SEO: The Snake Oil Of The 21st Century

Oct 11, 13 SEO: The Snake Oil Of The 21st Century

Lately I’ve been getting a few emails promising to help increase the visibility of my website on Google. The firms promise to help me via SEO – Search Engine Optimization. To me this is snake oil for the 21st century.

I’m not saying that all SEO is absolutely smoke and mirrors, but what amazes me is that I get these random pitches promising how it will increase my revenue.

Here is the funny thing, I have a few websites for my various endeavors, but the one I’m most contacted about is little more than a long since updated site about me, with links to really old articles. I haven’t updated this site in years and until these SEO emails came in, I hadn’t even looked at it.

I last updated the site when I was in the process of buying an apartment in New York City and needed a place to direct the co-op board of the building where they could see that I was really a full-time writer for legitimate news organizations. In other words, I’m not selling anything, promoting anything and I don’t personally care if anyone ever finds the site.

So why are the SEO firms contacting me?

First I must say, whatever SEO I put in must have done the trick, because the site was found by these guys! With that in mind, why would I pay these firms to improve matters?

But back to the question. They’re contacting me because they need business and they want the work. I get it, I’m a freelancer and I am always looking for work.

Part of my due diligence when scouting for new gigs, however, is to see what an editor or media outlet might need from me, and I contact them accordingly with what I can offer.

The SEO firms contact me with the promise of riches, the promise of coming up on the top search on Google! Let’s see, my name is the oh-so-common “Peter Suciu.” I’m pretty sure if you do a Google search for it, you can find me. I’m not that hard to locate. I write a lot, I blog a lot, I comment on forums, etc. I’m pretty easy to find. Can anyone really improve on that?

That said, Tim Pritchard who is an SEO specialist at the ecommerce software supplier SellerDeck noted we all should “Beware the snake oil salesmen.”

“If someone guarantees you that they can get you to number one, make sure you get them to clarify,” Pritchard noted. “Any of us can get any old keyword to rank number one, but it doesn’t mean that it’s a useful or relevant one. No one can promise to get all of your relevant keywords to number one. Besides, what happens when they take on another client from the same industry? Get to know your SEO consultant and trust your instinct; don’t be easily sold to with meaningless patter.”


Can these SEO firms get Peter Suciu’s website to come up for the search “world’s greatest freelance writer,” and more importantly, would I even want one of my sites to come up for such a search? Probably not.

Truth be told, if that’s what I wanted, couldn’t I just create a page that uses the phrase, “World’s greatest freelance writer” a bunch of times? That would certainly help.

The point I’m trying to make is that even appearing as number one for a particular search won’t likely change much.  The unfortunate part is that SEO is sold like a miracle cure, but it still takes a lot more than just getting a top ranking.

Consider all the sites that blew millions of dollars on Super Bowl ads – that was publicity they paid for. Pets.com didn’t become the next big thing. All those catchy commercials a decade ago from eToys didn’t help it beat Toys-R-Us.

The fact is that you need to create a good product, offer good services or just do a good job. You do that and work the SEO yourself, you’ll do OK. Of course some SEO salesman will say, “step up, step up, let me take you to the next level.” Of course then they’ll want $1500 a month.

Image Credit: Thinkstock

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Peter Suciu is a freelance writer and has covered consumer electronics, technology, electronic entertainment and the fitness sports industry for more than 15 years. In that time his work has appeared in more than three dozen publications including Newsweek, PC Magazine and Wired. His work has also appeared on Forbes.com, Inc.com, Cnet.com, and Fortune.com. Peter is a regular writer for redOrbit.com.

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