Why does SEO have a bad name?
No matter what we think of ourselves, beavering away in our own market sectors – whether we come from a web design background, a pure SEO background, or a marketing background – the fact is that we have a fairly poor reputation with some of the general public and more importantly the very business people who need our services the most. The situation seems to be worse in the USA but we should be aware of it here in the UK as well.
The other day I wrote an article on the Oyster Web site (Why Danny has to use the f-word) regarding the exasperation felt by SEO guru Danny Sullivan over persistent attacks by two US businessmen who repeatedly refer to SEOs as spammers and a problem for search. While we in Scotland have escaped a lot of the bad reputation, possibly due to our national image as solid, trustworthy and straightforward, there remains a suggestion that search engine optimisation is all tricks and snakeoil done by geeks fronted by used car salesmen barely keeping one step ahead of the algorithms.
You sometimes get the impression that some SEO companies perpetuate this in order to make it seem that they have some secret knowledge that you have to buy to be successful. While at the other end of the scale there is the real nuisance of the cowboys who charge a few hundred quid and do a grab-it-and-run job leaving the hapless client with a site that will drop out of the indexes as soon as the spiders spot the hidden text or cloaked content. Their bad practice inevitably tars the whole industry.
Improving our image
If SEO is to take its correct place within a mature web industry we have to get rid of this poor image and be seen as the skilled professionals that most of us are. Let’s say it loud and clear. SEO is the art of combining well written quality content, good coding and programming, good design, good usability, and good marketing to make websites that are attractive to users, relevant to search engines and deserve to be highly regarded by both. It takes skills in all these areas and the ability to combine them successfully. No tricks, no cheating, just good professional work. (and very little swearing!)