snowgoons consulting

Snake Oil and SEO

Ahh, another day, another fantastic FREE opportunity.  You know the kind... Team,

I thought you might like to know some of the reasons why you are not getting enough Social Media and Organic search engine traffic for [...] I would be glad to provide you with a detailed analysis in the form of a WEBSITE AUDIT REPORT for FREE.

What luck!

Except, of course, most of what these people are trying to sell is either the plain-bleeding-obvious, or more commonly snake oil.

Let's try a simple thought experiment:  Imagine these guys really had the 'secret sauce' that could propel an undeserving site up the Google rankings...  How long do you think it would take Google to change their algorithm to stop it?  That's right, not long at all - because Google's reputation depends on delivering the right results, and that means pages people actually want to read.

Of course, you want to do the obvious things - put sensible keywords on the page, make your links and headlines descriptive, that sort of thing.  But the most important thing is this: Have some content people actually want to read.  If it's compelling, people will read it, people will link to it, and Google will include it in their results.  You can waste your life on SEO strategies, time you'd better spend building your proposition.

Here's a concrete example: Some years ago I intended to put together a personal website for my photography hobby, at  If you'd followed that link recently*, you'd have seen that it remained at the 'intended to' stage for a very long time - some broken javascript and not much else.  It's a car crash.  On the other hand - try this Google search on E6 film processing.  The second hit is an article I wrote on - actually, the only article I wrote on - that's not even linked to from the homepage, much less 'Search Engine Optimised.'  How the hell can something that looks to be almost wilfully neglected from an 'SEO' point of view end up getting to second on the Google results for a related query?

Because it turns out not many people have written about how to develop E6 slide film by hand, and that some people are interested in it.  So it's been linked to, and read, and it's there because of the content, not because of a liberal sprinkling of snake oil.


Now, I'm not suggesting hiding your content under a bushel and just hoping Google will find it is the right approach - there are lots of practical things you can do, like encouraging cross-linking with Pingback and so on (something I intend to write a bit on soon,) but the moral of the story is this: Don't buy the snake oil.  Invest in your content first and foremost and do the sensible stuff you can find out about for free with a bit of sensible Googling.  But if you see the words "SEO Consultant" or "SEO Campaign" - run for the hills, you've met the Internet equivalent of a PPI Claims Adviser.

Rant over ;-).


(* Writing this has made me feel guilty about the state is in - so I've started the job of bringing it back to life...)


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