The Inconvenient Truth About The Inconvenient Truth About SEO

Earlier this week Smashing Magazine published an article by Paul Boag titled “The Inconvenient Truth About SEO”. The author made quite a few good points which can be summarized as “Don’t be silly, do integrated marketing” which is exactly the way to go. Unfortunately, Paul also demonstrated a rather questionable understanding of SEO. Here is why.

For some reason the article focuses on boosting ranking for certain key phrases and how this is terribly wrong. In reality that’s only part of the work, and decreasingly efficient at that (thanks to personalization of the search). Any real work for clients starts with analysis of their websites and figuring out what’s wrong with those websites. Here’s just a few purely technical issues:

  • the client switched to a new CMS without using 301 redirects, so visitors get the 404 error and leave;
  • the client carelessly removed a lot of pages (e.g. moved part of the business to a new company with a new website) and didn’t use 301 redirects;
  • there are tons of indexed pages with duplicated content (e.g. versions for printing) without the canonical tag;
  • the pages’ hierarchy wasn’t given a lot of thought;
  • the website uses frames like it’s still 1990s;
  • the website could benefit from using microformats (, but doesn’t do so;
  • pages have duplicated metadata sections, missing tags and suchlike;
  • the client doesn’t follow recommendations on creating regional versions of the website;
  • the previous SEO agency used various questionable tactics, like spammy inbound links or on-page keywords spamming;
  • landing pages are written with informational queries in mind, whereas navigational or transactional queries should be relied upon instead.

Detecting and fixing all of that is part of SEO, as it directly and indirectly affects both ranking in search engines and conversions.

A lot of those issues look like neglecting commons sense, and indeed that’s what a lot of them are. Still, a terrible lot of web masters keep making them.

The other issues are resulted by the lack of training which no common sense can substitute. You simply need to do your SEO 101 and follow what’s going on with search engines.

The next problem is right here:

This is the point where we come to the inconvenient truth. It is hard for an outside contractor to produce the great content that will keep users coming back and encourage them to share.

Why, thank you, Captain Obvious. SEO company shouldn’t even try to produce great content, it’s not their job. The only way it might work is when the agency is large enough to hire a specialist who knows the industry from the inside and will work with the client on the content. Or e.g. hire a team to make promotional videos.

And the final issue:

If you haven’t already, consider hiring an employee dedicated to creating content for your website. You can partially finance it with the money you save by getting rid of your SEO company.

I’ve seen it done. A certain company (both e-commerce and brick-and-mortar clothes shop) got rid of its SEO agency and hired an in-house specialist. The first thing he did is claim “let’s do awesome content” and undo the latest work done by the agency — creating and promoting pages to be enabled later when the next season comes (as it takes search engines a while to index and rank pages). The result: a dramatic decrease in rankings, loss of clients and, therefore, loss of sales.

The bottom line: no matter how awesome your content is, or how strategical your planning is, there’s still work to do that involves understanding how search engines work, and which new features (like said can be used for the benefit of your business. Whether you leverage it to an outside agency or an in-house specialist or DIY is entirely up to you.

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