Why So Much Conflicting SEO Advice?

Professional SEO Blogger

If a person is a public SEO and their only gig is writing a blog about SEO (and selling client services to newbies) then it can be quite easy to share and not care. If they destroy a technique or someone else's business to earn a bit of attention who cares? They got the attention, and that can be converted into currency as herds of newbies flock to where the crowd and controversy are.

Which is why some of the sleaziest SEOs publicly promote SEO outing.

They understand that justifying their own business actions helps to legitimize them, even if they are hypocritical scumbags who use their blog to threaten and bully around people with a smaller platform. If you are doing effective SEO but are not paying them on retainer look for them to go out of their way to try to out you and harm your business.

Real SEO Professionals

But if a significant portion of your revenues comes from affiliate and/or ad driven sites which just happen to be ran by SEOs (which Google generally hate, in spite of some claims to the contrary) the care with which you give out information increases. And competition is not always above board.

Business Can Be Dirty

About a month ago a person contacting me about how they were an honest Joe wanted more tips from me, and about a week earlier I noticed that the same person stole something from one of my sites and was trying to compete directly against me using my own content!!!

About a year ago a "friend" claimed he wanted to invest in some of our businesses. He came up with an offer, got most of our information about some of our business ideas, grabbed a hold of some of our business relationships, and is now creating a similar business model competing head on. He claims that his capital was illiquid as for why he did not complete the deal, but he does not realize I know how much he spent on some other assets at the time. And a case of inadequate resources is never an adequate excuse when the person who approaches you names their offer price. They burned 100% of the trust I had in them to the ground. How could I ever trust them again?

A couple years ago one of my sites got dinged with a penalty. While that penalty was in play, another "friend" working on building other businesses told a friend of mine "clone Aaron's site," not expecting that sleazy advice would come back to me.

I think about a week ago someone asked me a blog comment along the lines of "what affiliate offers should I promote right now."

At that level the person...

  • is not a paying customer
  • is valuing my time at nothing
  • is trying to take away time I could spend servicing our paying customers (or attention I could spend promoting our other money making sites)
  • AND they want me to give them advice which would increase the competition we faced in our other publishing projects, sacrificing our future revenues

When I wanted to be well known there was value to popularity, but the people who are paying you $0 for your time AND who are asking specific specialized questions about what you are doing are only going to harm your business interests. And so you must say no thanks to answering those types of questions.

Real SEOs Become Guarded - or go Bankrupt!

After a few years of being constantly screwed over by a bunch of snakes and liars you simply decide to share less. Either you do that, or you are simply commoditizing the value of your own time (past/present/future) with each advanced tip you share publicly. Who wants to work harder to lower their current (and future) wages?

The internet marketing field is branded in part as being sleazy largely because a huge segment of the marketplace is. Even if 90% of PPC affiliate marketers were honest, the sleaziest 10% of the market will get 90%+ of the ad impressions because they are willing to go the extra mile to promote scams, bundle reverse billing fraud, use fake celebrity endorsements, create fake brands, etc. Given that search engines are willing to compete against their top advertisers and ad networks are how many internet marketers make their money, it is quite hard to build a sustainable business model unless you create and sell your own products.

And in the SEO market, if you are open and honest you set yourself up for Google penalties, competitors outing you, getting hate from envious competitors, and former "friends" trying to marginalize your business. Let alone contemplating how other third parties might use your public information against you. Not only is Google going out of their way to promote brands, but many of the big brands are further compounding that effect by heavily investing into SEO...and Google typically won't penalize the brand for doing the same thing that a smaller publisher would get penalized for doing.

Free Specific SEO Advice Worth Thousands of Dollars

Here is a ranking chart...let me tell you how to boost rankings for a site from nowhere to in the game on a bunch of keywords for only a few hundred bucks.

Well if I actually did that, it would just get burned to the ground.

Real SEO Goes Underground

Lots of other smart people have came to the same conclusions, which is why SEO has gone back underground. Yes some of the public information is decent, but more and more misinformation and hype are polluting the industry.

It is just like people writing about social media, but giving you a half-truth about how it organically spreads rather than mentioning what they really do to seed it...and where one rats out the next while selling himself to the highest bidder. As the market matures and SEO returns go from x hundred/thousand percent to y percent you can only expect competitors to act sleazier to gain any competitive advantage they can. After all, who wants to go back to having a regular old job?

Published: September 1, 2009 by Aaron Wall in marketing


September 1, 2009 - 2:24am

While I certainly agree with everything you're saying, I just wanted to add that the incredible amount of information being disseminated results in a ton of mixed signals about even the simplest of SEO elements. Because of these mix signals, even the legitimate "free" advice that's out there is overlooked or overruled.

Sadly, a lot of the folks signaling the loudest have the least amount of proven, verifiable results.

I've been pushing the idea of the "SEO mentor" a lot lately; someone that has proven results and can serve as a trusted guide to help navigate through all of the nonsense and misinformation.

My first "SEO mentor" was John Lessnau back in 2002 or so (props to you John...you're the man). He helped me get the ball rolling in the right direction and I repayed the favor by generating some nice revenue for him via Linkadage transactions, forum moderating, etc.

I wonder how many folks today have a legit SEO mentor guiding them....

September 1, 2009 - 3:14am

Well said Aaron!

I have to be honest, one of the main reasons I never signed up for your training program is because I've always thought about doing some sort of paid SEO subscription service one day down the road. And since I know your business model works so well(plus you are just good at what you do), I was worried I would "naturally" mimic your system too closely, and I didn't want to go down that road....

I agree with Real SEOs probably going underground. I've just been starting to interact with my fellow SEO community online, but after seeing some well respected SEOs promoting outing(for the very things they do themselves), I think I might be better off staying below the radar.... I mean who knows what might be lingering out there from my early days, and I can't afford to go to SEO jail.

September 1, 2009 - 4:08am

Ya know i started a seo blog awhile back.. I decided fuck that and kept working on my own shit that makes me money without giving people advice that would eventually lead to more competition for me...

This is why I will never go public anymore with anything I do online. As soon as someone gets a glimpse that something is doing well for you, they will either try to clone it or report it!

I have had a friend clone an ecommerce store I had since I shared with him that it was doing 20k a month and he thought he could do the same... he was wrong.. this shit takes heart, ambition and a heck of a work ethic.. not to mention so damn good rankings in Google....

September 1, 2009 - 2:38pm

What is so rough about that is that it makes you lose trust in the "friend" (because it doesn't make sense to trust them after they do that) and the "friend" resents you because they were nowhere near as successful as you are.

Far too often people try to do the exact same thing rather than applying the ideas and principals to parallel markets.

September 1, 2009 - 4:16am

A few thoughts:

1). Teaching is easy when you don't have any skin in the game, that's why I'm suspicious of "gurus". Did you ever watch the old Kung Fu series with David Carradine? That's how "gurus" should be. They should closely guard their secrets and only accept students who are absolutely worthy... and then they should teach them everything they know. Like they say "poor is the student who doesn't surpass his master; poor is the master who's student does not surpass him"

2). I'm still new to SEO, but this post seems like a direct response to a post Rand Fishkin wrote this morning. I don't know much, but I sense an SEO rivalry of Tupac and Biggie proportions. Unless you're an experienced SEO, it makes it hard to know who trust.

3). So if even your friends are double crossing you, how can you run an effective SEO training program? Either you have to conceal the really effective techniques you use, or share them at the risk of some scumbag outing you.


September 1, 2009 - 2:30pm

1.) I think for a long time many of my students far far far surpassed me because I was happy teaching and did not care too much about maximizing earnings. But my wife made me become more of a business person, and most the stuff we have been doing has been rocking. :)

Some of our students are still far more successful than we are, but that barrier is much higher than it was 3 or 4 years ago ;)

2.) I originally wrote this post right after reading the referenced post by John Andrews about how SEO is going underground. I edited it slightly yesterday & then published it.

3.) Well I have found that I can give pretty specific advice in our training program, but I try not to say "here is my site, and it is making $x".

September 1, 2009 - 8:43am

Just remember guys that not everything is about money.

September 1, 2009 - 2:26pm

When people...

  • act like they are your friend
  • dig for insights into your businesses and business models and marketing strategies
  • claim to want to invest & then back out (with bogus excuses, and then start building a direct competitor)
  • tell you they don't like certain ideas, and then clone them!
  • etc.

It is not about who is producing the best quality. And it is about nothing more than making a dollar off the back of someone else.

And if you look closely you will often see competing sites try to clone stuff we have offered here for a while. If you look at the newest tool offered by _____ you will see it is a feature light version of our Hub Finder tool we have offered for years.

Jill Whalen
September 1, 2009 - 3:35pm

Aaron, it sounds like you need some new friends!

September 1, 2009 - 3:48pm

It kills me to have a handle on something that works extremely well and is not well known, only to have somneone publicly out it for their momentary SEO notoriety! It's one of the worst things that happens at an SEO conference and I've been through it more than once.

September 1, 2009 - 4:11pm

Aaron, I agree with most of what you're saying. The search industry has been lumped in with the rest of the get rich schemes online for the past 3-5 years, so by you putting yourself out there with this site and the transparency of some of your posts you've really got to expect to be copied, taken advantage of and approached by various sharks looking to get involved.

I think among the real community you're very much appreciated and that your brand, among both professionals and newbies, is highly respected. I have heard from many people that your consultations are THE best money they've ever spent.

As an agency director I've generally remained underground about our client successes and strategies, other than in pitching new business, and have never pushed others to share their winning strategies, especially online on public blogs.

I feel that there is enough information out there from respected SEOs, those that actually do the work and see the effects of testing, that if you're destined to be successful with this at all you're going to be able to adapt what you read online to what you do specifically, without being told exactly what to do and how to do it step by step.

Of course cutting through the clutter of SEO versus SEO industry writer is a chore for the new people out there, but it doesn't take that long to figure out who's doing it and who's just talking about it. Keep it up man.

September 1, 2009 - 6:19pm

I am glad people are spreading the word about our consulting services, and that they see good returns! :)

Thanks for the kind comment and endorsement algofreaks.

September 1, 2009 - 4:30pm

Great post - and bitter as it may come over, I'd say if anything you're actually guilty of understating the issue.
A couple days ago someone skyped me out of the blue: "I've been using software XYZ for 3 weeks now - why am I not making money?" (Yeh, I'm not making this up.) So I asked: "Do you want to hire us for consultation?" After he inquired about our rates, that was basically the end of the matter (apart from one more daft half-assed attempt at getting something for nothing...)
So at the end of the day it's "if you spill all the beans, don't expect to get fed".
Information sharing amongst peers is a great thing - but that's "peers" as in "equals", not as in "I'm so awesome I must be entitled no matter what". Parasites and vampires simply don't qualify, heh.

September 1, 2009 - 6:24pm

Right...the people who go "I installed your free tool / read your blog / stole a copy of your ebook and you owe me the world" are unbelievable.

Anybody who out of the blue invites me to Google Talk or asks me questions via email as if I owe them (even though they paid $0) gets no value. Why should I help those people? Worse yet, even if you tried to help them most wouldn't listen anyhow.

About a week ago I had one person tell me they needed guaranteed instant positive ROI beforehand to spend $150 with us BECAUSE they were broke as they just put $10,000 on their credit card to buy some make a wish hyped up internet marketing system. How could any internet marketer want to bankrupt people for a living? Sad, really.

September 1, 2009 - 5:56pm

NOT!..fuck blogs, fuck twitter.. keep a tight ship!!

My "friend" cloned my store which came out to be more of a miserable failure than the last administration...

I'm glad he failed and learned that just by stealing my ideas he can't mimic my success...

but what I have taken away from that is.. you can't trust anyone when it comes to putting food on your table...

the person that is your friend who you have shared ideas with over years will turn their back on you to jump in your market if your successful..

Don't share shit, I'm not gona...anymore

Oh and the funny thing is... he thinks he's some internet marketing rock star too...

September 2, 2009 - 2:36pm

And don't forget about all the 'great' advice coming from overseas in the form of "link wheels" and "Arnie and Joannes Link Building Bonanza" and other worthless pieces of advice and offers of miracles for $14.99 -

The best SEO tactics will always come from your personal testing and experience and once you commit all those resources to testing, why would you want to share it for free?

September 2, 2009 - 7:21pm

1st they ask you about your pricing
2nd they start asking more questions (like if they're interested)
3rd they say they will hire you
4th they start asking specific questions to improve their site rankings

Guess what? They never hire you or call you back

It's a shame that lots of people become or try to become a friend of yours just to use you.

September 14, 2009 - 5:20pm

52 years on the planet. Experience Talks. Don't give it all away, you'll definitely get ripped off and not just now but forever.

The catch 22 with SEO is that potential clients with money willing to pay for the best are looking for the authorities in SEO. Authorities in SEO put on an internet, PubCon and other area shows... those who are the speakers are the ones that innovate and break ground and publicly display their research data.

So don't go public, go underground. If you're not on the circuit that means oblivion. If you're a big name in SEO going underground is cool. The well known "recluse super genius" will always be in demand.

So the question is this Aaron: How does the smart guy (with no connections), the independent clean face in the crowd starting with not even enough to buy a PubCon ticket get to the point of being recognized as an authority without outing any secrets? To that hypothetical guy such advice to go underground sounds like a trick to keep him (and the denizen hoards of new generation SEOs) from poaching big game on the reserve.

September 15, 2009 - 12:01am

If the smart guy with no connections has no revenues then I might challenge the self-imposed smart label...or maybe they had bad luck recently.

When I started I started with credit card debt...but even then I got a job for 8 months to fund business essentials while I kept doing everything possible to learn and network and build up momentum. I was reading like a book or 2 a week AND going to in person events AND had a job AND was learning HTML at the same time I was learning marketing fundamentals AND learning SEO AND building links for my site.

You are 100% correct about speaking gigs being how to pull in the big clients. Almost every large client project I have done has come from in person conference meetings from people who saw me speak.

And one of the easiest ways to become a speaker on the conference circuit is to be a well known blogger.

From my own personal experience this is one of the highest effort and lowest return websites that we run. Truth is our $150 a month service delivers more value than many (perhaps most?) $10,000+ a month SEO packages do.

Some people might care about poaching big game on the reserve...but if you look at how our site is currently closed to new members signing up you will see that I am speaking truth rather than deceiving like some other SEOs are known to do.

For now I like the publishing business model way more than the consulting model. The reason our member's area here is great though is because I learn a lot from it as our members on average tend to be quite sophisticated and successful. In essence I created the product I wanted to buy...but then again that (and a deep care for customer success) might be why I don't monetize this site as well as some competing sites are monetized.

Also worth noting that in reference to the above blog post there is a big difference between sharing a few practical and creative tips here or there and sharing stuff that will get burned to the ground. But you don't know how the market reacts (and who the snakes in the crowd are) until AFTER you have been bit.

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