We Really Still Have to Debunk Bad SEO?

Author: Adrian Roselli  9/27/11

Image of bottle of SEO snake oil.I’ve been doing this web thing from the start (sort of — I did not have a NeXT machine and a guy named Tim in my living room) and I’ve watched how people have clamored to have their web sites discovered on the web. As the web grew and search engines emerged, people started trying new ways to get listed in these new automated directories, and so began the scourge of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) peddler.

The web magazine .Net posted what to me is a surprising article this week (surprising in that I thought we all knew this stuff): The top 10 SEO myths. I am going to recap them here, although you should go to the article itself for more detail and the full list of reader comments. Remember, these are myths, which means they are not true.

  1. Satisfaction, guaranteed;
  2. A high Google PageRank = high ranking;
  3. Endorsed by Google;
  4. Meta tag keywords matter;
  5. Cheat your way to the top;
  6. Keywords? Cram ’em in;
  7. Spending money on Google AdWords boosts your rankings;
  8. Land here;
  9. Set it and forget it;
  10. Rankings aren’t the only fruit.

The problem here is that for those of us who know better, this is a list that could easily be ten years old (with a couple obvious exceptions, like the reference to AdWords). For those who don’t know better or who haven’t had the experience, this might be new stuff. For our clients, this is almost always new stuff and SEO snake oil salesmen capitalize on that lack of knowledge to sell false promises and packs of lies. One of my colleagues recently had to pull one of our clients back from the brink and his ongoing frustration is evident in his own retelling:

I have a client who recently ended an SEO engagement with another firm because they wouldn’t explain how they executed their strategies. Their response to his inquiry was to ask for $6,000 / month, up from $2,000 / month for the same work in two new keywords.

This kind of thing happens all the time. I recently ran into another SEO “guru” selling his wares by promising to keep a site’s meta tags up-to-date through a monthly payment plan. When I explained that Google doesn’t use meta tags in ranking, his response was that I was wrong. When I pointed him to a two-year-old official Google video where a Google representative explains that meta tags are not used, his response was to state that he believed Google still uses them because he sees results from his work. My client was smart enough to end that engagement, but not all are.

Because I cannot protect my clients in person all the time, I have tried to write materials to educate them. For our content management system, QuantumCMS, I have posted tips for our clients, sometimes as a reaction to an SEO salesman sniffing around and sometimes to try to head that off. A couple examples:

Along with these client-facing tips I sometimes get frustrated enough to write posts like this, trying to remind people that SEO is not some magical rocket surgery and that those who claim it is should be ignored. I’ve picked a couple you may read if you are so inclined:

And because I still have to cite this meta tags video far far too often, I figured I’d just re-embed it here:

Related

My ire doesn’t stop at SEO self-proclaimed-gurus. I also think social media self-proclaimed-gurus are just the latest incarnation of that evil. Some examples:

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The Myth of Open-Source vs. Proprietary

Open-source

Author: Steve Kiernan II  9/15/11

Stop fearing technology and solutions that are not open-source!  There, I’ve said it.  Why? Read on.

Far too many companies, savvy marketers and salespeople continue to evangelize open-source as the alternative to being taken to the cleaners with a proprietary solution.  Enough already!

There is no doubt that open-source solutions continue to provide more and more commercially viable options, and for some, genuinely present the best solution for a given need.  What I can’t stomach is stretching the truth about a technology solely for the purpose of scaring potential customers into using your product.  Unfortunately, I hear it all the time in my consulting practice when clients tell me “we won’t use a proprietary solution, because we don’t have control over [insert many things here].”

My follow-up question is usually about their use of MS Word, (for example) but the list can go on and on.  For all you MS Word users out there who actually paid money for the software, are you aware that you don’t own it? You own a license to use a specific version, or versions, in perpetuity. However, you have no right whatsoever to change, revise, use in manners other than intended, re-purpose or resell that software, because you don’t own it.  How many of you, now that you know that, are going to stop using it?  I suspect somewhere between none and zero. Why?  Because it’s not really about open-source or propriety at all.

Those who mislead about the virtues of open-source vs. proprietary aren’t always addressing the right issues. Typically, customers are reticent about a solution because of the service or lack thereof that they have received in the past from a service provider. It’s rarely a true technology issue so much as it is a service and expectation management issue. Unfortunately, for companies that use more mainstream corporate technologies (Microsoft .NET, MS Visual Studio and MS SQL Server as examples), there are so many examples of poor service and poor execution of technology that it’s easy to fall victim to the broad brush-stroke that is anti-proprietary.

Recently, I was browsing a web site and read the following:

“We develop sites with code that is universal on an open-source platform. That means when your project is complete, you’ll own every element of your site. We don’t use proprietary code…”

If you’re the average consumer, that may look and sound great.  It may resonate with you because the solution above is “universal” and “you’ll own every element” of what’s produced.  Here’s the problem, from someone who is in the business – it’s marketing speak and full of holes.  Beyond the fact that it’s entirely void of details in terms of process and real technology, it’s as much a policy issue as it is a technology issue.  I know of many web site platforms that are not open-source, but where you own your site 100% no questions asked.  Good service companies stand behind policies that like because they provide good service.  They don’t need to own your intellectual property – that’s nuts!  It’s not a technology issue – it’s a policy and service issue.  By the way, companies who use open-source tools can provide bad service just as easily as companies who don’t use open-source tools.

There are many other myths to address in another post.  The myth of “free” is a favorite of mine, but one that I’ll save for another day.

How not to get burned

Ask questions.  Make sure that a service provider is willing to educate you and your team, work with transparency in terms of process, address your concerns and always answers your questions.  Unless you have a real business need that dictates the use of an open-source technology, be open to other solutions.  In the end, proprietary is not bad or evil, and neither is open-source.  It’s almost never the technology that’s at issue, but the service behind the technology.

Hello world!

Welcome to our new blog!

Algonquin Studios will now be blogging on a regular basis. We will have multiple contributors from many different departments and view points. We may even have some guest and client blog posts so be sure to check back regularly or subscribe to our RSS feed for the latest and greatest.

Be sure to leave ideas for topics you’d like to see covered in the comments.

Some topics you can expect to see covered are…

  1. Technology News and Updates
  2. Web Design & Development
  3. Software Trends
  4. Marketing Trends and Best Practices
  5. Customer Service Tips
  6. Industry Standards