There are many reasons why you may not be using inbound marketing channels (such as SEO, blogging, social media, and newsletters) to drive leads.

You might have tried, got burned, and given up. I hear it all the time. Trust me, it’s not that inbound marketing is not working for you, it’s the other way around; you haven’t made it work for you.

Or…you might have gotten in trouble with Google for being irresponsible. Examples include outsourcing your SEO to Philippines that guaranteed to ‘get you on top of Google for 10 keywords’ for a couple hundred bucks. Do you think ’outsmarting’ thousands of Ivey league Google engineers is worth couple hundred bucks if the offer was legit?

wild west of seo

In a recent podcast on SteamFeed Radio I talked about the many ways brands and bloggers can get in trouble with Google. SEO is a billion dollar industry, black hat SEOs get you in trouble with Google, and white hat SEOs get you out of trouble. You end up paying double, and moving backwards.

Here is what Stephen C. Baldwin, Author of ‘Net Slaves: True Tales of Working the Web,’ (McGraw-Hill) and Editor-in-Chief at Didit had to say on the topic:

I’ve had a chance to interview a number of SEO spammers in my career as a journalist. Sadly, they all share an obsession with fast money, contempt for the searchers tricked into consuming their low-quality content, and the strangely irrational belief that they’ll always be able to operate outside the reach of the law.

Today, however, the “Wild West Era of SEO” is over, a new sheriff is in town, and civilization is about to arrive on the search frontier. The good news is that marketers who are using smart SEO approach will actually profit much more over time than those using the crude, risky optimization tactics of the past.

new seo scheriff

Here is one of readers’ favorite chapters of my recent book: “SEO Like I’m 5: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization.”

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly About SEO

Over the years, SEO ‘practitioners’ have contributed to a massive amount of spam and poor quality content on the web.

They broke directories, stuffed content with keywords, spammed the comments on blogs, and bought and traded links in order to game Google’s algorithm and push mediocre content toward the top in keyword rankings. Well, it was bad, and sometimes ugly, but it worked! I often call this period the ‘Wild West Era’ of SEO.

The Wild West Era of SEO

Until 2011, when Google released its first major anti-spam algorithm called Panda, you got on top of Google by buying links and banging out tons of low-quality content.

Those days are over. Recent Google algorithm updates, both Panda and Penguin, rendered most of the old SEO tactics obsolete.

You still need to understand how the search algorithm works to make your content perform on Google or on Facebook’s Graph Search. The game change is that, as marketers, we can’t be merely concerned about the ‘keyword.’ Instead, we must optimize our content to relate to ‘who’ typed it into the search box.

new seo frontier

Google’s algorithm is essentially a machine trying hard to think like a human. Thus social signals, author authority, and any type of user engagement metrics are becoming a big part of how Google decides what goes on the top.

Don’t try to game Google; you cannot (in a long run at least). Google has thousands of PhDs from the best engineering schools in the world working for it day in day out. Who are you to challenge it? Rather, focus on the end user – the human being – which is what Google’s algorithm is trying to do.

Instead of chasing Google’s algorithm, get in front it. Put the user first. Tweet this if you agree with a hashtag #SEOLike5.

In 2014 and beyond, marketers need to align their keyword strategy along the user journey, emphasizing the connection between content and intent (i.e. keyword) through methodical audience profiling, research, and analysis.

The Good: White Hat SEO

The key to SEO success is to focus on quality: quality optimization, quality content,white hat seoand quality relationships! With quality on your side, both users and the algorithms will be on your side as well.

Quality Optimization. Optimizing your website to help search engine spiders understand what your content is about through on-site technical SEO.

Quality Content. Creating valuable content for your target users that is both shareworthy and linkworthy.

Quality Relationships. Building strong relationships with others in your industry through social media to amplify your content and improve your chances of gaining valuable backlinks to your website.

The Bad: Black Hat SEO

black hat seoThere are many SEO companies and consultants for whom time stopped in 2011. Every second, as we speak, a new business gets sold on $200 hassle-free SEO packages guaranteed to get them on the top pages of Google for a number of keywords. Do you really believe in fairy tales? There is no such thing as a free lunch in SEO.

The end result is often more harm than benefit if any of the following practices are involved:

Buying Links. Participating in any type of link schemes or farms. Paying for links is a major violation of Google’s terms of service.

Acquiring poor quality links. Creating hundreds of low-quality backlinks manually through directory submissions and commenting. Google knows better; you should too.

Article spinning. Rewriting and publishing low-quality content at scale across the Web. Those links are garbage.

The Ugly: SEO Spam

spam seoThere are many forms of spam that the shady Internet element of hackers and unethical SEOs thought of over the years. It’s a big problem for Google, which is constantly trying to filter its search results from spam.

You can get flagged for spamming and get thrown out of Google’s index for practicing any of the below spammy SEO tactics:

Fake accounts, reviews or comments. You can also get sued and fined.

Content spam. These techniques involve keyword stuffing, doorway pages, or hidden or invisible text straight from the 1990s playbook.

Spam blogs. Blogs built on stolen, duplicate content with thousands of useless web pages. These sites exist only for monetization and provide no value to the user.

Do you do SEO on your website? Have you ever got burnt by the black hat tactics? What’s your experience with Google?

Share your experience in the comments below.

This post an excerpt from my recent book: “SEO Like I’m 5: The Ultimate Beginners Guide to Search Engine Optimization.” Originally published on The Next Web.

seo like I'm 5

8 replies
  1. Reginald Chan
    Reginald Chan says:

    Hey Matthew,

    How are you man? Belated Merry Christmas 🙂

    Hope you are doing well and boom! You nailed it. Being involved in SEO for years, I personally seen so many good SEO gone bad and bad ones gone good.

    Well, guess the tide is shifting right?

    What do you think SEO will be like in 2015?

    Talk soon and sharing this around!

    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Hey Reginald, thanks for the note. Happy Holidays and Happy 2015!

      I think it’s more about ‘showing up’ and less about ranking your website. So you need to pay attention to distribution and establish presence on youtube, amazon, wikipedia, social feed, images, content platforms, and everything else that makes up 85% of Google’s SERP. Your website competes for lesser and lesser of the real estate.

      All the best, talk to you soon


  2. Don Purdum
    Don Purdum says:

    Hi Matthew,

    Excellent post explaining where SEO has come from and where it’s going. When I was in web design and development, many of my clients would go out and hire the black hat guys unintentionally on the promise they would get results. It go so bad in 2007-2010 that I had to learn how to do it right so that I could steer them to legitimate seo companies that could really help them the right way.

    One of the problems I’ve encountered over the years is that business owners and marketing professionals who help them don’t know what business they are really in.

    Meaning, they cannot summarize and explain in cohesive short phrases what they do and how they make a difference for their prospects and customers.

    Last year, I created the idea of working with business owners to help them understand what business they are “really” in from the public’s point of view, what problems they “really solve, who they “specifically” solve them for and how their products or services are a part of the solution.

    Because they started to learn how their customers think, they were able to better understand how their prospects search for them online. It’s interesting that if the business owner takes the information they’ve learned and package it for an seo company, the seo company has some incredible opportunities to really help their client.

    Like you said, in the end all we are doing is matching up what we do with what a prospect is searching for. If you talk their language instead of your own not only do you give yourself a great chance with a search engine but even better you create an amazing opportunity for someone to buy from you. The reader/prospect feels that you really understand them and they connect with content that is written to them and not salesy, yet still gives them a chance to buy.

    Great post Matthew, I really enjoyed this article!

    I hope you have a Happy New Year!!!!!!

    ~ Don Purdum

    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Hey Don, thanks for sharing. Happy 2015!

      I think when you said that businesses hire ‘black hat guys intentionally’ you defined the problem right there. The issue is that many small businesses are not unethical, they just get sold by good salespeople. I think it’s key to be educated before hiring an SEO provider, hence the post.

      And you said it right, understand the business model and do marketing 101 before doing SEO.


  3. Lesa
    Lesa says:

    Focusing on the end user — and creating content that serves their needs — is definitely the way to go, now and in the future. I, for one, am glad that Google has made these changes and forced SEO to adapt as it makes the search experience better for everyone (even as it makes getting search traffic harder for businesses).

    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Thanks Lesa, I agree that it’s all about end user and search experience. I think it’s good that the playing field is better for those businesses who play by the rules. However, Google is still very reactive and the line between black and white is very blurry. One website can get penalized for a couple of questionable backlinks whereas there are sites that do well with thousands of bad backlinks. I’m curious what Google has in store for us SEOs in 2015 and beyond. I expect the rules tightening and Google being more aggressive in cracking down on spam.

  4. Ryan Biddulph
    Ryan Biddulph says:

    Fear and greed lead bloggers to do really stupid things. Really, REALLY dumby things lol.

    Matt you’ve done a fine job explaining how to take the honest, clear and simple path to becoming a successful targeter via SEO.

    The thing is people think they can manipulate or outsmart so many smart folks. Not gonna happen, or at least, not for the long term.

    Before Google go serious about cracking down on spam and the like people did generate some nice cash using black hat but in the end, karma caught up to them. Why? Nobody can get endlessly by being dishonest, or by putting in a poor effort, because sowing and reaping is always in effect.

    Sure you’ll make a few bucks here and there by trying to use force but force negates. In the end, power attracts, and you explained above how to generate SEO power.

    Optimize intelligently. Build strong, meaningful relationships with influencers in your niche. Get serious about creating helpful, thorough, problem solving content.

    If you can follow these steps, and work on your mindset, you will kill it online, through your SEO campaign and because you built your online business on the strongest of foundations.

    Matt, I gotta say,I am happy and grateful to be your friend. You’ve taught me so much about SEO and about building bonds, that I was in the dark beforehand.

    Happy Holidays dude and fab post!


    • Matthew Capala
      Matthew Capala says:

      Hey Ryan, thanks and happy 2015!

      You are spot on, first it’s hard to believe when someone claims that he/she can ‘outsmart’ thousands of engineering Phds from top schools who work at Google. Second, if in fact you could ‘outsmart’ Google you wouldn’t be charging only a couple of hundred bucks and selling it to small businesses via a cold email. You would be on top of the world, so don’t get fooled.

      I recently interviewed Jacob King, who is a respected black hat seo, for my upcoming podcast, and he shared a lot of good insights. In summary, he claims you can still game Google here and there with a lot of effort and creativity, but not to extend you used to be able to before Panda and Penguin, so it’s going to be harder and harder to boost your search rankings with the black hat SEO tactics of the past. He points out in verticals like ‘viagra’ or ‘payday loans’ black-hat SEO and spam is a prerequisite to rank.

      All the best


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