Is SEO ever a waste of time and/or money? American Express certainly seems to think so, even going so far as to suggest that search engine specialists will naturally try to trick the filtering techniques of engines and are likely to get your site banned from the engines.
Seriously ineffective SEO firms and individual crackpots with just enough knowledge to fool people into giving them money abound at the moment, unfortunately. It’s quite easy to find examples of clients who have been shafted by someone who did something amazingly stupid and harmed his or her business. There are most likely just as many examples of cases in which, for whatever reason, clients simply did not do well in the online arena. SEO isn’t foolproof, certainly. Nothing is, really, not even marmite.
However, it’s fairly scary when such a large presence as American Express comes out and advises small business owners against employing a search engine specialist in their attempt to boost their online visibility. Not only is it an insult to those of us who know what we’re doing and do it well (usually), it also has the potential to cause even more damage to people who actually heed this advice and take matters into their own hands without the knowledge to successfully perform online. In the past, I’ve dealt with clients who would not do anything that didn’t involve frames, set up session variables that were then transferred all over the site via a querystring (no I am not joking) which caused pages to be indexed with these identifiers and ended up overwriting shopping carts, had nothing but an image on their home page, and spent $30,000 a month on PPC that they insisted on managing themselves only to finally TEST an ad and see that their landing page for these ads had no call to action as they thought it did. All of this nasty business was the result of someone in-house, with no SEO background, attempting to please the engines.
I currently have a client for whom my goal is to not do a single thing that could be construed as trying to please the engines. I am limited to PPC and meta tags, basically, but that’s fine because I’m honest about what I do and the client understands that I am bound by many constraints. This client’s view, which I agree with, is that the business’s offline reputation is so strong that it simply cannot be put at risk in any way. So there you have it…I don’t get to do too much SEO for him, but I am able to make sure that no one else takes advantage of him. That’s definitely not a waste of time OR money.
Honestly, any idiot can sell SEO services. (Notice how I am not taking this opportunity to provide you with any jokes about Jay.) I have dealt with enough small business owners who have absolutely no clue about how to effectively do business online to know that there is a massive amount of vulnerable people out there who can be easily snowed by someone looking to make a few bucks at their expense. I recently had an old coworker ask me to do some PPC work for someone he knew, simply because he had a great deal of respect for the company and knew that they lacked the knowledge to NOT get screwed over by unscrupulous types. As overworked as I am, I did agree to think about doing it, mainly because I’ve seen the money that gets basically stolen from these unsavvy clients who simply have no idea that they’re basically being raped by people who can end up doing major damage to their site and their online efforts.
Stating that SEO is a waste is completely irresponsible. Yes, there are examples of poor SEO but that’s absolutely no reason to advise all small business owners against employing the services of reputable people who happen to have the background and the knowledge to compete in the online arena. And, when you really think about it, that poor advice is really no different than bad SEO…