Image by spaceamoeba.
Why not just speak out the brutal truth instead? Is it because people love myths? Is it because people love to believe in the myths they are taught?
Several recent posts by Aaron Wall, David Harry and others have inspired me to write down the things that bug me. Thus I compiled this list of 25 brutal truths about SEO, Google & main stream media.
You may not find out much about SEO techniques here but you will get a good overview at the actual issues you have to deal with as an SEO specialist.
“SEO is bullshit” bullshit
People who dismiss SEO do it to gain a competitive advantage. Visit the sites of the pundits who said SEO is bullshit, SEO is dead or whatever such people tell us. How many of them are in Google? How many of them use SEO friendly CMS software like WordPress? How many of them use the meta noindex tag to make sure they do not commit the SEO crime of getting indexed? People who dismiss SEO are either deceiving you or they have no clue. That’s “SEO is bullshit” bullshit.
SEO needs time and/or money
There is no magic in SEO. It’s hard work. Any 19$ SEO secret tool that submits your site to 100k directories (aka blog comment spam) is either a scam, black hat SEO or simply worthless. Sure, your site might even get a push for a while but unless you’re a black hat SEO expert who uses throwaway domains you have basically committed suicide on the Web.
SEO is queen
The content is king mantra gets repeated all over the place. Google engineers love it. Bloggers and journalists who dismiss SEO out of cluelessness tell you that good content is enough and it will spread by itself. That’s nonsense. You need SEO, social media, blogger friends or a major publication to make that work. In the best case you have all four of them. It’s like in chess. Your site won’t work without the king but you need the queen and a lot of others. SEO is your queen. It’s the most versatile and long term ally of your content.
Everybody publishing on the Web does SEO
You never have never heard of SEO? Do you have a website? Are you on social networks? In case yes you have done or taken part in SEO whether knowingly or unknowingly. Part of the SEO definition is making web sites and content readable by search engines. Unless you have made your website invisible for Google etc., like you can do in WordPress in case you want to keep your blog “private” at installation, your site is optimized for search to some extent. Remember next time when you say that you hate SEO that everybody publishing on the Web does SEO. It’s like saying you hate web design or web hosting.
Global players dominate search results
As a site owner you are most likely not able to compete in the most lucrative niches as the likes of AOL and Yahoo already own them. They can show up in the top 10 with ten different sites and you wouldn’t even know that one company owns all of them. Just search for Google on Google. How many non-Google properties do you see on the first page?
Big Brands are Favored by Google
Google favors brands in search results even if they have less relevant content. Google CEO Eric Schmidt himself has stated the Web is a cess pool and only brands are reliable.
There are no real SEO secrets
Google has secrets. It won’t tell you its exact ranking formula because otherwise Bing and Yahoo could quickly catch up. On the other hand SEO secrets are really rare. Most SEO knowledge is readily available. Google itself offers basic SEO advice and lots of free SEO tools that are enough for most average webmasters. You just have to research a little more to find out about advanced SEO techniques. There are no real SEO secrets. Even black hat SEOs share their insights on blogs and forums.
SEO is not just SEO
These days when you refer to SEO you most probably also include other things like conversion rate optimization, usability or information architecture. SEO is not SEO these days. Social media is a big part of SEO for instance and it’s not automatically social media marketing then.
Good SEO is invisible
Do you know why most people hate SEO if you ask them? Good SEO is invisible to the naked eye. Normal web users only recognize bad SEO that is crappy keyword stuffed websites. Good SEO just make people find websites, click the results and perform the action the website owners wants them to. The users are perfectly happy and don’t even notice there was SEO involved.
Most People confuse paid search results with real ones
Back in 2005 Wired cited a study asking how search users perceive the difference between paid ads in search and organic listings: They basically don’t. Ole 18% really did. This was even before Google introduced as top results. In 2005 Google only displayed ads in the rights sidebar. That’s why even news media today refer to buying ads as buying search results.
Google does black hat SEO
Google uses black hat SEO techniques itself. Years ago there was a story in main stream media about how porn spammers used porn consumers to overcome captchas. They displayed captchas from sites they wanted to spam in iframes to show them to people wanting to watch porn. To get free access you had to use the captchas from the hijacked site. Now Google does the same. Google uses you to recognize text they can’t read in books they digitalize.
Also black hat SEOs use scrapers to show stolen content from other sites as theirs. Google does the same on Google Buzz now. It displays whole blog posts instead of just parts of them.
Google earns money by spam
Google makes 500 million dollars a year just by advertising on typo-squatting domains. Sites that have very similar web adresses to other, in many cases well known sites.
Live by the Google die by the Google
Google can destroy your business over night. Many nameless website owners have been put out of business over the years when Google tweaked its ranking factors. Yesterday they were on top today their rankings dropped and their traffic as well. Famous business blogger John Chow has been banned from Google a few years back and has proven that you can survive without Google relying on multiple traffic and revenue sources.
You work for Google
Whatever you do or publish the Web, you work for Google. Google finances its free services by your work. You provide the free content Google can place its ads on. You provide the data Google sells to advertisers and you provide the attention for its ads, whether it’s in partly or fully sponsored search results like the “shopping” search. It’s not just the captchas. You work for Google.
Google works with your government
Google China has been hacked by a backdoor built in by Google itself for the US government. This is no conspiracy theory. They are required to do so by law. Obama has not only extended the Patriot Act without adding any privacy provisions to it. So whatever you search on Google, write in GMail or Google Docs etc. can and will be used against you in court or outside of it. Remember, the US had locked up innocent people for years in Guantanamo without trial. It takes one day for the police to find you based on your Google usage. Google works with your government. Think twice before using Google.
What’s free today may be expensive tomorrow
Google enters new markets by offering services for free others have charged for. The people love it. The other companies go out of business. Now guess what, when that happens, Google can dictate prices in the future. Google can’t grow forever. One day Google will start charging for services like Ning just did. By then you won’t have that many choices other than to pay.
Google favors Google services in search results
Ever since Google Universal search appeared and Google started adding videos, products and maps to its results it favored its own properties. There is a word for it, monopoly. Google favors Google services in search results like Microsoft favors Internet Explorer and Microsoft Office. When it comes to video Youtube already has also already almost a monopoly of more than 80% market share. The second biggest site, Vimeo, has only 10%.
Google says privacy advocates are conspiracy theorists
Google engineer Matt Cutts, responsible for search quality but acting as the main public relations person when it comes to webmasters refers to privacy advocates as “conspiracy theorists“. I don’t think Matt Cutts says what he thinks. Everything what the says is basically approved by Google lawyers. Google employees have very strict guidelines as to what they are allowed to say about and concerning Google. So it’s rather what Google says. Also Google CEO Eric Schmidt says on privacy: “If you have something that you don’t want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn’t be doing it in the first place.” Of course he himself is exempt from this as the case of his mistress blog shows.
Only 21% of Google’s results are organic
As of late 2009 Google’s results were showing so many ads, Universal search results (such as paid “shopping” results) and other distractions that only 21% of first page results were actually organic search results.
You can get Google free in one day
You need just one day to stop using Google services if you want to. I’m not referring to living in cages again. It takes that long to switch to alternatives.
Journalists will steal your story and won’t credit you as the source. Most journalists just copy stories from elsewhere like Reuters or or DPA. So it’s not a big difference. They have to credit Reuters or DPA because they have good lawyers but they will even steal from high profile bloggers like Danny Sullivan who can’t afford to sue dozens of news organizations.
News outlets hoard PageRank and trap users
Commercial and other main stream news outlets like the BBC are known for not linking out to sources. There are two reasons for this beyond stealing: Hoarding PageRank and forcing visitors to stay onsite to generate more pageviews.
All major news media practice big time SEO
Many people on the Web still assume that SEO is some kind of spam. They are convinced that good content gets popular by itself and that old media prevail online because they excel at content creation. What they don’t know or prefer to ignore is that every major news outlet has a whole inhouse SEO department. The New York Times does SEO, the Chicago Tribune, the BBC (see above). All major news outlets practice big time SEO. In case you hate SEO just stop reading these websites, just go offline.
Wikipedia articles are biased
In German Wikipedia an article about the LHC security or rather lack of it has been deleted because of pressure by CERN supporters. Looking at Wikipedia entries for countries like Kazakhstan you won’t really know that there is a dictatorship down there unless you read between the lines. Full disclosure: I have been approached by a PR agency working for Kazakhstan to do their SEO but declined for ethical reasons. While Wikipedia ranks on top for most search queries it is the most unreliable source. Dig deeper to discover the truth.
Other media are only biased toward the views of the journalists or the owners/advertisers at worst. Wikipedia reflects the opinions of the people and organizations described. Just try to add something critical to a politician’s page. Wikipedia editors are a small elite group you can easily control. When a NYT journalist has been abducted Wikipedia held back the information along with all of the press. Only 13% of Wikipedia editors are women, most editors are young, male, white, middle class and thus reflect views of the American main stream as this study on “feminism” articles on Wikipedia shows.
Apple isn’t as popular on the Web as it seems
Before Twitter was mainstream, there was Digg. It blocked the topic “SEO” altogether. You just needed to say SEO in your headline and you wouldn’t end up on the frontpage. On the other hand Apple marketing stories always went wildly popular on Digg. So I took a closer look at who submitted those Apple stories featuring “Apple ads. Many of the submitters had some more or less direct connection to Apple. Either they sold Apple products directly or they had Apple ads on their sites. These days all media follow this example.
The iPad hype showed how efficient viral marketing works. All parties involved earn money via Apple. The newspapers that like blogs tried to rank at one for iPad in search engines are directly involved. The likes of the NYT hope to save its business model using the iPad. Technically the iPad sucks, it’s not even a real computer. Some Indian students have developed a far better tablet but Apple promises more revenue for those hyping it. Apple isn’t as popular on the Web as it seems. It’s not just Apple though. Always ask yourself who profits by a given article.
How do these brutal truths affect your business decisions? They do in manifold ways. Not only do they affect business decisions but also your private usage of the Web. Some readers tend to allege that “I hate Google” whenever I write something not just flattering the search giant. As a SEO you compete with all of the above: Google itself, mainstream media like news outlets, Wikipedia, huge conglomerates like AOL and Yahoo and the idiots who dismiss SEO to gain attention because there are enough other idiots who hate SEO out of cluelessness (just search for SEO FAQ to see what I mean). Thus you have to adapt. You can’t fight all of these directly. You have to develop your own ways to get found on the Web.
So I don’t hate Google. I use Google all day. Heck, I even use Google Docs to write my blog posts. So get off me and focus on what I’ve written. It’s all true.