Left (and Right) of Center

How well-rounded is your SEO knowledge these days?

SEO blogs are no different from any other form of media in that they represent the author’s agenda. Whether this agenda is a deliberate attempt to convert you to a certain belief or it’s a subtle stab into your subconscious, an author has a specific point of view and, even if he or she is writing in what appears to be a neutral fashion, don’t assume that it is. Knowing where an idea comes from and understanding the factors that influence what a person writes or says is a very important step towards getting the full picture. We don’t always seek out the alternative, however. Sometimes it finds us, or we happen upon it, but we need to all start paying much closer attention to what’s between the lines, what’s not discussed, and what we truly think ourselves.

If you’re one of those people who thrives on mainstream living, please take me seriously when I tell you how detrimental your habits are if they aren’t soon amended. I mean that in a really nice Southern way too, with no malice at all. Being in the mainstream has its perks I suppose, but its all about what’s average. I don’t want to read an average novel, or listen to an average band. If I wanted average, I would be much easier entertained because average is everywhere. OK before I wax philosophic about this any longer, I will get to the point…get onto a few alternative SEO blogs and forums and stop believing everything you read and hear without checking it out and finding out whether there are other viewpoints on the issue.

I am not saying to stop reading all popular blogs. I don’t want to give you the impression that Matt Cutts’ blog, for example, is a horribly skewed view of Google so you shouldn’t read it. On the contrary, I think that reading blogs like this are critical. He has an insider’s perspective, and he gives you factual information that you need in order to do a good job marketing your site in Google. Obviously he has a Googler’s viewpoint, which IS by its very nature skewed, but that’s ok because it gives you ideas and information that make you think. I do think, however, that you should seek out other information about Google when you’re trying to figure it out. Go read up on some blackhat methods of exploiting this powerful engine. Decide for yourself on how to go about manipulating (excuse me WORKING WITH) Google. Hopefully you don’t get all your news from MSN (Melinda, I am talking about you sister!) so don’t get all your SEO information from authority sources either. DO still read the authorities, of course, but don’t take their word as gospel on every single subject.

Threadwatch was so fantastic a site because you could depend upon the users there to argue about things. Sometimes they argued for the sake of arguing, and it did get a bit ridiculous at times, but overall, you were able to get many different opinions on something there. Many blackhat blogs are also really good for discussing things that aren’t being discussed anywhere else. Even if you are a sweet little whitehat-wearing angel, you should still check out what the blackhat SEOs are doing because, chances are, it’s a hell of a lot more fascinating than your meta tag writing AND they tend to have some seriously innovative ideas that you can think about and that can help shape your own work. Whether you totally react against what they say or you find a way to do some of what they discuss doing, it’s invaluable to get their perspective.

In much the same way, don’t simply attend a conference and go to the sessions to hear a “name” speak about how to use keywords wisely or the value of relevant content. Listen to the audience’s questions and, when you hear someone ask something totally whacked out, find that person afterwards and start a discussion. Look for the people who aren’t following the SEOlebrities around. These are the people with whom you can have the most enlightening discussions. Attend a local event like the infamous LondonSEO or go to a small conference/roadshow event, where there will be fewer people and (probably) better discussion.

In closing, I would like to reiterate that I don’t want anyone to give up what they’re currently doing. Supplementing your knowledge is the key. No one likes an extremist…although I am utterly unwilling to believe anything bad about The Clash so if you see a site that says Joe Strummer was mean to orphans in Third World countries, don’t try and bother me with it. I won’t believe it even if I see photos of him beating them with a belt.