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October 9, 2006

The SEO Myth

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SEO Scoop linked to an article written by Daniel Dessinger entitled Breaking SEO Myths, where the Dallas-based copywriter launched a pretty harsh attack on SEOs, saying the industry is based solely on ego-inflation, misrepresentation and repetition. To make things even more frustrating, he does all this without giving us any reason or evidence as to why we should trust his theories.

I don’t have a problem with people launching an attack on SEO when there’s merit. The industry’s not perfect. Hey, I’ve even learned to accept people launching attacks on me (almost). But to sling insults without providing any evidence as to why your claims are true is appears misleading.

For example, Daniel says:

“No SEO "expert" or firm knows all of the search engines’ secrets. So how do they write so many articles, blogs, and forums with such authority? And why are the ones pinky swearing that they’re honest only telling you enough to maintain enough mystery to keep you relying upon their expertise and yet still wondering what the heck they are doing behind those closed doors?”

He has a point. We don’t know the engines’ secrets, but at the same time, we’ve never claimed to. Like you, we know that Google’s algorithm is working with more than 100 different variables. We like to think we’ve pinpointed more variables than most, but who’s to say we have? So to that, Daniel’s right. We don’t have the secret to Google’s algorithm sitting in our top drawer. We tried, but Matt wouldn’t have it.

Unfortunately, that’s where Daniel’s line of thinking starts taking a wrong turn. SEOs working behind closed doors to guard secrets? That’s simply not the case. If SEOs were trying to perpetuate the elusive SEO mystery, they wouldn’t be on forums helping one another, there wouldn’t be blogs filled with insider information, and there wouldn’t be newsletters created to help newbies learn basic principles. SEO has always been an open and friendly industry. Are we competitive, of course, but what industry isn’t?

I can’t speak for others, but I know at Bruce Clay secrecy has never been part of our methodology. We have always sought to teach solid SEO techniques that abide by ethical standards. If you want to know what we know, come to any one of our training classes. They’re held monthly and the information is there for the taking. Or, if you have some time to kill, there are over 1.2 million words on our site and most of them are dedicated to educating people about search engine optimization.

There are lots of people who live by the “SEO is easy” way of thinking. In his article, Daniel accuses SEOs of building castles out of thin air and says our need for “recycling” articles and blog entries is a result of our industry not being complicated enough. It’s an incorrect accusation, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard before.

We’ve never touted SEO as rocket science. We’ve said before SEO is simple, it’s not easy, but it’s simple. SEO is very learnable, assuming you want to (and can afford to) invest the time in learning the engines’ methodologies and behaviors. Could most companies perform their own SEO and be successful at it? Of course, they could. They could also take that time to learn basic dental procedures and perform their own dental work. But do you have time to do that? Would you want to?

We have never discouraged a client from doing SEO in-house. If you want to learn, our training classes are designed to give you all the tools you need. There are no cloaks or hidden mirrors involved. It’s straight SEO. In fact, we require all of our clients to attend our basic training class so they that know exactly what we’re working towards with their site. We don’t want there to be any mystery. We want you to be an active participant in your site’s success. We think it provides a better experience for both parties.

Most troubling with Daniel’s article is that after basically calling us a bunch of thieves of liars, he states:

“Am I going to present clear-cut evidence here of my claims? Not a chance. I don’t have to, and I don’t want to make any specific enemies. I learned what I know by studying SEO online wherever I could because I was trying to join the industry.”

How is that different from a bad egg SEO promising a client top rankings or not explaining their own methodology? Why would I take anyone’s word if they’re not willing to tell me how they got to that conclusion? I’d like to know what Daniel has read, who he’s talked with and what he’s studied that has influenced his impression. Maybe he’s just talked and dealt with the wrong people.

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