I try to wait until people ask what I think about things before I give my opinion… outside of this blog, of course. I don’t always manage to wait, usually because most of the time no one asks and my opinions are so damned good, but I do try. So, it was with great glee and much rubbing of hands together that I read an email from one of my prized clients asking what I thought about search engine optimization (SEO).
Meta Keywords: The SEO Shake Weight
I replied as honestly as I could, and tried not to ham it up too much. I used words like “snake oil,” but stopped short of words like “scam” and “frivolous,” even though the SEO/SEM marketing proposal I was asked to comment on included mention of “Meta keywords” which are the online marketing equivalent of the shake weight.
At least with a shake weight you might build up some muscles while you appear to be pleasuring an invisible gentleman. If you’re seriously employing meta keywords, which are ignored by Google, if not all big league search engines, you’re merely going through the motions with no hope of pleasuring anyone. Except, of course, for whomever is charging you for the SEO/SEM, I guess. It’s pure profit to them.
SEO: Internet Politics
It occurs to me that they’re very similar, politics and SEO, in that there are a few very important things you need to do right at the outset in order to have any hope of success.
- Declare your direction
- Get yourself a great title/slogan
- Be attractive!
With SEO, this means it helps to get a domain name that reflects what your site is about. In politics, it means picking a party. Of course, you can always switch either later on, but you’ll lose any good will you’ve built up with Google, the electorate, or both.
In the case of SEO, that’d be a page title that reflects clearly what your page is about. In politics, you need a slogan that people can identify with, e.g. “I like Ike” or “Newt’s family is like your family”
In the case of politics, this means actual visual attractiveness. I’m not saying you can’t have a life in politics if you’re hideous, but if you want to go all the way you want to be more Kennedy than Gingrich. More Michelle Obama than, well, pretty much anyone because she’s the best looking first lady perhaps ever in my opinion.
In the case of SEO, you need to make sure your content is relevant to the links you hope to attract, and not just a bunch of gibberish with keywords sprinkled in. You have to know what you’re talking about or you might look a bit like a fool.
So, why do I think SEO is (mostly) crap?
Feel free to yell at or correct me if I am wrong, here, but keep in mind that this is only my opinion.
Google have a deeply vested interest in serving up truly relevant links. That’s how Google gained market share back in their early days. The search options at the time were a minimum viable product (Yahoo, Lycos, AskJeeves et. al.). You got pages upon pages of results that weren’t even close. Then Google came along with a pile of relevant links for every search and took over the world. Better mousetrap!
If they allowed SEO/SEM to make as big a difference as many people claim, their search results would return whatever marketers wanted them to return, not what the customer wants to see. Thus they’d be effectively degrading their mousetrap. Google hires the smartest people in the world to make sure this doesn’t happen… and then Bing copies them.
Haha, take that! Aw cheer up, Bing, I’m only kidding.
Abandon Hope, Ye Who Continue
Beyond the important points listed above, though, when you get deep into SEO or politics you’re entering a whirling fog of jargon, baseless finger-pointing, and grandstanding. On top of which, if you’re a WordPress user, most of the SEO stuff is handled already for you. If you want to get deep, there’s a plugin called All In One SEO that I hear great things about.
Unfortunately for us as constituents, what is true of SEO is not true of politics. In SEO we have a third party regulatory body called Google, in whose best interests it is to combat disingenuousness. In politics, the professed third party regulatory bodies are motivated to perpetuate disingenuousness.
I’m looking at you, the media. Also you, actual regulatory oversight committees.
Ah well, that’s the system, I guess.