Sensible answers to ignorant SEO advice

Posted by Dave CollinsSEO

Next time you’re at a conference, dinner, networking event or even friend’s house and the subject of SEO comes up, there’s a reasonable chance that you’re going to be confronted by a certain level of nonsense. Don’t let the moment throw you. Here are all the answers you need to firmly put the wannabe-SEO firmly in their place.

“SEO is dead.”

You probably believe that Social Media and/or Google updates are killing SEO, right? If you’re referring to the SEO of the year 2000, then you might be correct. Modern SEO, on the other hand, is all about helping Google to understand your content. If you want to leave it to Google’s spiders to identify, understand and categorise every page on your website, then yes, SEO may well have died for you.

“SEO is too difficult, too time consuming.”

A lot of SEOs might disagree with me, but SEO isn’t actually that complicated. I’d even go as far as saying that around 50% of the optimisation of your website isn’t that complicated. It’s just about lining up a number of steps on a solid base and applying them. Even if you don’t have time to do everything, any sound SEO techniques are a lot better than none.

“SEO is too technical.”

It really isn’t. The same 50% rule applies, and even if your process involves nothing more than applying what you learnt by reading SEO For Dummies, you and your website will be better off than when you began.

“SEO doesn’t work – do you really think you can outsmart Google?”

Forget black/grey/white hat SEO. There are two approaches: try and beat Google at their own game (good luck) or try and help Google to understand your content (the odds are much better). Real SEO is about guiding Google. Anything else is about manipulation.

“There’s this really clever trick/technique/hack I heard about…”

Really? There’s such a slim chance that it will work, and if it does there’s an ever slimmer chance that you’ll get away with it for any significant period of time, and if you do there’s an ever slimmer chance that you won’t get penalised for it, and if that happens, well… there’s no chance of avoiding extreme regret.

You’ve probably heard the term ‘Google slap’? Take it from someone who fixes other people’s SEO problems. It’s a poor choice of words. If Google decide you’ve wronged them and need to be punished, the penalty you pay won’t feel anything like a slap. Imagine your traffic from Google drying up to the lower end of single figures a day. Then imagine the impact this will have on your sales. ‘Slap’ doesn’t do the pain justice. ‘Google death blow’ might be more accurate.

“SEO is dangerous.”

Attempting to optimise your website definitely carries a risk, there’s no doubt about it. But if you stick with legitimate techniques and avoid trying to deceive Google, the risk is minimal. Ultimately the risks of doing nothing are considerably worse.

“Google already do a great job of recognising my content. And we’re completely non-optimised.”

Well done, but you might want to take a look at what keywords you’re getting visitors for. If your website really is non-optimised, then most of your keywords will be variations of your company, website and product names. In a sense you’re quite right, Google will do a good job of sending some people your way – but they’ll be the people searching for your brand keywords. And let’s face it, Google are good at this stuff. Those people were always going to find you. But you’re probably getting very little by the way of people who don’t know who you are but are still looking for what you sell. This is where SEO steps in.

“SEO can’t be measured. There’s nothing by the way of accountability.”

Measuring the levels of your search engine success is actually very easy. For example setup a filter that targets the majority of your high-quality keywords and see how many visitors you’ve been pulling in over time. (Hint: the important phrase is ‘high-quality‘.) SEO success is one of the quickest and easiest metrics to evaluate.

“SEO is a numbers game.”

As a general rule in SEO, if numbers are involved you can ignore it. Examples include (but are not limited to) keyword density, the number of characters in [anything], the number of visitors, so-called ranking position and more.

“Links are everything” or “Links are worthless”.

I don’t want to get into an academic and pointless debate over how important a role they play (see my last point), but links play a significant role in SEO. No more, no less.

“I don’t need SEO. I’m doing really well in AdWords.”

Where to begin? You could explain the advantage of having one income stream over two. Or you could explain that their stupid competition might start tripling their bids next week, pushing their position, CTR and conversion rates down the toilet. If that happens they’ll kick themselves for not having begun a process that usually takes months or longer to reach fruition. They’ll also remember your quoting me that everyone has stupid competition with far greater budgets than skill.

The bottom line is that there is an enormous amount of bad SEO information out there. Even when the masses regurgitate ideas from the few people who know what they’re talking about, they’re often diluted and lost in the noise of unqualified and unsubstantiated advice out there. So be careful. Gauge the credibility of the source before even thinking about implementing the ideas behind what they say.