Don't Blame the Snake Oil Salesman!

by Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) August 12th, 2009 

2010 SEMMY NomineeMiguel Salcido brought up an interesting point in his comment on my last post about SEO Witchcraft. In it, he mentioned "all the snake oil salesmen out there that have given people a negative connotation towards SEO". I cannot argue there. Not one bit. I've talked to many a client who tell me to write them web copy without 'any of that SEO stuff'. However, I think SEOs need to stop looking at just one cause. They need to look around as well as at themselves before laying blame. I have a lot to say here, so bare with me. I promise that the discussion will be well worth it, or at least I look forward to discussing it….

The Big Internet Mystery

The SEO industry has found itself in a unique position. It's an entirely new concept that remains a complete mystery to most of society. Therefore, clients have a large amount of distrust for their experts regardless of how much time they spend choosing one.

All in all, SEOers seem to have gained a title that's synonymous with snake-oil salesmen. Pretty harsh for what seems like a legit career. With fierce opponents on both sides, the question still remains: Is the SEO industry really that bad?

SEO in the Eyes of the Search Engines

To the search engines, SEOs are the 'enemy'. Think about it. Google, MSN, and all of the other players are businesses, just like an SEO company. The only difference is that the search engines want to enchant as many users as they can with their quality results while making as much money as possible through advertising. Like any business, their end goal is to make a huge profit.

To get the best search results, SEs spend millions of dollars hiring some of the best technical minds in the world. On top of this, there's the millions of dollars spent on unique algorithms. Then, along comes the gosh darn SEO people who play around until they figure out how to game the system. These professionals destroy the SEs quality results and render the algorithms useless. The results end up looking nothing like they would naturally and the money spent on algos and computer experts goes down the tubes.

If the search engines had their way, SEOs would do nothing but make a website easier to use and better for the end client. That is the goal for SEO, but it's the wooing of the search engine spiders that become the issue.

In this regard, search engines are a lot like the smart kid in school who always has the answers. But, like every school, there's the bad boys who are by no means less intelligent. They just tend to save their knowledge for real-life situations.

Good vs Evil

SEO and the Client

Clients are a lot like the new kid at school. They have all of these potential new friends, but they aren't quite sure about the politics, and therefore, they tend to hesitate before associating with a particular person.

You see, Mr. Webmaster thinks his new site is just spiffy, but there's one problem: the search engines don't seem to have the same opinion of his website. Lo and behold, here come the crafty SEOs on their (white/black/grey/pink-with-purple-polka-dotted) horses. The crowd goes wild, right? Well, not quite.

You see, if Mr. Webmaster hasn't already heard that SEO is the root of all online evils, he will as soon as he starts looking for one. He knows that if a website owner gets caught using these techniques, he'll lose his business. However, Mr. Webmaster has also heard that the right SEO company will have everything running smoothly and making the big bucks in no time. But, how does he tell the good guys from the bad guys?

Educate the Client?

Part of the problem here is the fact that clients have absolutely no idea about any of this stuff. It's like going to your doctor for a diagnosis. You know what the problem is, but likely have no idea what caused it or how to fix it.

Yes, you can educate clients, but in short, it's not always the most helpful way to do things. Your doctor doesn't give you a lecture before he treats you. And if he did, would you listen?

Here's another thought to consider: If you wouldn't buy a home without educating yourself a bit, why in the world would you spend a chunk of your business budget on something you know nothing about? When I bought my home, I didn't need to know how to build my house from the ground up, but I did have some idea about what was good and not good. I then hired an expert who knew the rest, so in the end, I knew what I was buying.

Why would you simply walk up to the salesman, had him a wad of cash and say 'I think I need what you're selling, but I don't really know much about it, so just go to it'? As far as I'm concerned, that's asking for trouble. (Not saying it makes it right, just saying you're leaving yourself vulnerable.) Yes, this is a client issue, but the blame doesn't just lie with them.

SEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot

Do SEOs Shoot Themselves in the Foot?

There's a huge issue with conflicting information. SEO Bigwig #1 says you can't do this, the search engines don't like it and they'll ban you. SEO Bigwig #2 says that he's been using that technique since the creation of the Internet and it works like a charm. Then, you have SEO Bigwig #3 who says, well yes, that technique works, but only if you do this, this, and that first and do this when you do that.

So, where does this confusion leave the general public? These disagreements always seem to happen in plain view of the public and they often go viral. To put this into context, let's say it's three doctors arguing over a rash you have on your big toe. One doctor wants to cut your whole leg off. The second doctor says there's no need to cut anything off, just put a cream on it. And, the third one wants to put you through a series of tests, cut off the toe, and cover the rest of your foot in cream for good measure. If you have three doctors arguing over your treatment, how confident would you be?

Bottom line, people can't put their trust in SEO like they can in other industries because nothing is definite. No standards, no regulations, not even a set of general rules, unless you follow the webmaster guidelines published by the search engines. And, if you think that's all you need, refer back to the first section where we discuss the whole 'search engines are a profit making company' thing.

Now, when newbies get into this industry, they find tons and tons of conflicting information. So, to solve this problem, they look for those who seemed to be authorities. The idea is that they'd be getting good information. And, they'll have tons of good information, but the problem is that the authorities in the industry don't seem to agree either.

What Is a Quality SEO?

The comment by Rodney Riley on Rand's post 'What Makes an SEO' stated that 'Many professions exist without the requirement of qualifications' and named web development as an example. Well yes, he's right, but, to the inexperienced client who knows nothing of how the Web really works, bad development means the site doesn't work or doesn't look right. When the client gets a design from the coder, all he cares about is that it works and looks good.

The ability of a client to look through the web developer's portfolio and see that everything looks good along with some good testimonials is all he needs to say 'yep, this is who I'm hiring'. With an SEO, this just isn't the case.

SEOs can provide a series of testimonials and case studies, but even this is only going to get them so far. Ultimately, the client has to trust their SEO company enough to hand over the cash and let the experts do their thing. If they don't have that trust, it will lead to those 'are you sure about that because so-and-so said this' conversations. And, we all know that this leads nowhere.

As d.gudaitis said in his comment on the post, 'The best marketers aren't certified, they are recognized by results.' This is exactly how SEO companies climb to the top, but there's a little snag here too. How do you prove that one technique or another is responsible? Is it really the SEO company? As any good researcher or tester will tell you, there are always internal and external factors to consider. Holidays, seasons, news, and industry happenings influence sales and traffic all the time.

Yet another conundrum for the SEO industry is defining what a 'quality' job really is. One company might bring in a huge amount of generic traffic, but is that a quality job? Or, is an SEO company who brings in a smaller amount of targeted traffic better? AND, is the client's definition of quality SEO the same as yours?

Believe it or not, there are a ton of business owners out there who seem to think that 8,000 visitors with one conversion is a great result. They hunger for the traffic and that's all that matters to them.

Maybe quality SEO has less to do with the actual results and more to do with how well a company can read the client? And, if the company decides that just bringing in traffic is enough, is that fair to the customer? Is that even ethical? The answer to that, I'm afraid, is a matter of personal opinion.

SEO Trials and Tribulations

SEOers have become the lawyers and dentists of the online world. These are the professions that you know you need, but the encounter isn't always pleasant and it's definitely going to take some coin to get the results you want.

In several ways, lawyers and doctors have the added advantage. They're regulated, they go to school, and there's a direct consequence if they do something they're not supposed to. With SEO, there's no 'rules', no standards, no regulation, and not much in terms of repercussions. That's not very appealing for a paying client. So, how do you get around that?

Follow the Leader aka Not Enough Cooks in the Kitchen

(Sorry, but as soon as Marie-Claire Jenkins showed me this, it just really fit my next point.)

Educate the client. Well, we've already looked at that and we get back to that 'who's right' problem. One person says something, then others follow, and the next thing you know, a large part of the crowd is singing the same tune. The problem is that no one stops along the way to question it.

Everyone immediately takes up the flag saying this hidden technique works and is the next big 'SEO Secret' because Mr. SEO Big Wig says it does. And, herein lies the cause of the industry's biggest woes. If someone does suddenly holler 'stop the bus', he or she is often chastised by the industry.

Yes, Mr. SEO Big Wig said he tested it and it worked, but can others get the same results with the same technique? If they can't, or if it only has a 50% success rate, is it really the next big industry buzz? If so, how long before things change and how long until someone notices that it no longer works?

If you really did discover a fantastic technique that works brilliantly, would you be in such a rush to take your 15 minutes of fame? Or, would you keep your mouth shut so that your competitors don't start using it and cause the search engines to render your newfound magic useless?

Personally, a lifetime of wealth and becoming an industry leader is going to benefit me a whole lot more than being 'that chick who found that technique that worked for a couple of months about 5 years back'.

Isn't Image Everything?

In many regards, the SEO industry spends far too much time arguing about everything instead of working together and looking at the things that really matter. Don't get me wrong. Discussion is always a good thing, but anyone who has discussed Jill's posts, LSI, or any posts proclaiming that 'SEO is dead' will attest to the spats and mudslinging (some friendly, some not so much).

These disagreements are seen by many of those outside the industry including designers, developers, and most importantly, potential clients and income sources. The seed of mistrust begins to grow and it makes it harder for clients to trust you as an SEO. In all honesty, you have to wonder if the arguing is worth it.

For some strange reason, some SEOs seem to have a habit of taunting and belittling clients. In some instances, there's very little regard for the client and it's done almost with arrogance. This undoubtedly taints the 'victim', but what about other clients who happen to see this and think 'what would happen if I do something wrong?'

And look at how the industry divides itself. It's clear that not everyone sees this the same way, but I guarantee you that 'one bad apple spoils the whole bunch'. Yes, a client might be a pain in the backside, and yes, they screwed up, and yes, they were rude and ignorant, but seriously: Is lowering yourself to their level or being less than professional benefiting you or the industry any? Here's another thought…when was the last time you heard a doctor or lawyer 'out' a client? Hmmm…

Authority

I was once told that being looked up to by your fellow professionals will elevate you to a level of authority, but will it really? Just because other SEOs look to you for advice doesn't mean that you're right. It just means you have a following (and anyone who's been on Twitter knows how well this works). Not saying that it has no effect, but to an outside client who knows nothing of the industry, your reputation among your peers isn't going to mean squat.

In the end, it's the clients who hold the money, not your competition. And, it's the clients who'll ultimately determine whether your work is getting the best results. Also, if you continue to achieve great success and gain a loyal following of clients, your competitors are sure to notice. (Oh sorry, I already use XYZ SEO Company. I've had great success with them and so has everyone else I've talked to. DOH!)

Most other products and services work this way too. If I want to go to a dentist or a lawyer, for example, I go to one that has had good results with other clients. I'd be an idiot to ask one dentist or lawyer what he thinks of another one. This makes me wonder if SEO is a peer driven industry, or a client based one.

Rule Book

How about a Masters in SEO? A Rule Book?

Educating SEOs and standards are the answer. Well, not exactly. When the social media degree first created a stir, my argument was that the industry changes far too fast for the course to be worth much of anything. The same thing holds true for SEO.

Standards are the same. A few short years ago, keyword stuffing was the perfect technique, but today, this is no longer the case. (Who came up with this idea anyway? We need to chat.)

Then, there's the whole 'where do you draw the line between acceptable and not acceptable' argument. And if it's acceptable, who's the judge? Google? Yahoo!? What about the little guys?
These are all businesses remember.

Who is Google to tell MSN what to do? What about the little guys whose algos work completely different from any other? One set of standards might not work for them. Does that mean that everyone should conform?

Maybe the SEOs should get together and set their own standards. Who will decide the difference between right and wrong then? Remember that just because Google says it's wrong doesn't necessarily mean that there's anything wrong with that. MSN might love it. More importantly, how could we get all of the SEOs to agree on anything? I've yet to see it happen. The industry is simply too vast and has far too many 'circles' and branches.

In the end, it seems that nothing will improve until SEO sorts itself out or society becomes better educated as a whole. Unfortunately, you can't help but wonder what will happen inside the industry in the mean time and exactly how long that's going to take. For all we know, it could be another 20 years, and by that time, SEO could really be dead leaving the vultures to pick over the remains. If it happened to Silicon Valley, it can happen to anyone.

Definitely something SEOs should ponder.

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom) is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services. She loves to create SEO Web copy and other types of online and offline content, but she figures SEO and Social Media is pretty great too. She likes to chat about business and marketing, find great links, and more. Oh, and you can find this copywriter on Twitter too.

Angie Nikoleychuk (Haggstrom)

Angie Haggstrom is the Senior Copywriter and Consultant at Angie's Copywriting Services, specializing in online and offline content including SEO web copy, brochures, and more. A Twitter and blogging fanatic, you'll find she chats about SEO, Social Media, business, marketing, and just about anything else she finds interesting along the way.

Angie's Copywriting

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25 Responses to “Don't Blame the Snake Oil Salesman!”

  1. Mel says:

    Now that is one thought provoking post Angie and as a practicing SEO I am not sure I have all the answers (or even if you are asking the right questions) but it sure hits the nail on the head.

    More Please!

  2. Hi Mel,

    No, you're right. The problem is that whatever the answers are, you can guarantee that several things will have to happen first and the solution will be multifaceted.

    I'll admit that I really hesitated to publish this post, but after discussing it with several others, I decided to do so. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks this way!

    Always a pleasure,

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  3. The SEO industry is really still very young and it will always be changing as long as the search engines change. I think we will see many great things for those who really focus on building businesses online the right way.

  4. I agree Nick. Completely…heck, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing otherwise. I really have a passion for it and can see lots of wonderful things happening. Just with all the rants and shenanigans the last while, I thought it would be worth it to look at the entire issue instead of just certain bits and pieces.

    Great to see you again!

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  5. Justin Parks says:

    An extensive commentary on the whole search engine vs SEO vs Client question Angine, thoroughly enjoyed reading it and the points raised are issues I have fretted about on numerous occasions myself.

    I think the only answer is that everyones to blame…(thats a bit of a cop out though isnt it?)

    Taking the search engines to hand and for obvious reasons, they do not and indeed cannot, it seems, give definitive clear advice to seos and clients thats simple to understand and apply legitimately, for competition purposes and of course because there is always someone ready to game the system, especially when theirs money involved.

    But if the search engines consider the SEOs the enemy, I think thats a bit much, after all, how many have helped clients actually resist the desire to build flash websites and get them a clean and well optimised site offering excellent resource and information to the internet. giving Google more content to provide and allowing searches to find the information they want!

    SEOs have to take responsibility for their actions as well, but truthfully its not an easy industry to work in due to the search engines keeping the rules close to their chest and changing them so often and the clients ranting and raving on the other end of the phone wondering just what your doing with their money and where the leads are, no matter if your white, grey or black hat, it puts you in a rather undesirable position.

    Coupled with the points you raise about authority figures not being able to agree on things and the quagmire thickens for all involved.

    And of course the clients, the guys with the doe, who really dont care about how it happens, they just know a bloke in the pub told them that its easy and should happen and no matter what their paying its still to damn much, especially after seeing that email this morning offering guaranteed No1 spots on google for 5-99. :)

    It all adds up to a nasty state of affairs for every one involved and hence you will see SEOs simply learn the trade and setup their own businesses because dealing with clients is simply not worth it (I have seen this happening quite frequently recently) leaving them wide open for the next guy to come along and potentially take them for even more of their cash.

    Its not a simple subject, not by a long shot and as I said, I don't thank blame can be assigned to one party or group exclusively but we all need each other and in some form or fashion we need to solidify things to clarify this issue with all involved. Cant see it happening in my life time though!

    Pleasure reading this Angie. Keep up the good work.

  6. John says:

    SEO's are not always the enemy of search engines, quite the opposite infact.

    When I promote a site my number one aim is developing best of web content that kick the a$$ out of my competitors. I then market that content in order to attract links. All of my link building is naturally promoted content. I encourage my clients to add value to their visitors and to the web. Thats exactly what the Search Engines want.

    Now bad SEO's on the other hand persuing low value manipulative links is another thing, bu, then again are not really SEO's

  7. Angie, glad I inspired such a great though that developed into yet another fantastic post! I think that your points are all very valid and come from experience. There is an inherent problem with the ecosystem that breeds the distrust and I feel that you have really put that all together. I had a lot of "AHA's" while reading this. I think that because of the lack of standards, agreement among peers, and no formal training there will NEVER be a higher level of trust. And those things will never develop because SEO is too dynamic to allow any of them (standards, agreement among peers, and formal training) and always will be. Every situation for every site is just too unique.

    The best one could hope for would be to build up a list of clients that are willing to highly endorse you. Word of mouth is and always will be the BIGGEST influence in purchasing decisions.

  8. Surprise? lol Well, certainly glad you enjoyed it. And you're right, it seems to be a never ending vicious circle. But at the same time, I think you have to remember what you enjoy about the industry or it'll drive you nuts!

    A loyal list of clients and word of mouth advertising is absolutely vital in any industry. I'm a firm believer that everyone you work with as well as those you don't end up working with should have a pleasant and positive experience. Well, or at least make a good effort at it anyway. The Internet may be large, but it is still very much an old-fashioned community.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  9. Don't get me wrong, I definitely still love what I do! I think its just always good to hear confirmation from other what you've always thought yourself all along. Especially that part about all the energy and effort many SEO put into creating a strong image among their peers! Its better to focus on your clients and your own business than to try to be popular.

  10. Absolutely. hehe I often ask friends if I'm losing it, or if I really am thinking straight. (Sometimes, it makes you wonder!)

    And the energy put into peer image in the SEO industry is amazing. Really it is. One of the few industries I've seen it happen in.

    Copywriters (just as an example) are much different. I know and work with several all the time, but I don't base my authority on them. Mutual respect? Yes. Collaboration? By all means. A general discussion and sharing of knowledge? Of course, but elevating yourself through your peers seems dangerous to me. My customers are nothing short of thrilled with my work. And, after many discussions with them , I know that I do things differently than most copywriters and it works to my client's benefit. And, that's what matters in my books.

    Couldn't agree with you more (and thrilled about it!)

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  11. Hi John,

    I really have to respectfully disagree and agree with you at the same time. The way I see it, if you're marketing content, it's no longer natural. You're tweaking the system hehe. Of course, it depends on the particulars, but as soon as you mention 'link building' you're messing with the system.

    The other thing to consider is that just because you love a website and have made it into the best possible site on the web doesn't mean the SEs agree with you. All too often I've had someone give me a link to a site they're proud of. I go there expecting the Taj Mahal and end up shrieking in horror haha.

    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And, while we all do our utmost best to create a perfect website, that doesn't mean that Google or Microhoo do. (Meaning Google might think you have a great site, but it might come up with 10 sites it thinks are better…we don't know how it rates sites, so we can only use educated guesses.)

    As soon as you do something outside of Google's little webmaster handbook, you're gaming the system :)

    Also, keep in mind that SEOs will use whatever techniques they can that won't get them slapped with a flag, filter, or penalty. And spammers take it to the extreme. No-follow page sculpting is a good example

    BUT,

    You're right when you say that those qualities are exactly what you're looking for. Overall, they want a better experience for everyone.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  12. Heya Justin,

    First of all, thank you so very much. Sorry it took me so long to fish it out of the spam queue…

    No, you're right. As far as I'm concerned all sides are making mistakes and it's left the whole industry looking like a bunch of fish dumped on a dock. (Oh, and do you think 9.95 would get me a #1 spot ahead of all those who bot the 5.99 versions? hehe)

    Now, I'll be honest, as far as companies go, I love Google with all it's apps and gadgets. But, I can't help but think that, at the end of the day, they make profits. And how do they make profits? Via advertising… The more I think about it, I don't know if getting the visitor the information is really their primary goal. Getting them results that will get them there, yes. In reality, I think Google would be perfectly happy if users had to go through the first 10 pages of results until they found all the information they were looking for. Think of it like following breadcrumbs… the visitor gets a little sumthin-sumthin on each page, but has to keep going to get the answer.

    Google and IR as a whole has obvious learned from SEOs, but I see it like this:

    Say that I hide outside your house and wait till you go to work. Then, I sneak inside and rearrange your kitchen cupboards to how I like to see them. You come home, and nothing's where you like it, so you spend hours putting everything back the way it was…do this often enough and eventually you're going to be waiting for me on the other side of the door with a bat lol

    Again, thanks so much for the compliment and the time you took to comment. It's appreciated.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  13. Mel Nelson says:

    John I think your halo is a bit tight.

  14. As usual nice work although I disagree on the impossibility of standards. No point in even elaborating beyond saying the main missing ingredient is the desire to have them and the fact too many are suckling off the teaching teet and standards jeopardizes their ability to continue that biz. Name one certification that isn't just a marketing ploy… or a conference gimmick and I got a crisp Ca. brown note for ya. I've looked at them all and… they just exploit SEO's need for greater credibility.

  15. Hehe Mel..no comment :)

    Terry — You're absolutely right. Everyone (re SEOs) want credibility, but standards is a whole new story. Still not sure how you could have standards without a clear cut and dried idea of what those standards should be and no regulatory authority. But, you're right. That's a whole new debate :)

  16. John,

    don't sweat the halo talk, mine is shining brightly…

    DISCLAIMER: i own a bit of GOOG stock.

    SEO is NOT a new industry… I started ranking for stuff in webcrawler and yahoo! 13-ish years ago… and optimizing search was done on bulletin boards, eworld, AOL, compuserve, Usenet and any other type of listing system on the web.. SEO doesn't begin with Google, it just gets better, because google came out of the box trying to offer the BEST search, not chasing the money trail as many other companies, Lycos, AltaVista, etc.. did.

    I've been either charging people more for hosting (with SEO) or charging for SEO since 1996.

    The issue is the nature of the beast…

    The search engine CAN"T say.. "here is how to rank" AND they are continuously fighting the battle against spam…

    john,
    keep your halo, you have the right idea..
    "provide the most relevant, unique content and optimize it to hit #1, the validity of the content will be solidified by the bounce rate being low and you will have provided a good search result, improving the search engine and your client's ROI on organic SEO"
    - me

  17. Hey Steve,

    Just to clarify on the idea that SEO is new, in Internet time, you're right. SEO is ancient hehe.

    But, when you compare it to traditional marketing, doctors, lawyers, construction, oil/gas, etc it is new. Very new. I don't think I can think of a newer industry. In fact, I'd say that a majority of society doesn't even know it exists (crazy, I know! But, I can prove it…)

    Other than that, we're good lol I agree :)

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  18. JK says:

    I read 80+ SEO-related articles a day and I'm not excited after this one. You wrote over 2800 words to conclude that SEO is a devious enterprise. Search engines have become the primary content providers of the day. As long as their indexing algorithms remain proprietary, and theres a profit in ranking, people will optimize their sites. Purple Hat? Whatever. Just my two cents.

  19. Mel Nelson says:

    …. to reach the conclusion that SEO is a devious enterprise??

    We must be reading different articles JK as that is not the conclusion that either I or the article reached.
    In fact just the opposite – to me this article said that SEO is in fact a much needed enterprise, but that the image needs to be cleaned up.

  20. Hi JK,

    Always enjoy feedback, but I think you skimmed the article a little too fast. Mel is correct. The entire post does indeed say SEO is vital and viable. But, to any SEOs dealing with disgruntled clients and the bad air that surrounds the industry, it gets downright frustrating.

    You see, I read a good 80+ SEO articles or more a day myself, but I also read about other industries as well. During this time, I've watched SEOs and the general public blame everything from the 'evil G' to their competitors for the problems the industry is facing.

    My opinion is that there isn't a single reason for the bad wrap the industry has gotten, but several.

    In short, SEOs, SEs, clients, and the general public are all responsible for the situation the industry is in as a whole. So, instead of whining about it, be aware of the issues and use them to your advantage.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  21. miguelkwee says:

    The other thing to consider is that just because you love a website and have made it into the best possible site on the web doesn't mean the SEs agree with you.

  22. "The SEO industry has found itself in a unique position. It's an entirely new concept that remains a complete mystery to most of society."

    I really hope it's not that new of a concept. I mean, for those of us who started in the mid 90s, SEO is old news, it is habit, we rarely have to make a concerted effort to get the job done. ;)

    "All in all, SEOers seem to have gained a title that's synonymous with snake-oil salesmen."

    I know who we can blame for that. All the writers that continue to perpetuate the Black Hat vs. White Hat debates. Those who continually assign colors to various techniques in the industry. Who do you think is one of the most vocal on the whole hat thing? Matt and friends. ;)

    "No standards, no regulations, not even a set of general rules, unless you follow the webmaster guidelines published by the search engines."

    The Webmaster Guidelines are the industry standards and will be for as long as our pages are in their indices. They set the rules, they set the standards, not us, nor a group of us. It won't happen.

    "Standards are the same. A few short years ago, keyword stuffing was the perfect technique, but today, this is no longer the case."

    Keyword stuffing has been around since the dawn of the Internet. It isn't going away anytime soon. With the advent of the semantic web, keyword stuffing has become a common practice amongst those who don't know any better. In many instances, KW stuffing has a negative effect. And these days, the risk is not worth it. There is someone standing right around the corner ready to put your arse on the spot if you do something over the edge like a Senator recently did. ;)

    "Maybe the SEOs should get together and set their own standards."

    No, no, no! That isn't going to happen. I, and many others have pushed the Standards discussion for years only to have it fall on deaf ears in the long run.

    http://www.SEOConsultants.com/Standards/

    Many will discuss the whole Standards/Ethics thing but when it comes to taking action, there just aren't enough voices to make it happen. I explain more in the above discussion on Standards.

    "In the end, it seems that nothing will improve until SEO sorts itself out or society becomes better educated as a whole."

    Why do you think Google are now putting out their series of tips in regards to SEO? They've done an excellent job of providing a wealth of quality information for your everyday Webmaster. Same goes for Yahoo!, Bing and Ask. They offer a very good overview of the basics and if consumers follow the advice given, they don't need a freakin SEO! But, that won't happen so don't worry, we have job security. As long as there is separation between Design, Development and Internet Marketing, we will always have job security. :)

    Note for Google: You're at fault here too. You've manipulated the SEO results for years. If I look at the top 30 results for search engine optimization, there are slim pickin's there for the consumer of SEO. In fact, more than a handful of those (at least 12 of the 30) are going to cause grief for the consumer and a continuation of the Snake Oil nomenclature. So, while we're continually cleaning up our act, maybe you could clean up yours too?

  23. Hey Edward! I was hoping you'd choose to make a comment :)

    The whole "SEO is new thing". In Internet time, no SEO is as old as the hills, but in real world time, can you name me a newer profession? In the whole scheme of things, dentists, lawyers, doctors, marketing/advertising have all been around longer. To the general public, SEO hasn't been around long enough for them to be comfortable with. And, while I've had the pleasure of meeting you and several others who've been in SEO since the early 90s, others haven't.

    "writers that continue to perpetuate the Black Hat vs. White Hat debates"

    This is, without a doubt, one of the many disagreements I was mentioning, but it's only one in a long line. The 'nofollow' debate, paid links, etc all contribute to it. Part of the reason is because things change and some people just don't keep up. The other reason is because some people just get it wrong.

    And you're right, I did bring up the whole ethics/standards issue. But, I'm pretty sure you and I have the same viewpoint in that regard. Not enough voices is definitely one I didn't mention.

    The webmaster guidelines provided by the search engines are undoubtedly a great start, particularly with new webmasters. BUT, there's much more beyond those guidelines. Regardless what anyone tells me, the SEs are a business and they aren't going to tell you how to game their systems. They tell you how to make a page that has a chance at being found.

    And you're exactly right Edward, SEs, SEOs, and even clients need to clean up a bit if things are going to change. I mean, how many times have the search engines changed their minds on what's good and what isn't? Then there's the whole debate about how some authority sites can get away with murder and it's ok.

    In terms of the future of SEO, I'm interested to see what happens with the steady move towards semantics and personalization.

    And keyword stuffing gives me nightmares lol

    Thanks so much Edward. As always, I enjoyed hearing what you've had to say.

    Angie Haggstrom
    SEP/Angie's Copywriting

  24. [...] topic.Powered by WP Greet BoxI first encountered Angie Haggstrom when I read her article titled Dont Blame the Snake Oil Salesman. It was an intriguing and advanced post regarding the precepts many people have or the experiences [...]