Lee Odden


Lee Odden     Link Building, Rant, SEO

My Yahoo news alert for “search engine optimization” sent me a link this morning to a Q/A article from USATODAY.com about SEO. A small business asked a question about bringing more traffic to her site, saying she had paid for “submission” services with unsatisfactory results. Ugh, people still fall for that?

The journalist talked to a “SEO expert”, which was really a web design firm for some suggestions.

Here’s my beef with the article:

Web designers are not search engine optimization experts. In fact, it’s web designers that keep most of us SEO practitioners so busy. That said, most SEOs are not web design experts either, with few exceptions.

Flash smashing. The issue with indexing Flash is brought up. Recommendation: Use less Flash. What’s the problem with that? It’s not the use of Flash that’s an issue, it’s the absence of text.

Use Flash all you want, but use it intelligently and make sure there is sufficient text for a search engine spider so it can understand and score the page. Sure, it is not very search engine friendly to make an entire site with one Flash movie. However it is fine to use Flash within an HTML design that also includes text.

Over-meta. The next suggestion involved meta tags. The article does not specify the types of tags. The importance of the keyword meta tag is so low it is not worth mentioning. Using specific keywords in the title tags is a good recommendation though as is the use of the meta description tag for a page summary.

Link exchange. The one that gets me is, “It is similarly a good idea to engage in some quality link exchanges with other good sites.” Bzzzzzz, wrong answer.

Link exchanges are not the foundation of a link building campaign. Is it ok to exchange links with other sites? Sure, if you would have linked to those sites without the existence of search engines. It also helps if the sites are of a related topic. For example, an ecommerce gardening tools site that links to a gardening tips blog and vice versa.

Yahoo directory inclusion is still up for debate. I opt in about 50% of the time based on the client’s budget. The best linking strategy is to create content that is so compelling, that other sites will link to it. Producing great content over time can generate a sort of momentum that will attract links without having to ask for them.

In the meantime, a mix of relevant directory links, backlink analysis on competitors, article syndication, social bookmarking, press releases and offline advertising (which was a suggestion in the article) are all good ways to generate one way links into your site.

I do realize it could have been worse and also that space limitations in short articles like these as well as a mass audience hinders the writer’s ability to be thorough. But using outdated or incomplete information from sources that may not be “expert” in search engine optimization simply propogates it as a crapshoot marketing tactic.

So how do you find a search engine optimization expert you can trust? You could search Google for one, or go to a Search Engine Strategies or WebmasterWorld Pubcon conference, visit SEO forums and SEO blogs.

[/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 B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Hey Scott,

    The USATODAY article did not have a negative slant towards SEO, so I’m not sure why you mention that. The article doesn’t do website owners any favors because of the lack of good information, but it was not bashing SEO as a web site marketing tactic at all.

    I agree, that on-page SEO and web development should be one and the same to a certain extent. However, keyword analysis, buzz/viral linkbaiting and web analytics are all instrumental to effective SEO as much or more than web design.

  2. Avatar Scott Fish SEO says

    It seems that there has been a lot of large scale press lately about SEO. One thing in common: Always a negative slant. Some of these reporters have no clue what they are even reporting on and they hear that SEOs do things to a site to help it rank well and they immediately think that you’re “manipulating”.

    In reality SEO is the purest form of Online marketing – just as tv or radio advertising is successful in creative product placements in tv shows, etc, – online marketing has it’s own tricks as well….and good SEO is one of them.

    Probably the biggest thing that stands out to me is the convergence of good website design and SEO. Any website that is well built, will have good SEO structure. It’s taken a while, but people are starting to realize that the line between good site design and SEO is very thin. Now that SEO is becoming more mainstream, this really opens up the flood gates for a lot of SEOs to be in high demand!

    SEO is simply good web development practice.

  3. Avatar Scott Fish SEO says

    Right, I think I was trying to point out the movement from SEO and web development being two different things, to them being one in the same. This article didn’t do much SEO bashing, but there have been many that did their fair share.

    I agree with you that “keyword analysis, buzz/viral linkbaiting and web analytics are all instrumental to effective SEO as much or more than web design.” Absolutely!

  4. Avatar Jaan Kanellis says

    Lee I felt the need to blog about it at my website. I had mostly the same feelings you did and I emailed the author to let him know. Like I mentioned in my blog the best part of this is the authors website doesnt even have a title tag!

  5. Well nothing too surprizing, every time mainstream media talks about things like SEO they’re bound to mess things up – remember the Newsweek article? What surprizes me though is all you good folks (you as well as Aaron on Threadwatch as well as i suppose many others) blogging about it – and LINKING to it! – so next time some unsuspecting surfer searches for SEO-related stuff this would be the sh*t he sees, instead of quality information. OK this is just a rough scenario and we both understand it – but honestly, is there any need promoting poor information any further?

  6. Hey Jaan, too bad Steve doesn’t have a blog, so he could respond in public to your letter. Kinda behind the times to be a nationally syndicated columnist without a blog – IMHO. No offense, but there’s a long list of SEO experts I would have added to your list.

    IrishWonder, I hear you – but the article was provoking enough to write about it and it is appropriate to cite a source with a link – especially in a blog post.

    In this case, I think there’s enough positive benefit in drawing attention to the deficiencies in the article than to worry about it further propogating SEO disinformation.

  7. Lee – well this is called linkbait, good or bad it still gets links 😉

  8. Avatar Jaan Kanellis says

    Right, Lee. I did put is responses to my email on TW and of course their could have 30-40 solid SEO’s I could have listed, but that wasnt the point so much.

  9. IrishWonder: You’ve got it!

  10. A lot of you are up in arms with the USA Today article where I was interviewed…the question was about SEO and about driving traffic to a site which is in fact a marketing issue as well. The target audience for the article was business owners who are not technically savvy. The article was not intended to be by any means an SEO guide or in depth reference to SEO.

    FYI our firm is yes a web development firm but we are a web development firm that specializes in online marketing which does comprise design, programming and SEO. I agree that there is a great deal more to SEO than was mentioned in the article. But please remember this is just a column, we were asked to not get too technical just give ideas on SEO…also not everything we talked about was mentioned in the article…the tips about meta tags were not from us either. We did stress the importance of using relevant keywords within the body of text. This is not an issue of web developers vs SEO experts, we should be working together towards a common cause of educating the public – not judging other

  11. Alyah Rafeh nice response. Glad to see it was a case of being somewhat misquoted or slanted outside of your own doing. I think a negative spin on seo is driven by the bottom line, seo is painted as “the problem”. But the funny part is if we look at link and blog spam for instance it was a problem created by pagerank theory, so we have been sold the poison and now they sell us the cure with algo updates.

  12. thats cool, hey 🙂

  13. Yeah Alayh, you tell him whats up 🙂


  1. IrishWonder says:

    […] Well, it all started with USA Today publishing an article on SEO which was so poorly written that it didn’t stand any criticism – and of course people in the SEO community picked on it and posted about it and certainly linked to it – Aaron Wall posted about it on Threadwatch, Lee Odden posted about it on his blog, as many others probably did (heck I’d rather link to these fine folks than to that shitty article – and I’ll explain here why). Well, shitty it may be, but look how it got a pack of quality links in a matter of hours? Roughly speaking, now if Google picks up all these links and people then search for SEO-related stuff what they will see is an article linked ot by many SEO authorities – ahha thinks Google, this is probably a good candidate for top rankings for SEO-related stuff! And unsuspecting searchers looking for SEO information end up going to an article which contans a lot of misconcepts instead of valuable SEO information… […]

  2. searchenginepress.com says:

    SEO Baloney from USATODAY…

    Post about a major news publication providing outdated SEO information….