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A day in the Life of an SEO Scam Artist

It’s not that late (almost 2am) but as I am feeling a bit tired today I’ve poured a glass of wine and set back from the monitors to write this post. I just read yet-another-non-seo complaining about SEO as a field of scam artists. Yawn. It was a copy writer, no less. And one who works in SEO, no less. Yawn.

If there was any truth to the claims that SEOs don’t really perform and are just a bunch of sales people pushing mystical snake oil, why do we have so much work? I didn’t say contracts, but actual work. Well, let me try and answer that. I will pull from my daily experiences (today, even) and from the items currently scattered around my desk – active client projects.

Let’s start with the copy that I wrote today. Most of it was not written by copy writers. However, some of it was. And some of it was written by former NY Times editors, current English professors, and an author. All of it needed to be re-written. Am I a brilliant author, credentialed editor, or artful copy writer? Sure I am. And I am an SEO. And I had to re-write every one of these things to make them sensible to the web audiences they were intended to serve.

Think that’s just my ego talking? Think again. Upon review of my editing, everyone agreed it was better, and they don’t even know how to evaluate the copy for it’s SEO utility. Still think SEOs are scam artists? Next time, instead of waiting 3 weeks and paying 4 figures for copy, check with your SEO to see if you really need it to be that way. It’s not magic or mysticism… it’s not-common-enough sense. The content has to navigate the keyword universe such that it places the message in context, supports the sales or conversion goals of the web PAGE, and satisfies the search engine’s requirements for relevance. I’m an SEO, and that is my job.

Now lets move to the web design work I did today. I love designers. They know how to create what they see in their visual imaginations. I have a great visual imagination – I know exactly what I want. But I can’t create it. They can and do create and I marvel at their skills. And then they go and start turning those comps into HTML markup and I want them to simply GO AWAY. Designers should design, ok? Not code, and not convert their visuals into markup. Leave that to the coders (and me), because otherwise, like I did today, I will have to redo it all.

And the page design work? What is this sub title for? And this one? It looks like a breadcrumb, but not exactly. It’s light gray. It’s a generic word. WHY IS THIS HERE? No one knows. Three months of committee work to get approvals on the web pages, WHICH HAVE ALREADY BEEN CONVERTED TO MARKUP, and yet not one person can tell me why these meaningless, generic, non-nyperlinked, barely-visible subtitles are on every page. I am willing to bet that someone, who goes unidentified, put that in there “for SEO” and is now unwilling to admit it. Well, funny thing is, if you have already approved the presence of that extra line of text, and no body knows why it is there, I can change it to whatever I want, right? Maybe put some relevant keyword-rich hierarchical references there, or (gasp!) actual breadcrumbs? H2 hasn’t even been used yet. If only I had enough keywords…

Which brings me to the keyword research I had to do today. Magic? No, I just used Word Tracker and Overture plus a few trips back and forth to the search engines and traffic logs, as any monkey could have done. And of course as I worked I framed everything using my a-priori knowledge of this market’s keyword space (since I have considerable experience and yes, expertise in this market) so that every judgement I exerted upon these projects was sound. That’s my job. I’m the SEO.

Oh, did I mention those traffic logs weren’t actually available? Yeah, and that’s why I was doing sysadmin work today, too. You see, CRON jobs only run if the cron table entries are properly formatted. Otherwise, the entries will just sit there yet the jobs won’t actually be run. And your logs won’t actually rotate. And your current log will only reflect a few days or data, JUST LIKE IT DID THE LAST TIME YOU PAID ME TO ASK TO SEE IT. All that historical data which was supposed to be there since the sysadmin was charged with configuring logrotate 3 MONTHS AGO, isn’t there today, either. But it will be tomorrow, because I micro managed the fix today. That, too was part of my job as SEO. Now watch me pull a rabbit out of this hat…nothing up my sleeve…PRESTO!

Where did that wine glass go? Okay, so enough about ME, how was your day?


  1. scoreboard wrote:

    Epic. Just epic. That kind of corporate environment meltdown will get a link out of me everytime.

    Friday, October 20, 2006 at 12:24 pm | Permalink
  2. IncrediBILL wrote:

    John, you and I both know the customers are extremely vulnerable as anyone can hang an SEO shingle and there is nobody to refute his credentials. Nobody thinks all SEO’s are SnakEOil, but you must admit there are a bunch of them out there peddling 1998 techniques to this very day.

    There’s nobody with a certifcation program to even attempt to help the consumer know good from bad, so a few, OK, a BUNCH of bad apples ruin it for everyone in an unregulated space.

    Why are you surprised?

    It’s programmers in the ’90s all over again.

    Friday, October 20, 2006 at 6:34 pm | Permalink
  3. You just made me laugh out loud on the train.

    My day, well let’s see: I got an email from someone declaring that we should start using certain keywords as if they just discovered this- and I think to myself “guess you didn’t bother to go over the excel workbook I sent last week- funny it contains those magic keywords you discovered.”

    Let’s see what else: I got an email about reworking some stuff and I think to myself “gee, that sounds like the first proposal I created that you didn’t like, but somehow beecause you wrote it, it is great.”

    And that’s just the stuff I can write about…

    Yeah, there’s a glass of wine with my name on it as well.

    Have a better weekend.

    Friday, October 20, 2006 at 6:57 pm | Permalink
  4. Aaron Pratt wrote:

    I am new at SEO but my plan is to never work for anyone and focus on my own projects. I wonder how many people who do SEO never touch anothers work for $? When I have worked for others I have used the barter system and meet all kinds of talented people online who can trade services. Launched two sites inspired by simple phrases that were in my head, do not even know what they will be for yet. Sat back and dreamed about all the seasonal traffic that can be had by simply offering something people can use. The internet is still in it’s wild west days, there is so much land to obtain but which pieces do I want? Life is good.

    Friday, October 20, 2006 at 10:57 pm | Permalink