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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:


Anonymous said…
Thanks for the article.

The Viral Cash Machine -
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. :-)

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