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SEOs, let’s be honest here

Not a week goes by when I don’t read a SEO blog or status update or tweet claiming that good SEO is all about ‘building a strong online brand’, or ‘using personas to target specific audience needs’, or ‘improving your website UX to deliver lasting customer value’, or any of those other vaguely worded phrases that make the author seem enlightened and operating on a higher level of SEO awareness.

It’s all a load of bollocks, of course.

At its core SEO is about one thing, and one thing only: drive traffic to a website through organic search.

This can be accomplished in a variety of ways, but in the end the primary means to achieve this are to rank the website highly in search results for a range of relevant keywords. That’s it. It’s as simple as that.

But admitting this means admitting that SEO is inherently an antagonistic enterprise that pits SEO practitioners against search engines. And increasingly, for a host of reasons, SEOs are unwilling to do this.

Instead SEOs, increasingly calling themselves something else entirely (inbound marketers?) to disguise the fact they actually do SEO, are wallowing in Google-approved marketing waffle to give the public perception that they’re all on board with this ‘legit’ way of making websites successful.

Because pinning your colours to the SEO mast and admitting, honestly and openly, that you build links to improve a website’s rankings in Google, feels a lot like waving a red flag in the faces of Google’s spam hunters.

And that is a terrifying thought for many, especially those who have bought in to Google’s anti-SEO propaganda. But it’s a cowardly stance to take, one that has a range of negative repercussions for our entire industry.

If we as SEOs want to escape the negative public perception of our craft, we would do well to be clear and open about what we actually do.

Because if we can’t be honest to ourselves about the service we provide, how can we ever expect anyone to trust us?

I don’t deny that SEO crosses over with a lot of other aspects of digital marketing, including social media, UX & conversion optimisation, web analytics, and so forth. But these peripheral aspects of SEO are exactly that: peripheral.

We shouldn’t muddy the waters to such an extent that SEO becomes unrecognisable for ourselves as well as for our clients. Our fear of the Google penalty hammer should not lead us down a path of ambiguity and obtuseness.

If anything, our fear of Google’s wrath should encourage us to be smarter, to work harder, and to be clearer and more transparent to our clients as well as among ourselves.

Only by making it very clear what we do and how we do it can we hope to win over clients and dispel the shadows surrounding our industry. Only then can we take the fight to Google, instead of living in fear.

I don’t want to be one of those SEOs that cowers in the corner, hiding what they do and pretending it’s not really SEO. And I reckon you don’t either.

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