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February 9, 2009

Scary Findings Show SEO is Misunderstood. Now What?

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About a week ago I was asked by Armando Roggio at Practical eCommerce what I thought about the findings of a survey his organization had conducted. The statistics made my head spin, and ever since then I’ve been biting my nails just waiting for the story to be published so I too could write about it. The wait is finally over!

Throughout January, Practical eCommerce asked readers if they’re optimizing their site for search, how successful their SEO efforts have been, and some questions to gauge their understanding of SEO best practices. The findings of the survey were reported by Armando in his article Survey of the Month: SEO is Both Important and Misunderstood.

So I figure everyone reading is on board with the first part about how SEO is important. And it’s probably safe to assume that a good number of online retailers might not fully get SEO. But that’s an understatement if you believe the answers submitted by the 117 ecommerce merchants who participated in the survey.

Here is what Practical eCommerce found:

92 percent of merchants surveyed said SEO is part of their current marketing efforts.
Awesome! All the hard work that’s been done in the industry to spread the word about the importance of search engine optimization has finally been recognized!

69.5 percent of merchants surveyed said that purchasing links is a somewhat effective SEO tactic.
Hmmm… Maybe there’s a bit of a disconnect between credible search marketing advice and online retailers. Sure, advertising links can have some positive effect on SEO goals, but it’s a tricky tactic that should be approached carefully to stay in line with search engine guidelines.

53.9 percent of merchants surveyed believe keyword stuffing is a somewhat effective SEO tactic.
Whoa there! Were the phrases “keyword stuffing” and “effective SEO” just used in the same sentence? Danger Will Robinson! Something has gone terribly wrong.

You can read my initial response to the findings within the article. My guess is that thanks to the do-it-yourself culture that’s evolved on the Internet, site owners are eagerly looking for SEO tactics they can perform on their own. As a result, long-reprimanded tactics are being mistaken for sound advice by those new to search engine optimization. My theory is supported by the fact that only 25 percent of respondents had ever hired an SEO professional to help them and many believe that there is enough info available for free to do a good job without professional help or training.

That said, I’m curious to know what the SEO community thinks about these findings, so I’ve created my own little poll. You’d make me the happiest little blogger in the whole wide blogosphere if you let me know:

I’ve never used PollDaddy before, so hopefully this works as planned. I’ve included “other” as a response so you can fill in your own answers, but if that doesn’t work please share your ideas in the comments!

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5 responses to “Scary Findings Show SEO is Misunderstood. Now What?”

  1. Mike Wilton writes:

    I honestly don’t know that there will ever be a point where people will truly understand SEO unless it comes directly from the search engines themselves, and we all know THAT isn’t going to happen. What I’ve found is businesses and individuals trust everyone and noone all at the same time when it comes to their SEO efforts.

    I used to do SEO for real estate and I would get sites to rank well for the terms they were targetting, but they would still turn around and listen to some Joe SEO they know down the street who convinced them to keyword stuff or buy up 1,000 link submissions from some hack on the net.

    I would then let them know why their tactics were wrong, they would get penalized or their placement would flux and then they would turn around and blame me for the change saying it was because I removed or reversed the bad SEO.

    I honestly think unless Google came out and gave an SEO 101 course people will believe whoever claims to be an “expert”.

  2. jimhedger writes:

    We can keep on doing exactly what we’re doing now. The mainstream world will catch on eventually but short of taking full page ads in the print and online versions of most major newspapers or turning Oprah onto SEO, there’s not a lot more we can do as a community.

  3. RKF writes:

    While it may sound harsh, I believe sometimes the business owner has to take responsibility for the consequences of accepting bad advice. Just as it is risky to tackle electrical or accounting projects based on second-hand “information” and gleanings from forum discussions, it is risky to jeopardize your online marketing by acting without sound knowledge.

    We make a concerted effort to educate clients and potential clients – and even clients with no potential! – about the proper approaches and best practices to internet marketing. Those who choose to heed good advice will prosper ahead of those who are still convinced keyword stuffing and hidden text are viable options. :)

  4. Virginia Nussey writes:

    Jim, that’s brilliant! Maybe Rand could pull some strings and get Oprah to do a special on SEO!

  5. Virginia Nussey writes:

    RKF, tough love, right? But you make a good point. Certainly every individual only has his or herself to credit for making good decisions and poor decisions alike. I like your analogy. The guy who takes on an electrical project by himself can’t blame anyone else when he’s been zapped and smoke is coming out of his ears. Still, I can’t help but think of those who are sucked into win-big schemes or predatory lending connivery — surely the blame doesn’t lie with the victims alone.



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