I’ve been keeping an eye on several SEO related discussions on small business forums lately, and to be perfectly honest some of the “advice” being dished out by self proclaimed experts is somewhat disturbing.
I’ve chipped in my 2c from time to time on the recent discussions, but having read back even a week or two I see small businesses being advised to do some pretty ridiculous stuff.Â Its nuts – people are being advised by “experts” to churn out thousands of pages (one per town) just to target different locations.Â
I can see the logic from a marketing point of view – conducting local campaigns offline requires location specific targeting – fair enough.Â But do we really need mom n’ pop sites creating what are essentially doorway pages to target local areas?Â That’s just going to lead to a world of pain for them.
I wrote an article on optimising for local terms a while back and I generally point people to that – I think that’s a pretty good start for small businesses to begin with as it doesn’t directly lead the less savvy to the conclusion that they need to churn out loads of content to target loads of local terms.
That’s the key IMO – keeping the less savvy tamed so they don’t run off and do something silly (which is perhaps one of the most common causes of SEO problems for small businesses – DIY SEO gone awry)…
- Tell people they need keywords on the page – that can lead to keyword stuffing or hidden text.
- Tell people they need different pages to target different keywords – that can lead to doorway pages or crap content pages.
We need to educate our market – but we need to educate responsibly
The amount of rubbish that is being sold as “fact” around the SEO world is becoming ridiculous.Â Just in the past week I’ve seen the following “facts” being posted on forums by people offering professional SEO services:
- Big directories aren’t well optimised – they just rank well because of their homepage PR.
- Directories are well optimised – you need to add more keywords to your page to compete.
- Keyword domains rank better than non keyword domains.
- Just get deep links to compete with larger sites targeting local areas.
- The more pages you have the more keywords you can target.Â I have thousands of pages for (mid competitive key term) one for each town in the UK.
OK, these aren’t necessarily bad statements – but taken in context they can be very dangerous for small businesses.
These statements are made by low experience SEOs probably based on some mild success they’ve had.Â Fair enough – but in most cases the advice is grossly inappropriate for the situation – the SEOs simply don’t have a sufficient understanding of how search works to be able to give out solid advice…
- Yeh, big directories may have a strong homepage PR – that doesn’t necessarily mean that all their local rankings are a consequence of that.Â Sending out this message to a small business will only result on them embarking on a quest for PR which would be a fools errand and potentially risky (if they start messing with paid links, cross linking sites, hording PR and so on).
- Yeh, some directories may be well optimised but telling a small business site to add more keywords to their page is plain stupid.Â There’s a sweet spot to hit with on page optimisation and if you don’t make that clear to small businesses they WILL take it to extremes.
- Yeh, keyword domains may rank better than non keyword domains – that’s just down to people linking to them using the site name (keywords).Â Sending out this message will see small businesses sacrificing branding and reputation for keyword domains which is crazy talk.
- Yeh, deep links can help certain campaigns but they aren’t a prerequisite for success and IMO are entirely unnecessary for UK local campaigns (with the exceptions being high population areas or high Â£Â£Â£ markets).Â Why send small businesses out looking for deep links when solid on page optimisation and decent homepage link building will suffice in most cases?Â This one particularly annoys me as I see “deep linking” being presented as a solution for poor site architecture or on page SEO all the time.
- Yeh, the more pages you have, the more terms you can target.Â But do you really want to have 1000 pages conveying a single message?Â How much variation in content can you really achieve?Â I don’t care how superb your copy is – if you have 1000 pages saying the same thing it isÂ spam.Â The guy suggesting this had his SEO site targeting obscure towns – the pages (optimised for SEO + town terms) had decent copy – but it was all irrelevant (non SEO) information like the population and history of the town.Â How is that a good result?Â And same problem again – 9 out of 10 small businesses won’t go to the lengths of writing decent copy on this level – it will just be regurgitated crap which ends up as a crap result for searchers.Â See my article on SEO agency copywriting sins too!
The key problems:
- Inexperienced SEOs offering opinion as fact.Â
- Inexperienced businesses taking SEO too far.
These are issues that really need to be addressed.Â There was a time that almost 50% of my consultancy business came from fixing other peoples work – that is not a good state of affairs for our industry to be in.
The problem is that it is easy for anyone to build up credibility as a SEO on non SEO forums – there’s generally a similar level of SEO knowledge and experience on the forums and it’s not like the advice given out is bad – it’s more that the manner in which it’s given out is inappropriate.
Here’s my suggestion for a solution:
All you experienced SEOs out there – take the time every now and again to visit your preferred local / small business forums and help out answering a few questions.Â Â It’s not like the noise factor on some SEO forums – small business owners are all usually very grateful and if we do it enough then perhaps we can undo some of the damage done by the less than reputable members of our industry.
And as for all you folks with less SEO experienceÂ - I’m not saying don’t help people out – all I’m saying is that we really do need to be careful how we give out advice.Â Small businesses asking for advice are usually about to attempt some DIY SEO – the responsible thing to do is to ensure all the risks are outlined and that you really are confident that what you are saying is accurate (if not, just say so – that’s the right thing to do).Â
Small business SEO advice is a very delicate process – it’s not like people are optimising a blog or Adsense site that they can chuck away if it goes wrong – in a lot of cases their business website is core to their living – you need to treat it with that level of respect, especially if you are selling yourself as an SEO professional.
Lastly, to all those non-SEOs-but-like-to-dish-out-advice-because-they-optimised-their-own-blog – stop it!Â I don’t care if you got your poxy little site to number 1 for a competitive term – that doesn’t make you an SEO and it’s incredibly arrogant to assume you are qualified to hand out advice.Â Yes, you!Â The “SEO is easy” crowd.Â I mean, seriously, I’ve seen professional printers advising small businesses reliant on their site to change their existing site to WordPress because “they once optimised a blog and got some traffic”.Â Just stop it.Â Yes, you people who self-scored a 6 on the SEOmoz level of SEO professional test even though you’ve only ever optimised your own crappy little blog.Â Stop it now!
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