"Before, SEO was the game of really skilled people, you know like professional poker players. You had to know the game, know when to raise, and when to bluff."
Then with the "Maybe I should find another job?" I thought this has got to be satire. Well played, sir.
The way the piece is framed, the writing style, surely a work of humour?
-Rewarding relevant, informative, keyword-rich content focused on specific topics and punishing sites that construct thinly constructed (UGC or otherwise) pages, particularly those who do it in huge numbers.
-Rewarding sites who links from similarly relevant, authoritative sources gained organically and punishing those who acquire links through artificial means (either through direct purchases, purchasing domain portfolios with thousands of backlinks etc.)
There are nuances that are market-specific that require slightly different approaches and concentrations (e.g. health care) but those are the main things folks should concern themselves with. There's no black magic behind it unless you're doing something shady to begin with.
I can show you dozens of examples of well-funded "A list" too-cool-for-SEO developers who have no idea whatsoever what "built correctly" entails from the POV of a search engine.
The role of SEO is a) Product Management to set requirements to optimize crawlability, indexing, and retrieval, or b) QA that arrives after the fact and highlights all the ways the site fails to be usable for bots.
My experience is if you design things right first, it costs much less than if you don't. Plus you see the upside of your efforts quickly.
But maybe some people take the attitude that "giving me traffic is Google's job" and then when they don't get organic traffic, they have to buy it. Hopefully they also enjoy raising money and giving up a big chunk of their company, too.
That's what I said.
SEO will always be a "thing" as long as people are not always interested in providing relevant information. It will always be an asymmetric battle between people who want to prioritize their noise over useful signal.
SEO is [also] about bridging the gap between machine-based abstraction of the data in your site and human searchers. Most of the on-page/on-site optimisations are simply ensuring that the SE can abstract the right information so that users searching for the content you're providing can find it.
SEO will always be a thing as long as Googlebot fails to perfectly abstract the data content of a site and perfectly rank sites according to user needs.
But the tone of this "article" makes this guy sound like he wears a black hat.
I'm glad Google is cleaning house b/c it became annoying trying to counsel people to not violate the Webmaster Guidelines when they could point to successful competitors or some backwater infomercial claiming they could shortcut their way by spamming.
The best strategy I've found is just to not shoot yourself in the foot in terms of site structure and IA, and invest in long-term value through link building with PR and content that naturally attracts links.
And the black hatters who make money could probably make just as much if they did something legit.
The worst part about black hat is eventually the wheels fall off and you have to start over. So you're playing a game that keeps you on a constant treadmill. It's just as bad as consulting as a way to make a living.
If you take the high road, you build real value you can exit on eventually.
You have no idea...
Just the existence of spam doesnt prove it's a big oppotunity, just that it's better for some people than their opportunity cost.
Ever looked at the payday SERP in the UK? Google can't control it. I know at least 3-4 people who make £100,000 a year with just basic level spamming.
If I scaled this technique http://explicitly.me/serp-sniffing-a-long-tail-keyword-strat... , I could make the same amount of money without breaking a sweat by dumping Adsense on there, and shopping affiliate links.
The point is I don't choose to.
Then we produce articles (we actually hire real journalists) to address the search intent behind the keywords. Then we post it on the client's site, and charge them for the leads we drive via organic search from that content.
The funny thing is, our customers just view it as "content marketing," not SEO. Search data (search vol, competition, etc.) guides our content strategy, but I don't view this part as either good or bad. Or even really "SEO". Why would anyone invest in content nobody is searching for?!?
If we spun content or used Markov chains to generate gibberish or hired incompetent writers via TextBroker for $10 a story, sure that's spam.
But my calculation is that spending $500+ on an article written by a journalist with domain expertise is going to win long term. And since the lead revenue makes the ROI calculation >1, why not invest in quality?
And we definitely don't make Google guess what keyword we think our article would help.
I'm happy that so many HN readers are anti-SEO, because that's less competition for me.
>Your job as a business owner is to bring as many customers to your business as you can. To suggest anything else is absurd.
Technically your job is to generate as much profit as possible. Volume of people in the door is but a single coefficient in that equation. It's a common failure point, yes, but suggesting that it is the only one is disingenuous.
This is not to say that I actively work against what's best for society. My point is that I will do what's best for my business, with regard to nothing else. I think that is what makes a good business owner. Another trait of a good business owner is the belief that his business provides the best value in its market. If you truly believe that, then by engaging in SEO to rank your business at the top of its market, you ARE doing what's best for society. If you suggest that engaging in SEO tactics to rank your business at the top is BAD for society, then you are inherently suggesting that your business does not provide the best value to its market.
First, claim the reasonable principle that law should guard morality, and business should attend only to business. It's in principle correct, so it gets accepted by everyone. So, if child labor were allowed, business owners would be in no moral fault for hiring kids to mine ore -- to pick a extreme example.
Second, claim that economic progress is good for everyone. Again, very reasonable. Then, organize as a political class (say, in nowadays Republican party) to get some legal concessions that were morally abhorrent in the past legal framework, in more or less degree, but would bring economic progress (for some definition of it). Say, legalize child labor. Voilá.
Now, it's obvious that capitalists should be, of course, allowed to organize politically. But, I argue that we live in a world disproportionately controlled by capital (specially the US), for various reasons. It's disingenuous, thus, to be a capitalist and have your mindset. You, as member of a class, have certain privileges that other classes in our society would consider unfair. Our current legal framework is loaded in your favor, after all.
Much of the world inhabited by HN'ers is not like this. If you have a typical software or web product, then a competitor would have to spend substantial resources developing code that duplicates your functionality, and then they have to worry about the head-start the first mover has in branding and network effects.
If you mean people whose goal it is to help site owners learn how to structure their data intelligently for dissection by machines, people who make companies think very hard about their content, people who encourage high-quality crosslinks and meta tags, and people who generally help sites manage data, then no, SEOs are great. They help users and companies alike.
If you mean the dirtball black hats, then yes, they are a parasite that deserves no mercy and should be eliminated at all costs.
For all the "no-evil" stuff, it's just plainly the work of a website programmer. Properly formatting your HTML, making it accessible and easily "readable" for machines is part of your job when you create a website. Same for creating a robots.txt. If you say many people don't know how to do that, then those people are just bad in creating websites and they need help of a professional website programmer/creator. No need for a term like SEO here.
I recently moved a corporate site for a major national law firm from Joomla to WordPress. They had 200+ pages with multiple H1 tags, nearly 300 pages missing descriptions, dozens and dozens of soft 404s, hundreds of pages with bad titles or URLs that are too long, dozens of pages with duplicate content because of bad sitemaps, and every single page was over 100 links because of the dummy that made the original nav toolbar put every subpage in there.
White hats can work for the next decade simply trying to save companies from themselves, their stupid CMS systems, and former well meaning SEO efforts that are now banned or deprecated.
Short term effect to fixing these issues? A nearly 20% increase in traffic since the switchover and slightly raised ranking for related firm content on OTHER sites.
Thanks for the resumé tip :)
As an analogy, making your restaurant easy to find (relevant name, standard names for things, signs out front, etc.) is important unless you're so well-branded that can get by on having a secret, unmarked door.
I'm sure MLM operators and spammers didn't do well in school, were hostile to the people around them and love flashy clothes, big checks, and fast cars as well.
luckily, no. http://powazek.com/posts/2090
I think it's somewhat akin to lobbyists: I don't blame them for making money off and taking advantage off the political system, and they certainly provide something of value to their customers, but I dislike the fact that they can exist at all. But that's not the lobbyist's fault, it's the system. In this respect, I applaud Google for keeping people on their toes and making SEO less relevant. That's their job after all.
I understand where you're coming from, but that's crap. Just because there is always someone willing to do ethically questionable things that fall within the letter of the law, doesn't mean that those types of people shouldn't be treated with disdain by the rest of us.
Why choose? I'm already somewhat of a misanthrope, but the fact that SEO exists just makes me hate everyone and everything.
There's a saying that goes something like "A computer will only do what you tell it to do". That said, merit is important, but you have to show Google merit with code. That's by on page content and structure and appropriate tags, etc or by off-page, with links. That's it. There's no other way. There's no black magic. Cutts speaks to SEOs but he calls he channel GoogleWebmasterHelp . That's the clue to website owners, but many times the owner is not a webmaster. So they can hire an SEO that knows a bit about ranking websites, or they can hire a web programmer. Not all web programmers have ideas on what to do. They likely will want to make a new site for the customer that is not even necessarily any better than the existing, as far as Google cares.
That got a bit preachy but it's not as black and white as you make it out to be. There's a niche for SEOs that involves improving existing websites that a web programmer might not be suited for, might not want to do, or might be too expensive for.
1. You have a business.
2. Said business has a website.
3. Said website is bringing in no discernable revenue for your business.
4. Poking around for reasons, you discover that your website ranks really lowly on Google.
5. You have no idea why.
6. You pay an SEO consultant. They take a look at your web site, and your overall web presence, to try and find out what's going wrong.
7. They discover that your markup is terrible, the wrong things are enclosed in header tags, etc. Also, you have little to no visibility outside of your website.
8. They advise some sensible changes to your markup, and force you to start posting things on Google+, Twitter, Facebook, etc.
9. Your ranking improves. As does your revenue.
Which bit of that process is evil and wrong?
Of course, there will always be a shady side to SEO (people taking it too far, etc), but there's a valid reason reason it exists: many people simply do not know enough to get the basic components right. SEO consultants help them do that, and improve revenue as a result.
I don't see it as a game against Google... I try to make our sites as useful for humans as possible, and hope Google agrees with a decent enough ranking so humans can visit it and enjoy the content. But when it doesn't, then the game is between me and the "other SEOs" who may not see the point of making something useful for readers, not machines.
If you read the OP, his mean concern is the tiny subtle changes in the algorithm that drive him mad. He calls optimising for them SEO. It is considered shady and evil by some, myself included. (Ultimately it's about the content, not about who best reverse-engineered Google's algorithm.)
To create useful content, you don't need to know Google internals.
Full disclosure - I work in SEO.
Note that I am not saying that you yourself perform any of this in your role. Our anger is not at site tuning and placement but the techniques used to do so, which you appear to be unnecessarily defending as essential for any site's survival.
You're automatically assuming that SEO is bad, or is all blackhat, or is just about promoting crap. I would argue vehemently that good SEOs only want to promote good content. I turn down many freelance gigs because the company is shit.
I think you're confusing legitimate SEO with crap affiliate marketing. Big difference there, buddy.
On a high level good sites don't benefit from SEO, because it wastes time and money on something that should be granted: good sites should be ranked high, crap sites should be ranked low. SEO is a cargo cult (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cargo_cult_science) with no benefits to society.
I think I'd mirror others' analogies. It's more that the complaint is futile - and kind of sad. One comes away with the impression that the author is naive enough about the nature of his profession to genuinely believe that, on this subject, he and Google should be buddies and not adversaries.
Wouldn't it then be harder to demonstrate objective returns if Google's algorithms are so obfuscated? If they're not afraid to game Google for their customer's benefit, they're certainly not going to be afraid to game customer expectations and fudge their results for a living.
Today, almost all large sites that people use to share links to original content use nofollow links. Because of this, it is common that when you Google for some original content, you will find links to aggregators (Stack Overflow, Reddit, HN, etc.) but the original page will be very far on the result list.
Better yet, make it so that your CODE is readable and understandable easily by someone who doesn't have perfect vision.
If you achieve this and create great, relevant content, then Google will snap it up and the customers will appear. No other tricks needed.
The machine isn't clever enough yet to get the perfect answer, and till it is, humans and marketers will continue the manipulation of visibility in pursuit of traffic and revenue. It's sad, but it's a fact.
I thought the guy was complaining that he had to jump through Google's hoops to get his product in front of his users.
Now that I know he's complaining that Google are making it harder for him to game the system, I'd retract and reverse my upvote if I could.
From the topics on their default page and his other communications, it seems to be sincere.
They'll probably take on a different guise now, like calling it "Social Media Promotion" or some other malarkey. Plenty of companies want to be the talk of the town on FB and Twitter.
Subverting "The Social Web" occurs to feed users to their advertising or other attempts at monetization, they don't get paid to Tweet.
Other than that the guy only has one rule.
I've been doing SEO for 8 years and I have to say that I came for the fun and money but I stayed for the challenge and algo changes.
I remember how, 8 years ago, it was all about "5% density" and link stuffing. Today is content quality, social signals, link profile (not just quantity), contextual co-relations and so much much more...
I think that I only truly fallen in love with SEO when Google started using rel=canonical. This is when it really became a game of poker and not a "hungy hungy hippos" with links in it.