Dear SEO.  It’s About Ego, Not Ethics

Several years ago I listened to a talk at a search engine marketing conference where the speaker insisted that whatever we were charging, triple it.

I kept waiting for the presenter to talk about why our fees should increase that much.  No reason was offered other than, “You are not charging enough.”  I was still doing SEO work along with web site usability testing and charging from “give away” to not much more than a building contractor would earn per hour.  It took me a very long time to inch my fees upwards.

When I was sub-contracted by a famous company to perform one of my specialized skills, I under-quoted and the Project Manager encouraged me to ask for more.  That was many years ago and while my skills are more refined in that area of my practice, I never increased my rate and to this day Project Managers ask me to increase my rate.

At another conference a conversation with someone was again about what I should charge, with the advice being given from somebody who has never seen my work and only knows my reputation.  The recommendation was to ask for five times what I would charge a small to medium business client, which I was counseled not to target.  I was to use my name to position myself higher to get corporate clients with free flowing budgets.

Once again, advice on pricing with no need to prove my expertise. All I needed was a short skirt, teased up hairdo, knee hi boots and a street corner and I could be rich in the SEO world.

Which brings me to the saga of the SEO Snake Oil Salesman and SEMPO’s meeting this week at Pubcon about ethics and compliance with some kind of unified code of conduct.

My company, Creative Vision Web Consulting, LLC puts together projects for any size company wanting a website that will be found in search engines from any type of digital device.  I partner with carefully chosen companies, each of whom abide by a common belief, which is to never overcharge anyone and they deliver methodologies that will never, ever hurt a client’s website.

In addition, I am approached on a weekly basis by site owners and large agencies seeking my recommendations for reputable companies to hire for PPC, link building, and social and Internet marketing because they have lost money, been penalized, or treated badly.

Finding reputable referrals has proven to be difficult and sad.

For starters, the pricing for those services has skyrocketed.  If a company does not have $5000/$10,000 per month to spend, they are not considered to be candidates as clients.  If a company has that budget, in no way does that automatically translate to receiving expert service.

Some of the problems are in education.  For example, there remains an enormous amount of outrageously incorrect information on all forms of search engine marketing.  One famous global organic healthcare products company that has resellers provides them with their own free website and “website submission” services.  The free website template alone is so poorly designed as to be hysterical even for someone who has no training in usability and user experience design.

Figure looking at laptopThe problems with finding affordable healthcare in the USA are made worse because not having it can mean fines.  This allows health care companies to manipulate services and pricing.  The SEO industry knows that a similar situation exists in their favor because not having any type of search engine marketing strategy results in no business.

They know, too, that companies come seeking help for marketing with websites that don’t work well, and rather than tell their clients that the website itself needs usability testing to uncover issues and hunt for positive user experience opportunities, they pocket the links, PPC and content marketing money and promise the client miracles in search.

SEMPO is not about to try and sell a new culture and this is why I feel they will struggle to convince people to agree to their proposals.  The SEO industry has gotten away with pricing many companies directly out of the right to compete with Fortune companies for years.

Charging 3 to 5 times more than competitors does not mean a company is doing reputable work. It does not mean that companies that charge high hourly rates employ skilled people.   In the SEO industry, it is a myth that you get what you pay for.  Ask any website that is penalized by Google or company that has never recovered from link buying schemes that cost them countless thousands of dollars.

It takes a tribe to raise a website these days.

Start with smart council.



My new company, Creative Vision Web Consulting, LLC, is raising funds for a colleague who was severely injured in a bicycling accident and not expected to walk again. She is very brave, in terrible pain and making progress on some days, and sliding on others. I am paying a seller fee, referral fee and part of my fee’s in an effort to help.

Discussion Picks: Is SEO Ethical?

What is SEO? Is SEO Ethical? Nearly 20 years later and the question remains a hot discussion topic. What is an SEO?

Webmasterworld takes a fun frolick on the ethics, in Is All SEO Unethical?.

My point was that all SEO except the purest WH, is unethical as it deliberately causes harm to other sites. For any SEO to work, the main goal is to knock someone out of their position in the search engine. In other words, the goal is to cause harm to some other site, by definition any SEO of that nature is negative SEO as it intends to unnaturally unseat another site.

SEO and EthicsThe key word is “manipulate”.

In the real world, two gas stations or even four, are placed at an intersection. Each of them wants the same customers. They change their gas prices as the most visible way of competing. When they each sell for the same price, they work on other ways to draw in customers, from gas pumps with TV’s to great cheese steaks. Sometimes one of them will hire a dude in a costume to stand out front dancing around to get attention. Would you call that manipulation? Ethical? I call it friendly competition by using creative ways of promotion.

20 years ago, the work of getting pages into search engines was called “promotion”. To promote a website meant getting it indexed. Optimization was a gentle term that came later but was a badly needed method due to the enormous volume of pages competing for the same audience. Black Hat fought the secret mafia of search marketing because behind every search engine were people taking money for rank, meaning corporations would always win. BH got a bad rep because the methodology pissed off the people getting rich first.

We refer to SEO as “manipulation”. That is how hundreds of thousands do SEO. There are other techniques that fall into the human experience side, such as making websites that work for all people rather than bots. To me, this is experience optimization and an under-valued method of online marketing.

What Is An Seo?

a topic at Cre8asiteforums, appealed to beginners who wanted to show off their knowledge to get post counts. This is never wise, especially when what you know is what everybody already knows, like the guy who defined SERPS for us. The discussion fizzled to loud thump when I asked:

Is it part of the job of an SEO to include the user experience within their methodology? Or is the purpose to rank high with no follow through once a visitor clicks into the website?

One person responded with “no”.  And there was no debate.

For hundreds of thousands, if not a few million SEO’s, their mission in life is to get pages indexed and ranked in the top 10 spots of search engine results pages for specific keywords. There is no need to know anything about the people who visit optimized web pages or why they chose specific search phrases. There is no interest in what resolution searchers use, or device, or if they are someone relying assistive technology that reads web pages to them. Marketing quality web sites is not part of their job.

Which is one reason why SEO has a bad reputation.

No. I Will NOT Respond to Your Disavow Link Paranoia. Bug Off!

Google has created a circus of sad-faced SEO clowns jumping through hoops trying to get rid of “bad” links to their web sites.

This is why I never ever chose to be a slave to search engines and chose the human side of the web experience over the algorithm changing lead-line approach where every site owner is pulled along under the threat of low rank, poor PR scores and penalization.

The first disavow link removal request I got was a “mistake”. They messed with the wrong woman. This one has me stumped.

You have the following links on your website that points to a page or pages on the site and I was wondering if it would be at all possible for you to remove it please.

The page they are referring to, Do SEO’s Bear the Burden of a Company’s Conversions? does not have a link to their site in it. It links to a great article by Jill Whalen and there were many valid, non-spammy comments on my post.

The disavow request goes on to say,

As I am sure you are aware, Google has made a number of algorithm changes this year that target link profiles and so it is necessary to place greater control on where links appear. This is no way a comment on your site; rather it is a necessary task that I must undertake.

It most definitely DOES indicate an issue with my site and this is where I get really miffed. My reputation, both when I was a SEO and later a Usability and SEO design practitioner has been 100% no spam and no stupid SEO tricks. My only mistake was using Text Link Ads software when I owned Cre8asiteforums, which is now owned by Jim Boykin at Internet Marketing Ninjas. The forums was penalized by a drop in PR score for having, if I remember right, one or two text links at the bottom of one page. I allowed those links because of my friendship to the application developers and Google slapped me on the wrist for it.

There are, of course, countless cases where sites need to go back and erase years of bad behavior. All I can do is recall all my warnings to clients who kept buying high priced links or before that practice, believed in link farms, micro-sites and reciprocal links with sites that had no logical relationship.

I didn’t do that stuff because being fake doesn’t impress me in life or the Internet.

Grandma with gun

Bug Off Disavow Hounds!

To those of you who earn money by hounding site owners for crimes against Google we didn’t commit – it’s your Karma. Do your research before sending out your link removal requests.

I linked to articles I LIKED and have no intention of hunting through a database with 11 years worth of posts to remove one of your’s because Google is pointing a gun at your head.

See also Jackassery – Disavow Toolto discuss at Cre8asiteforums.

Aaron Wall at SEO Book posted on the disavow tool and link removal requests and refers to google’s antics as “jackassery.”

SES NY Speaker Deadlines and Pre-Agenda Pricing

Today is the last day for pre-agenda discount pricing for those heading for the New York Search Engine Strategies conference in March. The New York conference is very popular, with education, training and networking opportunities in abundance. This is not one to miss!

Register today for your pre-agenda pricing, plus another 20% discount.
They have also announced speaker deadlines, which are around the corner.

Go to SES New York 2012 Deadlines

  • Proposing a session: Jan 31
  • Speaking submission: Feb 17

Register now for discounts!

UX and SEO Blog and Web Finds

I’m an information junkie with a gigantic range of topics I follow – some of which might surprise you, so I don’t share THAT. Here are some of my recommended reads because they impressed me and taught me something new.

By the way, did you know that if you press on a BlueJay’s blue wing, the color disappears? That’s because they have no pigment in their feathers and the blue is the play of light on their wings.

In no particular order:

LOVED this! It’s a 25 minute video presentation, so sit your butt down and learn what happens when you create user interfaces designed to trick users. See where that gets ya. Dark Patterns: User Interfaces Designed to Trick People

If you’ve ever experienced seeing the word “Spam” or “scam” in Google Instant for searches on your brand, read this SEOMoz piece. It’s well written and loaded with great advice. PS. SEOMoz, ya’all need a “print only” version of your posts. I did not want to print out all the comments, but the article is so good, I HAD to print it out. Our Online Reputation Management Playbook

Buy. This. Book. Social Media Marketing by Li Evans. I was shocked at how much information she got in there. I read it cover to cover and to be honest, I knew she was smart but this book proves it.

Social Media Marketing: Engaging Strategies for Facebook, Twitter & Other Social Media is a business marketing book aimed for any company c-suite, executive & senior level management as well as both accomplished and novice marketers who want to learn the ins and outs of being successful with marketing plans that involve social media.

Hey. It’s 2011. Get your social on.

Speaking of which, the “Facebook is shutting down on March 15 rumor” was a RUMOR for God’s sake. Who spreads crazy stuff like this? Who believes in fake news stories? I tackled the topic in a blog post I wrote for, called With Online Marketing, It’s Easy to Fool Internet Users (Is this What We Want?).

Speaking of me. I write once a month for Search Engine Land’s “Just Behave” column. I never know how an article will be received by the search marketing community because I straddle SEO/M and usability/UX. The last two seemed to be accepted pretty well.

How Human Factors May Affect Information Indexing And Retrieval

Search results are skewed by what [search engines] can find and if there is nothing to find, there is no “knowledge” to share. It doesn’t mean that information doesn’t exist. It’s just not on the web. When we approach a search engine for information, what we’re getting back are hundreds of pages with content that may come close to what you want because somebody put it there to be found. The more difficult your query is, the more likely the sites you get back are abstract, mismatched or completely unrelated.

This one was tweeted a lot! How To Avoid Clunky Web Design With Holistic SEO & Usability. I even drew pretty pictures for it.

I’m getting used to the idea that I will be the mother of a United States Marine. I sent this link to my son and put it on my Facebook page. Loved it. To those calling for a civil war, this Marine wants you to stop, and think…

Regardless of your political ideology, you’ve earned the right as US Citizens to say your piece – no matter how wrong it may be. That is your right, and I will give my life to protect it.

But this government of ours is a democracy. We vote for our representatives, and they vote in our interests. Sometimes, the votes don’t go our way. That’s life, better luck next time. Exhaust your legislative options, and then focus on gaining the required votes and/or seats to achieve your desired legislative vote next election time. That’s the way things work.

But the SECOND you start committing acts of violence and vandalism, then you’ve usurped that Constitution. You in a way have assaulted it. And then you and I (I being every servicemember who has sworn to defend said Constitution) will have a MAJOR PROBLEM.

Showing off…Top Women of 2011.

I’m a Dr. Eric Schaffer groupie. Check this out. Impediments to a Mature UX Practice: and how to avoid them (Whitepaper)

10 Interface Design Tips to Improve Your Business Application

Any­one that has ever used a busi­ness appli­ca­tion has likely found them­selves won­der­ing why they have to be so hard to oper­ate. With all of the advances in tech­nol­ogy, you’d think busi­ness apps could be designed for a bet­ter user expe­ri­ence.

And, In the “Nobody Cares Kim” Department

One more week and my daughter returns to college and I can put everything back in the kitchen the way it was before. My son has a girlfriend, whom I adore. We hit it off. We always hug when he brings her over. I think that’s odd. But we have an instant bond. Hubby got me a Pandigital “Novel”, the Barnes and Nobel ebook reader. It’s an extremely affordable alternative to the Ipad and more colorful and jazzy than the Kindle. So now I’m not only a “bookaholic”, but a “NOOKBook” fanatic. Of all the books I sampled and downloaded, not a single one is work related.

I just finished an 8-week Tai Chi class and signed up for more. And I’m taking meditation workshops. Working from home since 2001 has acquainted me with “cabin fever”. So I leave the house to quiet my mind. Wait…what?