. We're all validating each other, rather than reaching the people we want to help.

I want to know why, with all these blogs, feeds, tags, forums, articles, newsletters, etc., so much of what we know is not known to those who need to know.

Can it be that so many web site owners really do have their hands placed over their ears?

Are we so good at this illusion of what we do that nobody understands what we're talking about anymore?

#5 DianeV

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 11:36 PM

Two things, Kim:

First, I don't know that it's necessary to completely specialize in only one field. For example, I'm reworking a site now that had some truly weirdly-thought-out code that was not only getting in the way of downloads but was entirely un-search engine friendly. Had I not known what I know about building websites and SEO, I would not have been able to rework it so that it is search engine friendly, measurely faster to download, far easier (and cheaper) to update and, actually, looks better while retaining the original design. Would it have been somehow better if I only knew how to SEO the text and hoped the coding was okay? Or that I chop the task up by doing one thing, having someone revamp that, and someone else revamp that? My thought is that, by integrating disciplines, one comes up with and follows a more integrated solution.

But that is just my thought, and I realize that not everyone wants to embrace so many disciplines. There are things that I don't do; for instance, PPC campaigns (which don't grab my interest but are obviously immensely fascinating to some).

Secondly, I'm not sure what exactly your website owners do. Are they online-only e-commerce running their own sites? Or are they running businesses with the sites as lead generation? In the second case, my guess is that many such website owners are busy running their own businesses, which takes up most of their time.

My guess is that it's not so much that they're not wanting to hear, but that they're not within earshot of the message. That, of course, is a marketing issue, which makes the real question quite a different one.

#6 BillSlawski

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Posted 05 November 2005 - 11:59 PM

A thoughtful and thought provoking post, Diane.

It does take a lot of different skills, a willingness to work with others with different skill sets, and an ongoing effort to learn to develop effective web sites. Great examples.

Another solution, that links in but is a rant in its own right: we need well-written, simple tutorials that teach webmasters the basics. Yes they exist, but all of the SEO books I've read and forums tend to dump information on you. Something simpler is needed.


There are a number of audiences reading a forum, from those just entering into web design, SEO, usability, to people who have been active in those different areas for years. We try to encourage discussions on all levels here, and recognize that many of the people asking questions as beginners will be the ones answering complex questions in a year or two or three.

I appreciate it tremendously when I see someone post something here about something new and spend some effort discussing the significance of that news in a detailed manner, or answer a question, and provide information not only to answer the question for the person asking, but also for other people who might be in a similar situation. I've seen many terrific posts on Graphic Design, or php, or web design where I've learned a tremendous amount from someone sharing their experiences and knowledge.

We do have some sticky threads in some forums that are intended to act as starting points for someone just starting out, but we could probably do more. If anyone is interested on helping to create threads like that, it's very much welcomed.

#7 cre8pc

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 12:02 AM

is a marketing issue, which makes the real question quite a different one.


LOL. And for all I know, I'm asking the wrong questions!

I'm trying to understand some things, and hopefully my probes will make some sense. I agree that one person can't know everything, or shouldn't be expected to, but indeed, those who understand more levels will be able to provide better long-term and cost effective solution. They also should charge more for being this experienced.

There is that related matter of paying for accurate knowledge and knowing it when it hits you on the head.

There's a difference between an SEO conference of mostly SEO/SEM's who do it for a living, vs. an SEO conference that teaches SEO/SEM to everday website owners of sites like ecommerce, corporate sites that provide information, sales lead sites, services sites, etc.

The questions I heard from both types, however, were often the same. You could tell from the questions how terribly wrong some of their SEO practices were, or how badly they need to understand design techniques.

What surprises me is that the SEO's themselves aren't sharing information well with each other. Possibly due to competition and egos.

What matters to me more is that they're not getting the right information to web site owners. Some are of course, but based on the looks on people's faces, their frustrations, their sighs, and even shocked expressions when they learn that what they were doing with their sites was wrong, I started to wonder how we can improve on this.

The information is so easily available and web site owners aren't getting to it. And yet every day more blogs are launched and even new SEO forums. Are they a waste of time or are what we're doing with blogs and forums serving a purpose (other than being self-serving)?

I know something's wrong but I may not be asking the right questions.

#8 MarkHutch

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 12:11 AM

There are no shortcuts to success.


This is a great thread and brings up some interesting points. However, the statement above is the most important. 99% of the folks I talk to that are starting out with a web site what to learn short cuts, so they don't have to wait a couple of years for their content and site to get noticed. This is why so many people have gone into business offering short cuts and quick results to folks interested in building a domain.

I don't mean to sound negative, it's just so true that there are NO short cuts if you want to do it right and stick around for more than a few months. Sure, there are smart people that can figure out a way to beat any system for awhile, but as soon as they are discovered they are toast and so are their clients.

If you want to be a marathon runner and you look for trainers that promise success in a couple of months, you'll just end up with a heart attack and a smaller wallet because you wanted to believe that someone could offer you the impossible.

#9 projectphp

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 12:29 AM

If I show you two people who both claim can get you to top search engine rankings, which one do you believe?  

Answer: The one who has top search engine rankings. You search for their websites, and whoever comes out first is the one you choose.

Actually, I find that isn't usually the case.

Most people that search for SEO are people that already know what SEO is. That is why they make poor clients (for me); they think they know what it is, and they have started researching because, usually, they need SEO to work to be successful. That (usually) indicates a lack of money, and a freebie attitude. I find the best cleints are people to whom SEO is almost trivial, i.e. it isn't that important in their marketing mix. These people usually have resources, a solid business, likelihood of success and, most importantly, the money to effect change.

Freebie seekers usually don't.

Rather, we're preaching to the choir. We're all validating each other, rather than reaching the people we want to help.

Unfortunately, every endeavour is like that. A rally against <insert cause> is always attended by true believers. Ditto any Church. You only ever get to preach to those willing to listen, and most people only preach where there is a receptive audience. That is the nature of existence.

That was why Danny Sullivan inviting the CSS dudes to SES was so good. Get people off their own turf, and force everyone to take a fresh perspective, and we have a real chance for progress and learning, not just backslapping re-inforcement of what everyone already believes.

IMHO, the problem is one of perspective. So many believe that SEO is the key to millions, the one trick that, if you get it right, will lead to a Ferrari. That image perhaps, no, absolutely, gives SEO more credit than it deserves.

Perhaps the only way to redress this is to provide a complimentary message. SEO + Usability == best results.

#10 DianeV

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 12:29 AM

Re the sharing thing: yes, I saw this starting at SEF. Everyone sharing, but as some started to nail the effective techniques, they went strangely silent. What was eventually left was a lot of new people asking newbie questions. Or -- which puts older members off -- first-time posters demanding a complete list of SEO techniques without having done so much as a search of the forums.

So, we know that there's ample room to help site owners and webmasters. That they are shocked to learn that their techniques are wrong is a matter of correct knowledge sometimes being surprising, even shocking, if the information they have is so far wrong. For example, if metatags are the sole and complete answer, and a site has used metatags, why isn't it ranking well for those terms? Logic dictates that they'd realize that it's because metatags aren't the answer. Or perhaps they're going to the trouble of attending a conference to learn how to write better and better metatags. <grin>

I suspect that the question here, for this thread, is not so much why they aren't listening (they clearly were at your conference) but, rather, how to reach them. Answer that one and you have piles of customers.

Again, I think "website owners" is too broad a term. In my view, there's a difference between someone with an online-only business where the website *is* the entire business and companies offering other services/products that have websites. I hope that description is clear; in any case, that may give a clue as to where to start looking to reach them.



As to blogs, I don't know why others are doing them. I started the first for amusement and as a way to come to terms with blogs, RSS and all-CSS design, but I have to admit that I also now use it as a repository for neat stuff I've found, scripts I've written, etc. I know that some of this stuff has occasionally been helpful to people.

#11 eKstreme

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 01:27 AM

To understand my point a bit more: I just finished a PhD in genetics, and scientists are exactly like SEO professionals. We know the stuff inside out, but we can't explain it to others to save our lives. What we need is a "popular SEO" book, analogous to the popular science books.

Another point about books: SEO principles should be part of web authoring books. The books I mean are the SAMS, O'Reilly, and similar books. These are the most common first port of call for new webmasters, so if we catch them early, they'll incorporate into their methodology. It's the "you can't teach an old dog new tricks" cliche.

There are a number of audiences reading a forum, from those just entering into web design, SEO, usability, to people who have been active in those different areas for years...<snip>
...
We do have some sticky threads in some forums that are intended to act as starting points for someone just starting out.....


What you say about this site is true, and it's one of the things that encouraged me to learn more and contribute more. But remember I knew what kind of questions to ask, and more importantly, I knew I had to ask questions because I didn't know - well - anything about SEO! Anyone who makes it to to these forums has already realized there is a problem. We want to catch those that don't realize there is a problem for them to come here for...

#12 bwelford

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 07:42 AM

There must be something in the air at the moment, Kim, because that is exactly the theme of my latest newsletter, The Website Paradox, (see current signature link or permalink). Here I'm not just thinking about SEO and Usability, but all the other dimensions of an effective website. As you point out, DianeV, a big slice of that has got to be marketing as such.

In the newsletter, I did an evaluation of the websites for 50 relatively large companies ( $25 - $50 million in sales) in this area. You can all guess the outcome. Very few were as good as they should be. That's in line with the comments I hear every week from company owners who have spent considerable sums on websites and are completely turned off by the ineffectiveness of the websites that were created for them. There are a number of reasons for that, but here are two of the most important:

1. Websites are incredibly complex and require a large amount of knowledgeable and skilled effort from the website owners and from those who help them develop their websites.

2. As we discussed in another thread, Graphic Design Plays A Minor Role On The Web.

The solution has got to be the team action you discussed, Kim. I believe an effective website will only result from a strong trio of inputs:
a. The company's management with all their knowledge of the market place, the competition and their own marketing strategy,
b. The web designer who fully understands how the Internet works, and
c. Internet Marketing resources that know how to market effectively (this includes SEO but is much bigger than that).

If company management does not realize the effort that must be put into an effective website, then they may well end up with the same frustration that so many website owners feel.

#13 fisicx

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 12:10 PM

Good discussion.

And I think that the key point here is that we are already 'preaching to the converted'.

Joe Public on the other hand doesn't even know what SEO means. They will search the web for 'how to get number 1 on google' or 'how improve my pagerank' or 'why don't people visit my site'. They will not search for 'search engine optimisation'. I was asked on my last project to recommend a company that would 'optimise the site' I had just built. They had no idea about the concepts of SEO, usability etc.

And even if they stumbled across this topic, they probably wouldn't read it because we fail to apply out own rules. We craft replies and articles that explain in detail the nuances of what is required, but make them long and difficult to read. The manger of a business doesn't have the time or inclination to read anything that requires thinking. They want to see short and snappy. Only then if you have piqued their interest can you tempt them with more and offer to help.

So as eKsteme has pointed out - you need simple tutorials. Bullet points, and lists are much more likely to be absorbed than a two page article.

The trouble is, they will find the automated submission company that offers number 1 on google before they find the company that can do the job properly.

#14 Ron Carnell

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 03:39 PM

[list]

[*] Using scalpel, cut to left of belly button

[*] Remove appendix and discard

[*] Sew up the incision

[*] Pray
[list]

Sometimes, I think perhaps simple tutorials can be more dangerous than no tutorials, and might even be at the foundation of at least some of the misinformation the industry so decries. Information should be presented in the simplest manner feasible, but never MORE simple than feasible. This stuff ain't brain surgery, but neither can it be easily reduced to paint-by-numbers.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption in this thread that places the burden of education on the teacher instead of the student. Are we really obligated to try to reach everybody? Does every doctor you pass on the street stop you and explain why you should maybe lose that extra twenty pounds and throw away that pack of Marlboros? Or do they typically wait until you ask?

Sadly, most people find that unsolicited help is rarely very helpful.

Clearly, I don't have any answers to offer. Just more questions . . .

:)

#15 eKstreme

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 04:55 PM

Interesting argument. I like it, but I will counter with an analogy: when we reach out to teach everyone, it is like reaching out to kids to keep them off smoking - that is, catch them before they start. You're right that people cross a stage when it's "too late", but I still support catching those who have not reached this stage.

As you say "This stuff ain't brain surgery", and that's why it shouldn't be too difficult to write an SEO primer.

#16 peter_d

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 05:34 PM

In need of an update on a few points, but this SEO primer is still very good - but how many people will find it without looking, eh ;)

Ron put it well. So did Abigail Adams: "Learning is not attained by chance, it must be sought for with ardor and attended to with diligence."

#17 DianeV

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 06:28 PM

Yep, I agree with Ron (and Peter), too. People may be lacking information, but it's up to them to reach for it.

#18 projectphp

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 07:49 PM

But if people have misinformation, that implies that bad stuff is being taught somewhere, and that people are trying to learn, just not the "right" stuff. If the case was that people were truly ignorant, they wouldn't know anything. As it is, people know something, just the wrong something.

That changes the debate from are they willing to learn, to where are they learning. A part of the issue is that the SEO "fringe", like magazines, web developer sites and basic computer advice, "dabble" in SEO advice, without knowing what is what, or who is who. Perhaps this is the place to start building a presence, and the ideal location for some bridge building.

#19 sanity

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 08:02 PM

Great thread!

IMHO, the problem is one of perspective. So many believe that SEO is the key to millions, the one trick that, if you get it right, will lead to a Ferrari.

I'd take that one step further and say many believe that a website is the key to millions, for very little outlay.

Diane's pretty much said all I would have said, but to add, too many clients think a website won't cost that much but will give them a lot in return. Perhaps this a hangover from the early days of the net when web designers used to promote a website as much cheaper than print with a larger audience reach. I saw a lot of that style promotion back then.

The reality is a website entails marketing like any other business. As Diane said a professional web designer will point out to prospects that as well as building a site it needs to be search friendly and marketed. That the costs don't end when the site is complete. It will require ongoing marketing which costs - just like in the offline world. I'm wary of prospects that don't realise that. That's basic business 101 stuff.

Specialisation / Complete Service

Like Diane I don't specialise (well I do, I specialise in internet marketing, as opposed to say SEO) and the type of clients I look for have a business head, are looking for an ROI and realise that you need to spend money to make money. Being responsable for the whole shebang (strategy, design and marketing) if the site's not working I'm accountable. That ensures I deliver what I say I will. Perhaps as more businesses delve into website analysis it will start sorting the wheat from the chaff. ;)

#20 kensplace

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Posted 06 November 2005 - 09:40 PM

Kim,

In general, my experience is there are 4 *at least types of people who can help those you are on about.

1. The people who normally help them - they are usually not in it to help, but to get money. They sleep well at night. Its the client that can have the nightmares.
They also dont like anyone who is unlike them.
2. Those that are genuine - but get sc(ewed over by type 1 and stand little chance
3. Those that are same as number 2 but got a lucky break, but got screwed over by bigger boys and girls
4. as 3, but with experience on how to handle what could happen, or just lucky, and keep on at it.

As for clients, the entire SEO/SEM/ETC industry is a JOKE.

I honestly cant say any fairer than that.

Its ran by outside forces (ie Search engines) who have the final say, no genuine "expert" can hand on heart promise anything.

Conflicting info abounds, even down to visiting forums...
Which one should a newbie go to... There are many, and they dont all agree on most things.

The whole area is a mess, and only getting worse, and will get a lot worse in a few years as technology on the net finally moves forward.

Its confusing for people who have worked all there lives in computers, never mind for a client, and clients rarely do research.

People with money will always get the clients, and people with money are... Well ask yourself this question.... How many rich people have a clean conscience?

#21 DianeV

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 01:40 AM

I see.

So, according to you, there is no way that a website can be improved: no usability enhancements will improve conversions, no design improvements will help with customer acceptance, no SEO improvements will ever increase rankings whatsoever, and no PPC (SEM) can help get targeted customers to the site? This is what you're saying?

#22 peter_d

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 05:11 AM

the entire SEO/SEM/ETC industry is a JOKE.


There are good and bad consultants in all areas. There are informed and uninformed customers in all areas. There always has been, and there will always be.

Ultimately, risk cannot be removed, only managed. On the client side, paying due diligence means undertaking research and putting in place appropriate checks, balances and performance milestones.

As it is, people know something, just the wrong something.


True - the world is full of poor information. I doubt there's an easy solution, but I feel diligence has a lot to do with it. Those who want something for nothing, who want easy answers to complex problems, who expect business to be all warm hugs and fluffy bunnies, who want to attend one course or read one book and become an expert, who don't want to do any work etc, will always be at risk because they are avoiding truth.

In short, sorting bad information from good requires due attention. And work ;)

#23 Advisor

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 07:39 PM

We definitely ARE reaching people, Kim. No, not everybody, but not everybody wants to be reached the way we want them to be.

We've definitely come a long way, but sometimes people need to go through their own journey before finding places like Cre8 or HR. They have to be ready to hear what we have to say.

The seminar last week was a great example of really and truly reaching people. Even if we only reach 45 people at a time, if we can get those 45 people on the right page and they perhaps get a few others, it does spread.

The engines help too, simply by not letting quick fixes work for long.

#24 projectphp

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Posted 07 November 2005 - 09:34 PM

...no genuine "expert" can hand on heart promise anything.

That depends really on what they say ;)

If you have a robots.txt up that bans all robots (I have seen that), I can promise an infinite increase on traffic from SEs hand on heart ;)

#25 earlpearl

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 04:50 PM

Interesting and provocative question. But also one that hits every business, institution, etc. How do I spread the word about my services, industry, opportunities etc.

If you just want to teach them what's right ...that is one thing.

If you want to sell them...that usually gets spread much more effectively.

There is after all, major incentive in earning from that.


Here is my story.

I'm a business person with no technical background. In the late 90's our business bought a domain and had a website designed and put up.

(the funny part about this...and we did this before google was started. The domain for our main industry keywords; keyword1keyword2.com was taken. We took keyword1-keyword2.com. LUCK!!!!! LOL)

The site sat for 6 years without one change. Not one. The intro/home page referenced that we were 23 years old...and we were now 29 years as a business!!!

Despite our non-efforts and total lack of knowledge we were getting a greater amount of business off the web. Not surprising in retrospect; our market are young people in their 20's-30's.

With this much business, but old-age (relatively speaking) and inertia we were simply pleased and happy for the results.

We noticed that for searches for reasonable sounding terms to describe our service (we didn't know keyword1 keyword2, etc.) we were not easily found.

We learned that a competitor was likely moving in the market and we saw they were ranked #1 for the major keywords (I take back what I said above...we were learning something.)

What grabbed our attention. FEAR!!!

Roughly at this time (early 2003) we began reading about Google in the general business press and about the importance of LINKS. (and I thought they were referring to sausages!)

When we spoke with our web host (so called webmaster) about this he proscribed that we write lots of content about everything about our service and that would do the trick. We brought up about Links and about what the most well respected business journals were citing and he flatly stated they were wrong.


FEAR!!!

That prompted our efforts. Again we knew nothing. We started learning this ourselves. Now we have some body of knowledge, some (a wee wee bit) of technical expertise, better experts helping us...and a wonderful array of top page rankings with some much higher conversion statistic, 3.5 times the traffic and are undergoing still greater changes trying to stay abreast of what is going on.

We have a small local business. I was speaking with a friend who has a larger local business and he was groping for help with the web. He just spent big bucks on YP web advertising. (Boy does that suck). He was reluctant to take my advice (free) and my rankings are terrific, especially for localized phrases for my industry. But also I wasn't selling him...and didn't push this on him

Selling through fear actually works. Self induced fear is a wonderful motivator in its own right.

I'm very focused on development of local SEO. I can't tell you how under reported, underdeveloped it is.

The businesses who would spend on this are ignorant. Actually the forums hardly discuss this. It is astonishing that advertising agencies in every city have lousy rankings for their own sites for terms like Ad Agency Philadelphia, or Advertising Agency or any variation on the term. (And cripes they have design/art and content writers up the kazoo.

Bill, here, reported on the google patent of its local information. I have reviewed lots of forums and not seen it mentioned anywhere. Localized optimization is a world ripe for the picking...and I see little expertise and lots of opportunities for misinformation.

The Google patent is a killer. BOY DOES THAT EXPLAIN A LOT. I experiment with local SEO with associated businesses...and that is a killer piece of information that is extraordinarily applicable. YET NOBODY KNOWS ABOUT IT!!!

Yes, Kim, misinformation and lack of information is extraordinary.

I came out of a direct sales business (commercial real estate) where there is vigorous direct sales and incidentally lots of misinformation.

How do you attack all these issues within the web itself.

On many seo issues, within forums you will have differing opinions that fly around. Often what works (and in any field) is an opinion connected with a great, or persistent sales pitch to get the business. THE TRUTH doesn't always come out from simple discussions. Ultimately it is implemented most often with either great sales or marketing.

So in my mind. You can disseminate this information best, either by selling it (effectively) or by instilling fear in those that frankly ought to be learning it.

Respectively,

Dave

#26 bwelford

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 05:24 PM

Great post, earlpearl. Fear is a great motivator.

That works in the same way as Pain. Some sales approaches suggest you should look for prospects who know they have pain and you then have the solution to cure their pain. Sometimes people aren't aware that they should be feeling pain. Perhaps a competitor is gradually stealing their market share. How do you make them aware that they should be aware of that pain, for which you have the cure?

#27 Black_Knight

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 07:48 PM

A lot of people so desperately want to believe that there is one simple secret solution that they'll choose to believe whatever sounds like it. They really and truly don't want to hear that it isn't magic. They honestly don't want to even consider that there isn't one secret meta tag, or one simple piece of software that will fix all their woes. They want simple and easy.

The last thing in the world that they want to hear is that there is no one secret, nothing simple, that instead it is a matter of learning hundreds of small things, and improving dozens of things at once.

So, if on searching around they find an old article that says keywords meta tags are the way, then that's the way they want to go. They'll convince themselves that is far more credible than the articles that said it was about dozens of unclear small gains all holistically worked together.

Sorry, but that's human nature.

However, there is also another side. Most companies will have handed over administration and responsibilities of their website to their IT guy. Now IT is more like an engineering discipline than an artistic or marketing one. The IT guy is not a web professional, but instead looks for IT type solutions. That usually means software.

It is madness how many websites of huge corporations are in the hands of an IT department. Why? Because websites are something to do with computers, and Bob of IT does all the computer stuff around here. Seriously, at least the small companies that sprang up because of the opportunities of the web have a web-based focus and origin. The bigger companies are in a much worse position, with websites set up like an IT issue, by buying in whatever software and hardware seemed to be best to the IT guy at the time. After all, he's MS Certified you know. ;)

#28 Jonathan

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 08:45 PM

We've had 10 years to build up these fields and our careers. Many of you have loyal followers or are loyal devotees of someone whom you believe is teaching you properly. For myself, I've written countless articles and been moderating clubs and forums since 1998.  

And yet when I leave the house to be with people who are actually implementing practices, it doesn't take very long to realize that nobody read my stuff, or that of my peers either. Rather, we're preaching to the choir. We're all validating each other, rather than reaching the people we want to help.

It all depends who you are trying to reach out to I guess...

I read what you and others write, I promise.
I go away, I implement until I get it. I come back for more and do it all again. 2.5 years later I consider I am 10%(if that) along the road. It is grim sometimes. It is a long way to tipperary from here. I will meet you there one day, I hope I can promise you that.
Your words are not written in vain, that is definately a promise.

There seems to be an unspoken assumption in this thread that places the burden of education on the teacher instead of the student.

I speak to webmasters regularly who are already making good money. It is frightening how many of them I baffle with the minimum I learn here Ron. I kid you not.
It is my job to learn, the hard way, not yours or the people here to make it easier, because there is no short cut for experience and that, sadly, cannot be taught in any tutorial.

Some people just don't take the time our Ron. Some people want tomorrow yesterday, or today they'd rather not bother.

I can understand why you use the word "burden", but I hope you can see there are some that are maybe worth the effort.

That's enough from me I think, because it is quite hard to explain.

#29 GeoffreyF67

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 10:14 PM

People simply don't know how to research. They're not taught that basic ability in school unfortunately and it hurts them massively throughout their life.

G-Man

#30 kensplace

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Posted 23 November 2005 - 10:46 PM

So, according to you, there is no way that a website can be improved: no usability enhancements will improve conversions, no design improvements will help with customer acceptance, no SEO improvements will ever increase rankings whatsoever, and no PPC (SEM) can help get targeted customers to the site? This is what you're saying?


No, just no one can promise anything, its all at the whim of the search engines. Some things will help, but at the end of the day, who knows what will be penalised next? Obvious improvements may help, and be fairly safe, but you have no proof they will be safe tommorow, as its all down to external forces..... Ok, those forces probably are sensible, but you cant promise something unless you are 100 percent certain.

You can guide, offer help and advice, best practices etc, but a promise, thats something that cant be offered, unless you own the major search engines yourself - or they publish the rules in writing, which they dont.



What works today, may be not so good tommorow...

Also, who do you believe? When there are so many conflicting bits of advice out there, which bit do you go for? There is no standard set down, its all made up by people, and everyone has there own rules.... Everyone want a bit of the action.


Robots.txt file is also not a certainty.... Only search engines that follow the rules will follow a robots.txt file.

If you promise your client that there content will not be spidered and cached, due to a robots.txt file, then you are risking trouble...

Anyone with the required skills can write a spider that can read a site, it wont magically follow a robots file, that has to be coded in. As far as I am aware there is no law stating a coder has to follow a robots.txt file.... Its good practice, but not law.......

Nothing is for sure on the net...

#31 Ron Carnell

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Posted 24 November 2005 - 07:41 AM

Ok, those forces probably are sensible, but you cant promise something unless you are 100 percent certain.

Were that truly the case, my friend, this world would be very, very short of promises. You can't even promise me, with 100 percent certainty, that the sun will rise tomorrow.

When push comes to shove, certainty is just another word for faith. ;)

#32 Adrian

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Posted 24 November 2005 - 11:39 AM

Most companies will have handed over administration and responsibilities of their website to their IT guy.


Ugh, yeah, so many of them just see it as a 'techy' thing that it gets dumped in with the IT stuff. I was in that situation for 2 years, and despite raising it several times, they would never even consider the idea of splitting the sys admin and web dev roles into 2 jobs.
The guy before was quite technical, knew a little bit about web dev, but not a lot. It was a nightmare for me trying to work out what was going on with it all. I stripped out so much useless rubbish that was doing next to nothing it's unreal.
I didn't feel the site looked terribly professional either, it looked a bit cartoony to me.

Then despite the web site being a so called priority, it's always the first thing to be ignored when there's a problem with the actual IT systems, so it doesn't get the time and energy spent on it that it needs. It's a conflict of interests.

#33 kdfisher

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Posted 06 December 2005 - 10:46 AM

"We definitely ARE reaching people, Kim"

You reached me..by accident

Could it be that the average Joe thinks online marketing and promotion isn't any different than everyday marketing and promotion? The internet is a pup when you step back and look at the whole picture. I think the big hype before the bust could have an effect too. Looking around, I find many smaller mom and pop websites have been abondaned since that period. Too many high expectations and no QUICK results. Talk spreads at cocktail parties.

I probably would have been buffaloed into thinking the same as the guy on Main Street. "Yea, meta tags are the way to rank..blah..blah..blah" Fortunately I was dead broke when I began tinkering with websites. I had a website, but had no money for anything else. I started visiting SEO forums and applied some of the theories. Some worked while others did not. I had the time to learn while still working a 40 hour week.

Two years ago a friend said to me, "you also have to know how to market it" I looked at him funny and didn't pay much attention to it, thinking all I needed was traffic. I have the traffic now, but realize the conversions really stink. Don't get me wrong it's not awful, but after spending four days on this site I now realize what I'm missing.

Keep up the great work folks!



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