Where My Hatred of SEO Comes From

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Lately I have been misquoted and had my words taken out of context with pictures of me with slides that say “Screw Google” as I am speaking to people at various conferences.

Obviously without any context, those 2 words – “Screw Google” can be wide open for interpretation and most of the time its not the interpretation that I would like.

It’s actually not so much a Screw Google approach as it’s a screw SEO first approach.

SEO

Lets jump right into the case studies

Three years ago at Webmaster World Pubcon there was a site clinic where top search engine blogger – Danny Sullivan and Google Search Engineer – Matt Cutts were giving advice to people who wanted tips manipulating the Google search results to rank their website higher then it currently (naturally/organically) was.

Dr David Klein stood up and gave out his website. He said he wanted to rank for “San Diego Chiropractic”. After bringing up Dr Klein’s website Danny Sullivan cracked a joke that he might want to have “San Diego Chiropractic” in the title of the website if you want to be ranked. Which also inspired the crowd to have a good laugh at Dr Klein’s ignorance of SEO.

I remember feeling really bad for Dr Klein and evidently so did many others because pretty much every SEO on the planet came out of the woodwork to help him. Now keep in mind before this conference he was not found anywhere for “San Diego Chiropractic”. But soon after… with the help of all the top SEO’s in the world including a post by Matt Cutts containing 8 links to Dr Klein’s San Diego Chiropractic website, he was ranking #1 for San Diego Chiropractic in no time.

3 years later he still holds that #1 listing.

Ok sounds great right? Google ‘s top gun (Matt Cutts) and all the best SEO’s in the world have advised him how to manipulate Google ‘s results to make his website show up #1.

But there is only one problem. When DK (Dr David Klein) came to me for help converting web visitors into customers he told me he was not getting any customers from his website. And honestly a quick look at the website shows you why. Its not very user friendly and there is no real call to action or incentive to book an appointment.

I told DK we would have to do some serious design changes to get some conversion. But he had no interest in that. He said he did not want to lose his #1 ranking for San Diego Chiropractic by making changes to the website….. even if it delivered him zero actual sales or customers.

DK has since become one of the foremost experts on Facebook Advertising but instead of altering his website to convert his natural, free traffic he builds internal pages that are highly optimized for conversion where he pays for the traffic from Facebook.

This is a typical example where my hatred of SEO comes from. The whole point of SEO is to manipulate Google so your site ranks better then where it naturally would without optimizing it so you can get free traffic for your keywords. But when you get your pages there if they do not convert to your goals then what is the benefit? Other than bragging rights….

The newest example comes from a blog post yesterday by Michael Gray (Graywolf). The post is titled Why Everyone Should Turn Off Blog Comments.

Now first let me say there are a handful of people in this industry that I really trust, honor and respect and Michael Gray is on that very short list. As far as his ability as a professional SEO is concerned he is as good as it gets. In the post Michael makes some good points as to why you would want to turn off comments or alter them so you can manipulate your rankings in Google better.

With that said I think its very dangerous to advise everyone to straight up turn off comments on their blog. One of the biggest reasons my blog (ShoeMoney.com) has become an authority in the industry is because of the community around the brand. And that comes from interacting with my readers and letting them interact with other readers. Comments on the blog is a big part of that.

Now there are good reasons to turn off comments on your blog.

  • If you are anti-social and just don’t want to interact with people.
  • If you can’t handle criticism.
  • If you don’t have time to moderate comments.

But if your number one decision in making changes on your website is because of what Google thinks then that is a HUGE mistake.

Last week in the ShoeMoney System webinar we had on Ben Huh CEO of icanhascheezburger.com, failblog.com and others… basically the biggest blog network in the world. It was music to my ears to hear him say that they NEVER look at their Google analytics for keywords. They care about their users and their users experience on their website. They care how much users recommend their site to a friend. They care how much time a user spends on the site. They get hundreds of comments per post and constantly look at how to get users to interact more with their websites.

So you would think a site like this…. who could care less about their rankings in Google, would do really bad in search engines, right? You could not be farther from the truth. They dominate Google for many phrases…. and when they get that traffic it only helps them grow more because they are optimized for users sharing their content… not for manipulating Google.

I am in the same boat. Have I profited from SEO? Yes very much so. But I do well in SEO because I have first and foremost created websites that people actually naturally want to link to and refer their friends to. This in turn helps me build authority with Google which helps my websites rank for their keywords.

This was not always like this. I used to live and die by Google. But then my sites started getting nuked out by Google (my own fault) and I thought my world was over… and while I was able to get them back in because of the connections I had, it taught me a valuable lesson… and from then on I decided I would never again live in fear of Google. Sure I try to adhere to Google’s best practices in regards to linking and paid posts and stuff labeling them properly with no follow tags but we do so little of that, that honestly it really does not play a part.

The really interesting thing… as you can see from my examples above, is that the more I focused on building my brand and the user experience on my websites. The better my rankings in Google did. This all with next to zero on site Search Engine Optimization.

Seems really strange right? Well I can see where many people would be confused. You should read my back posts about SEO… and things in particular the history of SEO and the future of SEO.

One of the keys is to be too big to fail.

Here is one thing I really want you to keep in mind. At its core Google makes all of its money because people use its search engine. If people have a bad experience using that search engine then they will turn to other search engines. So Google hates it when YOU make them look stupid. In October of 2007 I made this video about making Google look stupid and why its important not to. In my 10+ visits to Google headquarters in the years since every time that video has come up in conversation by a Google employee. I dunno if they show it internally or something but I have been told on many occasions by many different Google employees that it hit the nail on the head (off the record of course).

The basic just of that video was talking about how Google needs to keep up this image that they have this big super computer driven algorithm and how it knows everything. Kind of like the mechanical turk.

Let me give you a couple case studies on what I am talking about. Many years ago John Chow was just getting started in the world of making money online. He started a blog at JohnChow.com. He did just about everything that Google hated. He setup reciprocal linking structures, sold paid links, and other… what Google considers “Black Hat” methods. Google took him out of the search index and whenever anyone looked for John Chow they could not find him.

But a strange phenomenon happened. John Chow continued to grow in popularity. Well not grow but EXPLODE. Over the last several years he had built his readership to 70,000 RSS subscribers and thousands of daily web visitors. The John Chow brand was in full effect.

But now Google has a massive problem. John Chow has become too big to not be in Google. After all if you Googled for his name and could not find him in Google the user is left with a bad experience and considers Google incompetent. They don’t know the back-story or care why he is not found.

So Google reached out to John and they reached an agreement so that he could come back into the Google search engine.

Did the ends justify the means? Hell yes. John is not only back in Google but he is ranking for every single one of the keyword terms he was practicing “black hat” techniques for.

Do you think John would have gotten very far if when he had little readership he stopped doing his thing years ago and followed Google’s rules to a T? Maybe he would be like every other blogger trying to do that.

Lets look at a bigger brand for a minute.

A few years back German car manufacture BMW was outed for doing some serious “Black Hat” linking techniques and Google swiftly responded by taking them completely out of the search engine.

But amazingly enough they were right back in Google after cooperating… It was one of Google’s top priorities to get BMW back in its index. Can you imagine how incompetent Google looks when someone searches for BMW and they cant find the BMW website?

Some of my professional SEO friends that take on some large clients love it when they are big brands because they know they can push the boundaries.

Sorry I got pretty winded, but I wanted to drive home a couple of points.

1. Make websites for people, not search engines.
2. Make websites that convert to your end goal… not just rank for keywords.
3. Build a brand around a community. One that loves you and will fight for you because they love your services. Don’t shut them off.
4. Make your brand so big that search engines need you.

So those are my thoughts on Search Engine Optimization. Now please keep in mind I am not a professional SEO. I have never been paid for SEO services. I don’t spend time researching Google Patents or brain storming with other SEO’s about what could possibly happen in the future. All of my opinions about SEO come from my experience in doing over 10 million dollars in online commerce in the last 5 years.

184 thoughts on “Where My Hatred of SEO Comes From

  1. Andrew Goodman

    Jeremy, you wrote:

    “Ok sounds great right? Google ’s top gun (Matt Cutts) and all the best SEO’s in the world have advised him how to manipulate Google ’s results to make his website show up #1.

    “But there is only one problem. When DK (Dr David Klein) came to me for help converting web visitors into customers he told me he was not getting any customers from his website. And honestly a quick look at the website shows you why. Its not very user friendly and there is no real call to action or incentive to book an appointment.”

    Of course! That’s why much of the SEO world is so different from (let’s say) PPC. Too many bragging rights for “rank”.

    As soon as you begin paying for clicks, measuring cost per lead, etc. — or working for clients who do that — the universe changes. Even with smaller companies who pay for clicks, the expense forces a dialogue about measurement and conversion. Traffic isn’t “free” even when it is. :)

    1. Vince

      Yep agree with Andrew here. I love SEO but this whole post is a fantastic reminder not to be reliant on it. I’d love to know what John Chow did that made his blog blow up despite removed from rankings… guest posts? paid traffic? anyone know?

      Thanks Jeremy for the useful post. – Vince

      1. Blake Waddill

        From everything I’ve read from John, it sounds like it was all kickass content and paid/incentive traffic.

        He also gives out a ton of prizes for promoting his site. He does a drawing for an iPad which cost $500 and gets $5000 worth of traffic and inbound links. It’s really pretty smart.

        Commenting really isn’t a very good traffic building strategy. Guest posting is productive, but very time consuming.

        The main thing John seems to focus on is building his e-mail list. Once he has your e-mail, you’re way more likely to come back and he can run you through his sales funnel.

        1. Sam@fusiondiary

          Another thing that brings people to John’s site is that he does share his knowledge with others and the fact that his name has become a brand.

          I have come accross wonderful sites by accident and a day later I cannot recall the website name. A simple name like JohnChow.com and ofcourse Shoemoney stick in memory due to their brand value and also because they are easy to remember.

  2. Marcus Neto

    It is articles like this that make me subscribe to your site. Not only was this article the bees knees but there are no less than 4 other articles that you linked to that I want to read. So I guess that is a case study in what you are discussing. Make sites for users and they, like me, will spend the next hour reading material on your site ;-) Nice job Jeremy!

    1. Chris Pontine

      You make a good point Marcus when you state

      ” Make sites for users and they, like me, will spend the next hour reading material on your site ”

      If the content is there you will find readers flocking to your site for the information they enjoy reading on.

    2. TomYoon

      This is also why I subscribe to Shoemoney and hang around waiting for him to write something.

  3. Wannabe Marketer (Mallory)

    Great post bald dude guy. John Chow always tried to outgame the system. Luckily he surrendered other Google would have whooped his ass. Now there are no more links on his website but I am sure he is still making a killing. Gosh I love Asians (wait did I say that out loud) lol

  4. TheMadHat

    While I agree on the comment thing and building user engagement, most of what you just discussed is SEO, or some part of it. In 2003 sure, in was about manipulating results. Now it encompasses much more, including conversions, engagement, social media, Facebook ads, etc. If you’re an SEO and are ignoring everything else then you should look for another line of work.

    Don’t hate me ;P

        1. thoushallpass

          This comment cracked me up. I’m also a blogger who doesn’t have time to blog. I think that there are a lot of out there. Have to force myself to do it, or three weeks will pass before I know it!

  5. Brian Mark

    I think this is exactly why you see many of the best SEO’s focusing on driving converting traffic and not just driving traffic now. There’s a big difference to the bottom line, and it’s what everyone should ask about when talking to anyone about their optimization techniques. If they only drive traffic but ignore user satisfaction, then it’s worthless.

  6. Ross Hudgens

    The takeaway from this is “be super big and do whatever the fuck you want”, and then you can tell Google to shove it. Stop being a name brand and you’re dead.

    Yeah it sucks, but what’s the alternative? Google HAS to both police the SERPs for black hat AND let black hat happen. If they don’t, search becomes useless.

    In a perfect world there wouldn’t be a double standard, but in this world, there has to be.

  7. graywolf

    I absolutely agree with you, about conversions, if you are getting traffic but your pages suck at converting you’re doing it wrong.

    But the opposite is also true the best converting pages in the world won’t do you any good, if you’re sitting at number 75.

    So you need to prioritize for profitability as you say :-) so work on getting the rankings and the traffic first, THEN worry about getting the conversions.

    Everyone has to play to their strengths if community building isn’t one of yours, stop wasting your time doing it. Focus on what it is that sets you apart, even if that’s being a cranky anarchist hatin’ on the man. Style and branding is never what you do that everyone thinks is “right” it what you do that they think is “wrong” and makes you stand out.

    In a time where we are filled with social media guru’s who vomit about the value of community building and comments, you just might stand out as being the guy who turned comments off … just sayin’

    1. Michael Martin

      Michael,

      Are you now working on Shoe to shut off his very comments that you commented on?

      I would say Shoe WOULD do it before Outspoken Media does ;)

      ,Michael Martin

  8. POOPeGIFTS_com

    Does DK not understand he’s getting his rankings because of the links he has? And any changes to his site that are done with the user inmind while maintaining proper site setup, will not cause him to drop his rankings??

    Any SEO worth his salt will tell him, if the term doesn’t convert, it’s worthless. SEO shouldn’t be used primarily for building brand awareness. Because of the coverage he’s had, his site is going to out rank every one of his competitors. It’s not like the market is very competitive anyway. Maybe I’ll email him and have a chat, because that’s ridiculous to not want to modify a page that is not generating leads.

  9. Kris

    You are a smart man Shoe Money. Instead of small businesses investing in the services of a SEO, they should just go to a SE conference. Then act all uniformed of SEO methods and get links from Matt Cutts and other SEO’s.

    Might work even better, if the person is a really good looking woman.

    1. Buy a conference ticket for $300-$1000
    2. Hire attractive a attractive woman to attend conference $200-$500, and ask for help.

    Maximum spent would be $1500. Much less than most SEO’s would charge.

  10. Sohail

    Woooow great post
    Google is so big (if u care about organic traffic only) that you can’t neglect it. But if we have multiple traffic streams we can care less about Google. Don’t care about google but do not do something stupid to get banned from them. its like you can decide to not follow them but u can’t decide to go against their rules.

  11. Robert Stanley

    Fantastic post!

    One of your best yet.

    I am an Attention Deficit , Over Caffeinated Marketer… and you held me through the ENTIRE article…

    .. That has not happened in recent history (2yrs).

    Excellent!

  12. Big Geek Daddy

    “Make websites for people, not search engines.”

    That advice is priceless. I never understood why people would spend hours trying to optimize their site for search engines when they don’t understand how the algorithm works in the first place. What happens when they change the algorithm?

    1. Austin

      Totally true. I spent months twiddling about with ‘seo’ and then finally decided just to start writing. Now all I do is write and write and write, pages and pages of stuff I really believe in and…whaddya know, the traffic (targetted, sticky, come-back and buy traffic) grows naturally around it and, without giving it a second thought I find I am naturally #1 on google for many of my longtail keywords. So, seo sucks. Content still is and always will be, King.

      1. Ann

        Totally agree here. I too have worked myself blue to get a few of my websites ranked on Google.
        Yeah, they all ended up on the first page in the 1st position. But guess what? Google Panda was unleashed and in no time all my sites sank like a mafia victim in cement shoes. My take on this it to use article submission as part of a very diverse and long term link building campaign. Only that way you build resilience in your website’s ranking ability.

  13. Wordpress Consultant

    This post is certain to piss off a few SEO people – but so what? It gets to the heart of the matter, and so many clients and small businesses that I work with do not understand that online they are building a brand. Sometimes part of your web site brand needs to be something that people naturally want to link to – which is usually not just your standard products and services pages.

    Your comments about the chiropractor and being ranked #1 but not converting the traffic to customers is also classic. Even if you only get 100 pageviews a day, conversions are key. Thanks once again for breaking it down into plain english….

    =)

  14. Geoff

    What I think is really frustrating about DK’s story is that he’s too afraid to try something different. If his traffic dropped and he wasn’t getting any new clients, he could have easily changed his copy back. I’m frustrated when people won’t try something new because they are clinging to the tactic they used once with a successful outcome.

  15. Joomla Website Developer

    Great article. You have got to know limits. Most important is the viewing customer of the site. Its better to have 10 people in a year that bought from you, then 100,000 people find you and not buy.

    User experience is number, Serps will fall in place.

  16. Dan Quellhorst

    Nice post. Wish those promoting SEO shared your viewpoint.

    Even when you have a site that does well with SEO, you will hear the wrong things from snake oil seo types. Sometimes what the recommend doesn’t even matter like “you are missing meta keywords”. They should know that they keywords are virtually useless.

  17. Justin Matthews

    You know I have been working on SEO building techniques and messing with them on both of my sites. I called myself an SEO whore the other day in a post that was purely designed for SEO, full of internal links to posts.

    After reading this I don’t think I am going to try so hard. I am going to keep up doing what I have been and let Google figure it out.

    Thanks for the info!
    Justin

  18. Khalid J Hosein

    Hey Jeremy – I know (from what you’ve said in the past) that you pretty much don’t care about spelling and grammar, and that the message is more important, and I respect that. However, there’s one little mistake that you’ve made multiple times that you *might* like to know about. In your newsletter below, one of your lines start with “The basic just of that video”. You really meant “gist”, not “just”. ;-)

    PS> This article was spot on. It’s good to get these reminders from time to time.

    Best,

  19. Will

    John Chow didn’t get “too big to fail.” If he refused to go along with Google, then he would never have been reinstated. A better example of being too big to fail is when you have so many connections to Google and top VCs that you can rape the search engine guidelines w/out being punished. Or being a big brand like Forbes and selling links w/out a PR penalty–that’s being too big to fail.

    John Chow isn’t in those categories. He had to change his behavior in order to be let back in. I really wonder if his brand build up had anything to do with him being let back in at all because websites by nobodies have been known to have their penalties lifted when they stop their offending behavior.

  20. John

    Shoe, don’t turn off comments. I wouldn’t be able to drop my crappy link in the false hopes of it actually helping my non-existent rankings.

  21. H delacruz

    OMG I had a hard time finishing this article. It was a long one!

    I think that creating content is great, and I agree that it has to be done. But what if you are someone like DR K? How much can be said about the topics he is writing about? And since his competitors are all using SEO services to get themselves above him AND actually convert, how can he stay afloat? I think that SEO is an evil necessity these days. YOu simply have to have it, or you risk getting buried by your competitors.

  22. Rick

    I don’t think you hate seo’s at all. I think you hate half assed seo’s. Getting people to your website is half the battle, converting them is the other half. So if an seo only brings people to a website but stops at that, it’s like a marathon runner getting to the head of the pack and then walking off the track before the race is done.

      1. Rick

        You wanna hear some irony? 2 minutes after I posted this I got a call from an seo company offering to do monthly submission to search engines for the low low price of $14.95 per month… =/

  23. FirenzeZ

    So in short… The old saying is revised. It used to be “Content Is King.”

    Now it is “Content + Community + Branding = Need”, which naturally becomes the King.

  24. Jeff | In View Marketing

    the best part of this post is I received 2 versions.
    one with your usual title:
    Shoemoney – Skills To Pay The Bills

    I hate that I don’t know your topic of the post – I think I get why you do it but I just don’t like it…many I end up not clicking thru

    but on this title:
    Where My Hatred of SEO Comes From – ShoeMoney April Newsletter

    Makes sense – catchy title – from Shoemoney, cool I click in and know what I’m getting into

  25. Yogesh Sarkar

    Well written post, the best post I have read in months on all of the blogs I am currently subscribed to.

    I have stopped looking keywords for past few months, haven’t done any link building for my sites in over a year or so, yet the traffic grows, because I spend more time in improving user experience and building content, which is what at the end of the, users are looking for.

  26. Rob McFaul

    Not sure if I understand the concept of create great content and the world will show up. I know lots of people that have great content. So if they have no links, no authority and no-one reading them because they are just living on their site/blog, how do they get found and read?

    Love an answer to that question.

  27. JimH

    I’ve not been working on my webites that long but what I do already know is that there’s a lot of seemingly contradictory advice to sift through. SEO isn’t a whole lot of fun (for me, anyway – although hopefully that will change in time as my traffic improves) so I enjoyed reading this post… ta.

  28. S Ahsan

    You got it straight on the SEO, i believe the same. @FirenzeZ “Content + Community + Branding = Need”, which naturally becomes the King.— hell yes :)

  29. Dillon Martin

    Thanks for this post. I was just thinking last night about how I can design my website to build a better user experience and community. I think that is what people want. I’m focusing on the experience and betting that the search engine rankings will continue to improve as good content is delivered.

  30. Eric Itzkowitz

    Jeremy, I just finished reading this in email format. I’ve read MANY of your posts and have to say that THIS IS ONE OF YOUR MOST DEAD ON POSTS.

    Two points you make, about which I have always been very adamant:

    1. OFFERING BLANKET ADVICE – Giving blanket advice to people without a due caveat(s) is just a bad idea; unless you are trying to game your competition. (: The vast majority of one’s audience will follow his/her advice without question, especially when it’s coming from a big name.

    The examples you mention in your post regarding this advice make perfect sense. Another example where following this advice would make sense would be using blogging software to allow a single person or small group a super-easy way to manage a more traditional looking website (one-way communication).

    2. ACQUIRING RANKINGS w/o THOUGHT for CONVERSION – Wasting time and money to earn a top ranking w/o thought for conversion is just silly. What’s the point in ranking for something that doesn’t return a positive value (i.e. sign-up, download, purchase or some other action).

    And for you in-house guys/gals… pretend it’s your personal credit card that you will be using to pay for content creation, niche web sites, link building, advertising, email, etc. as you try to keep up with the latest tip on how to beat the algo. I think you’ll quickly be able to determine on which items you should be focusing. TIP: Algo-chasing is a waste of your company’s resources.

    Thanks dude!

    1. Jona712

      Did you even read the post? He’s not hatin’.

      Tho I get it if you didn’t read it. it’s a tl;dr post (too long; didn’t read post. LOL). But I read it, and it’s a great read. Definitely worth your time

    2. WhoisDoyle

      Well according to Yoda, no. Fear leads to hate, hate leads to anger, and anger leads to suffering. And that is completely out of topic.

      Good post, Shoe! Interesting, informative, well-written, and completely straight-forward.

  31. Jonathan Gunson - Traffic Tactics

    This rant makes so much sense I don’t know where to start.

    But to simplify, this did it for me Quoting you:

    “… Last week in the ShoeMoney System webinar we had on Ben Huh CEO of icanhascheezburger.com, failblog.com and others. Basically the biggest blog network in the world. It was music to my ears to hear him say that they NEVER look at their Google analytics for keywords. They care about their users and their users experience on their website….”

    Same thing with John Chow.

    Yes, and yes: Be remarkable, or at the very least be UNIQUELY there for your fans and customers.

    Outstrips SEO every time

    Jonathan

    1. Ara600_m1

      Shoemoney won’t care about that. I vote to rename this post… What would you post if you were jealous of Shoemoney?

  32. Learning Games

    Ok, I can agree with you Shoe in principle. However, there are niches where your site and therefore you brand are tied to another major brand, i.e. fan sites, etc. And no matter how big your brand gets, most people will always google it first to find you and if you don’t rank well, you fail big. Unfortunately TONS of people choose a niche where this is true and therefore a slave to google. I don’t see a way around that. Thoughts?

    1. SmartCoupons | Susan Armand

      I really have to agree with this statement. I think that Jeremy is in the ideal world, where he’s been able to steadily build a brand and generate revenue from multiple streams. For others starting out, this long-term strategy is more of a luxury. Most of those launching sites today are forced to research keywords and build traffic accordingly. Paying clients will always demand measurable results, and good old-fashioned SEO is the sure fire way to meet these demands.

  33. The American Dream

    I wholeheartedly agree with what you’re saying. User experience and content come first, optimization second. You’re not making a website for Google or Yahoo or any search engine. The goal is to be read, to be known, and to sell. Great post.

  34. Lee Traupel

    Shoeman,

    You are right on many points but I disagree about a couple of items. For the average business that is just trying to survive and grow in the digital ecosystem that doesn’t have John Chow or your brand, experience, market pull, etc. the (as others have touched on) have to at least adhere to Google’s standards or they will never get to John Chow type of status in ten years.

    Two other points: WordPress does wonders for SEO and traffic if a few basic fundamentals are in place and the company/individual take the time to post often and with basic SEO techniques in place.

    Finally, the web is moving into Real Time Search and this will have a major impact on Google’s control to a certain extent. Yes, they will be drug into kicking and screaming and will try to control it.

    But, at the end of the day Twitter, Facebook et al are building massive amounts of content that are changing quickly and the big three have to address and rank this content or risk having aged content that is not as meaningful as what is being discussed. Don’t spend that $10M in one place………..

  35. spameater

    Oh so this is why some guys at the DIYSEO post were saying you hated SEO.

    Well, I like using SEO as a marketing tool. And that’s what it’s supposed to be. I get your point, SEO isn’t the end of the whole blogging process, it’s just part of the process. You’re using SEO to rank higher, and hopefully that will make you achieve your goals, but if it doesn’t, then you do something else.

  36. Mark Mead

    You make so many interesting points here, it’s hard to know where to begin. Lots of great possible dialogue, for sure. It is hard to be big enough to want to manipulate the Google machine. John Chow zooming up out of obscurity is a rare thing, indeed. BMW – I can understand how they can make demands. But how likely is it that the little guy can ever get to John Chow size? There is a list of people who command that kind of power, and most of them have been doing it for 5+ years. What kind of a shot does the new kid on the block have? Maybe 1 in 1,000,000?

  37. California Dreamin

    Nerds are hot. Look at those three cuties in the pic. *Sigh* I need to hit more conventions. Where is my I Heart Nerds T-Shirt?

  38. James Is (Not Working)

    I COMPLETELY AGREE with this post, and I’ve got the experience to prove it. You know, I was making some fat cash off a site last year. I was slapped by Google, and have not been able to recover. My site was SEO’d to the T. I watched my traffic plummet from 3,000 visitors a day / $18,000 / month to about 50 visitors a day. I am submitting resumes, bar tending, and trying to launch new sites while I figure it out. I have reworked the old site and am offering more value driven content, but I have a feeling it is going to take at least a year. It took me a year to get to where I was. I certainly hope I can recover. Building a business on SEO is like building a castle on the sand. Never again will I fall for that trap.

      1. shei

        sounds familiar, happened to me too back in 2006…and the site is still tanked…the only way to resurrect it is by doing what this post has suggested…i guess.

  39. BearPile

    I’ve been pretty successful in building e-commerce sites and generating some cash around blogs. I can’t imagine doing anything just based on SEO. Doesn’t really make sense when everyone and their brother is doing the same thing. Someone’s gotta lose.

  40. NicMoon

    Where can I get more of these black hat tips? Do you have to be really advanced to implement black hat tactics? I want a faster return!

  41. SmallBiz Sue

    So I also think that there are a lot of points made in this article, so I’m just going to address one point here.

    I think commenting is crucial for any blog that wants to build community. I am particularly impressed with Shoemoney’s community. I”m sure he moderates the comments. But then again, I wonder. He’ll take the foul language, the insults, the rude comments, and the slander, and will allow them to be posted. I”m a relatively new reader, but I see that many old posts have the same history of insults and rude comments.

    You would think that this would cause him some discomfort? Maybe not? Or maybe it’s the insults and crude language that’s become part of the brand? Maybe the nature of the commenting says more about the community than anything else? Maybe Shoemoney created this culture? Or is he just mirroring what’s already out there?

    1. enajyram00

      Interesting point. I think there’s trust, Shoe trusts his readers to be nice and argue nicely and get along, and the readers trust that their comments won’t be deleted. That’s what makes a healthy online community.

    2. WanderingMommy

      I don’t really see rude comments in Shoemoney. Maybe they get deleted? There are obviously spammers, but they’re not really rude. The people in Perez Hilton’s blog are just RUDE. But then that’s a gossip blog, so I guess that’s not comparable to Shoemoney. lol.

      What I love most about Shoemoney is I’m encouraged to comment. There are interesting replies by fellow readers that I just want to participate in the discussions. And I’m not intimidated to comment or ask questions. There are blogs and bloggers that make you feel intimidated, and Shoemoney is not one of those blogs.

    3. Kristen Plunkett

      Great point of topic. Leaving the negative comments up for viewers to read leaves room for debate. This in turn can lead to more user comments who wish to get involved in the debate.

  42. Cristina Dy

    What’s the use of making a website if you’re not going to sell anything and satisfy your clients? It’s like a popularity game. You just use SEO to be popular, to increase traffic, but the success of your company isn’t assured.

  43. moolahmachine

    So you’re saying if you want to make money, SEO is not the way to go? Or maybe I’m getting it wrong. I didn’t read your whole post. It’s too long. Can we get a summarized version of it?

  44. Fiona Wong

    I absolutely get your point in this article. And you raised some good points about branding and user experience.

    Even in the real world companies can spend thousands on advertising, paying TV stations and print media to run/print their ads, but if they don’t have good rep and they don’t treat their customers well it can hurt the sales. Sometimes it’s not really the ads that will help you sell, it’s the consumers.

  45. AnnieLouJ12860

    My site doesn’t rank well in Google, to be honest. Last time I checked it’s on the second, third page. But I have clients who keep coming back and keep referring friends and family, and that’s what’s most important.

    1. Alan Alan

      Mine too. Although I can’t say I tried. I’m too lazy for SEO. I’ve pretty much figured out I have to make an interesting site to lure in the readers and get conversions without depending on SEO. So in my first year I actually pimped my site on Facebook and told my blogger friends about it. It didn’t give me a lot of traffic, but it was enough.

  46. AnnieP78

    Awesome. I’m not into SEO at all, so this was an enlightening (well, more like informative) post.

  47. Robin Sterling

    True. I think what people need to realize is SEO is just a way to expose a product or a company. To get your company out there. But to get actual customers who will buy your product or visit your store, that’s beyond SEO.

  48. WilmaP

    I don’t think you actually hate SEO. You just don’t like the idea of a lousy site ranking high in Google because the owner used SEO tricks.

    1. PokeYerFace

      If I were as experienced as Jeremy Schoemaker and as successful as he is and I see a badly designed site ranking higher than my website I would be pissed too. Not that I’m saying that’s what happened. That’s just imagination. But yeah, point is before you try to get your site on Google you have to know how the heck you’re going to convince your site visitors to buy from you.

  49. omzen

    Jeremy.

    Since when having your target keyword in the page title become “search engine manipulation” ? Is it not good from usability perspective too?

    A good seo ALWAYS sets up conversion goals / funnels for a site in analytics and optimize for conversions rather than sending non targeted visitors. I bet if Dr DK hired one, he would have taken care of his conversion rate optimization too.

    “1. Make websites for people, not search engines.”

    So would you mind making your next project with 100% AJAX or uber chic flash without search engine friendly IA ?

    I bet not because smart folks like you know that it’s all about – “balance” :- ensuring basic search engine friendliness of the site topped with unmatched value in form of content.

    Agree with your pov on brand building. Sad that most SEO’s miss it and hence run after “manufacturing (link) popularity”

    -AD

  50. medomoc

    Glad you wrote about this. I’ve been wondering if SEO should really be the priority of new bloggers/marketers. I’ve always thought content and quality is more important than optimization. Optimization helps, but it’s not the sole important factor to ensure goals.

  51. floresparati

    Isn’t hatred a strong word? Why not use dislike? Upon reading your post I didn’t feel like you hate SEO, you just dislike misusing it. Am I right?

  52. Elena

    It’s surprising sometimes how some people just fixate on finding the right keywords and tags for the headlines. They’re so busy to get ranked high in Google that completely forget about the people. It’s not Google that’s reading your posts, it’s people. You don’t have to neglect Google, just don’t need to depend on it so much. And there are examples to prove it, as we can see.

  53. LaneyPitt

    I’ve been waiting for a really, really good post from you these past days, and FINALLY it came. The last few posts were just okay, they weren’t the most interesting posts. But this one — too good. I learned a lot. I read it from start to finish, which I don’t always do when I’m reading a blog post. Awesome work, Shoe.

  54. Andy @ FirstFound

    Fantastic article. Seriously, it summed up most of my issues with SEO. It’s refreshing to know that someone else isn’t overenamoured with everything SEOs preach too.

  55. Tushar Mathur

    Great Article Shoe. Its refreshing to read real world examples that you have experienced to make your point. This is why I keep coming back to your site.

  56. Yes2Freebies

    I’m curious about this line: “But then my sites started getting nuked out by Google (my own fault)” What exactly happened there, Shoe?

  57. Josh

    We just had this discussion as it relates to newspaper content on Dan Lovell’s blog (http://asciidan.com/2010/04/journalists-must-write-for-people-not-search-engines/). Look, SEO vs. usability is a false dichotomy, and it’s being perpetuated on both sides by people who are all SEO all the time and people who think they’re only doing usability but who are also employing good SEO practices (like, say, making the headline of your blog post the page title).

    People will stop hating SEO, and SEOs will stop being stupid on the usability side, when we start recognizing the need to design and write for both people AND machines. It’s simply the way the web works.

  58. ExclaimedIdeas

    This is the best Shoemoney post ever. Correction — this is the best Shoemoney post for me because I completely agree with everything you wrote.

    I think it should be the goal of every company online to not just make their company known, but also to provide good service and good experience for its customers and clients.

  59. Undercover Affiliate

    I thought you were going to bash SEO and SEO specialists and just hate on them. But there’s no trace of hate in this post. I got to admit, this is an awesome read. Lots of things to think about, like branding. How do I create my own brand? You answered it, by building a site that has good, relevant content that people will appreciate. Nice. Thanks a lot.

  60. PattyT12

    Pretty interesting post. In my opinion, there should be a balance between SEO and content. Don’t completely leave out SEO and say it’s not important. It *is* important, but not as important as content.

  61. RedBlack88

    I don’t think this DK guy understood SEO. There’s no point of optimization if there are no results. You just wasted time and money on SEO if you get no conversions. And it’s not like he’ll lose his ranking by fixing his site. So I’ll say, people who want to get into SEO should educate themselves first on the subject.

  62. EllaineR

    I just typed San Diego Chiropractic in Google and saw Dr. Klein’s website. Let me just say this, I’m sorry if this isn’t related to the topic but I have to address this. What kind of serious business website uses Comic Sans? The navigation is in Comic Sans, the intro text in the main page is in Comic Sans. I’m just turned off. And the site itself needs work. It doesn’t really matter if his site is number one in Google, the site needs to be fixed.

  63. ILoveMemes

    To be honest I’m a complete noob when it comes to this topic. I’m still scratching my head when I read “blackhat” and “whitehat”. I need SEO 101 lessons.

    1. B.Logan

      Me too. What’s blackhat SEO? I’m thinking it’s some sort of illegal, bad-assed SEO.

      1. Paul

        Black hat seo techniques are methods of cheating and manipulating the search engines to get a good rank. One example is hidden content. That’s where you have optimised content that the search engines can see but any visitor to your site can’t. One way of doing this is writing content and then making the text the same color as your background. No one will be able to see what you wrote but search engines will still acknowledge it.

  64. Marnie Sho

    Wow, that’s a long post. That must have taken a lot of time to write, Jeremy. Good job, you really hit it on the head this time. It’s a tedious but meaty blog post.

  65. Dilip

    Jermey,

    I have one simple question.

    Can’t someone make a user-friendly great website/brand as well as do solid SEO simultaneously?

    I think thats quite possible.

    1. socialanim00

      I’m not sure. You need to have a priority, and that’s either SEO or content. You can do both simultaneously, but one is going to suffer, or at least one is not going to be as solid as you would hope. But as I said I’m not 100% certain. Never tried it before.

  66. internetFTW

    It’s not easy to be “too big for Google”. Even if you focus on building a user-friendly site with great content, there’s no assurance that you’re going to be so successful that Google will want you.

    I think that’s why some focus first on SEO. They think that by doing optimization first the conversions will come faster. And then when they’re making money they can focus on the content, they’ll hire writers and web designers and invest on making a great site.

  67. Sanjay

    I have this friend who always brags on Facebook whenever his site gets a higher rank in Google. I get it that he’s doing good on his site, but dang I hate having to read it on Facebook all the effin’ time. I sound bitter but really I just don’t care about SEO. I’d be happy even if my site’s ranked tenth.

  68. Sanjay

    I have this friend who always brags on Facebook whenever his site gets a higher rank in Google. I get it that he’s doing good on his site, but dang I hate having to read it on Facebook all the effin’ time.

    I sound bitter but really I just don’t care about SEO. I’d be happy even if my site’s ranked tenth.

    1. Fields of Clover

      No, it isn;t. SEO is still around and a lot of bloggers use it because it works. And anyway Shoe’s point is not whether it works or not. His point is SEO should not be only thing that bloggers focus on.

  69. John Komatsoulis

    Wonderful post Jeremy. If DK is ranking #1 on google, why do you think he doesn’t take advantage of this traffic and use Adsense? Or is this one of the changes that would take his rank away?

  70. Jason S.

    I’m soo glad that I checked my email today and got to read this! This is really a good blog entry about SEO. And I agree on a lot of the comments here. Unique, well-written, relevant content is definitely king.

  71. Toronto Dentist

    From someone who works on his webpage daily, SEO frustrates me. I wish there was a magic bullet to driving my site to the first page but after all this time I realize there isn’t. Off to do some SEO!

  72. GQmeansGeek

    Thanks for the link. That is actually a more interesting post for me since I’m not an expert on SEO. And my reaction: NO to journalists having to learn SEO. What’s the need? Journalists will continuously be sought out by their audiences, people who want to read news. They don’t need to write for search engines.

  73. john

    Reading your comments says that you guys must be experts.
    I am not an SEO specialist and I want to thank you guys for sharing you opinions. I learned a lot. For me SEO is not that bad, it’s a big help to businesses. It only matters on how you do it. If you do it right, it would be a great help to everyone.

  74. Graham in UK

    Hi Jeremy,
    Long post but interesting and I found that I ended up reading all the comments as well.
    If you have a relatively new site then in order to get ranked in the search engines you have to follow the guide lines on using SEO.
    Google actually offers a free pdf report to help you get your site indexed and get ranked. (see Google Webmaster tools)

    Now my site is about German Shepherd Dogs and it has to offer great unique content to stand out from other sites. The Search Engines must appreciate this because I have many top ranking pages.
    This isn’t down to any trickery because this is my first ever website!
    So I would say offer good content * value * and learn the basics of SEO and you will get rankings.
    regards
    Graham in UK
    P.S. all those that don’t bother with SEO can carry on paying for their traffic!

  75. Medford Contractor

    It’s amazing how much higher you will rank with natural linking vs. having to build links on your own because you have become a “celebrity” or built your brand. But getting to that point takes a whole lot of work that most people are not willing to invest.

  76. David Walker

    Jeremy, this has to be one of the best posts that I have read in a very long time. You are hitting the nail on the head. If all you care about is google, then where is the incentive for a reader to subscribe? I also do not agree with taking off comments. Comments not only help you improve your site, but they help you connect with your readers. Without that connection how are you going to get anywhere?

  77. Brian P

    I also wonder about those huge websites like textlinkads like how are they even up. I know that people will report them because that is what people do… If I have number 1 position I do not want them to give other people to get up there…

    But good article..

  78. Lito|TheFilipinoEntrepreneur.Com

    Hello Jeremy, this is the best post I have ever read from you. Yes you are right, brand and people is more important than SEO. Facebook is the best example. It didn’t explode using SEO techniques since it is a membership and private a site when it was created. But now it is the most popular site in the planet.

  79. Mike Hutchins

    We know the feeling: having a traffic-magnet website, but afraid to make too much changes to increase conversions thinking the traffic could drop.

    We ‘solved’ this by making creative use of popups to nudge people in the right directions.

    We developed an in-house popup system where we could easily manipulate the popup’s design and behaviour and automatically track impressions and CTR. No fumbling around with javascript and html but a wysiwyg interface where you can make changes in minutes and check back the next day to see if your CTR increased or not.

    Also, we can show different popups based on the keywords, landing page or referrer which helps to provide a really targetted message.

    If anyone’s interested, we think it could be valuable to anyone and we’re currently running beta at http://www.popupbooster.com.

  80. Rosalind Gardner

    Hi Jeremy,

    I totally agree. “Write for People, NOT the Search Engines” was the first of 7 points that I made about making your content Google friendly in the Super Affiliate Handbook, written 7 years ago — and it applies as much today as it did then, perhaps more.

    Like you, I’ve never spent much time analyzing ‘best keywords’ and nowadays my PPC spend is virtually nil — but the income keeps going up due to branding, building lists and relationships with those subscribers.

    You don’t even need a huge following like yours to enjoy sizeable profits as long as your readers like, trust and respect your recommendations.

    Cheers,
    Ros

  81. Dave

    Great article – re-enforces the key is to ensure you have the right strategy in place to convert not just rank

  82. EZ

    I just dont see how making changes to the site will make that big a difference in the rankings.

  83. Johnnyb

    Hilarious that you write rubbish like this while trying to promote rip off seo tools and software like diyseo and your own tools. Speaks volumes of the intelligence of your readers!

  84. TYCP Magazine

    Quality post. Pretty much all of the things you mentioned are why I don’t act like Google is the holy grail of the internet. Someone can abide by all of Google’s rules, but in the end, it’s the people visiting their site that can make it or break it.

  85. JamesZ

    Great post! When trying to build a quality experience for visitors to your site you have to consider the reader first and not Google. If you can, find a balance that favors the reader and then over deliver. When using SEO make sure that you give the reader what they were looking for after they find you.

  86. Hot Girl Singing

    My rule of thumb, is to grow my returning visitors and that focuses on growing new traffic while focusing on my content to keep them coming back. Great post too.

  87. Chris

    I can’t hate purely on SEO, I mean you can do the same for anything…..I can hate on many PPC’ers because they think u can put on a one page site, throw some money at it, and all the problems will go away.

    SEO is essentially a traffic source like anything else. CPV, PPC….

    Conversions is key in anything, You can’t send a plane to a place with a terrible landing strip.

  88. Gary Smith

    I’ve just become a ‘Shoe’ fan :). “Make websites for people, not search engines” is big – it’s one of those potentially life changing statements that is bound to change some of your readers in a major way. I made the mistake several years ago of doing the whole made for adsense thing and when my accounts were toasted it was like the end of the world. Then I realised that if I didn’t care about Google and just focused on good content and people, life would be a lot less stressful and over time I could build a brand. Mind you, it was only about 6 months ago that I realised that my 20 years on the Internet had some value… and I’ll be working on that for a while, but I guess you could say I’m a recovering SEO-aholic… :)

  89. Sam Patwegar

    “Make Websites for people & not search engines” – Internet will be a better place if everyone follows this advice. These days it is so bloody frustrating trying to find anything on google.

  90. Richard

    Jeremy this is very inspiring as I think I am only half of the SEO skills that I should have been using. I am a little concerned with Dr K that he only wants to be number one even if no customer converts. This is total ignorance if you will ask me.

  91. Ann Moon

    I bumped into this post at the perfect time. Deep into SEO thoughts, it is a good reminder that our customer experience needs to be #1. Thanks for the elbow jab.

  92. cctv installation

    I think seo is going to get harder and harder in the future as search results are more fragmented as they are becoming more personalised and location specific. (even if the location is that if your broadband provider, not you !). Hence building sites for people is really the only answer.

  93. fascias manchester

    I totally agree with you that seo is such a pain. I understand the idea that better sites may get more good quality links to them, but let’s face it no one is going to link to my boring local business site off their own bat.
    So much time and effort is spent following Googles advice for optimisation and getting backlinks, surely if we all spent that time and effort really considering what great content we could get into our sites the search results would be of far better quality.

  94. Jessica @ Making Money on the Web

    Very interesting! SEO is so confusing to me! I have just started with blogging and internet marketing and am having a hard time keeping everything straight. So much to learn! Thanks for your honest and informative posts!

  95. Pilotgardens

    Great article and so true. SEO seems to be a necessary evil in a lot of ways. I don’t understand why you would want a site to be ranked number one if it’s not converting the numbers into revenue, what’s the point. Keep up the great info and maybe more people will start to think outside the box and we will end up with Google using the friendliness of sites as their benchmark. Still it is possible to do both SEO and have a user friendly site, it just takes more work but isn’t it worth it?

  96. Pennyroll

    So if not SEO where did your success come from? I have Pennyroll.com and I provide the most relevant information I can. I give tips to make money, How to start businesses make money online and save money but still I generate about perhaps 200 visits a day. So how am I to get to the level you’ve achieved?

  97. Alex Pyatetsky - CMO @ The HOTH

    Every goddamn day I see people killing it for terms that I’d kill to rank for and their sites are godawful. I’m talking 1996 awful. I think in some weird, seo ultranerd way, this is somehow seen as “cool.” Like, “yo, my site sucks soooo bad, but I’m STILL outranking you.”

    If you are in this boat, my honest suggestion is that you stick to consulting. Obviously site ownership & monetization is not your strong suit so don’t waste your time with it. You can use it to get a couple more clients. Otherwise, partner with or hire someone that actually knows how to make a website make money. In many cases, this is a totally different skill. Be humble enough to accept what you aren’t good at, and be wise enough to kick ass as hard as possible at what you are.

  98. 7 Habits

    Great reminder to keep focussing on the basics: attracting a following and eventually converting your traffic to sales. Google is a tool not the purpose.

  99. SOCIAL MEDIA NETWORKING FOR BUSINESS

    It is a great article, but I have a question. I am just getting started building websites for customers. If I build a site and am not concerned with SEO, my customer will not be found. I believe that the best thing for my customer is for me to do everything possible to get him to the first page of Google.That includes paid link building and paid written articles. We need to justify both to the customer and to myself that I am giving a good deal. Could someone please respond to that.

  100. Ark

    I think the idea of actually creating content for the users is the only thing we should care about. When we have a conversation in the real world we don’t refer to any rule book from some company on what we should say or how we should say it.

    Ultimately, the web is a tool made for humans and the conversation will always rule; regardless of the powers that be. Dictators come and go and the masses always have the last word in the end.

  101. Ashley, cutey

    Your right on the money here, Shoe. The whole concept of SEO is stupid especially when your hurting your website to make it rank.

    I really, really hate Matt Cutts doing those clinics laughing at people. It annoys me so much when you have them laughing at people putting text in images, text in images not ranking is a failure of Google, not a failure of the designer.

    Matt Cutts typical “The text is in Images, HA HA HA our search engine is far to badly made to be able to read that….”

    People should be laughing at Google, not the website creator.

  102. Wasee

    OfCourse you hate SEO. You have one of the best MetaBlogs in the world. OfCourse SEO does not matter to you. You get a million visits daily without worrying about posting any content.

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