Jan 22 2007

Do you think SEO is “faking it”?

It’s actually taken me a couple of days of mulling this one over before actually putting fingers to keyboard. Mark Fletcher wrote a post on Friday on the Findit blog entitled Was it good for you? SEO and faking search results. He begins:-

Thanks to SEO experts and fat wallets, companies are faking it online. They’re getting ahead of others more suited to what the searcher is looking for. The level playing field that was the Internet has been bought.”

Ever since search engines were invented the internet hasn’t been a level playing field. As with business and in life, it’s all about playing the game. If you want to have a successful internet presence you HAVE to play the game. Full stop. End of story.

SEO (mum, this stands for Search Engine Optimisation – or, in layman’s terms, how to get to the top of the search results in search engines, like Google, for a given word or phrase) is the name of the game. You HAVE to have SEO to get your website noticed, otherwise you are just a floating brochure in cyberspace. It’s as necessary as advertising, and merely another cost of business.

SEO doesn’t HAVE to be expensive. But it is a lot of hard work. There is a plethora of websites and blogs offering a wealth of information, so it is possible to educate oneself and implement these strategies with some guidance. But be prepared for a lot of hard work.

Mark goes on to say “While we keep hearing that local is the game in town, local is a con. Search the Yellow Pages, True Local or My Local and experience the frustration first-hand. Rarely do local results on the first page provide what you are actually looking for“.

I think the quality of search results rely on the experience and skill of the searcher. It is up to the searcher to define the parameters for the search. If the search term is vague or the parameters too broad, then the results will reflect this. I think on the whole Yellow Pages and My Local do a pretty good job at displaying local results (as does dLook, particularly using our “refine your search” options). TrueLocal is a whole other kettle of fish. You have to give preference to paying customers, or else what’s the incentive to pay? It’s the old adage you get what you pay for. Free listings shouldn’t be prioritised over those paying.

To Mark’s next point “…Consumers are frustrated with featured and sponsored ads. They want search results and not noise“. Are we frustrated with featured and sponsored ads? Not if our traffic statistics are anything to go by. Sponsored ads are often highly relevant – if they’re not then the click through rate falls, Google applies their algorithms & advertisers become priced out of the AdWords market for that word or phrase. Let the paying advertisers suffer in the hip pocket if they are being frivolous with their marketing. Again it boils down to the skill of the searcher – the more specific the search, the higher the quality of the results.

Further Mark adds “With venture capitalists and bean counters driving the monetisation push, we have lost the way of the Internet being by and for the people.”

WTF? Are we talking about a Civil War here? It would be wonderful to live in such a benevolent Utopia. The fact of the matter is that running an internet business involves web hosting, servers, development, maintenance, employees and GASP! advertising. A website is like any other business it needs to make money to justify its existence – well at least in the majority of instances. How sustainable is a website going to be in the long run if it has no revenue model? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for philanthropy but if you can’t make enough to satisfy the bean counters & your investors, then there will be nothing to be benevolent with at the end of the day.

I applaud Mr Fletcher’s initiative, and his attempts to diversify his interests in a flailing old media market, but I’ll be interested in seeing how many of the Find It ideals are still being upheld in a year’s time.

6 responses so far

6 Responses to “Do you think SEO is “faking it”?”

  1. mark fletcheron 23 Jan 2007 at 5:59 pm

    No worries – check back in a year. ideals are what make like worth living. And, no, I’m not ‘on’ anything.

    On search results, you say they rely on the skill of the searcher. That depends on the site. With sites allowing people to pay to be found ahead of others surely that skews results to the point that searchers will lose faith in the process.

    We have been able to block out ads in TV and Radio so why not online?

  2. Megon 23 Jan 2007 at 7:26 pm

    Hi Mark

    If, as you say, the results are so irrelevant on some sites, then surely people will “vote with their mouse” and not use that particular site – to be so skewed would surely affect site visits, and a decline in visitors will affect the number of paying advertisers. Why do you think YP are using statistics that are up to 18 months old in their sales pitch?

    I fail to see how we are able to block out TV and Radio ads, except via a remote controls or “channel surfing”, and of course there is subtle (or not so subtle) brand advertising through most of the movies we watch.

    Internet users can filter the most obnoxious of advertising to some extent by using “ad blocker” and “pop up blocker” software. And “sponsored links” on search engines can be bypassed with a simple scroll of the mouse.

    Whilst I think your ideals are noble, I think you are overlooking the economic reality of running a website.

  3. Happy Harryon 23 Jan 2007 at 9:20 pm


    Obviously you have an interest in the online directory known as “Find It”.
    As I understand it (and correct me if I’m wrong) this site is supported by the newsagents around Australia.
    So, again as I understand it, you are not sponsoring Find It out of your own pocket.
    Please let us know when Find It is standing on its own 2 feet Mark and for goodness sake let us all know how you can do it.
    Otherwise, at least qualify your pious remarks by announcing that you have a corporate sponsor with an agenda.
    No more “mushroom” treatment thanks.

  4. Venture Skills Teamon 31 Jan 2007 at 2:19 am

    You would advertise in the yellow pages, and you must know of a fair few AA taxis etc, whos name is chosen to be the first entry in the book and the difference is? You might want to read this article its a Quick guide to reputation management you may be surprised.

  5. Where do you Draw the Line with SEO?on 14 Jul 2007 at 10:54 pm

    […] the “evils” of Search Engine Optimisation (which I’ve considered to an extent before). There’s a lot of talk on the internet about “white hat” and “black […]

  6. Utah SEOon 14 Oct 2007 at 5:13 pm

    You know what they say…”fake it till you make it”