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July 17, 2009


RE: Most of SEO Just A Boondoggle? Just Hullabaloo.

by Anthony Verre

The SEO Community Boondoggle?

Boondoggle? Run that by me again?

Boondoggle? Run that by me again?

If you’ve been following the news this week, then you know TechCruch committed a massive faux pa by publishing an “anonymous” article this week about SEO being all “smoke and mirrors”.  I’m not linking to it for the same reason others won’t: it’s simply pure rubbish. Not to mention it was a very weak attempt at stimulating traffic and a ridiculous way to coverage and name-dropping to a site that has gone downhill as of late.

But, yesterday, Jill Whalen, published an article on SEL (Search Engine Land) that reeks of the same tactic. Causing controversy for name-dropping. Plenty of folks were upset about it, enough people that Danny had to adjust the title of the piece. It’s more SEO cannibalism.

Do I agree that there are some mighty shady folks out there bilking their clients for all it’s worth. Yes. And should they be run out of town? Absolutely. But, publishing a piece like this has only one purpose: distrust of the whole community, except of course for the person that wrote it. That person gets a pass because they brought it to light, but the rest of us get the proverbial “thumb in the eye”. The rest of us are scum-suckers because we, at one point used nofollow on Matt’s insistence that it was a valid technique to draft linkjuice.

And, I do agree with many of Jill’s points in the article: there are plenty of CORE SEO techniques that are a must and should be required before moving into advanced techniques. But that’s just the point this article attempts to play down: advanced techniques are bogus.  Frankly I think the article itself is hullabaloo.

The definition of Hullabaloo:

Great noise or excitement; uproar.

And it is, for the most part, just white noise.  Uproarious clamor that is really a great disservice to the community at-large. SEL is an authority on search marketing and a destination for prospective clients who’ll read that. An article like that will only confirm their off-base beliefs that SEO, is for the most part, just a bunch of bullshit. The defense is far enough down in the article, that no one would need to get there because their suspicions were already validated. SEOs and SEMs have a hard enough time validating what we do is legitimate, the last thing we needed was an authority, an elite within the community, pulling out a shotgun and blowing ALL our toes off.

Am I really worried about how the article will effect our reputation. Yeah, I am. My work speaks for itself, so those that are with me now know SEM/SEO is the real deal. It’s those that are just waking up from skepticism that are going right back into the hole of skepticism. Then throw a shitty economy on top of it, and holding off another year on a search strategy that should have been engaged on six months ago, starts to look like a no-brainer.

Even the creation of XML sitemaps are for the most part, a boondoggle. For large ecommerce sites, these might provide some value, but they are certainly not a necessity for most sites

XML sitemaps are definitely not a boondoggle. In fact they should be SOP (standard operating procedure) for any site. They are easy to create, allow for fuller indexing of the site, and if used in conjunction with Webmaster Tools (for any of the Big 3) you can get some nice stats out of them to help identify indexing problems.

For instance, let’s say you submit 100 pages in the XML, and GOOG is only indexing 40 of them. Well, you’ll know which 40 and how to flatten your site architecture to get more pages relevant and indexed. Sound like a boondoggle to you?

And don’t get me started on H1 tags. Old school SEOs swear by them, and often suggest if you don’t have keywords in them, your page is doomed. Yet, take them off a page and you’ll be hard pressed to see rankings or traffic changes from Google.

I don’t necessarily disagree with your statement, but to pretend that H1’s aren’t weighted in the algorithm is just as silly as well. It may not affect your SERP position all that much, but it certainly helps to semantically structure the page for users, and to some degree the bots. And, why wouldn’t you throw your keywords in the H1?  Give the bots and the users what this page is focused on. The algorithm looks at EVERYTHING, so to NOT put them in there is just as big a mistake.

I think any time someone feels like writing a bunch of  hullabaloo use the old adage: location, location, location.  If you have to write it, do it someplace that isn’t such an authority and read by SEOs/SEMs and business owners alike. If you want to trash shitty SEOs, you can do that too, but aim the gun.

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  1. Jul 17 2009

    Any SEO that disagree with the gist of Jill’s post should spend a few minutes looking in the mirror – especially if they feel compelled to argue about H1 tags – which is so far down the SEO totem pole I need a magnifying glass to see it. And there’s no need to aim the gun – 90% of any industry mire in mediocrity.

    The effectiveness of TechSEO is often site-dependent. For example, even standard procedures like non-www/www 301 redirect is low ROI if you’re working on site without much link real estate. Fixing HTML semantics is a waste of time if you’re working on a site with a clean track record. On the other hand, semantically correct HTML is a must if you’re working with a penalized site – clean HTML makes code scan-friendly and easier to debug. Sitemap XML is a waste of time for small to medium sites that doesn’t have enough total domain PageRank to get even 10% of their URLs in the main index or sites that don’t update all that often. If you’re working with a frequently-updated 100,000 site that has a Google crawl budget of 100 pages a day, you can use a sitemap XML to prod Googlebot into crawling 100 new pages instead of 100 pages that you updated 5 months ago.

    So its about measuring ROI depending on the type of site you’re working with. The trouble is – from an SEO consultant’s POV – not measuring ROI often means more revenue than offering a custom solution. And when a client asks for a service – because he’s read it on some SEO blog that it boosts rankings – even when an SEO knows implementing it leads to a dead end – how many SEOs have the backbone to turn down the money?

    Some professional SEOs I know believe semantically correct HTML is SOP. Many companies pay them thousands of bucks to clean up HTML. Talk about highway robbery.

  2. Jul 17 2009

    The thing is, both of these points are right, because “it depends”.

    For smaller sites, only changing title tags and improving internal links and content will make a difference (in optimizing it, not promoting it).

    For larger websites, every single bit counts, because if you have thousands or millions of pages, you’ll have the tiny totem pole increase to the size of Jomolungma. Of course, doing scalable link building is more effective, than tweaking the tiny bits: if that was the point of Jill, then she’s right. But the line of “unprofitable SEO” does shift noticeably on larger sites.

    Yeah, sure, writing articles about very lopsided points does get you more conversation. But are the articles great because of it?

    Earlier, I was wondering it myself: if I cover all the bases in the article, it’s just a good article no one talks about. If I make it lopsided, it gets conversations with participants filling in the blanks, which I thought was good at that moment. Apparently, it is not, if you want to have some integrity (that’s more to Jill – who almost did a Jason Calacanis, than to anyone else).

  3. Jul 18 2009

    Christ, if the SEO industry can’t even agree on the fundamentals of the discipline then there really isn’t much hope for it becoming widely respected is there?

    Reading Jill’s article, then Mike’s and the reply I can’t help but think what a mess matters are.

  4. Jul 29 2009

    lol you have been added to my “must” read list. Amazing at the talent and great SEO community there exist underground. Okay maybe underground sounds a little too revolutionary or stealth. But since I have been chatting with my hero “Dave” @theGypsy I have discovered the SEO community hasn’t gone to hell in a hand basket. I have been wondering when were these self entitled regurgitating guru’s going to stop. Glad you brought this to light, now I don’t have to 😉

  5. Jul 29 2009

    PS can you add a share this or add this button to your posts? This will make it so much easier to share them!

    • Jul 29 2009

      Absolutely. First is a new post about the Microsoft-Yahoo deal, then I’ll get the share buttons up for ya’! And, Gabriella, thanks for the truly kind comments.

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