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Is SEO a Complete Pointless Waste of Time?

It’s a question most people who have spent time that they will never see again on – googling for the Holy Grail of SEO answers (whatever that might be) and not finding anything other than frustration.

The reality is that more often than not, all you will find are smug, highly paid SEO ‘experts’ that blog constantly about improving your SERP (search engine results page) position, and tell you in no uncertain terms what exactly you should do to get to number one on Google.

seo complete pointless waste of time

“Nothing wrong with that…” I hear you cry, “…that’s just what I was searching for!”

Fine, but the truth is that no-one really knows the answer and the answers you get to the specific questions that you might be asking are great for leaving you chomping at the bit and desperate to get to work pushing your site up the search engine pages, but when you finally sit down in front of your computer with mouse in hand – how do you actually do it?

Radiohead and Search Engine Optimisation
A couple of years or so back, Radiohead broke with tradition and decided to sell their album, In Rainbows, themselves allowing fans to pay what they wanted for the album the honesty box method; it was seen as two fingers being stuck up to the established record industry juggernaut and a statement that ‘anyone can do it – you don’t need record companies anymore…’

You might be wondering what the connection is. Well Radiohead and the SEO experts that advise you to ‘write great content and they will come’ have more in common than immediately apparent.

Both speak from an elevated position and elevated positions tend to leave people isolated an out of touch with the real world. The real world for aspiring and struggling musicians remains the same; no publicity, no sales. How do you get publicity? The large-spending machine called a record company.

Your website might well already contain ‘great content’, after all, there are millions of talented writers out there across the globe. So someone telling you to ‘write great content’ is showing a complete lack of understanding when it comes to the small, struggling businessman with a small website.

And just as those proclaiming that the new revolution in music allows anyone to be able to release their music themselves and that you don’t need a record company anymore (er, fine but see above) we have SEO experts telling us to get ‘quality backlinks’ from sites with high PageRank and that .gov and .edu ones are the best (easy to say when you are highly successful and everyone already wants to link to you).

That’s great and true of course – but how do you do that? How do you get such sites to link to you if you are ordinary Mr Smith running his leaf-blowing service from his shed?

You might be lucky and stumble across a list of do follow sites that might allow you to get some decent backlinks – one of those Holy Grail moments. Yet in my experience, these lists are, on average, at least 70% inaccurate. Use Firebug, the Firefox plug-in, to see the code of such sites and you will more often than not see the following in the links that commenters add:

Select Code
<a href="mysite.com" rel="nofollow"> My Site </a>

The no follow attribute protects the site links are posted on from bad links and spam; no link juice gets spread around to their detriment. You will find that most blogs by default add no follow automatically to the links that are posted in blog post comments. So check before you waste your precious time!

The more you explore so-called SEO expert blogs, the more you find that no-one seems to know what they are really talking about. One might tell you to add external links to authority (high PageRank) sites to improve your own standing, while another will say that this is ridiculous and won’t work.

seo wise man

Equally, many search engine optimisation sites will tell you to keep your keyword strings to between 2% and 4% on each page to avoid being seen as spamming while still being able to alert Google to what you want to be listed in the SERPs for.

Great! Until you read this persuasive argument against the keyword density idea at hobo.

Again, all fine – opinion and constructive argument are good; yet all the experts asked by hobo generally go back to the one crucial thing they all can agree on – write great content and ‘they will come’. We’re kind of just going round in circles here aren’t we?

And what of the idea that Google likes to see content updated regularly, is there any basis of truth in this?

One thing I do know is that I own another site that is totally unaffiliated with web design, which has been created and left completely alone. No tinkering or blogging and it sits very high in all the SERPs (much better than this site in fact!). It has a very negligible amount of backlinks and a PageRank of zero as well. Of course, PageRank is another of those hotly contested subjects; is it still important or not? The question seems to arise from Matt Cutts, head of Google’s Webspam Team, announcing last October that there wouldn’t be any update to PageRankings for the forseeable future.

Social Media & Google Plus
Not so long ago it was strongly rumoured that Google just might be biased towards sites that link to it’s own platform, Google Plus, so the internet community all started using Google+ more, posting their site’s links all over it. We did the same.

Then, not so long ago, Google Plus no followed all backlinks. You didn’t know? Not many did, it was rolled out with very little fuss. Of course, Google doesn’t want you to stop using Google+ so why would they tell you that?

In fact, more and more social media sites are making their websites no follow when it comes to commenting or profile links. Firebug is your friend here too.

Now a genuine attempt by a new company to get noticed might end up being regarded as spamming. What was once seen as a legitimate method of gaining backlinks and potential customers through advertising is now deemed (by some – not all SEO companies will agree of course) as almost being closer to Black Hat rather than White Hat SEO.

Despite this, one directory that they all agree (well, nearly all) is a good directory is Dmoz, with a high PageRanking of 7. Mainly because it’s so hard to get your website registered on the site, as each submission is scrupulously hand-checked to make sure it matches their strict guidelines.

On the other hand, you can buy a listing on a directory specifically based in your home county only to find that Google has penalized the site for bad links or some-such. To you it’s still good advertising, but will it now harm your website SEO? I don’t think anyone knows for sure. If it brings work in, that’s surely more important anyway.

You see, the problem is that Google has become like Hoover – we talk about hovering rather than sucking up dust, just as we talk about googling rather than searching for something with a search engine. I read an interesting article on the BBC website about the early days of ‘google’ becoming a verb. It seems that despite what you might expect, Google weren’t happy about it in 2003.

But it is what it is – Google is now the search engine of choice and has been for some time. It’s way ahead of it’s rivals.

This means that Google now effectively dictates the SERP rules across the Western world, and for reasons that are pretty obvious they are also very frugal with letting us know how their sophisticated search engine algorithms work.

So if Google won’t tell us anything, why should we believe anything we read about SEO? Isn’t attempting SEO for any small, unknown website the online equivalent of leaf blowing in an ever-changing wind?

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