Please, Don’t Call Me An SEO!

I don’t like it when people call themselves “SEOs”. To me, that term is antiquated- 15 years is a long time, digitally speaking- and conjures up images of algorithm crackers, doorway pages, and spam submitting your competitor’s sites to directories in a lame attempt to get them banned, thereby reducing your competition. It also denotes a slavish devotion to better rankings in the face of the many other KPIs that actually indicate that a site is having success and an SEO strategy is working. Worse than that, calling those who do SEO-related work “SEOs” pigeonholes the people on the ground  into a production line mentality- turn switch A and result B will happen. There’s no creativity in that and really, no value either. We’ve come to a time in this industry- specifically, organic search marketing on the internet- when it’s time to fish or cut bait. Quick money (for a while) and looking over your shoulder every day for the Google Slap Police, or taking your time and building long term value for your clients’ brand? What’s your dog in the SEO hunt?

A couple of recent posts from Rand Fishkin at SEOMoz and Jill Whalen at High Rankings have exposed- and called out as bullshit- once and for all, some skeevy tactics that everyone in the industry has at least considered using at some time. I commend Rand and Jill for taking a stand and potentially alienating the large portion of their respective fanbases that have made a living on Google’s back while at the same time complaining every time the search giant does something that gives them an advantage…on their own properties! In fact, there are well-known affiliate marketers- really, really well known guys, you know who I’m talking about- that have made a great living by virtue of the system Google provides. But when you look, their Twitter streams are a constant stream of bile biting the hand that feeds them. I don’t like it, but I understand it- there’s a lot of people out there that resent what Google has built while at the same time taking a piece for themselves; so that kind of junk has a built-in audience. Bitching about Google is an entire cottage industry in and of itself, but these people all forget- they wouldn’t have their businesses if not for all the free stuff the big G provides.

This audience largely employs what I like to call “ambulance-chaser” SEO. This includes techniques like buying thousands of shitty links, writing crummy articles and spinning them, mass directory submissions, building thin sites or niche sites meant to capitalize on current trends that don’t offer lasting value, grey and black hat techniques- basically anything that you have to question whether Google would like it or not. These people aren’t in it to try to provide the User the best experience or the most useful information- they are in it to make money by casting as wide a net as possible using automated processes, and relying on taking a very small piece of many,  many tiny pies, instead of carving out a reasonable niche and either working to improve their product or their marketing so that their rankings and traffic reflect their authoritativeness.  (On a side note, if you aren’t willing to tell a client that their expectations and budget are unreasonable, can you please go do something else for a living? You’re making my job harder.  The industry is full of “SEO gurus” that see their only goal as making it through the next call or report to keep the checks coming in- screw “adding value” or “contributing to a pool of knowledge”. Yes, SEO is a business. That doesn’t mean you forget about the User.) For a long time, my tag line on social networks and my signature on forums was “I pollute the Internet”- because that used to be what we did! Oh, Mister Client, you have a new keyword you want to go after? It doesn’t matter if it doesn’t fit or if it’s not unique or doesn’t make sense, let’s schlap up some content, put up a new page and bomb it with links! That’s not the kind of SEO I want to do, which is why I want to get away from the term- that’s what people think of when they hear it.

Google says “content is king” when it comes to SEO. That’s not entirely true. It’s their way of making people who wouldn’t normally think about the User experience; think about the User experience. For so long, SEO has been a lot of technical trickery that can only be proven to work in a certain situation with certain timing under certain conditions in a certain vertical, but it’s starting to come out into the light. SEO is a very highly specialized form of marketing with a set of best practices, requiring a plan and good instincts for marketing and human behavior and ultimately grants a lot of value if it’s done correctly in both the short term- traffic and clicks- and in the long term- branding and authority. There’s too much focus in SEO these days on hitting certain KPI- showing that the amount of traffic or conversions is up, that more pages are indexed, that more links are coming in- but there’s not enough focus on the User experience. Too often, we’re much more concerned with keeping the client happy than with keeping the User happy. I think that we’re entering a post-SEO world where social signals become much more important than links- I hope so, anyway- so hopefully a lot of these sketchy tactics that only serve the person using them will go by the wayside.

Please don’t call me an SEO! I’m in digital marketing, and I focus on organic search.


(P.S. if you understand my choice of featured image, please drop me a line :) )

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