Monday, March 11, 2013

SEO is like marketing

At the SXSW Conference Amit Singhal (Google) sat down with Guy Kawasaki to talk about the evolution of search engines.

Kawasaki veered the next stage of the conversation onto the topic of SEO, and how companies can improve their search rankings.

“We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don’t need to worry about anything else,” Singhal said. “If people want that content, your site will automatically work… you could make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn’t hurt.”

“Is SEO bullshit?” Kawasaki asked.

“That would be like saying marketing is bullshit,” Singhal said, which drew a laugh from the audience—and maybe some gritted teeth.

I wouldn't say the SEO is bullshit but there are a lot of bullshitters who say that they are SEO experts. As it happens the SEO world has merged with the advertising world and SEO/on-line marketing is becoming synonymous in many people's minds. Obviously expertise in marketing, determining ROI from analytics is necessary and legitimate for many businesses.

Traditional SEO has it's white hats: people who focus on what many content developers, product owners and developers don't do: associating high value words to directory and file names; placement of these words in H1s, alt tags; and cleaning up the HTML code. The last point should have been done by the developer - and is, only now, becoming standard as responsive web design forces developers into this practice. (EX: Putting navs at the end of the file and using CSS to place it elsewhere.)

The merge between traditional SEO and advertising is the focus on landing pages associated with marketing campaigns; how users navigate from this landing page; and the associated ROI analysis.

However, SEO, for much of the web-community, is associated with fast-talking scam artists who promise high returns and, of course, can only deliver for a short while by unethical practices such as creating landing pages with nothing but carefully crafted key words - but no actual content; by link farming; click-jacking, astro-turfing; hiring people to do automated +1 ranking; and spamming forums & blogs.

After showing such "promising" early results the company then takes more money from their victims until the game inevitably plays out.

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