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SEO & Internet Marketing: Land of the Middle Man

16 July 2004

Who am I fooling?

I tell some people that I am an SEO and what I do and some people think it makes me really smart. The truth is that with a little experience and some effort anybody can be a successful SEO.

I believe you can use SEO to help inform people about social problems or to speak about important issues with a megaphone, but most profit driven SEO is nothing special. SEO usually is simply a middle man collecting cash.

Who do I Work for?

Very few people. In fact I can count my number of customers on a single hand at any given time. I could work for a bunch of people and make significantly greater profits, but at the end of the day I doubt I would be happy with what I am doing.

Why don't I have more Clients?

I refuse to work for most people who contact me. Most people have unoriginal ideas and broken business models.

The concept of SEO -and only doing SEO- is a stupid idea in the long run. It really builds no long term value. SEO is a good thing if it enhances your business model. SEO is a bad thing if it is your entire business model.

Over time a smarter competitor with a better and cheaper product will come to market. They may even have more money too.

The search engine algorithms will also improve, and they will become harder to manipulate. Thus if SEO is your entire business model you are stuck doing the same things over and over again. It is a waste of time and effort.

It is far easier to be good, original, or interesting than it is to promote things that do not interest you.

Commodity SEO

Other people have lower living costs than I do and are willing to work far cheaper than I would. Today I saw a reciprocal link exchange service from an Indian website for $3. I can't compete with that.

Just being an SEO means that eventually I will become a commodity which serves little value for my customers.

Internet marketing as an SEO is primarily just a land of the middle man.

Some SEOs aim to protect their profitable positions by throwing out marketing terms such as ethics or black hat, but at the end of the day they are just marketing terms that have no tangible value. After enough time people will realize that spam is just another form of slang marketing.

What I Enjoy Doing

I want to be the person who comes up with the better ideas. I want to repair broken business models, repair broken social policies, and help craft ideas that will spread naturally on their own.

I want to use the web to learn, and I want to use it to teach. I have no desire to do repeated drone work.

What is Effective SEO?

Right now search engines are still primitive. Their algorithms generally are easy to manipulate. Currently effective SEO means just getting links from many different sites pointing at you with your keywords in the link text.

Not hard. Something anyone can do. Something people can be trained to do for $2 an hour. A commodity.

Over time as more and more people realize this the market will get more flooded and it will be harder and harder to be an effective middle man if one were to focus exclusively on SEO.

Why Many SEOs are Ineffective

Link building is the single most important aspect of effective SEO. Contacting people, exchanging links, buying links, and renting links takes a ton of time. And it is extremely expensive.

Most SEO firms say they are "ethical" and then are too lazy to do a good job of link building for their clients. They simply register a site with DMOZ and Yahoo! and call that link building. Well it is not.

An Example of Good Middle Men

Many directories on the web charge people for submission to their directory. This is usually a good deal as most of the second tier directories only charge a one time fee, and often these links are indexed and analyzed by search engines any pay for themselves month after month after month.

An Example of Bad Middle Men

Some directory owners do not actively promote their sites. This means that they are not really doing much with the money you are spending registering your site. Worse yet is the fact that some of these directories intentionally sell links that they know do not get indexed by search engines.

Some directories are small, irrelevant, provide links that can't be spidered, and do not even promote their own sites. Obviously this offers no intrinsic value to people who submit their sites.

Many SEOs will tell you how good they are. Most people claiming to be professional SEOs are more closely aligned with this second directory example than the first.

Effective SEO Going Forward

Creating ideas that naturally want to spread is the most effective form of SEO.

Crafting sound business partnerships, friendships, and strong business strategies will reflect well in society and through the linkage data across the web.

You know your products better than an SEO does. Including the marketing message into your product helps spread your idea and fights off commodification.

Problems with SEO

  • SEO has a low cost of entry.
  • The SEO market is hyper saturated.
  • There is no way to regulate SEO.
  • I once saw a hemp jewelry website offering SEO services. Many people out of shear luck get one good ranking and then turn into an SEO firm (I am just as guilty of this as anyone else is...in fact I made my first SEO site before I even had any good rankings).
  • Much of the information about SEO on the web is outdated.
  • Some SEO firms take your money and do stupid things to get you banned.
  • Some SEO firms also take money and do not do much work for the payment received.

Summary

  • Many middle men on the web are greed driven and do shoddy work.
  • Odds are rather high that even if you pay an internet marketer a large sum of money you will still end up buying twice.
  • If you look for the lowest price marketer that means that they do not even know how to market their own services. If you do this you will probably be buying more frequently than twice.
  • Some people aim to make profits for themselves. Some people aim to help themselves while helping others. You should closely evaluate what the goals are of any business you come in contact with (especially on the web) before you spend any money.
  • SEO can boost the performance of your business.
  • If SEO is your exclusive business model eventually you will run into problems.
  • Building marketing into your ideas and causing free syndication of your ideas is the best form of SEO.

Few people on the web have their own original ideas that they are selling. Most people in one way or another are just another middle man peddling commodity products. Don't become a commodity and chose your help wisely.

- by Aaron Wall, hopefully a "good" middle man

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