SEO Sucks and is Bullshit, if You Act Like it's 2007.

I hear it all the time. SEO is bullshit, SEO is a scam etc. Generally I don't care because my clients continue to laugh all the way to the bank.

But SEO is B.S. especially if nothing has changed in an agency or consultants approach for a decade. The SEO isn't just technical on-site changes, or backlink building, it is also a matter of CRO, UX design, content marketing, and creating an incredible marketing strategy. SEO cannot exist in a vacuum, it has to be part of an overall strategy or else it will suck. It's important to understand what SEO can and can't do.

What SEO Can't Do For Your Business:

What SEO Can Do For Your Business:

SEO can be one of the most effective marketing channels. You just need to make sure you're auditing your SEO agency and aren't getting bamboozled. Most businesses have a comfortable level of AdWords dialed in that can get them the level of return they need. Or maybe they've grown their business out through Etsy, Amazon, or eBay shops. But when it finally comes time to do SEO and content marketing businesses are all on their own. It is not a pay to play environment, it's a winners take all, play to win environment. Given that, I think there seems to be pressure on both sides to ask for and promise #1 results, which ultimately causes poor expectations and execution.

If SEO is Seen as BS, It Is Our Fault

On the side of SEO agencies and SEO consultants there is often a tendency to overestimate the impact they can legitimately have on a business. At the same time business owners expect that a site which has never performed in the top 5 for any keyword in a given niche suddenly deserve the number one position? Rankings these days are earned, not "stolen" or "gotten" by manipulating algorithms, SEOs are just people who know how to play that game.

Don't be like the gentlemen above shopping for the cheapest SEO will typically get you a scammer and no results.

Why SEO's Suck?

For what it's worth I've been in the industry long enough to have some opinions about why so many SEO agencies and consultants are so mediocre. At a basic level there is just this tendency to view the Google algorithm as an all seeing magical force, be lazy, and/or view SEO's as some kind of mystic snark charmer. It may feel ridiculous but many people in the industry propagate this view to grow their bottom line and limit criticism from clients. On a macro level, I see the common trends below which generally reduces the quality of skills in the industry.

What's Really Different About SEO These Days

Hilariously not that much. We still want more clicks on our little blue links than the competition gets. We still want organic clicks and sales.

SEO is a blockbuster game, people really need to be top  3, and top position ideally to see any positive effects from their work. Everything else is a growth target. But to top 3 amongst thousands of competitors you need to make an honest assessment of the holistic experience your site offers, while dealing with the technical aspects on your site from an SEO perspective.

SEO Isn't Dead, It's Just Difficult.

SEO isn't like other dead or dying industries. Anywhere in America you can sit in a car and note people ignoring billboards, seeing only a few older people at cafes reading newspapers, or the fact that everyone cranes their necks right to their phones the instant and ad comes on. We subjectively know that most people ignore the ads, and go straight to the organic results (no matter how perilously far google makes us scrawl on mobile). People might go direct to Amazon for shopping most of the time, but people are often researching a product long before they're shopping for it. The business impacts of growing rankings are undeniable.

Why You Have to Do SEO Right

Not to generate a plug for myself but I got interested in writing this article (rant?) after running across this thread on Reddit from a developer. The thread as a whole is massive and introduced a huge dose of perspectives I would have never gotten otherwise. From my experience, I know that SEO and developers tend to have a mutual disdain for each other generally speaking. I think it's also fair to say that among the things that business owners have to hire out marketers and developers continue to be the most challenging people to assess and manage. There's good reason for this. As a whole most experienced business owners know they need good design, development and marketing but they generally don't understand or have the time to monitor the skill involved with it. I felt like I could at least offer some insight on the SEO side of things.

From the SEO's perspective (among qualified professionals that aren't just trying to churn and burn) the problem always lies with two facts 1) we can always make a site better but never know if it's good enough 2) people always want more more more. Being an SEO isn't like being a surgeon...not to get too grandiose here. Being an SEO isn't like being a plumber. If your plumber stops the leaks and fixes the pipe everyone calls it a job well done, the client pays, and the problem is gone. In SEO, I can take someone from 39 top 3 rankings to 84 top 3 rankings and increase revenue by 37% in a few a month stint, but there's always more out there. At the same time there's intangibles, I can do the perfect job and we could get mowed down by the latest Google update, or a competitor that just had a major PR win.

The constant challenge and difficulty is what attracts me to SEO and keeps me interested. For the average business owner SEO will always be a risk, either one worth exploring or not. As much as we do our due diligence and make the benefits and dangers clear as they develop things will always be in flux.

At then end of the day I'm at peace with the fact that SEO is like planting a tree in a world where most people don't like planting trees. They want a quick win and instant solution to their business problems.

SEO is, and always has been a battle between humans and algorithms. At the point that the algorithms don't even need search results and just give you answers then SEO will be dead, but until then we'll continue the battle.

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