Every week I have the same conversation with a different person. It usually involves some bad SEO idea about how to make a website get more traffic through some lazy, bullshit keyword-focused trickery; a hidden gem that this person uncovered, that millions of other people on the planet haven’t uncovered or attempted.
I know that this person thinks their ideas are great. That Google is, effectively, an electronic rolodex for keywords and that my work is to thumb through a thesaurus under a guise of “keyword research.”
My special combination of ADHD and being an asshole (as my wife will probably attest to) means there are only so many “What if we bought this domain?” or “What if we bought links from Fiverr” schemes that I can take in a given day.
But I’ve been working in the industry for awhile and have yet to have a client complain about my explanation of search engine optimization and, well, I haven’t been fired yet. Life metrics for success in my book.
Standing Up For Good Search Engine Optimization
To talk people out of bad search engine optimization, one approach is to just explain search engine optimization. This is the incorrect approach.
It’s the nature of the beast. SEO itself is a mixture of best practices, personal philosophies, and magic vs. an easily defined and structured process.
Don’t confuse your client further with a rambling explanation of the nuances of modern search engine optimization.
Instead, just tell people no. In the most direct, terse, and honest way possible that it’s a terrible decision. You being forceful let’s them know the gravity of the situation — that making cheap moves with organic traffic can cost them business and traffic in the long run; you’re taking care of them, regardless of if they can see it or not.
How To Not Explain Search Engine Optimization
Explanations into SEO equal two hour-long afternoon meetings on Friday. You’re goal is to camp SEO into simple tropes that sort of answer the question, but are largely about you simplifying answers to steer your client into good SEO.
People like the idea that time changes things. The reason they shouldn’t do something is a matter of changing preferences and emotional needs of search engines.
Search Engines reward people who are hard working, ethical people. Manipulation or contortion of anything outside good, old fashioned content development will anger the Google gods will result in little traffic.
3. Everyone Would Do it
The thesis that “Well, everyone would just do that” seems to resonate with people. If some technique, like making a bunch of pages related for a certain geographic location, worked then everyone would do that — making it a zero sum game.
4. Google Doesn’t Want To Help You
I like framing Google as an organization that doesn’t have an incentive to help a business. I’ve often said something like “There’s no annual ‘Here’s What You Should Do To Rank Higher Everyone 2015 Report’ from Google.”
The point is that Google is a private organization with its own business interests that often do not overlap with the objectives of whatever your client is trying to do. Also that Google is sort of a blackhole for information, especially for SEO.
5. Actual Results
When you need to prove a concept is a bad idea, citing examples from other clients is a pretty good method. I like to base this off organic traffic from Analytics since it’s the ultimate proof-is-in-the-pudding way to say “This didn’t work, see?”. You can also combine this with potential risk of penalties from Google as a method for discouraging a bad practice even further.
The Confidence Trick
I know a lot of SEO answers. I don’t know all of them. I have a noticeable Southern accent, but can articulate words and talk ad nauseam about any subject. My point is confidence.
I say things confidently, even if I am not confident. This doesn’t translate to me omnipotently prescribing information. It means that I give the best information that I have at the time. I research it later and adjust it if it’s not accurate.