Online Marketing Blog Roundup

What Is Good SEO? The Debate Continues

By Elisa Gabbert August 16, 2012 Posted In: Online Marketing Blog Roundup Comments: 6

 

Good SEO vs Bad SEO

Larry stirred up quite a controversy last week with two posts that made some bold claims. First, he said that SEOs suck at PPC because they don’t approach it with the right mindset. (Later, he amended the post to say that SEOs sometimes suck at PPC – he also told me he was mainly thinking about himself.) Then he said that the idea that SEO has more long-term value than PPC is a myth.

This didn’t sit too well with some of our readers (many of whom are advocates for and practitioners of SEO – as, frankly, we have always been in the past). We had some vehement disagreement in the comments from people who thought Larry was over-generalizing or conflating “SEO” with webspam and unsustainable black-hat tactics. For example, Matt Bennett said, “you've taken your own experiences of SEOs and applied them to the industry as a whole, and as a result you've inadvertently made yourself look naïve.” And here’s Kieran Flanagan: “I actually think you make some good points in this post but it's packaged up in some really poor misinformation. You are comparing images of sites who have been hit by Google’s updates to combat spam and using it to make a kind of self serving point about SEO vs PPC.”

Unfortunately, what could have been a really interesting debate about the relative merits – and costs – of paid search and organic search got a bit ugly because the posts, in their original form, did overstate their claims, and key terms (like “SEO”!) were poorly defined. The posts have since been edited to reflect the fact that we both (Larry, as the author, and me, as the blog manager) agree the posts were potentially misleading.

But, shitshow aside, there was some really interesting debate in the comments! There were also a couple of related posts this week that I want to bring to your attention, in case you missed them.

Undebunking (Rebunking?) the Myth of the Long-Term Value of SEO

Michael Martinez of SEO Theory directly addresses some of Larry’s points in a (characteristically) long and detailed post about “low-maintenance, long-term SEO.” Michael says that he agrees “whole-heartedly” with the claim that what qualifies as “good SEO” changes over time.

However, he totally disagrees with the idea that “SEO costs more and more to maintain over time.” And his point here is really important I think:

Well, frankly, the way I look at things (and I am only expressing an opinion), if your costs are rising and your return on investment isn’t rising correspondingly then you’re hardly optimizing for search — so whatever you’re doing really isn’t SEO.

The fact is, two things are true about our SEO costs at WordStream:

  1. Our SEO budget has been getting higher over time; we need to spend more to keep our SEO traffic numbers on the rise.
  2. We get ROI from that SEO spend; otherwise we wouldn’t do it.

What Larry’s post should have said (in my humble opinion) is that the actual dollar amount you spend on search marketing doesn’t really matter, as long as you are getting ROI on that spend. That’s true for SEO or PPC.

About that Whole “Good SEO” Question…

As I mentioned above, Michael Martinez didn’t quibble with Larry’s point that the definition of good, clean, Google-approved SEO has shifted over the years, but a lot of people did. For example, Nick Ker said “it really is not hard to tell where the line is. Just read Google's Webmaster Quality Guidelines and SEO Startup Guide … It really isn't a big mystery.”

Personally I think it’s a little more complicated than that. There are specific techniques that Matt Cutts used to talk about (e.g. PageRank sculpting and the use of rel=canonical tags on multi-page documents) that Google now says are overdoing it. The basic best practices may stay the same, but most people in the SEO industry have played around – sometimes extensively – with more advanced techniques that go beyond the basic stuff in Google’s webmaster guidelines. And that’s where you run into gray zones: What’s light gray today might be dark gray next year.

Aaron Wall at SEO Book released an infographic that addresses this question – what’s the difference between good SEO and SEO spam? It lists out a bunch of tactics that are a no-no according to Google’s guidelines, but that Google freely engages in itself. The lesson for webmasters? As ever, do as they say, not as they do.

What is Spam?

Search Infographic by SEO Book

More Web Marketing Highlights

Google continues on its vertical acquisition streak with the announcement that it will buy Frommer’s travel guides for an undisclosed amount.

Cyrus Shepard did some testing and found that changing his Google+ profile picture (the one that appears in the SERPs if you’re using authorship markup) had a notable effect on click-through rate.

Here’s an interesting thread on Quora about its practice of hiding answers from search engine visitors. Is that Google-nay or Google-OK?

Filmmaker Errol Morris writes in the NYT’s Opinionator column about how font choice affects the believability of your claims. (Do NOT use Comic Sans in your board presentations!)

Later, gators.

"Good versus Evil" image via Helico

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Comments

Saturday August 18, 2012

Mark Knowles (not verified) Said:

What is "Good" SEO? Easy - White hat is stuff google will never be able to identify, Black hat is stuff they can definitely identify, and Grey hat is stuff they *may * be  able to identify. lo

Saturday August 18, 2012

Niks (not verified) Said:

Bloggers are doing anything to bring visitors to thier blog or site due to which sometimes they just avoid what they are 

doing is not correct as per google terms in long run.The Hurry to get visiotars makes it more difficult later on to get it 

by organic search. :(

 

 

Sunday August 19, 2012

Information Tech (not verified) Said:

Wordstream has such high rankings in everything for SEO, trust, authority, etc... and the number of links is incredible. Given that it's hard to say that wordstream does not care about seo or that it doesn't think that seo is a long term worthwhile effort. What is 'good SEO' or course changes over time as do  Google's algorithms. So I'm not quite clear why Larry made these comments. Perhaps he wanted to post some link bait!! SEO!!

Tuesday August 21, 2012

professional copywriting (not verified) Said:

Google, and especially Matt Cutts, has been very clear about what they will consider to be a well optimized web page. In the end Google wanted the most valuable information to rank the highest in the SERPs and so content that is correctly tagged and uses an organic amount of links and keywords is now good long term SEO just like it always has been. It is only those who have advocated artificially manipulating these details that are now having trouble defining ‘good SEO’.

Wednesday August 22, 2012

Elisa Gabbert Said:

It seems like a lot of SEOs have collective amnesia! No one is willing to admit that some very high-profile SEOs -- as well as Matt Cutts himself -- have changed their story over the years. It may be "very clear" at any one point in time, but it certainly isn't consistent from year to year.

Tuesday November 06, 2012

seo (not verified) Said:

Well, the panda update of september 29th took a huge dump on all my sites. If anyone is to learn from this, i would say that

ddiversifying your sites is the way to go .

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