This guest post is by Daylan Pearce of Next Digital.
There are three common reactions I get from people when I tell them what it is I do for a job.
- “What is that?”
- “Oh that’s cool, how does that work?”
- *Rolls eyes* “Oh riiiight, you’re one of those guys!”
So what is it that I do for a job? I’m an SEO. Each day, I work with businesses and websites to make sure their sites and Internet presences are in the best shape possible to be found in search engines.
A big part of my role is to respond to the first two of the reactions, which is something I actually enjoy doing. These two responses open up a door for me to explain something I really love doing. It’s the perfect opportunity to educate someone on how I can help make a website, author or idea as visible as possible online.
Yet it’s the third response I mentioned that I, and many others, am finding is becoming more common lately. SEO has become a bit of a dirty word (okay, it’s an acronym, not a word) lately. And one of the most vocal groups of this negativity is from you guys—the blogging community.
There is a growing perception that SEO is full of tricks and cheats. That it is an industry full of scammers who are trying to use your site for nefarious and dastardly reasons.
And why wouldn’t you think that? If you’re a frequent visitor to this site, then you’re probably someone who receives daily emails from SEO companies looking for a guest post or link on your site. You know the ones—those poorly written and often templated emails asking if you’ll publish their awesome, relevant, and completely unique blog content on your site. The ones that remind you to “please ensure you use followed links, oh and please use these specific keywords.”
It’s insulting to you and your readers and they always seem to come from people who are doing it for SEO purposes. After cleaning out your inbox each day with the same rubbish guest post outreach emails, I don’t blame bloggers for not trusting SEO and those who claim to do it. We look like lazy, condescending jerks.
But we’re not all like that, I promise. I believe you can divide up SEO today into three categories. Every single person within the SEO industry will fit into one of these no matter who they are.
The scammer SEO
These people understand SEO, no doubt. They understand what algorithmically makes words and sites rank well and they will use any trick or tactic necessary to get those rankings.
Black-hat SEOs and companies want wins at any cost, and unfortunately the people who do partake in these tactics do often get results at the expense of those trying to do it by the Google/Bing/Yahoo etc guidelines and rules. However, these wins are often short-lived as search engines target these methods constantly, penalizing those who use them.
How to spot them
A lot of the time these tactics are obvious—we all know what spam comments and emails look like. Sometimes, though, the tactics can get a little trickier.
Domain cloaking and redirects from approved links already on your site are two common tricks. Perhaps check your analytics now and again for any abnormalities within your referrer data or link profile:
- keyword stuffing
- linking to doorway pages
- comment spamming.
The lazy SEO
These are the people within the SEO industry which blogging communities are probably exposed to most.
They are the ones that fill up your blog comment threads with seemingly obscure and irrelevant content trying to get an easy link on your site. They are the ones who send you those poorly written emails exclaiming their undying love of your blog to get a link. They are the ones who keep those companies who sell 1000 links for $49.95 in business.
How to spot them
These guys often have a shotgun approach to blog outreach: send many emails and hope at least one gets a response. They:
- follow a generic (template) format
- perpetrate spelling errors
- have no personality
- wish to write about topics not relevant to your site
- offer money
- have specific technical link requests.
The genuine SEO
This group of people know that SEO is more than just about title tags, directory submissions, and spamming blogs in the hopes of getting one response that agrees to a guest post.
Genuine SEOs will and probably have contacted you because they believe that they have something that could be of interest to your audience and their client/site. They are first and foremost online marketers who are looking to effectively convey a message to a relevant and engaged audience. The link is a nice by-product, but forming the relationship and reaching an audience is the real goal.
How to spot them
These SEOs can be trickier to identify due to the sheer volume of rubbish emails that often surround them. But typical features of a good marketer is someone who is offering:
- relevant content to your audience
- personalised contact and information
- an understanding of your blog
- a knowledge of the topic they are talking about
- enthusiastic and personable interaction
- a genuine tone of voice.
The shape of SEO
Unfortunately, we are all lumped under the one banner of SEO, a title that as an industry is having its reputations run into the ground because of quick wins and lazy tactics.
The ironic (and tragic) part is that SEO is all about building brand awareness and boosting reputation, yet the tactics that a huge number in the industry use to try and achieve this goal are destroying our very own brand and reputation. SEOs are hurting SEO.
Ultimately, it’s up to us as SEOs to help make the Internet and search results better. That may seem corny as hell, but we know how this search stuff works. We need to stop turning the Internet against us.
There is a reason that 19 of your 20 blog out reach emails don’t get a reply. Instead of coming up with tactics to get a link, we need to come up with and promote tactics to build an audience. Otherwise it’s kind of like Superman using his powers to become the world’s biggest super-villain instead of helping those in need.
So, on behalf of all people within the SEO industry who do search marketing and optimization with the view to benefit users and readers a like, I apologise for those who don’t.