For those that were down at Brighton SEO, the conversation with regards to Andy Budd’s earlier comments and posts regarding SEO’s was met with a mixed response. In particular the comment from his post below was one of the points that really got me thinking..
So Im going to make a request to any truly “white hat” practitioners out there. Please distance your self from the world of SEO, stop talking about search engine rankings and start helping your clients deliver real value to their users. Stop defining yourself by the discovery medium and focus on the content itself. I don’t mind what you call yourselves, be that digital marketers, content strategists or simply web designers. But whatever you do, remove the word “search” from your job title. It’s tainted and devalued and you’re much better than that.
To a certain extent this does highlight the great divide that exists within the Search Marketing industry, from the white hat peddlers to the black hat ‘charlatans’. For me much of the misunderstanding of what SEO is – causes much of the slightly ‘greyer’ area to get peddled in with the black hat brigade – something I personally think is grossly misleading and can result in further scaremongering in an already ‘jumpy’ industry.
Clients want results and clients want return on investment. I would argue that this is one of the key factors behind the bad press which SEO often receives client-side rather than those agencies which may have employed more ‘unethical’ optimisation technique such as paid linkage campaigns. Sure if the site disappears thats certainly not good – but that again comes back to return on investment from a client perspective. Further to that no one wants to see hacking and other extreme forms of unethical behaviour make its way into industry, however clients who don’t buy into SEO are often the same clients who have brought into SEO campaigns and have not seen a return on investment. THis is not to say pure white hat SEO cannot deliver results however this often takes time and to be honest can be very very difficult to make work in heavily competitive verticals as one of the biggest issues in many such circumstances in scalability. Great content and scalability are often difficult to marry, one of the main reasons the ‘linkbaiting’ strategy many white hat agencies utilise is flawed from the start in my opinion (similarly as ‘Viral Videos’ is flawed somewhat).
Further to that, who dictates what ‘great content’ actually is. Whats great for me, may not be great for you. I will use the example of the ’30 most influential SEO’ post done a while back on this exact blog. The post drew a mixed response from many in the industry, however it generated hundreds of links, resulted in tens of thousands of visits and is used in a prominent search marketeers signature to boot. Great content or not – you decide?
I would also ask whether customers really want to see the site that produces the best content. If I type online sofa into Google, do I really want to see sofasofasofa.com or thesofablog.com (neither site has been chosen for its editorial quality here – more for indicative purposes) – or do they want to see the likes of DFS, CSL, Furniture Village and SCS. I would argue the latter. The issue with many larger organisations exists with complience which due to the size and nature of these sites they may not want or be able to produce that volume of ‘great content’ – however one would argue these are certainly the most relevant results which ultimately is what Google needs to reproduce to browers.
I think Rishi put it perfectly:
Stop being ordinary SEOs and link junkies, become a real marketer. Learn psychology, learn behaviours and use that knowledge.
I can’t help but agree with that sentiment – and its something I personally have said within my internal circles for a while. SEO is not something that is formulaic – its a fluid, diverse beast and one that can only be truly understood by sustained testing, learning and refining ones optimisation techniques.
Great content is part of that strategy however as search engine marketeers we need to think above and beyond this point. Communication is key to advertising in what ever form – and the more we learn to integrate facets of other marketing into our mindset the better it can only be to the industry as a whole.