John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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Why SEO Sucks

There is a reason why SEO sucks for many, many people. It seems SEO is HATED even, in many cases. I usually ignore that SEO Hater stuff because many, many people don’t really understand what SEO is, and some people like to foster SEO F.U.D. (Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt… the same stuff that sells backup systems and certain unnecessary insurance policies). Whatever. But today I have a concrete example of why SEO sucks.

SEO sucks because it is like SCHOOL. And of course everybody knows, School Sucks right?

SEO is like school, because it is all about learning. Not memorizing, not completing requirements, but learning and getting along. If you listen to people who say “school sucks” it is usually because the people at school are mean or boring, the classes are boring or simply wrong or meaningless in the real world, or school sucks because they simply can’t make the grades. And if you try and make it in the world without proper schooling, your career choices can seem unfairly limited. Ditto for SEO.

Some SEO people suck. The ones who cold-call clients pitching guaranteed rankings, exploiting the ignorance of the buyer, or the ones who over-promise and under-deliver, or do nothing at all. Scammers often like to pretend to be SEOs, and they suck, too. Some of the more vocal “SEO sucks” people used to be SEOs, but didn’t do very well. Some just don’t like it when they learn how much good SEO costs, so they get annoyed and say it sucks. So that’s the people part of the “school sucks” analogy.

A lot of SEO is boring. Title tags, site maps, and endless re-writing of insider abbreviations and graphic labels so they actual make sense, and can be read by search engines. Complex projects are often completed because of clever shortcutting, and often SEO is about unrolling those shortcuts. It’s not always exciting stuff. Kind of like accounting class, at the middle level when it’s all abut regulations and not about why those regulations exist. Bo. Ring. And many people who try SEO school fail. They do “everything right” 9in their own eyes), but don’t rank. That’s like going to summer school and still failing the course. Kinda sucks, right?

Which brings me to today’s real-world observation. I liked school in general, but at times I hated it. I liked it when it showed me I was ignorant, but capable of learning. I hated it when it simply told me I was ignorant (often when I knew I was not). Usually when I hated it, that was because it was either incorrect or did not apply to my version of the “real world”. I don’t mean it was outright wrong, but in my world view, it was either unnecessary or would be soon. For example, if a Computer Science instructor wants to teach you assembly language programming for a long-retired piece of IBM hardware, because he thinks it is good for structured learning, I might disagree. I might think he’s just lazy, and wants to have an easy life teaching (grading, understanding) what he already knows. It really is true that good students make for good teachers, but not if you tell them to shut up and go with the program. If you go to school to learn, and they teach the wrong stuff, then school sucks. If you go to read about SEO and they teach the wrong stuff….

Blog hopping today I hit this blog. He’s a designer. But he has a post about SEO. It’s keyword-stuffed ‘n crap, but in a nice way. But it’s wrong. And then he admits it’s not SEO… but it is… but not completely… but it works….. but not 100%…. but enough for him, since 1998. And he says “I don’t believe in Splogging“. And then he says (in the comments) “I am not really up to speed on specific SEO techniques these days. I try and do the basics, but if you want some turbo charged SEO I would contact...” and then it links to an SEO blog. An SEO “firm” that promotes Blogging for SEO. Aptly named, I might add. And there, amid the not-exactly-correct-nor-useful SEO “information” about using blogs for SEO, I click thru to a portfolio example. It’s a splog, folks. And it isn’t even well indexed. And it doesn’t rank for the key terms I tried. Oh, and it appears to have some canonical issues.

Now I know that might be some sort of feeder splog, not intended to rank itself, blah blah blah whatever. Sorry to question the skillz. My point is not who knows SEO, but who teaches school. SEO sucks because… well, because School Sucks. And the only way we can fix that, is by asking politely, that good web designers stick to web designing, and stop preaching SEO. Please.

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11 Responses to “Why SEO Sucks”

  1. Lee Odden Says:

    Another reason this blog is on my short list. :) The battle against SEO mis-information is never ending. Especially with the spew being distributed about SEO/rocket science.

  2. JTk Says:

    Hey now, thanks for the link and the diss :)

    All I know about seo is what has worked for me since the mid ninties. I’ve been able to make a living on the net, support my family, and compete with the big boys since well before 1998.

    I’ve never claimed to be an seo expert – in fact I kinda think that seo experts by definition are frauds.

    I don’t buy traffic, or advertise or market myself in anyway other than by creating unique content that generates inbound links and web pages that rank well in the search engines.

    In the end, my “seo” king-fu allows me to supoort myself and my family by doing what I want to do. If that is wrong I don’t wanna be right.

    Have a great day,

    JTk

  3. john andrews Says:

    Hi JTk. No diss, really, just an opinion that your “article” presents a different picture than you describe here… like so many other “SEO” articles.

    SEO experts are frauds? Kinda silly, no?

    As far as your Fu supporting yourself, we could go all day about how that has nothing to do with SEO or even commerce (it depends on where you live, what you need to support your family, and how competitive the market is). SEO is search optimization…. optimizing being the key word. Sounds like you make sites that get trafic from search engines… and you don’t need to do anything special, just make good content blah blah blah. So then by your own definition, it’s not SEO, is it?

    If it’s not SEO, why do you call it SEO?

    It seems to me a while ago good content didn’t get traffic, and everybody needed optimization. Now you say you get good traffic without optimization. That’s wonderful. So why write an article about SEO?

  4. JTk Says:

    Obviously my thoughts about many things ( including seo ) evolve over time, and I don’t see seo the same I did back in 2002.

    No, I don’t think that thinking “seo experts” are frauds is silly. Maybe I should have said that some “seo experts” are frauds and the rest are generally honest but still not experts.

    In my experience ( and I have quite a bit of experience with “seo experts” as a company that I co-founded in 2000 created and ran a very successful seo centric website that published articles by some of the biggest names in the seo field ) “seo experts” are anything but – they chase the tails of search engines trying to extrapolate innuendo and trends into secret seo sauce.

    As far as my Fu supporting myself and my family, I think your supposition is wrong in total. It’s not about the variables you have outlined, but because I know how to work the web. Period.

    My skills, ability to recognize trends, and ideas about how to market my services have allowed me to sucseed in a variety of different georgrapical areas and markets, as an individual consultant and as the founder 2 different companies.

    As far as it’s not “seo” I guess that is fair. I have evolved well past “seo” :)

  5. john andrews Says:

    Well thanks for visiting, JTk, but it sure sounds to me like this discussion in running in circles around the point. What you wrote about SEO (and repeat here) is not really about SEO but your experience with both a collection of SEO writers back in 2000, and web smarts you may have but which aren’t really what is known as SEO today. But still you wrote about SEO. And that was my point.

    I will hold my posiiton that it is silly to characterize an entire class of experts as frauds as you did. Or even that none of them are expert, as you did in the last comment. It’s silly and what used to be called “immature”, but again, no sense arguing about it (that, too is getting silly).

    So you’ve evolved past SEO? Great. Now if SEO were a stage on an evolutionary path, I suppose you would be “advanced”. But it’s not. SEO is an optimization, and you may not need it (nor want it) but you certainly haven’t “evolved past it”. That language is, well, silly.

    Now rather than argue about your world skills or credentials, can we focus on the issue? You wrote about SEO but it was out of date, incorrect, and appears contradictory. You’ve clarified that you don’t like SEO or a good number of SEO writers, and you’ve claimed that you know how to “work the web”, but what about the article on SEO? Ar you going to fix it, or leave it to continue to confuse your readers? Or is that part of “working the web? I really want to understand.

  6. JTk Says:

    As I said, that article was how I looked at the subject then, I have moved past seo ( in the literal definition of seo anyway ) in my marketing efforts ( whether you believe it or not ) these days. It’s really pretty simple, not silly, nor hard to understand.

    These day I feel that seo is silly and even counterproductive in the long run. I haven’t always felt that way, but my experience with the subject and its practitioners have led me to that opinion today.

  7. Friday Favorites 3/9/07 - Stuntdubl - Search Engine Marketing Consultant Says:

    […] JohnON why seo sucks, when is it seo, the real money in seo, I also like the 2-2-2 idea for personal improvement (note to self: stay more up to date on John’s site) […]

  8. Eskil Says:

    Great title of this post. At this moment i really feel that SEO SUCKS.
    It seems like such a waste of working hours, thousands of people spending entire days posting meaningless links just to be on the top of google. It is sad and frustrating.

  9. Mitch Says:

    I love doing SEO when someone else is paying me for it, and I don’t believe the initial part is hard. What’s hard is getting a client to understand that everything doesn’t end with optimizing a page or website one time. It really does take a lot more work over time, especially if your client is in a niche that’s just, well, different from the norm.

  10. Glenn Friesen Says:

    One of the best reads I’ve had in a long time. And so true.

    You know what’s worse than web designers teaching SEO or giving SEO advice? Graphic designers / print designers from the ’80’s and ’90’s. So bad. So very bad. So very very very bad. And the worst part is that their “advice” or “consultation” are often given equal influence to the SEO’s for web design, based on the irrational idea that having a mix of opinions will lead to better strategy and execution.

    How about leaving the opinions out, and getting the product out there to split test / multivariate test, we SEO’s might say… to hear the response from the print design consultant that “you can definitely split test these banners” (promoting the services offered by a site as a banner, on that site…. rather than offer actual value and direct the flow of traffic to the targeted page via goal-setting and CRO… my god…)

    John, your article and metaphor are exactly on point. Good SEO requires the learning mindset. Not the “I’m right because my opinion says so” mindset of the old school print design world. My guess is there’s gonna be a decent lag before the world catches up and mindsets shift…

  11. john andrews Says:

    @Glenn thanks for the comment. I’m not quick to agree on SEOs who say test test test because I know that test methodologies are inadequate and testing is MUCH HARDER than many tool providers lead you to believe. I totally agree on getting started early and tuning often. However, I also recognize that the human mind is severely biased and team members (such as print-raised designers you mentioned) are human. They look at a project as new and exciting until it launches, and then it is old and boring (and usually they view with a critical eye). Meanwhile each new unique visitor is discovering the web page for the first time. It’s tough to work with someone with a strong opinion and biased perspective.