American Express Guide Calls SEOs A “Waste”

Advice from OPEN publication slams SEO pros

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Search engine optimization received no love from the credit card issuer’s small business guide, which published some oddly contradictory advice about being found in places like Google or Yahoo.

American Express promotes a small business program called OPEN as part of its Business Gold Rewards Card program. The company also sponsors small business Meetups in several cities.

As Search Engine Watch noted, American Express published views on search engine optimization. The opinion in question comes from a PDF called OPEN Book, which AmEx calls "A practical guide for business growth," available for download from that Meetups page.

Here is the paragraph from the guide that’s like to ruffle some feathers in the SEO community (spacing added):


Search engines, like Yahoo! and Google, are usually the first place people will look for you. Make it easier for them to find you. Yahoo! and Google offer tools to let them know the site map structure of your Web site.

Also, using clean U.R.L.’s like yourdomain.com/store/widgets instead of yourdomain.com/store.php?id=42&categoryID= widgets will increase your chances of getting indexed in a search engine.

Finally, don’t waste money on so-called Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.) specialists. Search engines are very quick to penalize sites that try to trick their filtering techniques, and once your site has been put on Google’s blacklist, it will take forever to get off.


The advice appears as part of a broader story on building a web presence credited to design group Cuban Council. This is the San Francisco firm that developed the Facebook logo.

Another document also hosted on the OPEN Meetups page promotes the idea of search engine marketing. This document advocates SEO and gives advice on what to do (Use the right keywords. Beware of "Black Hat" optimizers and their tricks) and provides a brief primer on SEM.

Our advice for small business owners: be wary of companies that promote two different ideas to their customers and don’t seem to know they are doing so.

American Express Guide Calls SEOs A “Waste”
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  • http://www.terryreeves.com Terry Reeves

    A company as large as American Express may never need the benefits of a search optimized website. They have all of the links, brand and ownership of their space any small or large business would ever need. So, obviously there are different people in that organization that are clueless and some that are not.

    American Express should not let both speak at the same time. Obviously, they now "appear" to to be clueless on the topic.

    Small businesses that do not practice SEO on their websites are only loosing visitors, branding, sales or leads for their products and services. Most of the small business and big business owners and managers I speak with know and understand the value of SEO.

  • Monte Foist

    It appears from the excerpt that you have above, they are not saying SEO isn’t important.  They are offering that "SEO specialists" are a waste of money.  I think they should have phrased this better if they were just trying to offer a "buyer beware" statement to businesses, but I think that SEO is crucial when it comes to anyone that does business on the Internet and rely on search engines for traffic.

  • Guest

    seems like the stmt is targeting seo specialists not good seo techniques embedded in your design. They should be more specific on the techniques that will get you banned and not recommending seo specialists that use them.  Your headline is a little misleading based on the excerpt you provided.

    • David A. Utter

      I’ve added a letter to the title, so it should be more relevant to the statement Cuban Council made.

  • http://www.callendamornen.co.uk Callen Damornen

    I am not sure why anyone would be looking to American Express for advice on SEO.  They have a right to an opinion, but what does that have to do with anything? 

    The same article even side swipes the notion of having to worry about coding your site correctly  when it says,"And for those technophobes and proud Luddites out there, the process of creating a Web site is not the code-addled, mindbending trip that you might imagine…mean that registering, creating and uploading a Web site tailored to your needs is easier than ever." It basically tells the audience you don’t have to rely on anyone to get your dream of a site together because it is so simple a caveman can do it (oops, wrong commercial.)

    From the article, all I can tell is they have a problem with those who promote themselves as SEO experts saying, "seeking professional search engine optimization help for their websites" is "a waste of money.

    So what?  Even people in the SEO community says the same thing, more or less, about the same people they talked about in that article – those who don’t know what they are doing or using black hat techniques can hurt you.

    Amex doesn’t have to worry too much on this subject.  Everyone knows who they are and if they want to find their web site, chances are they already know the URL without having to "google" it.  And the backing of this Cuban Council makes this article appear more of a magazine article for a nontechnical audience than an industry-level guide for those in the know.

    What’s so wrong about warning the gullible about those who can harm them in trying to promote a site?  They did not say using SEO methods were bad all across the board.  The best SEO anyone can use is building a good site period.

  • http://www.imagstudios.com AFisher

    What is striking to me is the fact that when you look at the timeline and include the negative reviews of AMEX ‘s website followed by this release.

    When confronted about this issue,  American Express quickly distances itself pointing out that AMEX itself did not create the article but that it was instead created by the Cuban Council, yet AMEX is the one distributing it. 

    It’s sad because if you look at the review of the AMEX site, it’s dead on.  Infact  I would go so far as to say that a relative SEO novice could have identified and fixed the current probelms on the AMEX site without much difficulty. 

    It’s pretty sad when one of the top credit card companies in the world can’t rank for ‘credit card’ and when it’s travel section ranks better then it’s home page.


    • http://www.ows.net Barry

      I knew there was a reason that I cut up my AMEX card!

      If I treated my clients they way they treated me, I wouldn’t have any.

      Long live the three credit card monopoly!

  • http://www.globalfusion.us/ Augusto Ellacuriaga


    Thanks for your keeping us abreast of what’s happening on the web. I have been following your articles and become a keen reader of your column. 

    It’s interesting to hear how a big corporation like Amex is promoting a double edge message. From a small biz perspective, we do need to learn and implement SEO techniques to drive traffic to our sites; hence, generate more leads or sales that will eventually benefit also Credit Card companies. So, why send a mix message to the already confused small business community about a topic that only half of us are familiar with? That should not be considered "A practical guide for business growth"!!

    I do agree though that unfortunately there are way too many snake oil salesmen out there posing as SEO experts, when in reality all they know is something elementary or intermediate that a small biz owner can master. Let’s be real! We cannot really compete in this marketplace with that kind of limited strategies/advice. We need advance techniques in our arsenal to remain competitive. Why not sponsor quality suggestions/information from trusted sources like SEOMoz, WebProNews, Search Engine Land and others, instead of wasting money in misguiding people?

    It would’ve been nice though to see something coming from those sources. Then and only then, I would spend time reading that “guide” and take Amex efforts more seriously.

    Ultimately, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves to make well informed decisions.

    David, keep up the great work!

  • Kurt Munro

    They’re not promoting two different ideas. They’re saying SEO is good, but not these "experts" that charge an arm and a leg to do it for you.

    Anyone can get a PR 2 in a month or so by posting decent content, making sure keywords relate to their subject, and giving images/links alts/titles. And if they get a lot of links from other sites and post every day then they’ll get a much higher PR over time.

    My new site got a PR of 2 in no time and it’s one page with five links on it. It wouldn’t be hard to get the PR higher. It’s hardly rocket science.

    • http://www.ows.net Barry

      Page Rank is not everything either, please call me and let me know if you get past a rank of four!

      The value of SEO specialists has more to do with getting clients in the right frame of mind. Such as not having a flash or image only web site.

      We live and breath this stuff and don’t put all of our eggs in one basket. Seeing a client optimize on words that are not being used in searches is common, expecting to be #1 on a popular term…like web hosting, is almost heartbreaking.

      Good content, page titles, and using terms that are actually being searched on is just the basics. I have a long list of things I do for clients that they wouldn’t think of. Generally novices never go long and deep enough.

  • Guest

    I have a site that has invested in no link building or keyword stuffing. We have invested instead in building rich relevent content. After two years our page rank is still 2, our secondary pages have no page rank and we are ranked in the top 10 on more than 40 major key words (with more than 10 million page competitors). On several of the words, competing against 5M pages, we rank number one.

    As a former VP of Marketing, I can tell you that these SEO companies are a sham. They try to extort tens of thousands with NO PROMISE of results. Now what kind of company can do that and survive? It’s rocket science. Follow some basic guidelines and most importantly, build a site for your users and not for the search engines. What good does it do to rank number one if people land on it and don’t mind what they are looking for? Lastly, while you climb the rankings, invest in SEM, pay for clicks and performance. At least there you get instant and immediate results. And at a much less price and a better ROI.

    • http://www.catfish.cc Catfish

      Just because you hired a bad company doesn’t not make all SEO companies bad.  And how you rank for your keywords has nothing to do with the challenges that some organizations face in ranking for their keywords.  Anyone can rank for niche keywords if they happen to have a well designed site that has good inherent linking characteristics based on their brand name.  But can you grow those rankings to produce more search engine conversions this year than you had last year?  That’s really the question that needs to be asked.  If you can without professional help, great for you.  But not all companies are in a position to do that.  And that’s where a professional SEO firm can help.  If you choose the right one.

  • http://www.rankmagic.com/ Bill Treloar

    Amex is painting all SEO consultants with the "Black Hat SEO" brush.

    Sure there have been SEO companies who’ve goten their clients banned from the search engines using unethical SEO tactics. But I’ve been practicing ethical SEO for 9 years and have made tons of money for my clients by geting them rankings they could never have gotten on their own. And not one of my clients has ever sufered a penalty in the search engines.

    Ask a few of my clients whether their SEO was money well spent. I’m confident in what their responses will be.

  • http://www.jaankanellis.com JaanKanellis

    Just another big compnay that doesnt get it.  The problem here is they are trying to offer marketing services themselves.  Anyone that does any research before investing in SEO should be so lucky to hire AmEx to help them.  This is like Walmart trying to offer SEO services…or what a minute.

  • http://www.monkeezemarketing.blogspot.com Marvin

    There is an odd kind of chicken and egg relationship between SEO and Traffic, which often creates a cloud of counfusion of the reasons for SEO in the first place. 

    The SEO community pushes the idea that ranking a page well is important to creating traffic. In theory at least ranking a page highly would tend to create more traffic, but so what?  Untargeted traffic to as site is pretty much usless if you are selling a product or service.   

    On the other side of the coin it can be argued that  a high page rank will follow once there is a marketing / traffic generation program in place which drives more traffic.   That is to say there would be a natural reason for Webmaster with a higher PR sites to link to your site creating the backlinks which are required to get your site ranked higher by Google.  

    As some of the other comments have noted getting a high Page Rank is hardly rocket science if you follow some practical guidelines and use a steady common sense approach. 

    Page rank might not be at all important for a mini-site / sale page that is intended only for use in a specific marketing program.  It would be a tremendous waste of time to try and rank a page like that.

    If you are a major corporation with deep pockets and a vast marketing budget PR might be an all consuming focus of their Internet marketing campaign.  If however you are a small business seeking highly targeted customers in a niche market SEO might indeed be a waste of time.   

  • http://www.chainzonline.com CrankyDave

    Comments and suggestions regarding SEO’s and SEO companies are always quite amusing.

    The more narrow the view of what an SEO is and what they can do the more likely you’re going to hear comments and suggestions like these.

    A perfect example…  In the very first reply…

    "SEO Companies are Snake Oil Sales People"


    "…invest in SEM, pay for clicks and performance."

    Hmmmmmm… When did it become "illegal" for SEO Companies to perform the latter services?

    Narrow view on what an SEO can do or does?


  • Katharine

    From my experience as a small site owner, seo is a complete rip off. The people I worked with gave you  no information after cashing your check and just allowed you to sit in silence.  Then they created a phony list  of your first place standings which I could not verify and declared their job finished.

  • http://www.blogging4gold.com Guest

    Never done SEO and do well in search engines, BUT then again, my pages are well designed with topical and current information –  then again… maybe I am??

    Point is – I find building well organized pages full of good information is not only good for business, it’s good for search engines as they need sites like that to keep their users happy – so common sense is the only SEO one needs.

  • http://www.corporatesem.com Steve of Corprate SEM

    So essentially AmEx is saying:

    “Here’s an SEO tip: using clean U.R.L.

  • Leon

    Please don’t let your pre-pubescent angst get the term SEO confused with something you tried in grammer school. SEO is all about making it easier for search engines to index the content properly. When you slam the SEO people it is like trying to ask a robot to tell if you are actually stupuid or not, it will never get the result you want.

  • davejuk

    That small exert seems really quite amateur to me and the third paragrph is absolute RUBBISH. SEO isn’t about tricking the search engines!

    Of all the random little tips they could have thrown in there, URL rewriting? How about web standards, semantic mark up, good use of titles and headings, …?

    A large part of SEO isn’t on the page; it’s in the keyword research, profiling your customer base, creating content they want, and hopefully converting them into a sale. This is not something that most web developers do and is quite a distinct skill in itself.

  • http://www.garage-conversions.co.uk/ Garage Conversions

    There are SEO companies out their ripping people of left right and center. I studied seo for 2 years to fully understand how it works as i did not believe the web design agencies wanting tens of thousands of pounds. It is just common sense marketing similar to of page marketing. The more ACTIVITY you do the more traffic you will get. You have to have your sitge and links every where to get the traffic. Also it has to convert the traffic into results.


    The more results youy get the more time and money you can invest in a website. I reckon any website neds a bis plan of a minimum of 2 years. SEO is only a waste if you give up.!!!

  • http://www.webpronews.com/topnews/2008/03/14/american-express-guide-calls-seo-a-waste Amex has a complex…it’ll be OK

    but ignorant employee of Amex.

    I’m shocked that they don’t have a better editorial review process at such a large company.  

    SEO is of course plagued by some snake oil types, however the general practice and body of knowleged when put into practice can, in fact, produce significant results.  Case in point:


    They’re doing a disservice to the companies that read that guide and may actually take it as an absolute truth.

    - Sean



  • King SEO

    Amex is a CREDIT CARD company… And what are credit cards used for? Funding your Adwords account, or YSM, or Adcenter accounts. Do they want you paying an SEO once, or paying Google each and every month with your amex card. I would say 90% of my clients pay for their PPC accounts using AMEX, so is it really ANY surprise that they would suggest people pay for "clicks", and not "snake oil"… Its really not that deep :)

  • Guest

    Obviously they are just uninformed. Seo isn’t about manipulating the SE’s. It’s about correctly building your website so that SE’s can find them and index them correctly.

    Wow, the facebook logo….they are so cutting edge…..How could they come up with something so incredible;)

    <a rel=facebook logo” src=”http://static.ak.facebook.com/images/facebook_logo.gif” />

  • Call American Express

    Everyone needs to call American Express Public Relations Department at 212-640-2000 8am to 6 pm M-F Eastern time and complain. If we can get enough calls in to them maybe they will change the wording or even retract this.


    Express Public Relations Department at 212-640-2000


  • http://tenminutesports.com Mark

    Gee what a shock that SEO/SEM “pros” and wannabe experts are upset that someone with some clout has called them out.

    All you have to do is spend a few days searching for SEO/SEM info and it becomes clear that it’s all bunk. You can spend less than $50 and learn all you need to know about SEO/SEM reading 2 maybe 3 books.

    What annoys me is all these SEO/SEM “pros” who game the rankings so they can push the latest overpriced “e book” — now it’s subscription boards — and what you get for 100, 1000, 10000 dollars is nothing more than you can get for under 50.

    Google doesn’t help the situation. Their secrecy only helps the scammers.

    When SEO/SEM “pros” and “experts” decide to behave like professionals then I will take them seriously.

    Any compnay that bills it’s self as an SEO/SEM company is a scam; if that is all they do. Hucksters all.

    • http://www.actorsandcrew.com broadsword

      There’s quite a bit to SEO.  I know, because I’m an autodidact that has no money, but I have a service to promote.

      So, that means I had to develop an expertise in optimization.  Guess what:

      There’s quite a bit to it.  I don’t go around marketing myself as as an "SE Optimizer service monkey" , but I certainly could, because I have proven, quantitative results as a result of the five months I spent learning and implementing.

      My niche is very, very competitive and quite high-profile.  As a result of engaging in best practices, well, we’re winning.

      Try this:

      Google "Film Production Jobs"

      My site, ACTORSandCREW, comes up THIRD, organically, on the first page.  That’s ahead of  mammoth sites that have existed ten times as long as we have.  Direct result of my SEO work.

      Guess how much traffic, ergo new customers, we realize as a result?  I’m not telling, but it’s a lot:

      Guess how much we’re paying in PPC advertising costs to aquire each of these new customers?  If you guessed ‘zero’ you’d be right on the money.

      I would suggest that your analysis of the SEO market is correct in that people do use the technique to sell books about SEO, but would also suggest that you’ve never dug deep enough in to best practices to realize that there is value in implementing them.

      That implementation, as I’m sure you’re aware, requires genuine expertise that maost people simply don’t have.  Yest, it takes time.  Therein lies a market for services.

      If you want to find a good SEO firm, take your limited knowledge from those two or three books you read, and ask hard questions.

      FOR THE RECORD:  Whomever wrote that article for Amex is full of it.  The idea that there’s no value to SEO is folderol, specious at best.

      I’m living proof.



  • http://www.forbeslist.info AdKing

    Read the:
    The SHOCKING Story Of A 23 Year Old Kid With Just A Few Hundred Dollars Kicks Mega Corporation And Huge Governments Ass’s In Google, Yahoo And MSN

    Now He Reveals The Secrets To Gaining An ‘Unfair Advantage’ In Any Niche Market And How He Exploited Them To Crank More Than $117,209 Per Month


  • http://www.seo-optimise.com.au Greg Tomkins

    Whilst I disagree with the tone of the AMEX article, I do admit that there are those who unfortunately rip-off the unsuspecting businesses through "FUD" sales techniques. If the market is confused, kept confused and constantly plagued with magical answers to your internet marketing requirements then yes there will be those who pay a lot of money for services delivered under false pretences.

    Nothing new there – it is just that at the moment there is a lot of focus on SEO "experts". I realise that I can be seen as feathering my own nest here and being biased but I have been on the other side of the fence for many years before establishing myself as a SEO / SEM consultant. I recognised that there were so many rip-off agents who failed to deliver a service that paid no attention to the business’ marketing strategies and developed true internet marketing plans as an integral aspect of the overall marketing strategies to be put in place.

    As with any professional service, there are many good honest valued providers out there who do provide a professional service that delivers real measurable results.

    It is as ever – up to the client to check the credentials and experience of the provider. If your not sure then move on to the next – there are enough to choose from. Here in Australia we are very much in our infancy in this line of business but already we are seeing the traits of the US starting to show.

    I have to be somewhat cynical about AMEX as they do have a vested interest in promoting PPC after all.

  • Pete Dashwood

    "American Express is a horrible credit card company. If for any reason you can’t pay the balance in full you are screwed."

    You know that when you accept the card, and you’re NOT screwed if you communicate and negotiate with them. I’ve been a Gold Card member since 1975, use their card whenever travelling (not so much when at home), and have never had a problem with them. In fact, on several occasions I’ve been very glad of their help and support when in foreign countries.

    Anyway, this isn’t about AMEX as a credit card company, it is about their dismissal of SEOs, as providing a credible and worthwhile service.

    As an SEO, you obviously have a position here, so why not argue it with logic and rationality, rather than an emotive "call to arms" and a rant?

    As someone who has never used an SEO (despite having built several web sites and getting them top ranked), I tend to agree with Mark’s post, but I’d be happy to see arguments to the contrary.

    I believe there are definitely people who can benefit from using an SEO. Many people just don’t want the hassle and don’t have the tech know-how to do it themselves. AMEX should, perhaps have recognised that in their piece.

    Nevertheless, there are also cowboy SEOs who are blatantly ripping people off with the supply of a dubious "service".

    The good ones will be tarred with the same brush, UNLESS they show cause why they SHOULDN’T be… is that a BAD thing?

    I don’t think so.









  • Guest

    And they don’t even own amex.com!

  • http://www.miamiartexchange.com/ Onajide

    I organize one of those Meetup groups that OPEN sponsors. They have made hard copy booklets of the same info available to my group although, I have personally only read sections of it, not the entire booklet. A number of the other Meetup organizers they support are in the business of SEO/SEM.

    The booklet was designed for use by business owners, not computer geeks like the people reading reading this article and threaded comments. If THAT public finds value within the pages, it has fulfilled its purpose. Anyone in business has to make decisions and, the average person in business won’t be building their own web site.

    If the person hired to build that web site knows what they’re doing, that business person won’t be lead astray. And, I for one, wouldn’t trust many of the commenters on this board to do a thing for me! Some have made reasoned comments but, the ranting is just plain… well, you have exposed yourself as not worthy of the title of professional.

  • http://www.NewDayOrganics.com Austin

    I’ve read the various posts and would like to share my experience as a small business owner who worked with a SEO firm for almost a full year.

    I , like others did my due diligence by researching the firm and checking references with other business owners before signing up.  I spent thousands of dollars for:

    • An "artificial change in ranking"  (The firm as it turns out was using link farms and other questionable tactics to get my pages ranked higher in the search engines).
    • Fancy reports slanted to show how many visitors were brought to might site.  Thier numbers by the way were much higher than the stats provided by my own web hosting site.
    • Manipulating what is real with what is a sham to try to  keep me on board with the firm month after month:  "It takes months to get ranked in search engines, so you need to be patient"  This statement is absolutely true but it is the hook that keeps trusting business owners with them shelling out the $$ for months longer than they should.

    There may be reputable SEO firms out there, but given my experience, I’ll never take the chance to find out because I was burned so badly the first time.


    • http://www.whydontyou.com Kimberley

      I am sorry you got burned so badly but I would suggest reading about SEO and doing it yourself. I am a self taught SEO specialist and can really see a benefit in SEO without having to spend vast amounts of money. Read, Read and read is the best way of keeping up to date and creating great SEO for your site.

  • Guest

    I think AMEX is a waste. I’ve had an AMEX card, hated it. Closed the account, want nothing to do with them ever again.  Why don’t they save a few trees and stop sending me their credit apps? I feed them to my shredder along with Discover.  Actually I’d like to feed their mailing list to my shredder.  I need a good laugh.  Why don’t they do a web search and see how many people don’t want to do business with them ?  Oh yeah they think SEO is a waste of time they wouldn’t be able to find Google with that attitude.

  • http://www.theatregiftvouchers.net TheatreMan

    clueless and contradictory corporate view. Its that kind of ignorance that really gives SEO a bad name. Uninformed people making accusations about entire industres, ridiculous.

  • http://www.bookmoreweddings.com Chris Jaeger

    Great post. Thanks Dave,

    Frankly, I don’t see the value in having an American Express Card. LOL.

    If people are stupid enough to take advice from a credit card company about SEO then they’ll get what they deserve – websites that are on page 3, 4, 5, 6 of the SERPS.

    I have a list of top ranked clients and I’m sure it’s very unlikely they’d say there SEO efforts were a waste of money or their investment with me did not provide an excellent return-on-investment.



  • http://www.cyberiacom.net Dr. Robert Martin, Ph.D.

    These comments from Amex were obviously written by someone who has a superficial understanding of SEO and probably of the Internet in general, and so should be taken as such. I don’t pretend to be an expert on credit or credit cards, and I would certainly hesitate to give anyone else advice in that area; so perhaps Amex should just stick to what it knows best.

    Like most SEO professionals, we have a base of very satisfied customers who know better, and who have seen the fruits of our labors with their own eyes.

    Moreover, for the true SEO professional, repeat business and referrals from existing customers will carry far more weight than any unsolicited, ill-conceived, and lame-brained, one or two sentence, "advisory" in some obsure .pdf that most of their customers probably don’t even bother to read anyhow.

    Of course, there are unscrupulous people out there who are doing SEO while promising more than they could ever deliver and delivering little or nothing. Those are probably the people Amex had in mind. Perhaps what Amex should have done is what we do on our website; provide guidelines for distinguishing the true SEO professional from the self-appointed, un-trained, and inexperienced hack who just wants to get paid while doing as little work as possible.

    From what I understand, the Amex OPEN program has not been particularly successful anyhow, so personally, I don’t plan on worrying about it.

  • http://www.blitzlocal.com MCD

    AMEX seems a little underhanded, attacking SEO and welling up the tactics of blackhats to make themselves look like the saints. I’m fairly green when it comes to SEO, but i’ve never seen any ‘tricks’, ‘hacks’, or overall ‘black’ techniques, just clean and effective content and structure. I know there are a few individuals who use shady practices, but don’t use them to speak for the masses.

  • http://www.webrand.com.au Patrick Ryall

    Running a professional marketing, design and SEO company would of course mean my back at this time represents a spiny ant eater. Is it their PPC market they are tying to keep in favor of? Or is it the writter was just a moron!

    A tiny extract from our PPC versus SEO article.

    It is a question so easily answered with mathematics, these days the minimum industry spend on the average keyword phrase to rank in first page of sponsored listings is $2.50 per click. With 100 visitors per day that is $250 per day in spend. Look at a tougher market such as search optimisation or website design and to be competitive you are looking at over $5 a click, some clients are paying $7 $9 and up to $14 per click depending on their industry, that is a whopping $511,000 a year based on 100 people a day clicking the ad.

    ROI, return on our investment, every time someone clicks on your ad there goes coin simple as that. People are lazy and will just click the ad the get to your website without even contemplating it is costing you money. My fiancée clicks ads just to see what they are selling. I know business people that go out of their way to click on competitors ads just to cost Jack extra cash. Then we have click fraud an ever increasing problem that is reported by some reports to be as high as 30%. 

    Organic clicks cost you nothing, once you are ranking for your keyword phrases it is free marketing, who cares if someone is just browsing, looking for advice or is just having a sticky beak. It matter not, it is not costing you a single cent. Now I ask yet again is SEO worth the capital outlay?

    Enough said I think!



    • Windowman

      It is money out the door. Extremely unqualified leads, Bounce rate on my e commerce site when PPC was use was in excess of 70%. Our spend was more then the amount in earlier posts. We killed it cold 3 months ago. My tracffic is down about 15%, My bouce rate is now 18%. I closed only 3% of the visitors with PPC, The rest were, competitors, click frauds and tire kickers. My close ratio now is 60%+ even at 80% on some of my sites. I has cost us nothing besides a lot of research, hard work and patience.  As they say there no short cut in life and SEO is not an exception. 

      I applaud all the SEO firms that do good work and are legtimate. I belive they provide a great service. However, coming from a site/business owner standpoint, SEO industry has to do it’s part to weed out bad apples from their community. Business owners like us are extremely hesitant to do businees with companies that will have 80% chance of cheating them out of their SEO dollars.


  • http://www.dietingbenefits.com/ Dieting

    Yeah, it’s easy to say SEO is a waste when you’re already a massive credit card firm. There’s a point where if your product or website is unique/successful enough, the role of SEO will diminish (maddox is a prime example).

    For smaller businesses and website developers SEO is necessary to compete, or they’ll get crushed by other established companies, brands and pages.

  • http://ibizdaily.com/ iBizDaily

    I think WebProNews and most people here are getting it wrong. It was a pretty innocuous statement that was made by Amex – and I think that what they were really referring to was the difference between using "black hat" SEO tactis – which we all know exist – and just good standard practices (clean directory architecture, descriptive file names, etc.), which a lot of people describe as SEO (I would just call it common sense).

  • http://zakenlinks.wordpress.com zakenlinks

    That is the most conservatief statement ever regarding SEO.

    But because hounest seo will not garantuee specific search engine results, a lot of people think it’s just a matter of believing and not science.

  • http://mhcreativeagency.com/ Eric Bryant

    I am an SEO specialist for one of the most reputable legal research companies in the world. I’m not saying this to toot my horn, but to make a point.

    One of the many services we offer is SEO for our clients. We use only the best practices of the SEM/SEO industry, and don’t engage in "black hat" techniques.

    However, in the minds of some, SEO equals illegal or at best unethical "tricks" to try to get search engine rankings. I think what AMEX s is referring to. AMEX, like most uninformed companies commenting on SEO, has really no clue what true SEO work entails.

    Unfortunately, the public will see this as an affront against an emerging industry that is, in the best traditions, quite scientific in nature. It’s unfortunate and upsetting to me, as an SEO consultant, to hear such damaging and potentially libelous statements about one of the most service-oriented and necessary industries to come along in a long time.

    …and we won’t even talk about how AMEX and other credit card companies practice a modern form of usury – a practice, which by the way, is illegal unethical, ruinous; and, according to American religious and cultural tradition, immoral.

    Looks to me like the proverbial pot is calling the kettle black?

    Eric Bryant, CEO

    Gnosis Arts Multimedia COmmunications



  • Wicksell Metellus

    This is a very interesting article and I believe the skewed views comes from people still having the wrong idea of what SEO truly is and what "successful" SEO should accomplish.

    I am the SEM manager here at my company and recently I’ve stressed to our business owners that true SEO is not all about getting 1st position in SERPs or even getting traffic. True SEO will can get you that 1st, 2nd position but to me successful SEO will get you "quality" traffic and conversions.

    SEO=relevant content, which in turn =qualty traffic + conversions. This is why SEO is important. Internet users that find your content irrelevant or lacking will leave and never return. When internet users search Google, do they not read the blue (with bolded keywords) titles, the descriptions? Aren’t title tags and descriptions part of SEO? Yes.

    SEO is about making you content (title, description, text on pages) highly relevant. That is the start of truly successful SEO. From there, a link building campaign can start but thats a whole other topic.

  • http://www.ontheavenues.com Bonnie Burns

    I think they are against SEO because many SEO companies just do not want to take American Express cards for payments because Amex charges to much in fees. Behind closed doors they realize how important it is, how affordable it really can be and how it can help a web site profit and do better, and hense, they are losing residual income from SEO companies not taking the American Express Card. But they pickd on the wrong industry…do they not understand that their little comments just geared us up for a wonderful social networking link exchange attached to their wonderful name:-) Whoo Hoo Amex!


  • SEOguy

    I too am an SEO specialist and am going to be certified by Yahoo and Google as such.  I always tell my clients "don’t take my word for it" and provide them will screen shots of their websites with page 1 and 2 rankings for their particular keywords and key phrases.  Pay per click has its use but its usually the haves vs. the have nots; so that natural search positioning is not only useful be levels the playing field.  Perhaps I will optimize for "American Express", "AMEX" and "credit card fraud" and achieve page 1 rankings for that without using any black hat techniques.  I wonder what AMEX’s clients will feel when "AMEX credit card fraud" is attached to their name on page 1 of this returned search result.

  • http://www.seodesignsolutions.com/blog/ SEO Design Solutions

    Using your authority position in any capacity to discredit another industry is a sign of poor business judgement. Despite their logic or reason, it is the same type of statement that could be used by SEO’s to show them just how powerful our industry is. Instead of smearing themselves from allowing one writer to voice their opinions with such an endorsement, I am certain they could have found more practical and diplomatic ways to air their wares on the subject. Two thumbs down AMEX, you just helped VISA and MasterCard on that one when it comes to reputation management.

  • http://www.catfish.cc Catfish

    This inspired me to do a review of their site and list the top 5 worst SEO mistakes that they are making in my blog at www.catfish.cc.

  • http://downstrike.stumbleupon.com/ Downstrike

    Yet another self-appointed expert/corporate busybody – probably a whole committee of corporate busybodies – doesn’t know the difference between SEO and SEO spam.

    Definitely a committee.  The stupidity of one person wouldn’t have sufficed.

    (The snipping noise you hear involves a scissors and my American Express card.)


  • Matt

    Although I disagree with AMEX stating that SEO isn’t valuable, from personal experience I would guess that 80-90% of the SEO companies are useless or only good for a quick boost in traffic (yes, with danger of being blacklisted).

    Working as a "web administrator" for a large company I had several of these companies contact me and make outrageous claims. I truly felt that I had better experiences with used car salesmen.

    Yes, SEO is valuable and there are companies that do it well, but it probably is more useful for companies to focus on good content delivery before dumping 10s of thousands of dollars into the SEO bucket.


    • Windowman

      Over the last year I have been getting on an average 3 calls a dayfrom SEO Cos. That is hundreds of them. Not quick to sign up. All wanted money first and results later with a guarantee. Did not sign up with any one and finally decided to do it on ly own (I am strickly not techie) but found a lot of information about seo, wrote a plan to avoid pitfalls and black hat trick.In two months now have same traffic without PPC and very high close ratio 80+% as opposed to 3%.0 Google ppc cost and lot less busy work by taking in sales to pay Google. All in all, for a small e commerce business, Google PPC is feeding tube that should be removed as soon as possible.

      Proud of it

      • http://www.seosamba.com Michel leconte


        Given the complexity potential attached to SEO, we need more transparency in service processes, and a straightforward accounting of what SEO professionals really know about SE algorithms, what they have come to understand on their own, what they have tried and proved, and what they think might work, etc..


  • http://www.netpaths.net CVOS the man

    document also hosted on the OPEN Meetups page promotes the idea of search engine marketing

    link please

  • http://www.webtacs.net/ Page Rank Info

    SEO is deffinately not a waste. It could be the difference in 50 views a day & 1000 views a day.

  • http://chicago.seowebdesignfirm.com/seo-training-class.htm seo class chicago

    That’s crazy because there was just an article on SEO moz that said that SEO is one of the only thriving businesses while in this recession.

  • http://seo.pittwebsite.com Pittsburgh SEO

    It seems odd that they would make a statment like that. It sounds like they had a bad experience with an SEO company or someone feed them a bunch of false information. They were quick to add in that black propaganda which is not really about SEO specialists to begin with ("Search engines are very quick to penalize sites…"). Besides AmEx is not an authority on the Internet or search engines.


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