If you are a newcomer to SEO and read a recent article on the future of SEO you would discover there are 16 “expert, industry veterans” in SEO and they are men.
The article, Expert Insights On The Future Of SEO, Part 1, is taking some heat for its featuring men.
For me, the issue isn’t about gender. That was the trigger. The red balloon that escaped into the sky to make us all look up and take notice. The real pain point is the imbalance. The lack of leadership needed in an industry with boundless talent that continues to be represented by the same people slapping the same backs, beating the same drums.
According to some comments left in Part 1, several of the women who were contacted had specific reasons for not participating. For example,
“I’ve been asked to provide detailed answers as quickly as possible “within 48 hours” so “businesses planning their 2015 budgets can use my input to lay foundations for future results”.
Another woman wrote,
“My first thought was they wanted me to lay out, in detail, what companies pay me to lay out.”
She is absolutely 100% correct in her assessment here. I no longer accept requests for these types of articles for the exact same reason. If a company needs expert advice, they should pay for the expert. A smart businessperson keeps the very best and valuable advice private, for use with paying clients.
The series, in my opinion, was an opinion fluff piece rather than an expert advice series. From now until the end of the year and into next year the topic of looking into crystal balls will be popular. What is the purpose of these articles?
Again, the balance is off. What would drive a CEO, Founder or VIP to take the time to share expert advice? Do they need the traffic and sales, brand reminder, and links? They are already famous. Was there no value in finding newcomers?
Clearly, Danny Sullivan is appalled at what has happened with the article. He already knows and understands the hurt women in SEO feel on a regular basis as they strive to find a seat in a male dominated industry. No doubt he will do whatever he can to fix this wrong. But will he be working on repairing the correct wrong?
How many times a year do we have to see evidence of gender imbalance in a technical industry? It’s an old fight that for most women in the SEO industry isn’t even the point. What matters is finding leaders who make a difference.
Well written, authoritative articles boost the credibility and brand of the site that runs them. The strategy is to find skilled columnists who are not afraid to research and get quotes from experienced professionals. However, we see the same people interviewed over and over again.
Is there any interest in asking SEO professionals, who are not experts and veterans, how they may see the future of SEO? They may have a different set of expectations or perspectives not influenced by past practices. Perhaps they have invented their own strategies and have something new to teach us. It is an honor to be asked to participate in a series and it helps new people with their new companies to attract business. Networking can be done in many ways, and one of them is by inviting a wide variety of people to participate in interviews and articles that feature various opinions and advice.
The best leaders are generous. They are not vain, egotistical, greedy or unjust. They know the value of providing all perspectives. They listen with an open mind to all opinions, not just the elite, famous, well to do and successful people. They value the skills brought to their industry by both genders.
When people don’t like something, they form their own group. In the SEO industry there have been gatherings at conferences that are for women only. There have been websites that feature just women in SEO. This signal went ignored by anyone in a leadership position but it provided a much needed way for the women in the SEO industry to meet and support each other. It opened up new business opportunities. This new group divided from the greater group because it felt ignored and undervalued. These women wanted balance. It was never about inequality or a battle of the sexes.
To me the fault of the article could be felt by anyone who values leadership and centered, balanced and unbiased information.
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.
The 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.
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.
There remains an ocean between human factors/usability/user experience design and testing and search engine optimization, marketing and internet marketing practices, with no bridge to cross over.
What’s worse, few are willing to build that bridge. Perhaps it’s because every time someone starts to they are tossed into the ocean or burned at the stake. Usability and SEO have been on two sides of web site projects since forever. They are separated into different departments, different buildings, different conferences, different books, and different discussion groups. Because I’m trained and skilled in both I’m treated as an outsider.
Since I started out in (and was first known in) the search engine marketing industry (when it was called “web site promotion” and “SEO” and PPC/PPI were just babies), I kept that as my base. It’s easier to network and connect with people who know you and realistically, as a single working mom, speaking at conferences and traveling to network with the usability side was not in my budget. Nor was getting to SEO functions, but thanks to the generosity of friends and my willingness to volunteer for free access, I got a start.
I have few friends from the usability side because to them I’m too closely aligned with marketers. What they don’t realize is the SEO camp threw me out too because I use these words when I write about my work:
“usability”, “user experience”, “web design”
and because, unlike Tim Ash, Roger Dooley, Shari Thurow, Bryan and Jeff Eisenberg, I’m not a book author who have written about landing page conversions, user behavior and marketing, and searchability and persuasive design.
I just do this stuff for a living.
Build a Raft
Some larger corporations learned that web site design is a unified team project and that each contribution is vital to the whole. They don’t start a project until the user experience people and search engine marketing people have a few beers first and shake hands.
Some SEO companies incorporate some form of usability review. Typically these are basic standards compliance only and never go beyond that into analyzing the data from a user experience and behavioral perspective. They also leave out information architecture, accessibility, mobile testing, forms, software application and shopping cart testing.
Because, of course, nobody in their right mind wants to market to ALL the people who use web sites.
Meanwhile, user experience people have been punching holes in all kinds of directions and I’m not just talking about the little donuts here folks. Search engines and companies like Amazon are so fascinated about how you buy stuff, like stuff, hate stuff and use stuff that they’re creating software to track behavior, algorithms to figure out credibility and chasing anyone who studies the brain to see what they can tell us about how we make decisions.
Not including user interface engineering and usability in a project plan from the very start is like shooting clay pigeons with a blindfold on while standing on one foot.
If you are hiding in a search engine marketing bunker somewhere looking to shoot the next person who utters the word “usability”, congratulations on your 15 seconds of page rank success and I hope you have more trees for the money you’ll invest in those ads that don’t convert. PS. Does your nicely ranked web site page or well placed ad that cost a small fortune click to a page or site that works on mobile devices and screen readers? Thought so.
If you’re sitting on the high human factors mountain where all things are magically sold, you believe that keywords are nonsense, search engines will “eventually figure it out” and you have no interest in helping a site owner make money, develop a brand, pay their mortgage and hire people to help the economy, have fun in you next life with karmic burden.
If you are one of the Silent Ones who agree with me that user experience and internet marketing can share a house together, please find the courage to come forth and express the benefits (of which there are countless) of applying techniques from both practices.
I need help building the raft.
I was struck by Jordan Kastler’s The Hidden Cost Of Cheap SEO & Social Media Labor because I wrote about this in the 1990’s.
In fact, my article caught the eye of a local newspaper reporter who later interviewed me about my new business and rather forceful writings. He promoted what I wrote about Yahoo! where I stated, “Anyone who says they can get you into Yahoo!’s directory for free is flat out lying.” The original premise of the first Cre8pc web site was focused on all the good and bad of SEO practices and tools. In those days, me, Ammon Johns, and Fantomaster (Ralph Tegtmeier) stalked DejaNews, Usenet groups, and the more popular SEO forums and clubs, trying our best to teach best practices, blast the hell out of incredibly stupid, cheap thrill web site promotion tricks, practices and software that allowed people to rip off clients. (Even the cloaking pioneer, Ralph, had class and integrity in his approach.)
In 1998, I was so frustrated by the SEO industry, that I started the Cre8pc Web Site Promotion club in Egroups, acquired by Yahoo! Groups, and in 2002, moved to a friend’s server and turned into a real forums. Today’s Cre8asiteForums still maintains and supports best practices. Should anyone try to promote idiotic SEO practices, use the forums as a link boost, or post incorrect information that would hurt the vast web design and marketing industries they are instantly removed, with no warning. Every single new member is screened because we uphold our integrity there.
As Jordan wrote in his wildly popular article,
I know how devastatingly costly it can be to launch, maintain, and grow a business. But there are certain aspects of building a business where it’s never okay to cut corners. You wouldn’t hire an inexperienced, too-cheap contractor to build the building. You wouldn’t buy discounted, bruised produce if you owned a restaurant and you wouldn’t buy day-old bread for your sandwich shop.
Even worse, for me, are companies that invest in search engine optimization, search engine marketing, analytics and social media marketing, but totally ignore user experience web design. This still happens and it just freaks me out. Today alone I tried to search for and order a textbook at the college where my son goes. It was so impossibly difficult to figure out where and how and what to do that I gave him my debit card and sent him straight to the college’s bookstore.
In another visit today, I viewed a brand new web site by a web design and marketing company. It’s pretty but has so many usability and organic SEO issues it would take me a few hours to document them all. I really hate web sites where you can’t bookmark a page (AJAX) or the pages cut off the bottom part and there’s scrollbar so you can’t move the page down read more. I also dislike web sites that special needs users will NEVER be able to use and many people will never be able to read due to the poor color contrasts and delicately faint feathery wisps of text that require a magnifying glass to make out.
Clearly, they don’t have a usability person on their team.
Don’t buy your links. Don’t fall for miracle-worker pitches, and be prepared to pay a decent price for a linkbuilding campaign. It’s the only way to ensure you’ll get results—real results that won’t get your site banned.
The only thing worse than site owners that believe in buying links, is trying to convince a client to STOP BUYING LINKS while they bitch to you that their PR score is pathetic and their site ranks lower than their competition. There are children starving in the world and yet marketers get away with charging site owners THOUSANDS of dollars a MONTH on linking schemes. (On web pages that suck.)
That moment when you realize you wasted all your money on a web site that sucks and marketers who ripped you off.
The Result of Cheap SEO Services
I don’t know if it’s hilarious or saddening that so many people fall for scams and get-rich-quick schemes from amateurs. I don’t know how many times I’ll have to keep exasperatedly saying, “There is no such thing as cheap SEO.” Because there isn’t.
No matter what low price you pay for Web design, SEO, or social media up front, you will wind up paying later on. Your site will get penalized. Your accounts will get blocked. And you will have to spend the time in the long run: whether it’s countless hours spent explaining things to a newbie, fixing a so-called “professional’s” mistakes, or working to recover your reputation, in the end, those pennies saved will cost you all the same.
So here’s a hint, a final plea, a last bit of advice: there are no shortcuts. Anyone who offers you one is a cheat, a liar, a scammer, or someone that has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about.
Like I said, me and a very small handful of others (Jill, Ammon, Kalena) have been on message regarding hiring the right skills, sticking to best, tested practices and applying the ENTIRE 360 degree approach to design and marketing that begins with knowing and documenting site and business requirements, to human factors web design, and online marketing using real data and strategies that don’t make search engines vomit out the web site.
Some of us, from the 1990’s and early 2000 years, have chosen to work with honesty, credibility and practices we’ve tested and proven to work for the long haul. We charge more because we’re under the impression that site owners want to succeed for years and we’ll support that with gusto.
Others have become famous, risen and fallen, risen and died off, risked web sites destroyed online businesses, and claim to have made millions by out witting search engines and creating the Lazurus Effect (raising sites from the dead). Their methods use cheap labor (Have you seen the fee’s in work from home and freelancer sites for cheap SEO and content spamming? Sheer insanity.)
Dear Jordan Kasteler. Thank you so much for the shameful reminder that in nearly 20 years, nothing much has changed in the search engine marketing industry.
Just when I was seriously considering not writing articles for other publications for awhile, something happened. I wrote an article that poured out in one take for Search Engine Land’s newly renamed “Search and Usability” column and delivered it way past my deadline. Turns out, it was a hit.
I’d been pondering lately how hard it can be to describe what online marketers and web site designers and developers do for a living. Ask 10 of us what we do and you’ll get 10 different answers. It gets even more complicated if you run into someone who is cross trained or specializes in combinations of skills from the marketing and user centered design camps. Way complicated.
What came tumbling out under pressure last week is Why Blending Usability & SEO Really Matters. At my last check, it had been Tweeted 716 times. I think that’s a record for anything I’ve written for SEL. Or anywhere.
The comments and social signals indicate the article has been making rounds. There is much more acceptance of holistic SEO and UX practices today than ever. It’s been my lead topic of writing for 15 years and basis for all of my work. While I continue to see and experience evidence of severe ignorance by companies about making the user experience vital, I’m encouraged that the movement to unite SEO and UX is not only out there, but kicking ass.
We all benefit from this.
Have you ever sat around a large table with a group of people working on a giant jig saw puzzle? Some people are really good at it. They understand the puzzle. Others are content to find border pieces. It takes patience. It brings the group together while they put it all together.
What if you have the chance to build your own house? You’ll hire an architect who listens to your goals, likes, dislikes and dreams. From that a plan is established. From the first shovel of dirt to the last drop of paint, it’s built with you in mind. You’re the mental model. You’re the person or family who will be using the final product.
Pretend, for a moment, that you are The Creator. You want a tree. Where do you put it? What kind should it be? Who is it for? What does it do? If you want birds to use it, what might they need from the tree?
Underneath a tree is its information architecture. We don’t see it working in the background, but it’s there. It controls how the tree grows. It relies on input from above ground for its sustenance, such as water or interference from a close neighbor tree that makes it harder to find. This is “findability”. Our tree wants to be found by its “users” such as the birds who need it for their nests or a hot and thirsty human who needs its shade. The Creator knew in advance that this tree would be popular. It was designed to be talked about. With some pruning of branches, good soil or perhaps a tire swing for a visiting grandchild, it could certainly be talked about and referred to by others who found and love the tree. With enough social networking and marketing, the entire planet could be populated with trees.
Information Architecture is Your Canvas
My favorite artist likes to work on blank white 8 x 6 feet canvas and larger. When he performs live art with music for an audience, he enters a zone where he is the creator. From the outside, the paint splashes and brush strokes look chaotic. It’s only when you stand a few feet away when its finished that you see he’s painted a street in New York’s Times Square, by memory. People feel drawn inside the canvas. They often feel emotional. Sometimes the details he has added, that weren’t obvious at first, trigger a memory or a moment, similar to how we might feel when a certain song comes on the radio.
Can you imagine building an online store where visitors arrive and are emotionally moved to make a purchase? We’re not there yet. Sometimes in the effort to provoke feelings, a site will rely on videos, rotating images and artistic Flash presentations designed to lure you into the web site. Despite how fun this is to build and watch, the distraction, download time, and typically strange navigation make completing a task frustrating. Information architecture covers many areas.
For persons looking for how it used for search engine optimization or user experience design, the emphasis is on organizing information so that tasks can be performed, pages are easy to find and index and will appear at the top of search results.
This is a tall order and absolutely not easy. I have notepads on my desk of sketches where I try and work out the entire foundation of a web site and organize it for navigation, searchability and easy task completion. Every element I put on the page, from a link label, to an image, to where a navigation link makes the most sense is attached to a round of questions in my head. Who is the site for? What are the products and what is the best way to organize and present them for people and search engines? Do I need hubs or groups and if so, how do I connect them to other levels? Where do I put the lead task, once I understand what that is. It’s goes on and on…
You can spot a web site that has not had a proper information architecture prepared for it. The homepage shows everything at once. It’s crammed with products, ads, redundant navigation (based on the fear principle that says, “If they didn’t find this earlier on the page, here it is again and again.”), no breadcrumbs on inside pages and overall feeling you get while looking at it is sheer exhaustion.
This may be a factor in the increase of persons seeking expert help with blog setup and design. Much of the foundation is already finished.
Fear Not – IA Help Is Here
There has been a spike in interest, so the following are our recent writings for you to choose from:
When Good SEO Becomes Bad Information Architecture by Shari Thurow
Site Navigation & Information Architecture Fundamentals For SEOs by Kim Krause Berg
Key Information Concepts Every SEO Should Know by Shari Thurow