Why Many of the Best SEO Ideas Are Not Found on Popular SEO Blogs

Dec 21st

Bad Dated Advice

People who are well established can trade on reputation and attract strong enough clients to not need to perform tests to learn the algorithms intimately well.

Recently another well known marketer put out a video saying domain names were irrelevant to SEO. Then they got feedback from viewers who said they thought that statement was wrong. And then their reply sent to thousands of members on their list included

It's true that your domain name has no REAL effect on your SERPS.

That answer is intuitive, but it is also incorrect. The only way one would claim that as fact is if one has not done any testing recently.

It is one thing to be wrong, but it is another thing to be wrong, be called out on it, and stand by your incorrect claim. People are spending good money to read incorrect and/or outdated information. Unfortunate really, but if you are already doing well you don't need to track and test every little thing to keep doing well. Very few gurus openly sharing information have thin affiliate and newly launched test sites that back up their claims. But it is getting harder to succeed with thin affiliate sites as Google becomes creative director of content development.

Share REALLY Good Tips & Die

Most established people are too lazy or too busy to do in depth testing. And if they are doing it, they probably do not want to share it publicly. Share a hole and watch it get plugged. After a search engineer reads your blog and destroys one of your sites you mentioned, it makes it much harder to want to reveal tips and algorithmic holes with hard evidence behind them. Show your proof and watch Google burn it to the ground. Even if you know what you are doing you can't overcome a hand edit unless it was unjust AND they care enough about your site to let it rank again. You were right, but only until you opened your big mouth. :)

Much of the game of relevancy is a mind control exercise. The conversation revolves around debates including "should be" or "in an ideal world" rather than "how it is".

The Endless Sea of Tests & Noise

People newer to the field have less to risk by being aggressive, place a lower value on their time, are generally more excited about the pursuit, are more willing to try things that established people may not, and are more willing to share their results. But many of them have limited exposure, limited confidence, and/or are drowned out by an endless sea of incorrect information. With so many people saturating the SEO market it is getting harder to be the person first with the scoop. Today blogs are a lot like forums were a few years back. There is no way you could ever get any work done if you subscribed to all the SEO blogs, so it is impossible to read all the information.

Marketing, Marketing, Marketing

If you create a public facing SEO brand, so much of your time goes into brand management and marketing that it is hard to have time to launch many new sites unless you have scaled out a staff. If you have scaled out a staff, you must keep more of your secrets to yourself, because getting a site burned or losing a competitive advantage not only hurts you, but also hurts everyone who works for you. This really hit home after Google killed a site that I had a team working on.

I Was Just Looking At Your Site!

Some of the people who introduced themselves on SEO Book recently mentioned that they were in fields or owned sites that directly competed with some of my sites. If I share all my best ideas with them for free on the blog and they share almost none of their best ideas with me that gets a bit hard to compete with them on my secondary sites, especially if I am competing with them and search engineers decide to pillage my sites. ;)

More Work for Less $ = Bad Trend

The market is getting more competitive. So longer hours are required to achieve similar profits from thin sites. People who see and feel this trend are not only working extra to make up for it, but are also working extra to establish a firmer foothold for the future. 1 hour of work today may be more effective than 2 hours of work next year, or 3 hours of work the following year. But after you get that network effect behind a site the ball is rolling down hill. Gravity is on your side.

SEO as a Subset of Marketing

As it gets harder to fake it people make more legitimate sites offering more value. But as their sites become more embedded in the web doing SEO tests related to links become less and less relevant because it is harder to isolate variables. Dominating the search results becomes a game dominated by the people who are the best at spreading ideas. And so with each passing day SEO for most webmasters is more of a subset of marketing than an independent discipline.

Published: December 21, 2007

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Comments

December 21, 2007 - 9:45am

Aaron,

I have something that I've been thinking about for a while, but what about a (paid) "exclusive club" that somehow takes into account a) what field you're in, and b) that you don't work for the search engines.

Do you think that something like that is really possible? Did I just blow the lid off my million dollar idea? I can't be the first one to think of this...

~NickB

December 21, 2007 - 9:54am

Hi Nick
The hard parts are attracting the right members, filtering out the noise, and putting it together in a way where egos did not clash too heavily.

December 21, 2007 - 1:18pm

THIS is one of my biggest concerns. There is so much worthless drivel online now, how can anyone contribute to any community or society at large for that matter, when everyone is afraid to say anything of substance.

And it seems the gatekeepers are satisfied to allow that to happen, even encourage, maybe even steer it in that direction, as long as there is one more page to display one more ad on.

The people who would take advantage have always been there. There has always been a strategic advantage given to those who knew when to speak and when to keep their mouths shut. What is different now is that EVERYTHING said to ANYBODY is easily found and there now seems to be a perception that anything said online is not only up for grabs for free but that you are stupid if you don't steal it.

Maybe that is just progress and I'm too old school to see the benefit to the world but it concerns me.

The old school way is you learned who you could trust and you could structure social situations where you could speak openly about certain topics to certain people, but now, anything you say you are essentially trusting everyone and we all know that is a mistake. So all that is left is self serving, link baits thinly disguised as sharing advice and providing helpful content.

I'm sure a paid forum is not the way, but I do think there is a human need to share and trust and I also think there is extreme commercial value to the one who can find a way to provide a reasonable structure to satisfy those needs.

seems to me, the first step would be to exclude search engine spiders from the content. But then the question becomes how to monetize it at least to the point of being self-sufficient.

December 21, 2007 - 10:44pm

Hi Bob
I agree with just about everything you said here. This is an issue I would love to solve. I don't think search engines want shitty watered down information though. I just think that is a side effect of everything else. And for now they feel they have bigger fish to fry, and figure the web will naturally surface the best information.

The other piece with that though is personalization and bias. I think they believe they overcome these with result diversity, but I do not believe showing a diverse set of incomplete data or heavily skewed data is intellectually honest. But relevancy algorithms have not moved much beyond measuring remarkability.

December 21, 2007 - 3:42pm

It's interesting that you mentioned that domain name statement. I saw that as I'm on that e-mail list, and knew it was wrong too. I have an e-commerce site, and I am seeing exact-match keyword domains from domainers making first page in Google results and offering nothing but a page of text ads. I'm sure the domain name is not the only reason for why they are there, but it surely helps. The results are definitely not content based.

December 21, 2007 - 10:24pm

That is the sort of stuff I am seeing too. There are a lot of ways to test the domain stuff too. But one would have to test it to know.

December 21, 2007 - 6:02pm

I was considering throwing together a forum that is private/invite only for a group of online marketers/SEO's who might not have the time to do testing alone but could contribute and collaborate as a group and share results. No ads, no spam, not even public viewing.

I have often wondered why SEOs leave old information on their blogs or don't update their e-books (I know Aaron does).

Aaron, could I post an email address for people interested in maybe starting a private forum for the above purposes? I know you are a mod at several public boards and I don't want to overstep any lines.

December 21, 2007 - 10:17pm

Hi Rotatedspectrum
I think the reason old blog posts and old web pages go without update is largely because:

  • if it is free many people value it at nothing
  • most people in this space click few ads
  • the market has yet to realize the value of updated content

Sure you can post your email if you like.

December 22, 2007 - 2:11am

I know it is harder for branding to have a domain with a hyphen in it, but what is the better domain to have from a organic search perspective - an exact keyword match with or without a hyphen. Also do you think there is a lot different between the two.

December 22, 2007 - 2:27am

Big difference between the two, with that advantage going to non hyphenated domain names.

December 22, 2007 - 2:47am

Is it also correct that the shorter the domain name the better. For example would a short domain name such as UKDP rank better than a long one such as UKDataPool?

December 22, 2007 - 3:11am

It depends on a number of factors. Domain names tie into branding and marketing and SEO. To provide a seemingly correct but oversimplified answer to the question would defeat the point of this post.

To provide an in depth comprehensive answer would be selling consulting services for $0, which isn't very smart either. Check out these posts, particularly the one with the video in it.

December 22, 2007 - 7:51pm

Hi Aaron,

I do agree with you that giving away your best content turns around a can end up burning you when the people you're trying to help compete against you.

The absence of that however creates a massive void where you have the few who are in "the know" and then masses of sheep idly going about their day.

One solution, that I'm sure you've considered, is why not create a membership site. You can offer some premium style content, along with opening up the forums where SEOs can actually trade advice, share methodology (to a degree) and lesser-skilled members can benefit greatly.

I belong to a membership site for video editing (www.bmyers.com) and I get a lot of great information, quick responses, etc. And because it's a paid membership site (cheap, like $9 a month) it keeps the spam and silly comments away.

The money you'd be making would help offset potential losses from creating the platform and conduit to share the information in the first place.

Just my two cents...

Either way, keep up the great work.

Christopher Rees
Palaestra Training
IT Certification and Training Videos
www.palaestratraining.com

December 23, 2007 - 12:09am

Hi Christopher
I have a lot of stuff to clean of my plate, but I get what you are saying. I have some other stuff to launch, but I might think about trying this also.

December 22, 2007 - 8:32pm

I try to post useful stuff on my blog and I often think I am posting myself right out of a job but then I get a call from a guy who says "I sent your post on X to my entire team" and then they hire me to basically tell them what's already in the post (and of course a number of other things that aren't). While I am no doubt creating competition for myself and my clients in the current market there seems to be enough opportunity for all. As that opportunity shrinks I think the amount of good free info out there will shrink as well.

December 23, 2007 - 12:06am

Hi Andrew
True. If you want to sell consulting or get media exposure then great blog posts and articles help get that done. But it is a bit of a balancing act, because if you have sites that require virtually no work to make $500 or $1,000 a day, it is hard for clients to scale as well as owning a half dozen or dozen sites like that would. You keep much more of the pie if you own the site.

We have worked on some of the largest sites on the web, and have seen them implement many of our suggestions. While they surely saw great ROI from our tips, our return on that a fraction of a fraction of a fraction of the value we helped create for the clients.

December 23, 2007 - 12:52am

I mean, you could always go with the traditional means. When you want to get a group of people together to study the same subject, in this case internet marketing, you could always go to a major university and run tests there.

Get a crew of great minds together and put down some processes for internet marketing at a major university.

I think its a topic worthy of its own major, and if it isn't now, will be in the next 5 years.

However, I also think you may be going a little far, throwing the baby out with the bath water. IMHO, it is only in our industry that this free information penalty from the search engine occurs. In my experience, in almost every other industry the opposite is true. If you give out free information, you can get rewarded with targeted traffic.

December 24, 2007 - 5:25pm

Great topic and I am glad you brought it up. SEO is a very young industry indeed, and we will need to continue to move boeyond just Search Engines and maybe even start calling it SO. Next we would need to start moving away from terminology involving search engines and maybe start using "findability" of a product or services. Only then we will be viewed as online marketers rather than one trick ponies.

On a side note this reminds me of a Russian saying (toast) that my dad used to say at drinking dinner parties. It reminds me of what is happening with SEO community. (rough translation)

"To the three stages of drinking. At first one man speaks and everyone listens, like I am doing right now. Second everyone turns to the person next to them forgetting about their friends at the end of the table. And to the last stage, everyone speaks, but no body listens!"

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