SEO Snake Oil

Internet pundit John Dvorak recently called Search Engine Optimization “the modern version of snake oil”. Unfortunately, people will listen to what Dvorak says about SEO because he has tons of visibility – notoriety? – on the Web.  Search Engine Watch’s Mark Jackson writes a good rebuttal of Dvorak’s article here: “SEO Snake Oil“.

I (sometimes) find Dvorak’s views refreshing. He is not afraid to speak his mind. But with that kind of authority he should act more responsibly and show some forethought. How about asking for some input from the SEO community?

Among other things, I notice that Dvorak does not understand the difference between “tags” and “metatags”. Tags are a relatively new way of classifying information on the Web. Metatags (or “meta tags”) are part of the HTML <head> section of code in a Web page. Some meta tags are used for search engine optimization. Clearly, Dvorak does not know what he is talking about when it comes to SEO.

Had he talked to a professional like Mark Jackson or Vanessa Fox before spouting off, they would have easily cleared up any misunderstanding.

SEO has a reputation as a kind of dark, mystical art. It’s not that well understood, and there are those who prey on business owner’s ignorance by selling them shoddy SEO services without having to be accountable for poor results. But search optimization is not rocket science. It is mostly common sense stuff that any good SEO practicitioner can explain clearly and understandably – and implement with measurable results.

If you are thinking of hiring an SEO professional, ask them for references and ask to see case studies or records of results they have produced for their clients. And don’t call SEO “snake oil” until you have read a book like “Search Engine Optimization for Dummies” or talked to a professional and looked into it a bit.

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Comments: 2


Mark, these columnists who have been around for decades, and Dvorak is one of them are more full of their past than keeping up with the current and future. Never liked him much anyway.

As far as using SEO for Dummies I’d watch out for that. There is a new edition but the old one is still floating around and it’s OLD. The problem with the Dummy series for fast moving targets like SEO is their cycle time from writing to publishing and updating is simply too long. Their basic premise is OK, and some of it is timely but it is very elementary and should be supplemented with current practices.

I know what you mean about SEO for Dummies. But my point is that most people, Dvorak included, don’t even have an elementary understanding of SEO, which is not that hard to acquire. The For Dummies book is still a good resource for that.

I like to recommend it to my clients. It’s a good starting point for discussion.

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