Lee Odden

Four SEM Industry Rants

Lee Odden     Online Marketing, Rant

It’s pretty much an understatement to say search marketing is an interesting business. In fact, some of the most creative yet technical, entrepreneurial and lateral thinking individuals you’ll ever meet work in this field. At the same time, there are cases where showmanship and hype can overwhelm real substance and certain behaviors get annoying.

Understand, this very much a rant post and most rants do little for the reader and a lot for the writer. It’s all about me you know. 🙂 However, if this one sheds light or more likely, entertains, then it’s a win win.

The fine art of truth spoofing.
You know when some “SEO experts” answer an interviewer or conference moderator question with a response that sounds good, is hardly verifiable with real data, but because they’re respected and well promoted, people believe them? I like to call that “truth spoofing”. It makes the “expert” seem impervious to failure and people forget about the specific numbers anyway, holding on to that “wow s/he’s smart” feeling. This isn’t unique to the SEM biz either. I see it in PR and direct marketing as well. What’s curious is that people accept it as a normal part of the “sales pitch”.

One person’s leftovers are another person’s gold.
By the time certain SEO tactics get written about in a major publication, they’ve jumped the shark. In fact, by the time they’re written about in popular search marketing publications, they likely have 6 months or less of competitive usefulness left. Yet the lure of getting a distinct advantage makes marketers and webmasters over-rely on such information rather than focusing on the results of their own first hand experience.

Everyone wants a shortcut it seems. In a way, it’s like those people selling no money down real estate courses and get rich quick seminars on TV. Either the tips are mostly marketing hype or they’ve long since expired in their usefulness. The only way to make money from them is to “sell the secret”. It’s like that with the promotion of many “SEO secrets”. By the time such tactics are publicly promoted as a way to gain competitive advantage, their days are numbered. Focusing on changing trends and strategies rather than specific tactics is what yields longer term results. At least that’s my opinion.

Diffuse the enthusiasm.
In a position of perceived authority, there are a lot of eyes and ears paying attention. Competition in the search marketing industry is formidable as agencies seek new revenue channels by adding search marketing services and companies bring more search marketing in-house.

What to do? One thing I’ve seen some pundits do is to tell the up and coming competition to go home. For example, “Don’t bother starting a silly old blog, it’s a waste of time”. Some make claims that certain marketing fundamentals will never work in competitive situations and that only the “super secret sauce” of SEO expert knowledge is worthy.

Plenty of neophytes read this stuff and think, “Hmm I guess I’ll play follow the leader and commit myself to the super secret sauce and not bother with the fundamentals and my own test/refinement/learning anymore”. As a result, some marketers get over committed to short term tactics and leave long term, sustainable methodologies and the products of their own experience by the wayside.

Pass the dirty buck.
Starting out in the search marketing business, leads for new projects are coveted, precious things. (Think Tommy Boy ). Once a brand is built with significant momentum and credibility, inquiries for new business are sometimes treated as a commodity. In some cases, there’s more new business than any one firm can handle.

What to do with all those leads? Follow up on them of course! No, what some particularly mischievous SEOs do is send the crappy ones to their competition or to “friends”. You know, the insurance leads/poker/ringtone sites that have been through 5 SEO firms, have numerous duplicate sites and are currently banned? Not that there aren’t specialists in those industries or that those industries don’t deserve excellent SEO consulting, but referring completely out of scope and mis-matched projects is adolescent at best. After a while, it’s not so funny as the web site owners in need of services get tossed back and forth.

There aren’t any specific people I have in mind for these kinds of behaviors as they’re the kinds of things that you notice over time and many, many conferences. To be honest, I may have engaged in one or two myself at some point over the past 10 years. There’s no longevity to behaving badly so it really doesn’t pay to repeat such actions.

On the flip side, and this is the majority of what most people experience in the SEM industry, search marketers are bright, friendly, helpful, both tactical and strategic, constantly learning and as mentioned above, possess that very unique combination of creative and technical perspectives so critical for success in search.

[/end rant]

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he’s the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on integrated content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he’s likely on a beach somewhere doing absolutely nothing.