When SEO Is Not Really SEO

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Okay so this article isn’t an SEO tutorial.  It’s not a rant against the fine people at Google Labs.  It’s not even a rant so much as a question I pose to you, Search Engine Journal’s readers.

Okay – maybe I’ll rant just a little.  because that’s part of my voice.  Oh fine.  Enough of you know me by now that this is really going to be a full blown rant.  And a question.  What can I say?  The topic for this article didn’t just pop into my head one day.  It’s been boiling and roiling and fuming and fermenting for a long time.

So what topic could possibly get me so completely ripped apart that I’d want to scream at the top of my lungs?

How about….

Wait for it….

 

 

Pretend SEO

If you think you know what I’m talking about, read on.  You may be surprised.

Pretend SEO, to me, can mean many things.  But in this instance, what I’m talking about is situations where you’re called upon to perform your magic on a site.  And that site happens to clearly need hours upon hours of optimization work.  Because it’s in a highly competitive field.  Where the top players have been entrenched since forever.  Or they have hundreds or thousands of pages.

And the site you’re charged with has maybe 30 words of real content total.  Spread across five pages.  And two back-links.  From the site owner’s sister’s quilting site, and her cousin’s eBay page – you know the one – where there hasn’t been any products available since he sold that old moldy couch for $8.

So you take one look at the site and you know it’s going to take a lot of work.

Except you’re told “You’ve got three hours.  Do what you can.”

Or you’re dealing with a complex site – that’s got thirty seven categories of  services the company offers.  Saturating 65,000 pages.  And 987,355 inbound links.  Yet, for some reason, with all that depth, the site’s no higher than the 10th page of the SERPs.

And you know in THIS case, it’s going to take a full blown audit to figure out this mess.

Except you’re told “Just come up with a quick one-page plan that outlines what you’ll do to optimize the site over the next six months.  And oh – you’ve got ten hours a month allotted.”

 

No More Hair Left To Rip Out

Some of you may not have ever been in this situation.  That’s okay.  I’m happy for you.  Really.  But not really.  Because I’m jealous.  That you don’t know the heartache.  Yet.

But you just wait.  If you stick around this industry long enough, and diversify your income stream throughout your illustrious SEO career, you WILL Know this evil of which I speak.  Trust me.  You will.

For those of you who know what I’m talking about, because you too, have been in either of these painful situations, I ask you – at what point do you say “This is not SEO.  I can’t consciously expend the time you’ve allotted and claim that it’s significant enough to truly be called optimization.”

 

The “It’s Better Than No SEO” Argument.

Countless times I’ve heard that same account manager / employer / client spit out those immortal words.  The concept being that surely, with all my years of experience, and all the miracles of SEO I’ve pulled off in the past, that even with a few minutes being all that’s allocated, I can get some stupid small number of phrases into the site in a way that those phrases will show up on the first page of Google, or Yahoo or Bing.  And thus, “It’s better than no SEO at all”.

But is it?

How much optimization needs to be performed to truly qualify as genuine optimization?  And at what point, if you fall short of that threshold, do you call it a sham? An illusion?  A scam?  A delusion?

I’ve had to ask myself these questions countless times, since I provide consulting services to agencies.  And they’re forever compromising.  Sometimes it’s because the clients they take on have very serious budgetary constraints. And I can understand that.  I don’t LIKE it.  Yet I understand it.  Because it’s the nature of business.

Yet there’s just some situations where I say it’s too much insanity.  And I even occasionally refuse to work on a site because of that.  Like just this past week.  I refused to work on a site, let alone have my name be associated with it.  That’s how delusional I felt the scenario was.

What About You?

When do you draw the line?  Do you even have the LUXURY of drawing that line?  When do you cave in and go along for the pretend optimization pony ride?

Alan Bleiweiss
Alan Bleiweiss is a Forensic SEO audit consultant with audit client sites consisting of upwards of 50 million pages and tens of millions of visitors... Read Full Bio
Alan Bleiweiss
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