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Don't be an AlgoMoron
Written by Ian Lurie
Wednesday, 19 September 2012 23:29

What is it about the word ‘algorithm’ that turns us all into marketing idiots?

google algorithm fever

It’s been a year of spammer smackdowns:

  • The Google rank modifying spam detection patent. Read this great article by the man himself, David Harry.
  • Penguin.
  • Panda.

Lots of SEOs are running scared. Here’s why, and how you can avoid their fear-filled fate:

Why SEOs are Terrified

We hear this news and terror strikes. SEOs scatter in all directions, only peeking out of their basements once they know Google’s whisper choppers aren’t approaching. Why are SEOs so damned scared?

Penguin isn’t that subtle: If you have hundreds of links to your hobby shop web site from spam blogs, content networks and pages that look like the inside of a Newark Airport bathroom stall, you get penalized.

Panda is a blunt instrument: 90% of your site’s pages utterly worthless? Down you go.

Neither of these are going to sneak up on you.

If you build a site that jumps up and down, waving its arms and yelling OOOOH Look at me I’m spamming the living poo out of you, Google!!!!”, then Penguin, Panda and rank modification get you.

Note: I have yet to see a ‘false positive’—a totally legit site, practicing legitimate SEO, getting penalized. Don’t say ‘Negative SEO’ unless you can show me proof, ‘cause I’ve been looking and haven’t found any.

And the rank-modifying spam thingy has likely been around since 2004 or so. If you’re freaking out now, you’re a little late.

So why are so many, so terrified?

Because they let the word ‘algorithm’ turn them into idiots. Learn five lessons to avoid AlgoMoron Syndrome:

1: Realize ‘Algorithm’ doesn’t mean ‘easy’

Many SEOs seem to think that ‘algorithm’ means ‘easy’. That somehow Google’s computer-generated rankings mean a cakewalk to #1. All you have to do is buy some links! Or spam the crap out of your rich snippets. Or steal content. BOOM BABY! Instant rankings!

Algorithm != Easy (for people who dated before the age of 23, that means “Algorithm does not equal Easy”).

If you really want to trick Google into high rankings as a long-term business strategy, you have to be as smart as Google. Or smarter. You need to know how to effectively cloak huge content networks and do IP-based delivery of content that’s completely undetectable. You need a way to use computers to write thousands of pages of content that doesn’t look computer-generated.

Yes, there are always easy tricks. But ‘easy’ means ‘detectable’.

So understand this: High rankings through SEO methods that violate Google’s TOS require a lot of work. More work, probably, than doing real marketing.

2: The internet doesn’t make customers free

If you own a business, you likely know nothing about SEO. You do, however, have a really good head on your shoulders. You know that you used to pay hard dollars to acquire customers through advertising, or soft dollars through exceptional service. The internet has not made customers free. I’d argue it hasn’t even made customer acquisition easier. It’s just given you wider, deeper reach.

Look at what the latest SEO ‘expert’ is trying to sell you. Will his strategy reduce customer acquisition costs to near zero? Then he’s full of crap. Avoid him.

3: Infrastructure matters

Your web site and the server it runs on matters. A lot. A slow, crappy site means low, crappy rankings. A badly-coded site means Google may not even index your whole site.

It’s always tempting to go with the low bidder for a web site. Especially if you get one bid that’s 3X higher than the other.

Instead of basing your decision on price, try these tests:

  1. Go to each bidder’s web site. Find the first three non-branded words in their home page title tag. Are they in the top 10 for that phrase? No? Don’t hire them.
  2. Go to tools.pingdom.com and test their home page load speed, twice. Does their home page average over 5 seconds load time? Don’t hire them.

That’s it. If anyone—an agency, an individual, a development shop, whatever—can’t pass those two very easy tests, they’re not worth a bucket of warm spit.

4: It’s not about the other guy

Someone comes to me because Penguin just picked up their site, ate it, and then regurgitated it into a little baby penguin’s mouth, all while laughing maniacally. They’re out of the rankings. I tell them, “You have lots of spammy links.”

The answer, almost without fail, is, “Yeah, but so does this guy!!!!”

This isn’t about the other guy. It’s about you.

Google could ban you, or someone else. The big G is far from perfect—they miss incredibly obvious spammers all the time. But that won’t matter to you and your business if you get penalized. All that’ll matter is that you’ve lost rankings and you’re losing money.

So focus on what you control: Your site, your marketing, and your search strategy.

5: Market like a grown-up

Finally, do marketing. Figure out your selling proposition. Find out where your audience is. Put that proposition in front of them three ways:

  1. Directly, with advertising (for example: pay-per-click and Facebook ads);
  2. Implicitly, by teaching and explaining through great content;
  3. Through others, by wowing customers.

And look! #1 helps you with SEO because it boosts awareness of your brand, and therefore the chance that someone will link to you/talk about you. #2 grows SEO by providing the linkable, citable stuff. And #3 builds SEO because it forces you to have a great, speedy site, and gets other folks to talk about you.

The Biggest Lesson: Think Outcome, Not Tactics

Links, linkable content and the like are outcomes, not tactics. Don’t run a marketing campaign to build links. Run a marketing campaign to build attention and sales. The links will follow. Produce content that satisfies a need of your audience. The authority, and the right key phrases, will follow.

Of course you need to execute well: Promote the content, track the links, find the opportunities. But again, that’s just smart marketing. And the goal isn’t the link or the keywords. It’s a stronger business.

Keep that in mind, and you too can avoid becoming an AlgoMoron.

Ian Lurie -

Ian Lurie is Chief Marketing Curmudgeon and President at Portent, an internet marketing company he started in 1995. Portent is a full-service internet marketing company whose services include SEO, SEM and strategic consulting. He started practicing SEO in 1997 and has been addicted ever since. Ian rants and raves, with a little teaching mixed in, on his internet marketing blog, Conversation Marketing. He recently co-published the Web Marketing for Dummies All In One Desk Reference. In it, he wrote the sections on SEO, blogging, social media and web analytics.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 20 September 2012 13:02
 

Comments  

 
0 #1 Matt Mikulla 2012-09-20 23:42
There is so much sound and practical advice in this post.

"Market like a grown-up" Yes!

And my favorite...

"Links, linkable content and the like are outcomes, not tactics. Don’t run a marketing campaign to build links. Run a marketing campaign to build attention and sales."

Let's be honest. Most folks don't have the resources to run a true and clean link building campaign playing by 2012 rules. They should focus on core marketing principles and efforts. They should focus on being awesome, even if their business is not sexy.
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