We all have our hot buttons – things that just drive us up the wall because they just never seem to go away. I was bored for a couple of hours yesterday, because the electric company knocked our power off for the third time in five days… so I started making a list of things that bug me.
At first, I was trying to limit it to my specific fields of SEO and online marketing. But as I recalled more and more, I remembered that there’s a lot of disagreement on the boundaries between SEO, marketing and the various aspects of the things we all bump into online from one day to the next.
So I just broadened my focus to include some of the really irksome things that come about because of our online activities. I thought it might be fun to list some of them, and see what folks might add to the pile.
General spam – the sort that implies that the sender’s careful research indicates that I may be relieved to know that my long-suffering search for a reliable source for a two-handled, porcelain-coated, dishwasher-safe asparagus warmer (tastefully decorated with caricatures of mythical beasts munching happily on – you guessed it – asparagus) is finally over. Arghhh! (Okay… I exaggerated a little. The caricatures included only non-mythical beasts.)
Spam of another sort, that offers “high qualities copyrighting, guarantee to engage you costumers” – Yeah, that just drips quality all around the edges! One of these even told me how their wonderful SEO services had helped hundreds of Fortune 100 companies expand their business. One can only hope they’re better at SEO than they are at math. But somehow, I doubt it.
Phishing emails – Some may have been prepared by someone with a modicum of intelligence, but the majority are so pitifully obvious they bring a tear to your eye. By now, everyone should know that Nigerian princes/barristers/surviving-spouses/orphaned children are NOT really going to send you 33 million dollars to invest on their behalf, for which you can keep 25%.
Then there’s the “You PayPal account have been suspended” emails – with the attached .zip file, or a PayPal log-in link that points to http://wethinkyouarestupid.com.ru. Even if the unbelievably poor grammar didn’t give them away, is there really anyone left that doesn’t know better than to click on those things? Sadly, oh, yeah, there are! P.T. Barnum knew what he was talkin’ about!
Now I understand that this is a little more subjective, but as someone that’s been online daily since around the launch of Windows 2.0, I’ve seen a lot of crap come and go. Unfortunately, it seems like a lot more crap has come than has gone.
It just doesn’t sit well with me when I visit a site in 2013 that looks like it was built on GeoCities back in ’99. Dancing kittens, flashing links and blaring music set my teeth on edge. And I don’t have that many teeth left, dammit!
Pop-ups drive me nuts, too. I never liked them when they were the newest, hottest method of putting a special message in front of someone, and I like them a lot less now. If you need to use a baseball bat to get your users’ attention, you’re not much of a marketer, as far as I’m concerned.
As a professional, it bothers me a lot to see a site with convoluted navigation, too. If you make it hard for your users to find what they’re looking for, you might as well just throw in the towel. And while we’re on the topic of making things hard for users, yellow text on a lime green background is really a great idea… if your targeted users are all using a blacklight.
In this category I could have gone on for pages, but I got so disgusted with the tremendous number of little issues that are SO prevalent, even today. that I decided to just move on.
Guidance (or lack thereof)
This is really a category with two facets… guidance from the search engines and guidance from professionals.
On the search engine side, they obviously can’t divulge their ranking mechanisms – the abuse would make a travesty of search. But one area in which they could do a lot more is in helping webmasters understand what is happening to their traffic and what they need to address, in order to get back in good graces.
There seems to still be a lot of confusion among webmasters (and embarrassingly, even among some SEOs) about the difference between a “penalty” and a “dampener”. The search engines could do a lot to remedy that. If there’s a reason they don’t want to do that, I’d sure like to know what it is. Supposedly, they want better sites with better content so they can deliver better results. Keeping the people that build those sites and that content in the dark seems counterproductive to me.
Google recently began offering a few “sample links” to sites that had been served a manual action. That’s a step in the right direction, but kind of an empty gesture, in my opinion. How about telling us a bit more? ‘Here’s a sample link’, in what regard? A sample in terms of the anchor text used? The type of site that’s doing the linking? Is the TLD the problem? Does it have more to do with relevance to the target page? There is SO much more information that would be helpful, without opening the spillway to abuse.
Moving on to the issue of guidance from search and marketing professionals, here’s where my blood pressure spikes. There’s some pretty simple rules that could eliminate most of the misinformation out there.
If you don’t KNOW, then SAY that! There’s not a damned thing wrong with saying, “Nobody outside of Google really knows for sure, but in my experience, it seems that…” If you think that’s wishy-washy, then I’d say you’re not cut out to be a consultant.
A consultant is supposed to be someone that can be trusted to have the client’s best interests at heart, PERIOD! If you’re just tossing baseless opinions around, in an effort to baffle people with BS or to impress folks, you’re being irresponsible, at the very least. Crap-hat fits, too.
The Special Bunch
As long as I’m ranting about responsibility, I’ll mention the folks that have been around long enough to build a following – to have achieved some notoriety. Call it celebrity status, if you like. Whether you have a group of ten followers of your blog or twenty thousand, some of them will take every word you utter as gospel, because they make the mistake of assuming that you wouldn’t be so well known without knowing what you’re talking about.
They miss the fact that some people can become celebrities without ever having cluttered their mind with a single original thought. Or that some prolific writers might have known a lot more ten years ago than they do now, simply because they’re too busy with other things to stay abreast of current developments.
And of course, there’s even some that are just as full of shit as a Christmas turkey, know it, and just don’t give a damn, because all they’re really interested in is their celebrity status. They just like feeling special.
Yeah, they’re special, alright.