Another SEO Challenge, This Time for Godin

    March 29, 2007

If you don’t know who Seth Godin is, you probably don’t read a lot of marketing blogs or marketing books. He’s authored about a dozen, including my personal favorite entitled “All Marketers Are Liars.” He’s spoken at Google and his blog was recently listed as the number 1 marketing blog in the world.

Ok, enough with his bio; one of his recent posts greatly disappointed me, because he apparently doesn’t understand SEO. After looking deeply at his blog, I was horrified to discover some major downfalls. So I’m going to make some claims, show some evidence and put forth a logical case against his view point and I’m even going to slam his article on SEO as naïve, ill-contrived and most importantly, encouraging of a very expensive mistake for business owners. I’ve got nothing personally against him, but when someone that public publishes something so ignorant concerning a large part of my profession, it warrants a strong response.

First let’s go over his position. His post entitled “Shortcuts That Aren’t So Short” compares SEO to taking short cuts and basically makes the case you see in the following quote:

“Others spend time studying the algorithms of Google and Yahoo to figure out the very best way to jump ahead in the rankings for their blog or corporate site. Is it reciprocal links or careful metatags?… Hey. It’s not so hard. If you make great stuff, people will find you. If you are transparent and accurate and doing what’s good for the surfer, people will find you. If you regularly demonstrate knowledge of content that’s worth seeking out, people (being selfish) will come, and people (being generous) will tell other people. It turns out that it’s easier and faster to do that than to spend all your time on the shortcuts.”

Unfortunately, his position is misleading and can be potentially deadly for your business. I don’t need to use a theoretical example this time. This problem is so widespread that I’m going to give a REAL life example I worked on THIS week. That’s right THIS WEEK! It contradicts all the major purists’ statements against SEO, including Seth Godin’s. One of my weekly projects was for a financial advisor that had just launched a new website and blog a month ago. The author is a former newspaper journalist; he’s start blogging daily and his articles are EXCELLENT. But what do you know; his current traffic is next to 0.

The problem is his blog is designed incorrectly. It uses the same title on all the pages and none of his posts target specific keywords. Additionally, the blog didn’t ping anywhere when new posts were added, so none of his posts were showing up in any of the blog search engines like Technorati and Google. There are other issues as well, but that’s a simple beginning of what I’ll be working on with his site.

Basically his blog was invisible and nothing except fixing the design problems and targeting keywords was going to change that. He could continue to write all the GREAT posts he wanted, but no one would be reading them. Why? Google had only indexed the front page and it was never going to rank for anything. He has great content, but no one’s reading it. What does he need? SEO. While I don’t like using that term, it is appropriate in this instance: he needs an SEO expert to rework his blogging strategy so his posts and blog rank on Google and drive new readers and new potential customers to his site. In the next month, I’ll post detailed stats and you can see the gigantic, exponential traffic increases that are going to result DIRECTLY from my work with his site.

Not every example has to involve new sites or even significant design changes to make profitable gains in the search engine results pages. I recently changed 5 lines in the .htaccess file for a particular website. That’s right, just 5 lines of code. It resulted in traffic increases of 20% with the raw traffic being 200 more DAILY visitors from Google. That’s a lot of traffic from changing 5 lines. So what happened? I told Google not to index the duplicate content portions of their website; this resulted in more page rank flowing to the internal pages and not being wasted on duplicate content sections, among other things. Yeah, all that from 5 lines!!! Here is a link to a post by Shoe Money, a famous Internet Marketer and one of the top 100 bloggers according Technorati; recants a similar story of changing only a few lines and seeing a big difference.

Now I’ll illustrate how SEO can help another HUGE A-list bogger like Seth Godin who already has an audience. Jason Calcanis, a very popular blogger, recently blasted SEO as bullshit and was met with a challenge by Neil Pattel that said he could increase the traffic to Jason’s blog by over 20% with some basic changes in just a few months. Jason, who already has a popular site, readers and a large audience, took the bet. Within two months his traffic was already up 20% and most of the changes recommended by Neil haven’t even been executed yet. You can read about that more here. The one thing that sucked about the whole thing is that Jason ended up getting SEO for free.

So now I’ll give my challenge (although I doubt he’ll respond) to Seth Godin: pay for my SEO services and I’ll increase your traffic by 20% or more (probably more like 40%) in 6 months. If I fail to have gains that substantial, I’ll give Seth all his money back. With all the increased traffic and subscribers I imagine even Seth Godin would sell more books and all that by implementing SEO and design changes.

Imagine if someone who isn’t already famous, who has to fight to get people to see their blog posts and is just building their online presence, takes Seth’s advice? They’ll be shooting themselves in the foot. Sure there are no magic shortcuts; you can’t just get a bunch of spammy links, but paying attention to keywords and using a design that encourages optimal search engine optimization has MAJOR positive effects when the other stuff is right too. It’s not a little thing, it’s huge and it can be the difference between your business website failing or being successful online.

Google is not as “smart” as people seem to think it is. It’s more like a 5 year old. You have to tell it specially what keywords and what neighborhoods to associate your site with. It WON’T do this automatically. Lots of sites with great content don’t have the rankings they deserve, and it’s usually do to SEO, design and marketing issues as opposed to content quality.

It’s also worth noting that Seth Godin’s blog is on Typepad and absolutely terribly optimized for SEO. If he didn’t have such a large pre-built audience, his blog would be mainly invisible. A few little changes would increase his traffic a ton, even with all the links and exposure he already has.