In an industry as innovative as online marketing, why do we fall in line behind certain concepts and blindly follow rules set up by massive corporations? I saw a comment recently that asked “why are you letting Google tell you how to run your site?”, and I’m paraphrasing, which isn’t overly obvious since I used quotation marks but anyway, this question goes to the heart of what I simply cannot understand about SEOs right now.
Why, indeed, are we letting the search engine companies determine every move we make?
We don’t have to, you know. Yes, if you want to do well online you’re probably going to have to deal with Google BUT that doesn’t mean that you have to blindly obey every single one of their rules on how to conduct your business online. I understand that there are some simple guidelines that we should all follow with regards to the web, but they extend mainly to making a site accessible to disabled users and just general usability.
There’s a great old punk song by Punishment of Luxury, called “Puppet Life”, which has the lyrics “Your demands are my role, lost in space and time I crawl for you.” Well, this is my attempt to sneak in another punk reference so there you go. It’s on topic too, mostly. Why are we letting someone pull our strings so easily?
Maybe it’s a white hat vs. black hat mentality, but I was a lot happier when I was cloaking every site I worked on. That was honestly dishonest. I could easily not follow any engine’s guidelines. Now, working in a more white hat capacity, considering I am dealing with other people’s livelihoods I have to be a bit more careful. That being said, it sure as hell does not mean that I’m obeying every law Google sets down. Some of them really are just really, really idiotic.
Let’s take a look at three of Google’s more ridiculous edicts.
“Links purchased for advertising should be designated as such.” Well, I am sure not doing that one. I go to great lengths to write about how you should never, ever advertise a link as being purchased for advertising. Who is really going to follow this guideline? Why do their jobs for them? I may even wear an “I Buy Links. Ban Me.” t-shirt in Vegas. If you’re really following this one, you need to go watch nun porn (but don’t make it a habit! hahahahahaha) or something and expand your worldview to be a bit less naive and sheeplike.
“Avoid tricks intended to improve search engine rankings.” This kind of disqualifies most of what I do actually, so again, not following this one. I love a trick. I love the way they say “tricks” too, implying that any manipulation on your part is a low blow to online humanity, like an acre of trees will burn and kittens will be torn apart by wild dogs every time you blink your eyes now. Isn’t everything we do in SEO designed to improve search engine rankings? What’s the definition of a trick anyway?
This is qualified with “A good rule of thumb is whether you’d feel comfortable explaining what you’ve done to a website that competes with you.” Well hellfire. I’d feel comfortable telling my mom that yeah, she hasn’t used too much hairspray, even as pinecones and pieces of airplane engines bounce off the top of her head. I’d tell anyone anything. So the comfort level aspect is kind of useless here. I’m comfortable saying just about anything. Ask Rob Kerry.
“If your site participates in an affiliate program, make sure that your site adds value.” Well, I’m not an affiliate but if I were, I wouldn’t really give a damn whether my site added value. Adds value to what, anyway? As long as it added value to my pockets and I could buy raspberry mocha lattes, leather boots, and punk rock t-shirts, I’d be finearooney. Not to trash affiliates, but I don’t really see this as an area that exists for the good of kittens and embroidery.
I do realize that not everyone attempts to be sweet and nice and follow Google’s guidelines, of course, and let me take the time to say to these people that I love you all. I’m just worried about the tendencies of the masses to follow along with who currently leads the pack in this industry. Reading blog comments is simply an amazing glimpse into this culture…everyone wants to be allied with the right people, and it can be fairly sickening at times. The major personal attacks, in particular, are really showing a lack of class. I will admit to laughing at an old ass clown comment that was directed at many of my favorite people though. That was just plain funny. What’s an ass clown anyway? Is he named Smiley McCracken? Is his wife Gladys?
We haven’t been privileged enough to host a massive fight on our blog yet, or in a bar even, but those seem to be all over the place, with everyone agreeing with the right people just to see their name in print. I do confess to loving this kind of thing, and when there are well-done remarks, it’s great stuff. It’s when you get comments from people saying “yeah! good one. You tell him!” that I want to smash my head into a wall. OK I may have commented like that (especially to Lisa) a few times but I’d probably been drinking. Like I said, I kind of enjoy an online fight that doesn’t involve someone trashing me, but when it goes on and on just so everyone can choose a side, it’s useless.
Just remember, bad things have happened when people blindly fell in line and gave up their own desire to be independent thinkers. Don’t believe something just because a certain SEOlebrity or engine says it’s the way to do things.