Every time Google gets a wild hair and decides to change something about their search engine, it’s like a green flag for negative posts about SEO. The laughs just roll in:

• SEO is dead
• SEO is cheating
• How I got screwed by SEO

As an SEO, I can honestly say it irks me, to put it mildly. Not because these posts down an industry I’m proud to be a part of – I have a thicker skin than that –, but because of all the hours we have to put in… again. The countless hours where we assure clients that their money and our efforts aren’t being wasted… again. Hours of talking on the phone, explaining that, no, SEO isn’t dead, when we could be doing what we are paid for… again.

Rather than spend countless more hours doing the same after the Google Instant update, I figured I’d just write it all out, right here, where everybody can see it. I’ll even address one issue at a time. If it hits a chord with you, bookmark it; after the next update, you can refer back to it.

SEO is dead

For the last time, SEO isn’t dead. Just like the Internet, SEO is a constantly changing, fluid industry. When search engines change things up, so do optimizers. You change your content output rate or how you do link building; you test your pages and tweak your campaign. What you do NOT do, however, is cry “foul” when the SEs do something you weren’t expecting.

You’re not going to know how to address all changes as soon as they happen – but that’s why we’re SEOs. We stand on the front line, dig into the possibilities and then test, test, test.

Now, I understand knee-jerk reactions. When I saw the first instance of Google Instant, I admit I was nervous. Gabriella and I watched the conference, discussing what it meant for us and for our clients. However, we didn’t just blurt out how we initially felt. We figured out the possibilities and then took a tentative stand – tentative, because it’s going to take a little testing to see what it really does. We didn’t go yelling out our worries, though. Why not?

Maybe some optimizers have missed it, but we have an obligation. Site owners look to us (as in SEO companies) to ease their fears, explain what changes mean and assure them we’re on top of it. Period. We do NOT go around yelling, “SEO is dead” every time a search engine company blows their nose or scratches a proverbial ear.

For those of you who are site owners, the past year’s updates will mean changes to the traffic on your website. Whether those changes are good or bad depends on how your site and SEO campaign has been managed up to this point. The important thing to do is not panic. Watch what your analytics data says, test your pages and find out what works to keep you above the fray. As long as you’re willing to adapt, your site traffic will even out again.

SEO is cheating

This sentiment normally comes from those who believe SEO is simply manipulating the search engines. Somehow, optimizers managed to dig through the countless numbers of Google/Bing patents and algorithms. Somehow, we’ve figured out how to actually change (i.e. manipulate) how those unbelievably massive, complex search engines read our clients’ sites – like somehow we have the magic key to giving clients an unfair advantage in ranking.

Bull, and may I politely add “crap”. If SEO is manipulating search engines, then copywriting is manipulating marketing. Nobody says copywriting gives marketing an unfair advantage, yet SEO is constantly ridiculed.

Let me make this perfectly clear. SEO is not search engine manipulation. In fact, if you have the time and dedication, you can do some of your own SEO simply by following Google’s Best Practice guidelines. What about things like cloaking? In many cases of what’s loosely called black hat, the search engines aren’t being manipulated, the visitor is. Do I agree with it? Do I like it? No, but then, that’s why we at Level343 don’t do those things. Hint: MOST optimizers opt not to use black hat techniques.

Lastly on this point, when a copywriter does a good job and brings in conversions for a business, do you yell at them when you find out? Do you say it’s “unfair manipulation”? No, you find out who they are and go hire them yourself. The same should be said of optimizers.

How I got screwed by SEO

If you’re writing a post about how you “tried SEO” and found out it was all a scam, I want to see the name of the company who scammed you and the price you paid. Why? Because a large number of people writing posts like this did one of two things: a) did it themselves and took the wrong advice or b) went for cheap instead of good. Not all, but many fell for the “$29.99 SEO a month” line.

Less money doesn’t mean the best deal. Time is money, money is time and SEO is time intensive. There are very few instances I can think of where a legitimate optimizer would provide services at this rate, and those instances are very rare.

Instead of kicking my industry in general, share the details of the company. Not all used car salespeople sell lemons; most have tons of happy customers who know they got a good deal. Some snake oil salespeople really do sell… well, snake oil. Not all big corporations are out to screw the little guy. My point? Not every optimizer is a scam artist. In fact, most of us are just like you: hard-working business people just trying to make a living in any ethical, legitimate way we can.

So – before the next search engine update, whether it’s Google, Bing or XYZ, I kindly ask those writing posts like the above to stop knocking my industry. I’m proud of my industry. I love what I do, its intricate challenges and, yes, even all the number crunching. SEO has been around for over 20 years, and it’s still hanging in there. Let’s not call the funeral parlor and bury it just yet, m’kay?