Normally I wouldn’t bother to rise to the defense of SEO considing the excellent job Danny and Greg have done of that in the past couple weeks but considering my livelyhood has been called “bullshit” by Calacanis and “stupid easy” by Shoemoney I feel I must take exception. Let’s start by putting all SEO detractors and nay-sayers On Notice:
Ok now that we have that taken care of let’s talk about the 95% of SEO that is useless, stupid easy, bullshit or whatever else you want to call it.
I propose this list as the useless and easy SEO tactics:
- Title Tags
- Meta Description Tags
- Meta Keyword Tags
- ALT Tags
- H1, H2, H3 (and accompanying CSS)
- Keywords in the content
- Internal Links (images vs. text (keyword rich))
I propose this list as the 5% of useful and more difficult tasks:
- URL Structure (the fixing thereof)
- Advanced Linking
- Appropriate Cloaking (er…IP Delivery)
- Dynamic Template Modification
- Analytics (I mean useful measurable numbers)
- Client Management (agency life)
First of all I agree that most of SEO is easy but let me qualify that statement. It’s easy for me. It’s easy for Shoemoney. It’s easy for WebGuerrilla and it may be easy for you. Keep in mind we live in a fish bowl and SEO/M is our lives. We live and breath it and have for possibly years and years. It’s become second nature to create unique, keyword rich Title tags and design a web template with H1′s, text navigation and proper ALT tags. It’s what we do and we should be able to do it with our eyes closed and get it right the first time. To say that it’s stupid easy is simply arrogant.
It still shocks me to be on a call with a client or a potential client and to talk about the 95% and get that “wow” reaction. 99% of the online world does not know what we do and more importantly does not know what we know. To them it’s rocket science and when we show them results in a month they happily pay their bill and get back to doing what they do best – which, quite often, feels like rocket science to me though I’m sure they think it’s easy.
Let’s talk about how overrated these tactics are. From Dictionary.com:
o·ver·rate – Pronunciation[oh-ver-reyt] –verb (used with object), -rat·ed, -rat·ing. to rate or appraise too highly; overestimate: I think you overrate their political influence.
I keep thinking of the Princess Bride and how Vizzini keeps saying “Inconceivable!” and then Inigo Montoya says “You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means”. If these tactics were overrated I simply wouldn’t have the extremely happy clients I have today. The vast majority of the SEO I do in the agency world is not the aggressive, envelope pushing 5% of SEO tactics. It’s the 95% of the fundamental shtuff that simply hasn’t been done. Overrated? Hell no. Try another word if you like but overrated is not an apt descriptor.
We do a fair bit of SEO at Range and we recently have a great success story that involved online revenue moving from 6 figures a year to 7 figures a year (and I don’t mean from 9M to 10M). Most of that campaign was the fundamentals that weren’t in place prior to our involvements. We fixed Titles and Metas, URLs, ALTs, internal linking and did some external linking work. We also rewrote thousands of pages of content. Go ask the CMO what we did and you may hear terms like rocket science and magic and to that CMO it is rocket science with a huge payoff in revenue.
Yes, you can invest time to learn these “simple” things. But if you know nothing about them, they can see like rocket science. Over the years, I’ve talked with plenty of people who weren’t even aware of the basic tip that every page should have a unique, descriptive title tag. They think “title” means the biggest text on the page, not the HTML title tag. Talk of HTML title tags — that IS rocket science to them.
Calacanis – I don’t want to leave you out cuz I heard you speak in Chicago and you crack me up. SEO is bullshit eh? I love that you said it in front of a bunch of SEOs. I was drinking coffee and it nearly came out my nose. Here’s what you said over on Shoe’s blog:
Honestly, I don’t think of tagging as a big deal… certainly not SEO. I think that is the issue… many folks consider the very simple website design stuff SEO, and many of those same folks think of SEO as the blackhat stuff.
If SEO means tagging your posts, designing a clean page, and making great content then I’m guilty of loving SEO.
However, to me SEO is the link farm, gaming, and blackhat stuff. That stuff is short term and a waste of time. You build a great site with great content and you win… that’s the bottom line. The money you would pay to an SEO firm to do the blackhat stuff is better off spent making better, more helpful content.
Hey, but the hell do I know…
You illustrate clearly what is a large part of the problem: semantics and perception. Tagging – just because it wasn’t invented in the SEO world doesn’t mean it’s not SEO. Tagging is so totally an SEO tool it’s not even funny. The rest of what you said is basically a wrong percpetion of what SEO is or is not but a great site with great content DOES NOT always win…that’s the bottom line.
What the hell do you know? A fair bit about a lot of things I’d imagine. What do you know about SEO? Very little that I can see from the way you talk about it. But so what? Do what you do and we’ll do what we do. The only thing I remember from my years at business school is what one professor said one day “Stick to your core competancy and hire the right people to do the rest.”
Back in Calgary I had a great mechanic that did all the work on my 300zx. He was the lead mechanic for a national RallySport racing team as well. What that man could do under the hood of a car was amazing. Everytime I’d get some work done he’d walk me through what had taken place. It always seemed like rocket science to me. I’d nod my head and agree and totally pretend I knew exactly what he was talking about. Occassionally I’d ask a question and he’s say “It’s really quite simple…” and I’d go back to nodding and agreeing. He and his mechanic buddies probably sit around and can’t believe that people don’t know how to change their oil or swap a flat tire. Does that make changing the oil and swapping a flat tire overrated? stupid easy? Hey Dave and Kevin – should we just change our oil in the car once and call that good enough?
I do SEO and I do it better than most. I hire my mechanic, my lawyers and my accountants to do my rocket science for me.