SEO Fairy Tales Without Happy Endings

by | Apr 30, 2012 | Blog, Blog Archive, Multi-Channel Marketing | 0 comments

We share office space with Vertical Nerve, a web analytics, search marketing, and mobile marketing company.  In other words, they’re Google Analytics geeks, who understand exactly how to measure, monitor and tweak marketing campaigns to get the results you want.  I’m not, even though I’ve known about Google longer than most people on the planet.

Months before Sergei Brinn and Larry Page announced their new search engine, I attended a hush-hush meeting (after signing “binding mutual non-disclosure agreements and information embargoes” explained with great seriousness by two teams of lawyers), and saw one of the very first demos of the product that became Google.

I was standing backstage when the public (or at least the tech industry press, pundits, and opinion leaders who were standing in for the public) got its first look at Google at the Demo conference.  To be honest, I wasn’t all that impressed.

While the demo was going on, I turned to the show’s host David Coursey (my writing partner and one of my best friends), and asked, “Does the world really need another search engine? Especially one that’s ad supported?”

David said that he thought that Google had a lot of potential, but he agreed with me that advertising-supported products would struggle. Boy, were we wrong.

What we were watching that day was a revolution that changed marketing forever.  Google created a way to find, report, and organize the almost unlimited amounts of data available online. So, for the first time, buyers have the power to find products globally, whenever they want them.

A whole new industry — search engine optimization — has grown up in the past 12 years and it’s changing and evolving quickly.  But some of the SEO fairy tales about  search marketing and Google Analytics still remain.  Here are five SEO fairy tales without happy endings that I keep hearing from people who are otherwise very good marketers.

  1. Using Google Analytics will reduce your SEO, because you’re giving Google data they’ll use against you.  Yes, there are people out there who believe this one — a LOT of people, judging by a recent discussion in a marketing group on LinkedIn.  Let’s start with the basic fact that Google already has your data, whether you are signed up for Google Analytics or not.  And let’s add the fact that no one knows what goes into the algorithms that Google uses to calculate page rank.  Last, but not least, let’s add in the fact that most of us just aren’t important enough to get onto Google’s radar screen.  Why should they care enough about my blog or even the software company where I work to skew their results in order to hurt me?  Even assuming that I managed to tick off one of their programmers enough that there is a personal vendetta against me, why bother using my Google Analytics data?  Why not just drop me from search results altogether?
  2. Page rank doesn’t really matter, because search results are personalized for individual users — so everyone sees different results anyway.  I actually heard this one at a conference recently, from a well-respected social media and SEO expert with a couple of best-sellers.  Yes, Google personalizes search results based on the user’s search history (whether you’re logged in to Google or not), but in most cases the differences between personalized results and non-personalized results are so small that they’re hard to notice.  Click here for a post specifically on this topic.
  3. Trading links helps boost page rankings. At least that’s what all the totally irrelevant sites that want to “trade links” with me claim in their mass-mailed spam.  It isn’t true.  Reciprocal links are of dubious value: they are easy for an algorithm to catch and to discount.
  4. There are affordable services out there that will “register your site with hundreds of search engines” and this is essential to your site’s rankings.  If you believe that, then why are you reading this instead of helping that Nigerian prince who desperately needs your help to get a large sum of money smuggled out of his country, for which you will be richly rewarded? You don’t register with the search engines.  They find you.  (This blog was indexed by Google within 24 hours of its launch — and another blog I started the same week was on page one of search engine rankings for its topic within 72 hours of its launch, and has stayed there ever since. And I didn’t have to register either one.)
  5. Great Content = Great Page Rank. Great Page Rank = High Traffic.  This isn’t a baseball movie.  Just because you build it (write it) doesn’t mean they will come — and it doesn’t mean that you will be found.  People have to be searching for it before they’ll find it.  And page rank is based on many factors — but the quality (or even the accuracy) of the content isn’t one of them.  (If it was, the outsourced link-builders who spam sites with broken-English comments in order to build links, wouldn’t remain in business.)

Like I said, I’m not a Google geek — and I’m not a search engine expert.  But I do know that believing in fairy tales is fun when you’re four — and dangerous when you’re a marketer.

Cartoon credit:  The cartoon is available thanks to the amazing Geek and Poke blog which made it available for non-commercial re-use under a Creative Commons license.