The Secret Tool SEO Consultants Won't Tell You About
Posted on March 15th, 2014 | By Gerd Meissner
Here's to a secret weapon in the small business web marketing arsenal, the Rodney Dangerfield of search engine optimization tools. For you members of the digital natives generation: the late comedian coined the signature line "I don't get no respect."
Summary: If you prefer it short and sweet and are easily offended, don't read on. This post contains pure snark, followed by a video tip that I hope you'll find useful.
Whenever the latest search and site ranking algorithms are discussed that Google uses to tell "quality content" from "spam," I find myself shaking my head about all the self-proclaimed Search Engine Optimization (SEO) wizards out there.
As of this post in March 2014, relatively recent or modified algorithms with world wildlife cutesy labels like "Hummingbird," "Panda" and "Penguin" are all the rage at the Google engineering and marketing departments.
Outside the company, this Silicon Valley zoo extravaganza now has the SEO busybodies crank out blog posts with ever-changing recommendations in a frenzy as if their livelihood depended on it. It well might.
All the while, the SEO "gurus" keep forgetting to tell you about this one small tool, the one that will reliably help you achieve better search engine results for your website - at a minimum, better than many of their own recommendations.
You already use it, I'm sure - just not for this purpose. Read on, then try it out for yourself. No need to purchase anything. That may be one of the reasons why some SEOs keep this secret weapon of small business websites to themselves.
Do SEOs really care how you and I do business?
Some of the so-called experts may not know how to use it. Those who do don't mention it because, I suspect...
- they don't know the first thing about how you and I do business. If they do (rare exception), and
- if they shared this little secret, it would be one more nail in the coffin of their digital cottage industry.
Why? Because at the beginning of 2014, the SEO money-printing scheme in its current form is pretty much doomed, as this list of grievances (and irate comments) indicates.
Here's another sign: The "experts" crank out even more blog posts than ever, at a speed that could make you dizzy, if you hadn't seen - and read - it all before, one version just as low on substance as the other.
Like, at Google's last algorithm update. Or the one before that. And remember the one that led up to it? What a mess that was. But now, everything has changed. Completely. You've got to believe us.
You've got to believe us. We are SEO experts.
Why? Because we've got it straight from Google, silly!
Until they don't. Uh-oh. Google has taken away the "Keyword Tool" ("not provided") which helped with identifying the keywords search users entered to find a site on the web.
Smart companies didn't rely on it alone. But many SEO consultants did. "Apocalypse!" we hear them wailing now. I don't feel for them. They had it coming.
When Google applies smaller changes to its main algorithms (about 365 days a year), non-expert SEO blog and newsletter readers - the rest of us - are in for a Google tea leaves speed-reading by "consultants" whose author bios are almost as long-winded as their SEO blogging guesswork.
During Big Algorithm Update Season, whenever I open my feed reader or email inbox, I do so with apprehension. The bullet-point-riddled dispatches come whistling in faster than I can hit the "delete" button.
Photo: Early SEO Convention, Source: Wikipedia, see Soapy Smith)
"51 Sizzling Hot Website Tricks to Get More Google Love," "How to Dress Up Your Website to Be Ready for Google," "The 25 Secret Oh-la-las That Will Make Google Want Your Blog Even More."
Speed, volume, thunder, smoke, mirrors. It's all about distraction, as any professional stage illusionist will tell you. That, by the way, is an honest, time-honored craft, in which distraction is a tool of the trade, or better, an art form.
Today's average SEO "expert," on the other hand, to me looks more and more like a 19th century traveling charlatan, whose audience put all their valuables in the black topper he's passed around a few times already.
So right about now, the con man is preparing for an elegant exit, before the townsfolk find out that doubling their investment as promised was not part of the actual plan. Like today's SEO hacks, he's not really rotten to the core. He's just a weasel.
Exit the con men
Our guy - or gal, in the 21st century replay - would deliver, honestly, if they only could. But life's a bitch, and one has to make a living somehow. Hey, let's just blame it on Google!
You've probably watched the Hollywood version of this tale going down on the big screen. At this point, a gun-toting,trigger-happy stranger appears at the other end of dusty Main Street and creates a firework that distracts the audience's attention and has the duped townspeople running in all directions, seeking cover.
Until, one day...
Only on the SEO frontier, it's a repeat performance, in front of the same audience. And types like Soapy get away with it every time. Today, it's a white hat that gets passed around, like in "White Hat SEO."
It still works. Never mind that the good people of Googletown should know better by now. To get them - us - distracted and scattering all over the place, it doesn't even take a gunslinger nowadays.
That character has been replaced by a modern-day Silicon Valley version: Matt Cutts, a Googler of the "very desirable son-in-law" category.
Heck, just this guy's perks and paycheck could probably convince me to hand over my son or daughter, even if he were on probation and looked like something my dogs picked up on the sidewalk. But Cutts comes across as quite likable.
You don't have to be an industry insider to get a kick out of watching
Google's changing ways, and SEOs' weather-waning chuzpah
Google's changing ways, and SEOs' weather-waning chuzpah
Matt who? Never mind.
Tomorrow, it could be someone else in the same GooglePlex cubicle, who gets assigned to the same job, and does it just as well. His Twitter profile identifies him as "head of the webspam team at Google."
My personal impression of Matt Cutts is that of a corporate wonk who is really good at what he's getting paid for. Surprise. While his job description at Google seems to be intentionally vague, I think it's fair to say that he has the unique ability to make bags of warm air sound like Metallica Meets the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra.
Yet his groupies - SEO industry analysts, bloggers, even hardnosed, cynical journalists - still get genuinely excited each time he utters one of his dictums.
Like a junior congressman who cultivates an aura of gravitas way beyond his age, Cutts descends the stairs of the Internet Capitol and revels in the buzz that his proclamations generate.
Google's Matt Cutts wants "to make sure that you have high-quality content"
One of my recent favorites on YouTube was when Cutts explained to webmasters that "the overriding kind of goal is to try to make sure that you have high-quality content."
Good luck with that, buddy. I know, the guest blog spam thing and all. I have no doubt you mean well. But over the past century, generations of editors have pursued the same goal with generations of content creators, with very mixed results. Lots of spam hit the streets and airwaves anyway.
Considering Google's search results, what makes you think that your company has fared any better on the Internet? What looks like a spammy guest blog to the webspam team at Google, may be just a case of really bad, but well-intended writing. And who named this guy World Editor-in-Chief, anyway?
The worldwide SEO community itself, that's who - or so it seems. And even renown journalism professors seem to be okay with it.
Don't be fooled by gimmicks like the Wack-a-Mole game for SEOs by LoveMyVouchers.co.uk:
Cutts and the SEOs enjoy a rather symbiotic relationship.
If their demi-god is overheard ordering his morning latte at Starbucks in Mountain View with slightly less enthusiasm in his voice than the day before, a member of the Church of Matt Cutts or a competing denomination can always be counted on to file a blog epistle right there in the coffee shop, with a good chance that it will rock the SEO consulting industry all the way to Russia and Nigeria and back.
Infographic: More recent history of SEO, as seen by German graphic artist Martin Missfeldt, tagsSEOblog.de. Prescient?
Hold the horses, riders of the SEO apocalypse in 2014. It's only business. Take a deep breath. Fortunately (perhaps not for you, but I don't care), the most basic rules haven't changed. Like, "Know Thy Customer." I think Stoney deGeyter has summed it up pretty well,, from an industry insider's perspective.
Here's what I have learned, as someone who runs a small business. There's nothing we have to be afraid of in Google's algorithmic zoology - as long as we keep the basics in mind.
If done right, this leads to really "clicking" with our clients or customers - not just waiting for them to click on "link bait" or landing pages that don't offer anything of value. It's just good common sense to treat our website visitors like we would like to be treated ourselves.
As a customer, I hate the thought that someone link-baited me, then beached me on a landing page, only to get me clobbered by track-and-pitch sales algorithms like a dolphin by Japanese fishermen at Taiji Cove.
How to get more website visitors: the ABL Method
So here's my favorite secret weapon, the one that almost always works. Most SEO weasels don't want small business to know about it, perhaps because it's based on a time-tested method. For the purpose of this post, let's dub this method ABL - "Analytics by Listening."
I've found that in order to provide clients or customers with a better website and content experience, it pays to apply ABL and deploy this amazing tool very frequently.
Granted, this small tool is just one weapon in the arsenal. But don't underestimate its power. It's been around a while, but it will not go out of fashion anytime soon. This video shows how I use it:
About the author: Gerd Meissner runs a small business and writes. Follow him on Twitter @gerd_meissner and on Google+ +GerdMeissner.