Skip to main content

SEO is Insanity

If you've been in the business world for any length of time, you've probably seen the following somewhere—in a building lobby, on a website, or on a nicely framed poster in an office:

Seems reasonable and intuitive, so if you accept that statement as true, you'd also have to accept the logical extension of that statement:
    If you do the same thing, the same way, you should expect to get (roughly at least) the same results.

This holds true across many if not most areas of business and life in general: manufacturing, research, software development, teaching, cooking...but not SEO.

Before I began doing SEO work for clients, I'd done it for a number of other websites: my own, friends', and corporate employers. I coded, I tested, I read articles and blogs. I applied the methods learned to client websites, and got excellent results. Here's one example:
    55 total search terms
    Before SEO:

    Top 20 positions across the three major search engines: 17
    Top 10 positions across the three major search engines: 9
    Top 5 positions across the three major search engines: 5

    After SEO:
    Top 20 positions across the three major search engines: 88
    Top 10 positions across the three major search engines: 73
    Top 5 positions across the three major search engines: 55

Recently, however, I worked on two websites where, although SEO results improved, the final outcome was disappointing. Now, I thrive on getting great results for clients. I get profoundly frustrated when I don't. So, I coded, I tested, I read some more articles and blogs. Small improvement.

These sites have numerous external relevant links, keyword density right in the sweet spot, and optimized meta tags. Here's an example analysis:

Did the same thing, the same way, utilized established best practices in SEO, and—got only marginal improvement.

What's a person to do? Continue to code, test, and read some more articles and blogs. But when the consistent application of proven methods produces wildly varying results, one can only conclude from this: SEO is insanity.

*****


Contact Mike Bannan: mike@digitalrdm.com

Comments

Anonymous said…
Thanks for the article.

The Viral Cash Machine - http://www.theinternetscashmachine.com/vcm/
Elge Premeau said…
I don't want to say this too loudly but...

I think SEO is dead.

I'm sure I'm going to piss off many SEO consultants by saying it but when Google tells you ranking well depends on quality content and they consistently squash any attempt to outsmart the system, you better listen.

I've come to the conclusion that ranking well is a by product of quality content and building relationships online.
Tom Pick said…
Elge -

If by SEO you mean tricks designed to "outsmart the system" (e.g. white text, link farms, "writing for search engines" etc.) then yes, those practices are dead.

But white hat SEO still thrives; writing quality content (written for human readers, but formatted to make relevant keywords obvious to search spiders) and building relationships online are part of that best practice methodology.

Thank goodness, because that's a big chuck of my livelihood!
Elge Premeau said…
Oh, I'm with you on the demise of black hat techniques. Unfortunately there will still be people who try to outsmart the system. But oh well, that's fine. Go ahead and waste your time while the rest of us focus on good content.
The ultimate point I'm trying to make when I claim that SEO is dead is that rankings are a false goal in and of themselves. It doesn’t matter how well you rank if you’re not connecting with prospects. If you focus on content, your website, blog, etc. will rank well AND you will connect with prospects. So focus on content and the rest will sort itself out.
halfalump said…
I've found my results have improved from listening to customers more than optimizing for robots. I read somewhere (and it's a fairly obvious truth besides) that I'd rather have 6 visits and 5 purchases than 1,000 visits and 1 purchase. Google's own relentless drive is to find those sites that follow this philosophy. On James Brausch's blog, he gives this quote:

I wasted 3 years of my life learning about “SEO” from the SEO forums before I finally did the research and found out that I had been wasting my time. I spent a few more months trying to learn “internet marketing” from other forums before I found out that the post count of the “experts” on those forums was inversely related to their income… and that my business would thrive in direct proportion to the amount that I rejected the “advice” on those forums and did the exact opposite.
Tom Pick said…
I can't disagree at all with the comment that listening to customers is more important than optimizing for robots. But, that said, customers have to come from somewhere -- and a great source is search, where they can find you when they are looking for what you have to offer.

So, SEO remains important. And even the experts aren't always wrong. :-)

All Time Greats

Best of 2008: Social Media Optimization, Part 6

This content has been moved to Best of 2008: Social Media Marketing on the Webbiquity blog. ***** technorati tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increase blog traffic How To Make My Blog Marko Saric what not to do in social media Interactive Insights Group Robin Broitman social media gaffes Target Motrin Starbucks Whole Foods FedEx del.icio.us tags: online video SEO reputation management social bookmarking social media marketing SEO and reputation management Search Engine Journal Loren Baker Google Video ClipShare PHPmotion 30 largest social bookmarking sites Anything Goes Blog Stuntdubl social media can increase revenue Social Media Today Jacob Morgan increa

Email Campaign, Newsletter and Banner Ad Click-Through Rates (CTR)

When planning online advertising and email promotion budgets, it's critical to calculate the likely ROI upfront whenever possible, as well as to establish campaign benchmarks. The first step is understanding the average and likely range of CTRs for various programs. The growth in online advertising, the proliferation of enewsletters, the emergence of new forms of information delivery such as RSS and the emergence of social media sites have all affected CTR, so planning based on current data is crucial. It can be challenging to find current statistics, but based on several studies, these are typical CTR ranges for email newsletter ads, email campaigns (blasts or internally-produced enewsletters), and banner ads. Email newsletter advertisements Open rates range from 28-40%, with an average of about 33%—meaning that roughly one-third of the subscriber base is likely to see your ad. The Advertising Is Good For You blog tracks these statistics from DoubleClick . The average CT

Twitter Twaddle, Part 1: What Twitter Is and Why It's Cool

Most Web 2.0 sites fall into one of a few increasingly well-defined categories, such as social bookmarking (Digg, del.icio.us, Searchles), social networking (LinkedIn, Facebook) or file sharing (YouTube, Flickr, podOmatic ). Twitter, however, stands alone. (Okay, there's also Pownce, but Twitter is better.) Self-described as simply a real-time short messaging service and often referred to a microblogging platform , to those new to it, Twitter resembles nothing so much as a giant cocktail party where everyone talks at once and hopes others listen. You can tell who's important by how many "followers" that person has, though that's no guarantee anyone is really paying attention. People (or rather, Tweeple in the Twitter lexicon ) can come and go without really being noticed, just like at a real (very, very large) gathering. Twitter can be difficult to explain to those unfamiliar with it. Jennifer Laycock writes that Twitter is like Post-It notes ; lots of them a

Google and the Parable of the Turkey

In The Black Swan , Nassim Nicholas Taleb writes about the life of the turkey: for 100 days, the turkey is sheltered, fed and cared for by the farmer. The turkey grows to trust the farmer completely, even perhaps developing a fondness for the farmer (and of course the feed). Then, on the 101st day (with Thanksgiving quickly approaching), the relationship between the turkey and the farmer changes abruptly and permanently. The rationale behind the farmer's apparent benevolence become clear in a final flash before the turkey takes the necessary step preceding de-feathering, vacuum-packing, freezing and shipping off to the market. Taleb's lesson for us from this: don't be a turkey. More succinctly, don't assume that the future will resemble the past, or, in the words of mutual fund prospectuses , "past performance is no guarantee of future results." Also, remember that there is no such thing as a free lunch. Of course, that doesn't take into account the pe

SEO Link Spam - What Is It and Who's to Blame?

Over the years, unscrupulous black hat SEO scammers have used a variety of tricks—keyword stuffing, link farms, white text and others—to try to manipulate search results, and the algorithms used by Google, Yahoo and the other search engines have evolved to identify and squelch the effectiveness of such nefarious tactics. A more vexing issue for the search engines is dealing with link spam, not only because it is difficult to detect and address algorithmically, but because there isn't even a clear definition. As a website owner, the term represents emails like this: Dear webmaster, As a part of ongoing campaign to increase the Link Popularity of My website I am looking for some good potential sites like yours. I review your site and find that, in SEO perspective your site is Perfect. Also, this would be a great resource for my visitors too. I would request you to consider listing my site. Title:- My Spammy Website URL:- http://www.indiaspamforyou.com Description:- mi

How to Use SEO: Leverage SEO To Be Found Online and Boost Your Online Marketing

All businesses that want to attract customers online, no matter the business size or age, have few options other than Search Engine Optimization (SEO).  SEO In The Box™ by Results Driven Marketing®, LLC There are roughly 1.8 billion websites online, and basic SEO allows Google to find and index or catalog your webpages.  After that, Google serves you up to searchers in the organic section.  The question remains: where they list your site, on page one or page 22 or further back? SEO controls your positioning. Do you want to be found online or not? If your business is online or you want your product or service to be found online, then Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a must, and knowing how to use SEO to leverage the power of the internet is vital. Arguably, an effective SEO strategy gets you on the organic results section of the search engine results pages (SERP). Organic traffic is highly valuable and requires high-quality SEO. But even businesses that use l

The 8 Layers of a B2B Web Marketing Plan

One way to think about designing a B2B technology web marketing plan is as a series of layers, like an onion. At the core is SEO—simply making your website "findable" through organic search to buyers who are looking for what you offer. Working out from the center are concentric layers of additional investment and sophistication. Small companies and start-ups with modest budgets will focus most of their efforts on the inner layers or rings, which are primarily designed for lead generation. As the company and its marketing budget grow, efforts can be expanded to the outer layers, which are aimed more at branding but support lead generation efforts. Ideally, a company eventually reaches the outer layer where pure branding activities (such as print advertising) help to maximize the effectiveness of lead generation programs (such as SEM) near the center of the circle. This diagram shows how different types of web marketing programs can be prioritized in order to maximize the re

How Can SEO Tools Help Create A Mobile Site More Appealing?

How SEO Tools Can Help Make Your Mobile Website Appealing: The world is rapidly going mobile, and if you haven't already built a mobile version of your site yet, then your competition will happily take care of this part for you, by snatching your mobile visitors away from you. Learning how social media marketing can help gain awareness for your business or site is a great positive.  Here we provide a great example of how a cell phone makeover can radically change the experience for your mobile visitors.  We begin with some simple guidelines to ensure your website's mobile experience is designed to please the user in the hopes of gaining more clients. Through the use of seo tools , the benefits derived from the gained knowledge in marketing could create improvements to any aspects of the works. This is beneficial for search engine optimization purposes.  Importantly, keep your mobile site to have minimized any challenges that could occur for viewers. One of the m