The SEO Crying Game

In 1994 Hammer (formerly M.C. Hammer) rebranded himself as a more aggressive M.C. to take advantage of the growing movement around Gangsta rap.

It was a failure despite his first album of this edgier era going Gold (The Funky Headhunter).

Why?

Because everyone knew Hammer as M.C. Hammer, and everyone knows gangsters don’t make hit singles for family movies.

Hammer was chasing the dough. He was a cultural chameleon. We have all had these people in our lives at some point. They never seem to have their own identity. They grab on to whatever is popular, make that their thing, and then on to the next one.

Some of the SEO industry’s most popular companies have this same mentality.  In 2008 when I was running Search & Social with Jordan Kasteler, it was interesting to watch how many companies slowly started incorporating “social media” into their SEO offering. A lot of this was based around linkbaiting via Digg, and not necessarily creating real marketing tactics from social media.  The ROI was SEO based, so it was basically putting a new coat of paint on the same house to capture new clients.

Today we are seeing the same thing with “content marketing”.

With content marketing as well as social media, there is a TON of value. The argument I make won’t even come close to arguing that. There are also lots of companies offering amazing value around content and helping companies make money through it. However, the bigger concern is that the SEO companies that are seemingly turning to content marketing shops over night, but they’re keeping their core the same, showing the results for their efforts in terms of search rankings and traffic.

SEO is a bi-product of content marketing, and real content marketing companies report on this result, but do not make it a priority, as their focus is driving overall traffic and sales to a client. This means that the content itself needs to convert, and not just drive links and “social signals” to a website to help it rank.

Don’t confuse this as an argument that SEOs shouldn’t look towards content marketing to aid their SEO; they should. The smartest SEOs I know incorporate content marketing into their SEO. What they don’t do is lure in sales via content marketing and then resell SEO.

The issue is how you present yourself to your clients, what the entire industry thinks SEO is, and what SEO actually is. Technical SEO, post-Panda, is still a huge cornerstone of enterprise SEO. Issues like localization, content aggregation, duplicate content, and internal website optimization can make or break you. A well-structured SEO strategy takes content marketing into account with these other factors. A great example I use is Dave Naylor’s Bronco LTD. I have visited this organization a lot. They employ SEOs, a web development team, and designers. They don’t have loads of copywriters lying around, they don’t handle social media optimization. They do what they do, and they do it well. Has it cost Dave business? No. Why? Because he is the best in the world at what he does.

The argument people will make to this post is “SEO has changed and we must adapt”.

My response, “solid argument”.

However, adaptation and evolution are completely different than camouflage.

You don’t become a donkey by putting on a donkey costume, you just become more of a jackass.

Another argument is that I come from an SEO background and I now run a content lifecycle company. I am a huge hypocrite.

The issue here is I have always said I am not an SEO, I am a marketer that has done social, content marketing, and search since I came into the space. Some of the first work Jordan and I did at Search & Social was content marketing-based. We were developing infographics, sharebait, and quizzes back in the early days of S&S. CopyPress itself formed in 2009, well before some of the current SEO companies making the transition were even around.

Also, I am a hypocrite, but at least I admit it.

People will get upset about this post. If it upsets you then you are feeling an emotional reaction to it, and you should follow that emotion to the truth. The reality is that 12 months or so from now another buzz word will be on our lips and the same SEO companies that are rebranding themselves today to become more commercially viable as SEO transforms into Google’s public enemy number 1 will pick that service up and slap it on their homepage and add it to their services section.

The SEO industry needs a huge shake-up.

The stuff that is happening in corners and hidden in the shadows is enough to make anyone sick. The stuff that is happening in the spotlight is even worse.

About the author

Dave Snyder

Dave began his career online as a well respected Internet Marketing Consultant. He has spoken around the world on the topics of search marketing and social media, and has consulted for some of the worlds largest companies on the topics. He has also been an educator and writer in past careers.

Dave’s passion shifted from a purely marketing focus as he worked with more and more entrepreneurs to build profitable companies, to the creation, construction, and management of startups. This passion was the inspiration behind SteelCast.