Stepping on SEO experts toes

by Donna Fontenot October 6th, 2006 

I just finished reading an article titled Breaking SEO Myths Part One: The SEO Expert by Daniel Dessinger, a Dallas-based copywriter. In his article, he thoroughly trounces on the SEO industry, but he makes some valid points. To be honest, I really didn't find myself disagreeing with him very much. Let me quote a few passages from the article. He says:

Could there be another industry more inflated by ego, misinformation, and repetition than search engine optimization?

and

No SEO “expert?? or firm knows all of the search engines’ secrets. So how do they write so many articles, blogs, and forums with such authority? And why are the ones pinky swearing that they’re honest only telling you enough to maintain enough mystery to keep you relying upon their expertise and yet still wondering what the heck they are doing behind those closed doors?

and

Am I saying that they’re all scam artists? No. Many of them aren’t. But even the ones who are legit are still count on an air of mystery and difficulty to keep the client from demanding too many specific answers. Why? Because if these search engine specialists revealed all that they know to a client, they know that an intelligent client would be unimpressed. The truth is that most companies could perform their own SEO and be quite successful.

and

If you don't believe me, subscribe to a few SEO newsletters and catch up on your SEO articles. See for yourself if you don't read the same thing over and over, only presented in a different order or from a different angle. Study which groups or individuals support and compliment each other in SEO articles, forums, and blogs. Notice how they build a castle of thoughts out of thin air. In this industry, some will corroborate each other if it means reinforcing the fuzzy logic that has benefited their own business. The lack of fresh information is fairly convincing evidence that search engine optimization and keyword research are not all that complicated. If they were, the experts wouldn't have to recycle to put out new articles and blogs.

He does mention that some highly competitive industries usually require someone with expertise, and he recognizes that some businesses would simply prefer to outsource this work for various legitimate reasons. He also gives some sound advice on how clients should carefully evaluate any prospective SEO that they are considering hiring.

Despite the fact that I feel like I "should" be upset with this article, I'm not. Frankly, he's pretty much right on with his analysis. If I didn't believe that SEO could be learned by just about anyone with a modicum of intelligence, I wouldn't bother to give SEO tips on my blog. In fact, the basics can be learned fairly quickly. However, an experienced SEO has so much under his/her belt that he or she is unlikely to make any disastrous mistakes. Newbies make huge mistakes all the time, and those mistakes can often be difficult to undo. SEO is no different than any other specialized field. Of course, the information can be learned by anyone willing to do so. However, mastering the nuances only comes from testing, trial and error, and experience. Those clients who are willing to do the kind of testing needed to learn the subtle nuances of optimization must also be willing to put their sites' rankings at risk.

So, while I believe most businesses benefit from hiring a good SEO, Mr. Dessinger really does have a decent understanding of the industry as a whole. I would like to point out to Mr. Dessinger, however, that many SEOs freely share information via forums and blogs, and while they may not give up all their knowledge for competitive reasons, that doesn't make them any different than any other business who is unwilliing to share corporate secrets. Business is business, and I'm sure clients understand that as well.

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14 Responses to “Stepping on SEO experts toes”

  1. Joe Dolson says:

    Interesting points – he raises a lot of valid issues, but misses the overall point that most legitimate SEOs won't deny: SEO is a very learnable field. It's not rocket science! People hire professionals for the same reason they don't replace their own toilets: it's more efficient to get somebody who really knows what they're doing.

    In both cases, some people will choose to do their own work: some of those will have no problems (although they'll take a lot longer than the professional), and some will end up with flooded basements.

    In my opinion, the repetition of information within the SEO blogosphere is relatively insignificant: people share ideas. They may write about the same issue because they want people to know that this is how THEY work in the SEO arena. Part of the reason for so much publication in SEO is because we're trying to reject the common impression that SEO professionals are scam artists – and in order to do that, we write extensively about our beliefs and methods.

    And, like you said – you can't share EVERYTHING!

  2. EGOL says:

    Yep, yep, yep… it is easy, easy, easy…

    Here's the revelation… there are only ten spots on the first page of Google. It is still a competitive game and getting more competitive every week.

    If it was as easy as this guy says then why is he still writing copy? He should be sipping iced tea and smoking expensive cigars with his feet up in Tahiti… stopping only once or twice a week to check his earnings.

  3. everett says:

    You see so many articles about SEO because the people writing them do so to get quick and easy links. Most of them are crap, which is why everyone flocks to the same few blogs – the few that actually have something new to say. You can't blame someone for taking part in this as long as the search engines continue to reward them for it.

    How many times (countless) over the last five decades have we heard the same old news stories reworded and reworked. Year after year after year after year… the same Halloween stories, the same Christmas stories. What about when a scandal happens and no matter which channel you flip to for the next three days you hear the same damn thing over and over by talking heads on every network news show? And when that gets old, they bring in retired generals, college professors, or just about anyone with a shred of authority to put in their two cents. Isn't there enough news out there in the word to cover?

    There is nothing new under the sun. The day I think of something valuable that nobody has ever thought of is the day I will begin doing exactly was EGOL said: "sipping iced tea and smoking expensive cigars with his feet up in Tahiti… stopping only once or twice a week to check [my] earnings."

    Until then, I am just going to earn a living by helping my clients. It may not take a rocket scientist to follow the basic tenants of SEO, but it does take someone who can speak fluently to Marketing and Development, because those two species certainly don't know how to talk to each other.

  4. randfish says:

    Missed this one last week, but I had to take it on today. I have to disagree, Donna. I couldn't find anything redeeming in the article, whatsoever.

  5. mvandemar says:

    While I do agree with Daniel D. on the fact that the industry is rife with misinformation, and not all that difficult to learn, there is something he seems to have missed.

    While it may indeed only take a reasonable amount of intelligence to be a successful SEO, it takes more knowledge to do that than it does to be a webmaster. Even someone fairly non-technical these days can learn how to build a webpage, connect to a database, or install a custom script. The more people there are out there that know how to do this, then the more people there are to ask how. With something like building webpages, or programming, expanding the user base makes it easier to do. The exact opposite is true for SEO. The more people there are out there doing it, the harder it gets. So yes, while the basics are indeed easy to learn, the things that give you an edge are not. They require thought and creativity, something which if you can purchase are indeed valuable commodities.

    It is unfortunate that a large portion of the SEO's in the field today are indeed unscrupulous, and do rely on a clients lack of knowledge, rather than just providing quality work. It does give honest SEO's a bad name.

  6. wilreynolds says:

    I won't repeat what has already been said, but I feel compelled to say that I don't think any SEO who touts SEO as rocket science is being honest. However smart companies realize that there is an opportunity cost to trying it yourself and base their decisions off of that.

    There is also value to working on 10+ sites at once, if you know your methodology is working well for 9 of 10 clients then you as an SEO know to hold tight. As a newbie you may jump the gun and start re-tweaking a perfectly fine methodology when you don't need to.

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  8. rmccarley says:

    Interesting read. He does make some god points but he sounds like the kid that wasn't quite accepted by the "in" crowd and is now puffing up his own chest out of spite and misery.

    I might have missed it if he didn't claim his own SEO credentials (as an expert no less!) at the end.

    Kinda threw the whole thing away there, didn't he?

  9. Its interesting..

    It does assume that all Seo experts are part of a community.. And that communities have the most popular "girl/boy" like at school.. And the quiet one's have no idea..

    I does take you into the debate of "what is a seo" .. Just a consulant.. ?

    Are webmaster/seo allowed to say i'm and seo because I know html / php / asp C++ or if you know that you MUST be a spammer ?

    Time to network ;)

  10. Donna, thanks for weighing in on my article. It's been a solid 10 months since that article was originally published. I've received a lot of response on this topic over the past few days.

    I have written a response to several people's comments on my CultureFeast blog at http://www.culturefeast.com. The title is "Breaking SEO Myths 1.5: The SEO Expert Revisited."

    I appreciate that although you might not have preferred the style of my presentation, you based your judgments of the content on the content alone.

    I don't know why, but I am reminded my favorite phrase from the Randy Galloway show: "fair and biased news." :)

    Thanks again.

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