Do you publish SEO advice?
How much of it is reliable?
Sure about that?
I started out, like we all did, knowing jack squat about SEO.
I was a web designer (and a pretty bad one) when my boss at the time swiveled in his chair one day and asked me, "what do you know about SEO?"
"Would you like to learn? Clients keep asking about it."
So off I went looking for help.
At the time, SEOmoz was really hitting their stride. The community was welcoming (and still somewhat small), the blog posts were really getting good and Rand & Matt were just starting to release nifty tools like Page Strength (now replaced by Trifecta). So that was where I hung out. I learned a lot, and I'll always remember the people who helped me through that larval stage.
"We earn as we learn"
I'd be lying if I said that we served the first 5-10 clients with stellar results. Not that we were flat-out ripping people off – we simply didn't know what we didn't know. We worked hard, but we spun a lot of wheels. And no, the ROI was not there.
We created a lot of "doorway pages" (whatever you want to call them) that targeted ultra-specific keywords, packed them with lots of juicy SEO copy that no human being could suffer through and interlinked them to the teeth.
We grabbed some rankings this way, but not the sort that brought in great traffic. Traffic went up for most of our clients (gradually), but the new pages we created had had the crap SEO'd out of them and were unusable. We provided ranking reports anyway because they looked good. "Look, 20 new page 1 rankings!"
And we had the nerve to publish our advice
To give the company an authoritative brand and to attract new clients, I was tasked with the job of writing articles on SEO and publishing them wherever possible.
Confession: most of what I wrote was recycled crap I read on other blogs.
Because the thing about SEO is there's no real fact checking. Empirical data is tough to come by and is outdated quicker than the latest iPhone.
One morning an article I wrote was picked up and published by an email newsletter whose name escapes me – suffice it to say it was published for webmasters and boasted 50k+ subscribers.
The article amounted to nothing more than a recycled list of tips stylized with a twist. Not a drip of the "knowledge" came from me.
I'd been sly enough to include an offer at the close of the article for a free SEO audit. We even dressed it up to look like there was some proprietary analysis going on behind-the-scenes (instead of a guy with a month of SEO experience poking around).
The phone rang off the hook that day. We picked up 3-4 new clients.
I once wrote an article arguing that web standards compliance was an important SEO factor. I had zero basis for this, but I wrote it cleverly-enough that it sounded somewhat legit. The article was referenced by a major SEO blog and was spread in a handful of other places.
I was wrong. Flat out. No two ways about it. I had no idea what I was talking about. I'd been learning about SEO for two weeks. I was the last person to be handing out advice on the subject.
If that doesn't justify to you the old adage about believing everything you read, nothing will.
Who's responsible for the truth?
You are. You, the writer, the publisher, the marketer, are responsible for ensuring that the information you're spreading is, to the best of your knowledge, sound.
When you publish your advice you're including the implicit message, "I know what I'm talking about." And the venues who publish you are putting their own authority behind your words.
Luckily in SEO there's nobody who's coming to throw a bag over your head and drag you to a secret Panamanian prison for embellishing a little.
There's no coersion here. You write, and publish, what you want. Go too far and you might be ridiculed, but that never killed anybody.
The question is: does authenticity mean something to you?