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Is it time to get out of the SEO business?


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#1 tosheroon

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 12:09 PM

The basics are still valid...

1) Choose your keywords wisely.
2) Put up a lot of content that is relevant to those keywords
3)Get a lot of links from pages that are semantically related to your pages - maybe you no longer need the exact keyword phrase in the inbound link.
4) Sprinkle the magic keyword dust throughout your title headers bold/strong/em/italic/body text.

...and up against pages that don't follow those principles you can still impress clients by coming out top ten in a month or so.

But already since Florida no two SEO's can agree on anything beyond that. It may be that some of them have learnt new tricks and they're just playing dumb but I'm willing to bet that most are just going to buy more domains, make more sites and focus the links on one killer site.

It will still work now but as the algo becomes more complicated predicting what will put a site on top becomes harder. Eventually with so many weights and checks and balances, it will be like predicting where a drop of rain will fall - maybe god could do it but god alone can ignore brownsian motion and chaos theory.

A trustworthy SEO firm is already about as hard to find as an ethical timeshare promoter and it wont be too long before clients catch on that there is no magic formula, no thousands of search engines to submit to, no secrets of the search engines.

The markets chock full of people who read 3 posts on a forum last june and discovered they could charge their clients extra if they used a bit of SEO-speak.
There's room for a few corporate consultants especially if you include pay per click, viral marketing and branding in your brief. But the law of diminishing returns has reared its ugly head, google will continue to make its algo more difficult to decipher so for most people its time to ask the question "Is it time to get out of the SEO business?"

There's usability or accessibility research, XHTML, cross-platform compatibility and PHP content management to sell instead. Or we could go back to building and maintaining web page. Without the jargon and marketese in ten years we'll end up with the same status as plumbers and car mechanics and there's nothing wrong with that at all.

Just a thought.

:)

#2 Ron Carnell

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 12:37 PM

… but as the algo becomes more complicated predicting what will put a site on top becomes harder.


When I was a kid, and the U.S. was still struggling to put its first man on the moon, I used to build rockets and set them off in my backyard. I didn't know it at the time, but what I was really building was pipe bombs with one end open, and it's a bit surprising I'm still here to tell the story. That I managed to actually get a few aloft was a testament to luck, not knowledge. I didn't realize, of course, that "rocket science" would one day become a cliché for something complicated, but I've often wondered how many NASA scientists had similar childhoods.

I'm not sure I have the smarts to ever to be a rocket scientist, but I've always been grateful that some do. They are an elite group of men and women, well respected, almost revered, and they certainly earn every penny of their high salaries.

Time to get out? Or time to get serious?

(Maybe ten years from now, someone's signature will allude to complexity by saying "no SEO"? :)

#3 tosheroon

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:06 PM

You're right the tag line's a bit silly I meant "no jargon" - that I'd explain the process in language the client could understand rather than scientific formulas - not "no clever stuff". :oops:

In your analogy though i think seo's are the talented but underfunded russians getting an early lead where as google would be Nasa striding ahead.

On-page SE optimisation is already like ESA's beagle 2 lost and blind on mars. I also think that artificial link building will eventually go the same way.

What do you think about think about "No double-dutch, No artistic Temperament" or Gobbledegook?, no jargon no attitude, hmmn negatives aren't good in a slogan...I better stop now before they cart the thread off to the writing copy section, but it makes me worry when a guy that builds pipe bombs talks about getting serious, somebody should notify homeland security if the use of the phrase hasn't sent alarm bells ringing in the CIAs webwatch program already. :lol:

#4 Grumpus

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:09 PM

Actually, it's at times like this when I am tempted to get in to the SEO business. These "shakeups" are what make it all fun and interesting. The surprising thing here (or maybe it's not surprising, what do I know?) is that all the things that have happened during this "radical change" are things that we, here, have been talking about for some time. Some of these concepts and ideas predate these forums by some months, even.

Having spoken to several notable SEO people in private over these past weeks, there are some common elements. The ones that I have tended to respect over the time that I've known them all reported pretty much the same thing. "Yeah, I had a few sites here and there drop maybe a page or two, but they are (or already have) worked their way back up near where they were beforehand (without any panic driven reworking of the pages). For the most part, though, nothing changed."

The other thing these people have in common is an awareness of not only "what works" but of the direction the search engines are headed. None of these directions contradict what people are already doing, but rather, they are an extension of the basics. If you keep up on it and plan for what "will work" while you optimize for what "is working now" then your technique just slowly and constantly evolves (as does the algo of the search engine). So, when the algo suddenly changes, it doesn't effect the people who have been paying attention as drastically. (At least in the long term).

Sure, some sectors were hard hit across the board (for reasons I've described in other posts). But it's a self-fixing problem for the people who were ready for it.

I would also suggest that the sectors that were affected 'across the board' are all very competitive sectors and thus, by nature, will tend to have more SEO done to the pages. If the SEO company is a "do what works without looking to the future" type establishment (which I suspect that way more than half of the SEO firms out there are), then it'll hit those competitive sectors more noticably. (If your sector wasn't competitive, then you wouldn't have the need to spend as much money on having someone rig your site to rank, so these less competitive sectors didn't show the change as much). Suffice it to say that while the speculation that says Google is using different algos for different terms may be possible, I tend to believe that the seeming usage of different algos can be explained by just looking at the nature of the sites within that sector. Since many among that set of competitive sites were optimized by "keyword people" and not those who have been using natural language and other techniques for a while, then it's difficult for the algo to come up with the "natural language" elements that are now more key to ranking the pages. (That's just one simplified example, there's more to it than that).

At any rate, back to the specific topic at hand - if you are serious about doing SEO - this is a great time to be in it. I'm sure that a lot of SEO firms have been or will soon be replaced very shortly by a new one. If you can demonstrate that there's more to SEO than random link exchanges and slapping keywords on a page, then you may be the one to benefit from it.

G.

#5 tosheroon

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 01:19 PM

Ah yes that is the question - Can anyone demonstrate that there's more to SEO than random link exchanges and slapping keywords on a page?

My point is that using natural language and well formated documents with relevant headings and titles et.c. is just good design not a special branch called SEO.

Of course good link strategies aren't random and buying a couple of 100 sites will still work if you put in the time to design a decent site for each one.

But I think that a seperate school of marketing called search engine optimisation will soon disappear and if its a golden age for anyone it'll be copy writers and content providers.

#6 Grumpus

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 02:01 PM

My point is that using natural language and well formated documents with relevant headings and titles et.c. is just good design not a special branch called SEO.


True, natural language is a key to this - but there's more to it than that. You need to use a natural language that is similar (i.e. contains common phrases and word groupings) to other sites in your "theme". If you are a very creative writer and use your own flowery terms and metaphors and analogies, then the impact of this isn't going to work for your page. There needs to be a "pattern among a group of pages" for this to kick in.

I've also used only the semantics portion of this in my examples. There's localRank and all sorts of other things coming into play all at once.

There is still, and always will be, a need to get keywords onto the pages (just don't get too dense with them), to build up your raw PR, and to do all the other things that every SEO, it's just that by having an understanding of everything present and what's likely to show up, it's becoming easier to blow the keyword stuffers and link farmers right out of the water. And, in low competition areas, a well written site may (one day) be self optimizing by its nature. In competitive areas, though, its different.

If everyone in that sector is using the same old methods to optimize, then those same old methods will continue to work (because that's all there is to compare by). As soon as a few of those sites start employing "big picture" techniques though, the whole field changes as those sites surge toward the top and shake up the others.

G.

#7 peter_d

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 02:30 PM

SEO is dead for me as far as clients are concerned, and has been some time. My offering is SEM, of which SEO is a small part. Corporate clients are interested in a measurable return. I've found that there is a good niche to be had if you can walk the marketing walk, and talk the marketing talk. Shape the service into something the marketing managers can fall in love with.

Like any business endeavor, building relationships is the key to turning SEO/SEM from a hobby into a business proposition. You need to be able to sell. The ability to perform the technical aspect alone does not a business make.

#8 Black_Knight

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 02:40 PM

If you are asking yourself this question, then maybe it is indeed time to get out.

Me? I'm happier than ever with my choice of career.

It is kind of weird really. The last couple of years have been the first and only long period of stability in the SEO business. It is the very fact that the situation is traditionally fluid, that new engines and algorithms replace older ones, that market share of the engines wax and wane, that has made this business so challenging. This level of change was hitherto the norm. This is the kind of stuff I signed up for.

Even then, the perceived stability was only really there for those who focused only on Google, and only on the status quo. In this same period of 'stability' we have seen Yahoo buy up most of the top-tier engines, we have seen Microsoft gearing up to enter the arena with guns blazing, we have seen radical new algorithms get developped.

Yet the SEOs who joined this game only in that small period of supposed stability are now terrified and suffering shock. It is almost like post-traumatic shock for some. :lol:

Joining the SEO game is a little bit like moving to LA. No matter that you've heard all the stories about quakes, you still are never prepared for the first one that comes along in your own experience. You can tell how long someone has lived there by the severity of the quake that they take in their stride.

If you don't like quakes, then yes, it probably is a good idea to move away. But don't think that LA will shut down any time soon.

If you can't see the justification in SEO then yes, move away. Don't expect SEO to disapear any time soon.

Can anyone demonstrate that there's more to SEO than random link exchanges and slapping keywords on a page?

Real SEO was never about those things. Of course there is more to it than exploiting the loopholes that were always going to be the first ones to be closed.

SEO is about understanding search, and using that understanding to bring the maximum benefit you can to the marketing objectives you're working on.

It starts from the most basic understanding of knowing where people search. Anyone who focuses their attention on a few, choice search engines, rather than the thousands of trafficless psuedo search sites that crop up endlessly just to grab the advertising money of the unwary has started to learn the basics.

Understanding how people search comes soon after. Not just in terms of recognizing high-volume keywords, but also in terms of recognizing what their value is. Sex is a high-volume keyword, but does it convert to sales of bathroom fittings? Understanding when a search term that has half the volume of a larger related term, actually offers double the value is along that path.

Understanding how search engines work, what their business models are, and how things fit within their five-year plan are vital to true SEO. Which results will be seen as the algo working right and so be encouraged? Which results will be seen as poor quality, and be the focus of upto 50 PHDs to eliminate? Which elements of search are stable in the short term and which are already targeted for improvement?

If you ever for a moment thought that SEO was about 'slapping keywords on a page' or about 'random link exchanges' then where on earth have you been? This forum has been telling everyone that all that crap of keyword stuffing and reciprocal links was a doomed shortcut, nothing more than crass corner-cutting, ever since we opened. The people who post regularly in these forums have been saying it far, far longer.

If you want to learn what SEO really is then you could start with the Quick Kick Start Guide to SEO.

The simple fact is that SEO works. Not only that, but SEO can make the difference between success and failure for even huge companies.

#9 tosheroon

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 02:42 PM

and once all those factors:- high top , local rank, stemming, semantics, registering previous clicks, and more are in play and inter dependant. They could be complicated by a random factor introduced purely to shuffle around the position of the top 30 most relevant resources, time how long visitors stay on the site and re-order them accordingly.
Then no-one will know exactly how to replicate the effects that took those sites to the top and SEO ceases to be a science based on observation and experimentation and becomes a movement or a religion.

I believe google will be able to look for groups of words that it knows are related and increase the value of links from a page that seems related to another, I believe that google will be able to look at clusters of sites that link to each other and figure out, by the way they are interlinked, if the linkage is natural or planned, I believe that google will be able to look at your search history compare it with everyone elses and predict from that which" paris hilton" you're looking for at what time of day and I believe that google will be able to find the most relevant page for your search query - all of these things have not yet come to pass but come to pass they shall and on that day woe unto he that has only optimised his pages, better that he had spent his time creating excellent content.

...and one day maybe those flowery phrases will help ths forum rank better for religious searches :twisted:

#10 tosheroon

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 03:04 PM

:shock:Whoah hold your horses Ammon, I am not nor have I ever been an optimiser, what I like is making web sites.

I have no personal axe to grind, my sites did fine during the recent storm and the quote you rammed down my throat was actually my quoting grumpus.

For those highly competitive phrases there's certainly money to pay someone to find ways of beating the algo - but in all other areas - eventually the algo will improve and the resource which best answers the searchers question will come out top.

What I mean is that we should concentrate on optimising sites for people not search engines.

Marketing is probably an honourable profession, search engine optimisation alone rarely is.

#11 Blue

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 04:26 PM

What I mean is that we should concentrate on optimising sites for people not search engines.  


...but a machine cannot present sites optimized for a person to a person when it cant identify as a person....a human brain.

#12 Kali

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 07:37 PM

Marketing is probably an honourable profession, search engine optimisation alone rarely is.


Personally I'd put it the other way round

Search engine optimisation is an honourable profession - maketing alone rarely is.

But then again i'm biased - on the other hand I've seen marketing people promise the earth and have absolutely nothing to back up their promises.

#13 peter_d

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Posted 13 January 2004 - 07:59 PM

I've seen marketing people promise the earth and have absolutely nothing to back up their promises.


No SEO has ever done this :P

I find individuals can act honourably. The profession in which they choose to operate will undoubtedly feature people from both ends of the spectrum, and everything in between.

#14 dannysullivan

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 05:27 AM

But already since Florida no two SEO's can agree on anything beyond that.


This isn't a post-Florida thing. There's been disagreement about tactics with SEO for as along as I can remember -- and I can remember back to 1995 :P

Neither will you necessarily see a change. Other marketing industries have disagreements over tactics. All PR people don't act the same way, nor is every television ad the same. Direct mailings constantly change in format and pitch. There's no reason to assume that search engine marketing is dysfunctional because people do things differently.

A trustworthy SEO firm is already about as hard to find as an ethical timeshare promoter


Hardly. There are plenty of trustworthy SEOs. Yes, anyone can hang up an SEO shingle. But anyone can do that with other businesses on the web. We don't say that finding a trustworthy web site on online commerce business is impossible, just because the web enables some non-trustworthy companies to thrive. Heck, non-trustworthy companies thrive in the "real world."

Is it time to get out of the SEO business


Again, not a post-Florida question. It's more like a post-AltaVista, post-Yahoo paid submission, post-entrance of paid listings, post-link analysis/Google question. These are just some of the constant changes the SEO industry has faced over the nearly ten years its been running now.

The answer is yes, if you assumed that being successful with search engines was simply understanding how to optimize a page following rules A, B and C. Once that formula breaks, you're in trouble if you can't figure out a new one. And that formula has broken many times.

The successful SEOs are those who go beyond this. They understand how to select and target the appropriate terms. They understand the value of good content. They know how to work to get good, lasting links. They recognize which search engines are rising and ensure they focus efforts on being included in them in various ways. All very much in keeping with what Black Knight said above.

The even more successful ones understand they need to transition from SEO, pure optimization of web pages, to SEM. They become search engine marketers and understand how to balance both paid and unpaid listings, getting the benefit of both worlds. The really successful ones will brand out into conversion analysis.

Of course, there's still the successful SEOs who will chase the formulas with engine fodder. They'll be successful because they're diligent about reverse engineering as much as possible and coming up with mechanisms to feed in lots and lots of pages. Someone who's read a few posts on a forum isn't going to compete with that industrial scale.

My point is that using natural language and well formated documents with relevant headings and titles et.c. is just good design not a special branch called SEO.


I would disagree. It is true many web sites naturally have what it takes to do well with search engines. But a good title does not equal a good title for a search engine. For example, let's say you have an article on your site about choosing the right pair of shoes. Here's a potential good title:

Getting The Fit Right

Nothing wrong with that, when you consider your reader will understand the headline in the context of the web site and the particular content of the page. It's about getting the right fit with shoes, obviously. But someone educated to SEO will understand the the important terms are missing. They'd be inclined to do something like:

Getting The Right Fit With Shoes

That's still pretty lame -- I haven't done any keyword research for this topic, so who knows what the most operative words are. But it's not just a pure win for copy writers. They need to be educated. They also don't understand anything about link building, which will remain important. And design issues? That still does have an impact, not to mention the overall architecture of your web site.

Don't sell yourself short. SEO very much has a unique set of skills that is complementary to the overall web site production process.

#15 JohnScott

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 05:58 AM

The even more successful ones understand they need to transition from SEO, pure optimization of web pages, to SEM. They become search engine marketers and understand how to balance both paid and unpaid listings, getting the benefit of both worlds. The really successful ones will brand out into conversion analysis.


Well said.

Don't sell yourself short. SEO very much has a unique set of skills that is complementary to the overall web site production process.


If you look at some of the toughest keywords, they are owned by people who go out and get links. Hundreds upon hundreds of links. Thousands of links. It isn't a pretty picture. It's nothing near to being a "professional" profession.

In fact, I know a 15 year old doing it.

Brute force SEO always wins out over the gentler, page-elements SEO. If the ability to spam hundreds of blogs and guestbooks is something to be proud of, I'm missing it. In my book, SEO is manual labor.

#16 DianeV

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 06:30 AM

Well said, Danny, and let me welcome you to cre8asiteforums.

I suspect that optimizing for Google has been so relatively easy, and the algorithm so relatively stable, that it gave a false picture of the skills and knowledge needed to optimize over the long term. As you say, algorithm changes have been going on for years.

Again, welcome.

#17 tosheroon

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 07:12 AM

Well yes Danny I am being a bit flipant but in the example you gave the title of the shoe page should read something like "how to choose shoes that fit" not in order to rank on search engines but because people are reading that tag to find out if the page is relevant to their needs.

I take the point that there's no need from a design point of view to stuff headers with keywords but I don't think there is from a SEO angle either once all this semantics kicks in. What is important now as John Scott says is getting an insane amount of inbound links but that may soon change.

Broad based globally aimed business in highly competitive areas needs marketers branders sem's or seo's and ppc analysers. But for the average small business, in niches or limited by geographic location I don't believe that on page SEO has much effect.

I've a lot of respect you, black knight and a lot of the others that post here its exactly those read 3 posts put a shingle up people I'm talking about.

#18 DianeV

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 07:20 AM

You have a point, tosheroon. But those people would be the same ones who believe that a website of any kind will automatically convert visitors to customers simply by virtue of its existence.

While it can be argued that, for most online ventures, the cost of a website is substantially lower than the costs involved in establishing a store, that does not mean that any slapped-together pages will do the job. I will admit that I've seen *some* rather poorly executed websites do well, but I would suspect that that is not the norm.

Of course, we're talking about search engines here -- getting found -- but that is but one part of the whole package, the bottom line for which is sales, subscriptions, sales leads, etc. I'm just trying to illustrate that there will always be a need to learn one's craft and stay up to date -- and that, fortunately or unfortunately, this particular craft has a lot of parts.

#19 bwelford

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 08:06 AM

I think there has been a great deal of wise commentary in this thread. I always use SEO to mean Selling Effectiveness Optimization. This includes not only Searchability, but also Saleability (the customer-centric USP approach, etc.), Usability and Credibility. You've got to have them all. High rankings are great but they're only a small part of the equation.

Another important element is time. People talk about Internet time as if this is always fast. However in another way the Internet is slow. Just think about the time it takes to get listed appropriately in the Open Directory. Just think how long it then takes to appear in the Google Directory. Then there's the time it takes to get a web page indexed by Teoma, or sometimes even by AllTheWeb or Google. The Web is now so large that there is a huge inertia in the system.

Because of this, you must spend a great deal of money to get "almost instant" but limited visibility. If you want long-lasting durability to your search engine visibility, then you've got to go with the white-hat SEO practices that are being discussed in this forum.

#20 Adrian

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 08:53 AM

the example you gave the title of the shoe page should read something like "how to choose shoes that fit" not in order to rank on search engines but because people are reading that tag to find out if the page is relevant to their needs.


But in what cases are they going to be reading that tag? If they've just done a search and in the SERPs thats come up as the title of a page, yeah fine, they read it, out of context of the rest of the site and make some kind of judgement as to whether or not its relevant to what they wanted.

How about if they are already on the site and click a link to go to that page? Are they really going to take a huge amount of notice of the title tag there? Are they even going to look at the title bar to read it?

They are going to judge whether the page was relevant to what they wanted based on the link text from the page they came from and the surrounding text for context. That may or may not be similar wording to the title of the page. If the sites about shoes, it may well not have the added keyword saying 'shoes' as in Danny's 2nd example.

In that sense the title tag is all important for relevance when taken out of context of the site, such as in Search Engine Results.

I always feel writing good readable content is more important, but if you think about it a bit while you're going alone, you can add in extra little bits or word things slightly differently to help with SEO. Thats where the branch of SEO comes into copywriting, not that writing good content is part of SEO rather than usability or good design overall, but that with the extra thought you can make perfectly readable natural content better in an SEO sense.

It took more than a couple months to work out Google originally and for people to learn which tricks worked better than others. The recent update has just shaken that up again and making people think, don't see that its a reason to get out of SEO, unless someone got into it thinking it was easy money becuase others had already worked out all the answers for them....

#21 Black_Knight

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 10:05 AM

hold your horses Ammon, I am not nor have I ever been an optimiser, what I like is making web sites.

Sorry for any confusion, Tosh, but I was using the word 'you' in a general sense rather than specifically addressing you, tosheroon. I'm addressing any reader who thinks it is time to get out of SEO. If they think it is, they may well be right. Just as surely as those thinking it is time to get into SEO may be right.

Other marketing industries have disagreements over tactics. All PR people don't act the same way, nor is every television ad the same. Direct mailings constantly change in format and pitch. There's no reason to assume that search engine marketing is dysfunctional because people do things differently.

Excellently stated, Danny. Welcome to Cre8asite.

I'm not sure that I can think of another industry where diversity is so often regarded as weakness. Ford, GM and Mercedes will all bring out a different version of what they feel should be the ideal family car for the times. Does that mean that two of them must be wrong? Of course not. It simply shows that demands vary, so supplies vary to match. One size never fits all. Different models suit different segments of the market, or even of a sub-section of the market.

That is true in practically every industry. I would say that the very differences one might mistakenly interpret as lack of unity is in fact the diversity that shows SEO is a real industry.

Brute force SEO always wins out over the gentler, page-elements SEO.

In terms of SERPs, yes it often does - for a while. Yet there are very few millionaires made this way. The average executive of a medium-sized firm has a far easier and more stable path to wealth.

Yes, spam often dominates, but rarely does the dominant spammer of today still dominate the next year. It is a short term thing.

Just as the bank robber may make more money in a week than the police commissioner does, if you examine the longer-term figures, the reverse is usually the case.

Whatever our thoughts on that, in terms of real income, of gross turnover, the 'Brute Force' SEO is nowhere on the radar. You and I have discussed brand building a few times, we've discussed repeat custom too. The money still lies with doing a professional job, and the kind of firm that uses Brute Force SEO has to constantly reinvent itself and cover its tracks. Changing domains, addresses, and techniques endlessly to make the money before the loopholes can close. There are few that ever manage to follow that path even for a while. For the long term... ?

In the short term, some of the riskier and more forceful techniques seem like the easier path. But the facts say otherwise. Good long-term focused SEO is lasting, and thus the efforts of today are cumulative with the efforts of yesterday, and will grow still further with the efforts of tomorrow. Short-term or brute force SEO doesn't have that.

With short-term methods of SEO, the force you applied yesterday has already been lost to closed loopholes, the force you'll apply tomorrow is to make up for the loopholes you use today being closed. Short-term SEO is struggling every day to acheive results today. It doesn't grow. It doesn't let you take a break or ever slacken pace.

In the long-term, even within just one year, the short-term approach is usually more work for less rewards. Once you look at a two-year term, the long-term SEO approach yields the far better ROI.

You feel this at heart:

If the ability to spam hundreds of blogs and guestbooks is something to be proud of, I'm missing it. In my book, SEO is manual labor.

Not just manual labour - it is craftsmanship.

#22 Kali

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 04:20 PM

With short-term methods of SEO, the force you applied yesterday has already been lost to closed loopholes, the force you'll apply tomorrow is to make up for the loopholes you use today being closed.


This is true

Short-term SEO is struggling every day to acheive results today.


This is not true

#23 sanity

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 04:39 PM

Welcome to Cre8 Danny, lovely to have you here! :wave:

What I mean is that we should concentrate on optimising sites for people not search engines.

Of course - this is what you (generic you) should have been doing all along. Driving qualified traffic, whether from SEO, PPC, email newsletters etc, to a website is only half the equation, a well designed professional website that focuses on usabilty, well thought out offerings and appealing call to actions are just as vital. If not more so. What's the point in high rankings if your site ain't usable.

#24 JohnScott

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 08:16 PM

Whatever our thoughts on that, in terms of real income, of gross turnover, the 'Brute Force' SEO is nowhere on the radar. You and I have discussed brand building a few times, we've discussed repeat custom too. The money still lies with doing a professional job, and the kind of firm that uses Brute Force SEO has to constantly reinvent itself and cover its tracks. Changing domains, addresses, and techniques endlessly to make the money before the loopholes can close. There are few that ever manage to follow that path even for a while. For the long term... ?


Here we get into two different discussions. SEO is one discussion. It has to deal with search engine rankings. Brand building has is a marketing topic. SEO's often confuse the two. They are two very different things, in my book.

SEO just gets rankings. And the 14 year olds out there with lots of free time to spam blogs are best for that. And, it's not really a short term strategy. SEOInc and several other sites are top ten for "search engine optimization" due to brute force SEO. These sites are buying links, spamming blogs, or doing huge link exchanges. And they will remain at the top simply be default - the sites below them aren't link-mongering enough to get to the top.

But that's just SEO and can't be considered a serious marketing strategy in itself. Serious marketing strategy has to start with brand building. Brand is where the money is.

Just my .02 here.

Wouldn't it be great if Google actually figured out how to rank sites according to their credibility?

#25 projectphp

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Posted 14 January 2004 - 11:31 PM

Brand building has is a marketing topic. SEO's often confuse the two. They are two very different things, in my book.

They are and they aren't. A brand is the recognition of a Brand name in association of a product offered; people that search for Ferrari don't want a tank, they want a car. But Ferrari also produces (or did produce) Military equipment.

If Ferrari did SEO well, and they rsanked well for all there product's generic terms, the brand association would be increased, so that Ferrari didn't just equate to cars, but also to every other product in their range.

As a more pratical example, all the number one results for Amazon accross a plethora of products and terms improves Amazon's brand, in the sense that they increase the number of products that a human associates as Amazon offerrings, to the point that, eventually, people will be more inclined to simply type in "Amazon" rather than search for generic terms. That is what true branding is, people looking for you rather than the product, be that on a Search Engine or in the phone book.

So, if you have a site, building brand recognition is a multi-faceted activity, of which SEO and SEM can play a part. Branding and SEo, done correctly, should be symbiotic, with each helping the other improve.

That said, SEO isn't dead. There are, and will remain, people that make 99% of their living optimising sites. Tosheroon is trying, as often happens in "what is SEO" and "Is SEO spam" debates, to define SEO in such a way that, by definition, SEO fulfills the user's premise. If I define anything in just the right way, that definition can be used to prove anything. But it is self fulfilling prophesy, and not really an discussion or valid argument, it is simply intellectual fluff.

IMHO, as long as people use the phrase SEO, and as long as people claim to be one, SEO is a real thing. SEO has a legitimate place, is a viable career alternative and valid title top give oneself.

Whether it is viable career path on a person by person, or case by case basis is another issue, but it is real, and will continue to be so for the conceivable future.

#26 tosheroon

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 03:47 AM

Not so php what Tosheroon is trying to do is make a prediction that SERPs will eventually understand web pages to the extent that they do put the best page top.
I didn't say SEO was dead I said it was dying.
The page that previous users have prefered. The page that has the most information, the page that has the most natural linkage in the case of froogle the page that offers the best price.
I define SEO as on page tweaking and off page link building without fundamentally redesigning the site which is what most SEO firms are offering - "let us optimise your pages!".
SEM, Branding and marketing are different boxes of frogs. Though the image problem of SEO is one of the reason for the new terms popping up.
I could just as easily claim that you're trying to define SEO broadly enough to make your point.
If Ferrari came out top for tanks, buses or Britney Spears I think the branding people would be horrified.

#27 Black_Knight

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 09:48 AM

SERPs will eventually understand web pages to the extent that they do put the best page top.

So if I search for "car", which make and model will rank #1 and how sure are you that it is the best car available in the world?

The page that previous users have prefered.

Is meaningless unless individuality ceases to exist. By your logic, MacDonalds is the best restaurant in the world. A true gastronomic delight is a 'pot noodle'.

The page that has the most information

Is that the best page for a person in a hurry? You are saying (whether intentionally or not) that a page containing a 50,000 word essay defining the invention process of vacuum suction is the best result for my search for "vacuum cleaner" or for "vaccuum pump"?

the page that has the most natural linkage

That was PageRank. It was fundamentally flawed, because if I ask the general population of the world who is the current most upcoming particle physicist, most will have no idea.
We're back to making MacDonalds the height of the restaurant world here.

Authority links have to count. See Teoma, The HillTop algorithm, The CLEVER project, and the latest Google changes.

in the case of froogle the page that offers the best price.

Great news for Hinari then, not so good for Sony, Hitachi, Marantz, Etc.
The Lada is a better car than the Mercedes too, apparently.

Tosh, two people making the exact same search, will as often as not want two entirely different things. How on earth do you expect us to believe that a programmer will suddenly be able to teach a computer to really know people, deep down, their inner desires, when no person has ever known it in all these millenia?

If that's how long SEO has got, then frankly mate, it'll outlast this rock and the rest of the universe, because I strongly believe the universe will end long before man becomes able to create god.

<added>
This time the use of the word 'you' is directly addressing you, tosheroon. ;)

#28 tosheroon

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 10:32 AM

:oops:Ok I can see I'm out on a limb here, I am not a SEO expert, I may be just arguing out of force of habit now but here goes...
If you search for a general term like "car" a perfect search engine should serve up a site that covers all makes and models something that is an encyclopedia of cars.
If you search for a particular make and model then I would expect the manufacturers site to come up first.
If you search for buy car then I imagine eventually that you will be taken to an uber-froogle where you will be given the opportunity to list results by new or used, price make or model.
A search for restaurant will ask "did you mean restaurants within an x mile radius of your current location?"
You wont be asking the general population who is the current most upcoming particle physicist you will be asking pages that have some semantically defined version of popular young physicist.
...and of course Kentucky Fried Chicken is the best restaurant in the world! ;)

#29 Black_Knight

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 10:47 AM

In answer, I must just simply refer you back to the last two paragraphs of my previous post.

Incidentally, if the search engine asked me "did you mean restaurants within an x mile radius of your current location?", how would it know my current location? And what if I'm actually a gourmet looking to travel to whatever restaurant is this search engine's idea of the best in the world as you stated it should return?

Those last two paragraphs of my previous post really do cover it right now, and for the foreseeable future. The best page is just as subjective as the best restaurant, the best meal, or the best colour.

SEO is a real-world thing, and right now (and for the foreseeable future) SEO works, presents excellent ROI compared to any other form of advertising, and is a billion dollar industry that is growing and growing for good reason.

Time to get out? Only if the scale starts to scare you. ;)

#30 tosheroon

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 10:57 AM

OK I submit and retire disgracefully.
We'll see if Google or a combination of new search engines can come up with an algo to close down SEO as we know it (thats me restricting the definition again :| )
Its amazing how quick a contentious title attracts posts, hope I didn't embarass myselftoo much in front of the Danster.

#31 Adrian

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 11:07 AM

Its amazing how quick a contentious title attracts posts, hope I didn't embarass myselftoo much in front of the Danster.


Or perhaps you were the one brave enough to ask the question some others may be thinking ;)

And besides, I think its quite good you provoked him enough to reply anyway 8)

close down SEO as we know it


Thats very likely to happen, does SEO at the moment compare to SEO from say 3 years ago? For some people, yes, for others, not at all. SEO as we knew it was closed down in some respects, some new styles of SEO that we didn't previously know came out of it, and some have been there all along.

The last year or 2 has been a bit more static as its become more and more Google/PR centralised compares to 'pre-Google'(as a major player at least). Whats happening now with changes by Google, Yahoo! dropping Google in favour of INK and whats going on at MSN, are just new stages in its evolution.

For some people, thats half the reason they enjoy SEO.

#32 projectphp

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Posted 15 January 2004 - 07:09 PM

Tosheroon said:

I define SEO as on page tweaking and off page link building without fundamentally redesigning the site which is what most SEO firms are offering - "let us optimise your pages!".

Adrian said (unrelated):

...does SEO at the moment compare to SEO from say 3 years ago?

Again, definitions. Is a lawyer today required to know the same stuff as 3 years ago? New laws created constantly. Heck, even new crimes are created. Depending upon how you define SEO / lawyer / doctor, so goes said things life / death.

SEO is not an "A B C" thing, and neither is any profession, or even job for that matter. To define a change in SE as the death nell of SEO is silly. SEO is the understanding of how to rank well on Search Engines. If the how changes, that simply means that the SEO is supposed to understand the new how. Rather than define SEO in terms of specific processes that may be involved, if you define it as The practical application of strategies designed to improve how well a page ranks on algorithmic Search Engines, then, as long as there are Search Engines in existence which have algorithms that rank pages, and they are not all PPC based, SEO will never die. What an individual calls themselves, or whether it is SEO or SEM or internet marketer, I don't really think that is entirely relevant.

Lastly, I admit I am as guilty as anyone else of choosing a definition that best serves my purpose, but really, what defines a job isn't the specifics of what is currently involved day to day, but the required knowledge set, as well as the outcome that job creates. A lawyer defending against a spam charge is as much a lawyer as one defending against witch craft, despite the fact both laws existed @ seperate times in history.

#33 tosheroon

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 02:41 AM

I seem to remember that you test for witches by dunking them in water, if they drown they're innocent - but yes you're right a witch doctor is still a doctor.
What defines a job is that someone pays you to do it and there I agree there's life in SEO yet. :lol:

#34 Christian_SEO

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 12:46 PM

The Search Day Newsletter just posted a link to this thread and I thought I'd add my 2 cents before the rush...

There is currently a huge "gray area" that makes up the industry that is a blend of SEO and SEM. SEO will never die, and as much as I would like to see it be blown away, I doubt SEM will retreat either.

From my perspective, the larger clients are not satisfied with the slice of traffic they can get with normal SEO, and they want as much as they can buy with PPC advertising.

The small and medium clients cannot afford to spend as much or not the continued expense of PPC, and if they educate themselves will opt for SEO. And most often for General SEO that only requires an initial investment and not the ongoing maintenance. Where higher traffic levels are needed, they will opt for SEO that needs to be adjusted periodically.

As some SEO firms figure out that they can become a PPC affiliate and not only charge the client fees, but also get a percentage of the fees the client is paying to the PPC vendor, there is great temptation to be in that position and recommend PPC services over SEO. I think a smart company will avoid this situation as a conflict of interest, but that is just my opinion. But as clients become aware of this possibility, look for more questions about your vendor relationships.

Also, I don't think we are through with investigations of providers not making it clear enough what is paid and what free search results. If this happens it could shake up the industry and those just focused on SEM services.

So, it makes for an attention-getting thread topic, but getting out of the SEO business will not make sense for most companies for a number of reasons.

#35 excell

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 01:14 PM

Nice post back there Black_Knight (haven't read all in thread, but that caught my eye) Yay.. yes..

#36 Black_Knight

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 01:20 PM

Hiya, excell, and thanks. Good to see you here.

#37 excell

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 01:26 PM

It's exiting times.. and anyone that has to wonder how to play it has to be a newbie.. :P

#38 Ron Carnell

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 04:22 PM

Don't know about that, excell. I wake up every day wondering how to play it, and my gray hair probably begrudges my newbie status. Fact is, I'm still wondering what "it" really is. :P

Good to see you, though.

#39 medkraft

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 06:44 PM

While I don't believe that optimisation will become unnecessary, I am quietly hoping that the terminology, especially terms such as SEO will find a quick passing. As I've said in the past the term is full of black magic connotations and doesn't fully explain everything everything that's involved. Many clients don't get it, and the few turned on webmaster / marketing professionals out there that do are in the minority.

The number of businesses that are starting to realize the need for search marketing is growing and as an industry we need to talk their language to to meet them halfway, especially at the top end of town.

I recently saw a well known SEM company with a strong branded name change their name to SEO. I had to look a few times to make sure it wasn't a misprint. To say the least I was gobsmacked. This one service or product view lacks vision. The trash heap is littered with companies who failed to move beyond their niche and adapt as the market changes. Naming your business after a product or service is a good recipe for failure.

As many in this forum have said all along, optimisation is just one aspect of the game. While some will be able to focus solely on optimisation and make a very good living, most will have to diversify to ensure they are still standing a few years down the road. Experienced professionals understand this. Those new to the industry or running their own business for that matter need to learn the hard way.

#40 medkraft

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Posted 16 January 2004 - 06:56 PM

As some SEO firms figure out that they can become a PPC affiliate and not only charge the client fees, but also get a percentage of the fees the client is paying to the PPC vendor, there is great temptation to be in that position and recommend PPC services over SEO.


How is this any different from the traditional advertising industry. Agencies have traditionally taken a cut of the media they book. It's been a part of the business for decades. The larger agencies get paid on both the creation side and booking the media.

I think a smart company will avoid this situation as a conflict of interest, but that is just my opinion. But as clients become aware of this possibility, look for more questions about your vendor relationships.


Good companies realize that working in the best interest of the client is the only way to ensure a long lasting relationship and longevity in the business. If that means booking ads on services that don't provide a fee then so be it. Ultimately, the client's needs have to be looked after. Those companies that purposely try to hide these relationships will eventually whither away or find a new industry to exploit.

With that said the client needs to understand that you're running a business and that the commissions are just one source of revenue.

Cheers... Tom



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