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I Hate Search Engine Marketing

The best way to optimise your site for search engines is to spam your keywords 16 times on the home page

The best way to optimise your site for search engines is to spam your keywords 16 times on the home page

Good words coming from someone with the term ‘marketing’ in their job title, eh? Let’s clarify: I don’t hate everything about SEM. In fact, I find the activity of it downright satisfying. Even though we all know it’s a bit of a lie, for the sake of the dramatic I’m going to go ahead and say that there’s nothing quite like the buzz of promoting a web site up the search engine ranks. It’s fun, for sure, and the gamification principle of tools like Google Analytics helps a lot. The big problem I have with it though is that the whole SEM industry is often so damn disingenuous.

Google agrees too and puts a lot of energy into trying to make search engine rankings fair and honest. They discourage and punish black hat SEO techniques and dishonest SEM practices. They are the ultimate Internet police, promoting justice and equality throughout the Net, constantly updating their metrics and algorithms in order to encourage quality and relevance above anything else. Whilst this is great in principle though, in practice it doesn’t quite work. Yet.

Ultimately, Google want the whole search engine system to be a meritocracy, however, in reality, it’s still just a pimped up popularity contest that marketeers exploit to their advantage. This is what I hate. The techniques invoked to promote a site are far too often disingenuous enough to the point of being detestable, no doubt carried out without the knowledge of the client. I don’t think many of them would be happy to hear that their site is being spammed across WordPress blogs in automated fake comments, for instance.

Google want the whole search engine system to be a meritocracy, however, in reality, it’s still just a pimped up popularity contest

Link wheels, phantom sites, purchased links, spam comments, all of these things prey on the principle of ‘more is good’, that the more inbound links to a site the better and the more value search engines will place on it. It’s based on the broken principle of popularity and that if a lot of people are linking to something from a reasonably relevant source then it must be worthy to promote in the result rankings. It’s utterly flawed though as no matter how bad a site is, no matter how poor the content is, popularity can easily be bought.

Fortunately though, the Sheriffs Of The Internet are on the case and their Panda updates are designed specifically to emphasis quality above everything else. Their approach is quite fascinating too and changing the face of SEO. Google are developing their AI tools to mimic the human ability to ascertain quality and want to ultimately rank sites based on quality of content, usefulness of content, trustworthiness, design and other important factors such as speed and usability.

It’s an amazing step in the right direction and may potentially have a huge impact on the SEO/SEM industry, changing the role completely. Personally, I can’t wait for the day when the most important aspects of ranking well in a search engine are content, design and usability – it’s going to reward proper, useful and genuine sites (along with the people who create them) over cheap, wasteful, disingenuous ones, forcing us to think about what we say and how we say it rather than just writing guff and promoting the hell out of it.

But we’re not quite there yet and, until we are, I’m going to kindle a burning hatred for a lot of aspects of SEM. I’m just melodramatic like that.

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Author: Gordon McLachlan

Gordon is uncomfortably good looking.




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  1. Pete November 11, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    Can’t agree more. I used to work for an SEO company a couple years ago and the people there could care less about the Internet. They saw SEO/SEM as an opportunity to make money, not help users find the content/businesses they’re looking for. For the most part, SEO/SEM is a guessing game because Google’s algorithm in a secret, yet this doesn’t stop SEO/SEM companies from promoting themselves as experts. I can’t help but get defensive when an SEO expert come to me and tells me that my heading hierarchy is wrong, or my code isn’t “valid” enough because they got back a 40 page report from some program they used to scrap the site… (childish rant addition)

    • Gordon November 14, 2011 at 11:02 am

      SEM does have a bad rep and people generally dislike ‘marketeers’ without any justification – the industry just seems to have a bad rap due to a number of companies who use pretty disingenuous tactics to move sites up the search rankings.

      Personally, I can’t wait for Google to push their ‘content first’ approach more strongly and look forward to the day when sites are evaluated on their content, design and usability more than just the number of backlinks they have. It will change the whole SEO/SEM industry completely.

  2. The VMCA November 14, 2011 at 8:07 am

    Google are also adding the ‘newest content first’ principle in certain cases. I’m not sure whether to be delighted or terrified?

    • Gordon November 14, 2011 at 11:04 am

      I know what you mean – as a blogger, I don’t want my articles to fall down the ranks just because someone else wrote something similar more recently. Still, as the amount of content on the web keeps expanding, I can see why they’re doing it – a lot of factual searches just aren’t relevant when they’re a few years out of day.

  3. Adam Wilson November 15, 2011 at 10:29 am

    Oh the day when the quality police come along and shut down The Daily Mail will be a happy one indeed. Thats purely out there for the hell of it I’m sure.

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