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:


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:


2 thoughts on “We Really Still Have to Debunk Bad SEO?

  1. Yep. Truly written

    Satisfaction, guaranteed – only if there’s a watertight money-back written guarantee detailing precisely what satisfaction is.
    A high Google PageRank = high ranking – Some of my unranked pages get found in the top 10 of Google results, some of my best ranked pages hardly appear anywhere.
    Endorsed by Google (cannot say – I doubt Google endorses any of my pages)
    Meta tag keywords matter Not at all – I just like to use them – old habit
    Cheat your way to the top Have not tried to and won’t
    Keywords? Cram ‘em in Has made no or very little difference – Have tested over-use, ‘recommended density’ and no specific ‘keyword optimisation’ Some KW optimised pages do well, so do some with no attempt to create KW density. It’s the uniqueness of the content that gets the pages found.
    Spending money on Google AdWords boosts your rankings I would only expect AdWords and PPC to influence results position, not ranking.
    Land here “All pages are possible landing pages” from article referenced – agreed.
    Set it and forget it I do very occasional tweaks when something catches my eye. Probably need to do more as there is some rather outdated content on some pages.
    Rankings aren’t the only fruit It is nice to see ones page rankings – a small reward for effort. Just as the site grading, that varies between 95% and 96%, which I stuck on my site is no more than a sop to my own ego and of little practical value

    These remarks apply to this blog, my website http://www.graphicline.co.za/ my personal site mike.graphicline.co.za and customer sites.

    I’m very much an Ad Hoc web builder, not really caring too much for conventions or what is considered correct practice – as long as my site works, my pages display correctly in modern browsers, I’m happy. For that matter graphicline.co.za is well into the top 200 South African sites in terms of traffic (visitors and pages served I assume) – according to some report I noticed last week that looked like it was generated by Alexa. with much more traffic my ISP – shared hosting server – might want me to upgrade to a higher level solution, and I would really rather not do that until moving to a dedicated server is economically viable – sorry – just a a bit of light hearted frippery)

    Pretty much what I tell customers too. Visitors to graphicline will find pages dealing with the topics – the forst few in a full informational series. Unless the information is taken from a broad perspective, it is of little value, and there is still way too little to be a comprehensive client information resource. Hopefully it will get there eventually after no doubt much editing and re-writing.

    I see plenty of spam SEO posts on blogs and sites, a lot of which use such poor English they make the writer – SEO Expert – look like a fool. And then I see things from so called web design experts that show they have little or no concept of the technology let alone the expertise they proclaim.

    So yes, I really like this article.- something to refer clients – Thanks


  2. Mike,

    I appreciate that you took the time to comment on this post (which is also sitting over at my personal blog and devoid of comments over there). I am a bit suspect, however, that you link to your own site (with references to other sites you have built). I take comfort in the fact that you probably know all links from comments have the “nofollow” attribute value, which means the search engines will not follow nor index them. This is generally why spam in blog comments no longer has much of an effect on rankings anymore — a feature they thankfully implemented automatically for blog owners.

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