Make no mistake. Conrad is not a polite contrarian when it comes to weighing marketing strategy and tactics, but an unabashed SEO debunker who has unmasked, lampooned and otherwise myth-busted the worn out fables of SEO doctrine. As the Director of Marketing for Avvo.com, the leader in professional rating, research and referrals for lawyers, and now doctors, he has no patience for the dogma-groomed search poodles who are chasing their tails. By understanding SEO for what it is, and what it isn’t, Saam is one of the best search marketers in his or any industry.
In the infamous “Confessions of an In-House SEO” speech he delivered at the Ignite forum at the 2010 SMX West Show, Conrad systematically skewered the kabobs of conventional SEO wisdom. In less than 5 minutes, his talk wound up a full four years of his SEO career and unravelled about a decade’s worth of SEO lore. The fuse that was lit with the aptly named Ignite video quickly went viral.
Here are the SEO highlights, (or are they the lowlights?). The strike-out lines are purely intentional.
You Need to be Really Good at SEO
Are you competing for “pink fuzzy bunny slippers” or “Mesothelioma Lawyer?” There’s a giant chasm between the two in terms of marketing sophistication. You need to define where you want to compete, and your mileage will vary greatly up against high performance vehicles.
SEO is Marketing
To be really good at SEO you have to have Development buy-in. The bigger your site is, the more this is a problem.
SEO is a Department.
Actually, it’s all departments, infiltrating every single part of an organization. The SEO’s job is to make sure that everyone in the organization understands how it works.
PR is Marketing.
In SEO parlance, PR is the equivalent of SEO Link Building on steroids.
Bad Publicity is Bad
Nine days after Avvo first launched its legal site it got sued. “This was awesome,” exudes Conrad, “from a link building perspective!”
You Must Outsource for Expertise
“I will only hire a consultant to do something,” says Conrad, “if I know exactly what they are going to be doing. And if I know exactly what they are going to do, I can do it myself.” Hard to argue with that logic. One of the only exceptions to Saam’s outsourcing rule is if you want to buy shady, spammy links. “Because then you can blame your agency,” Conrad deadpans.
You Must Plan Carefully
You are going to make mistakes. “We’ve made mistakes all over the place and we’ve only survived because we had an agile process,” said Conrad. “If you’re not dealing with an agile process, you’re toast!”
Focus on Ranking.
This one drives Saam bananas. The importance of ranking for specific terms is becoming more and more obsolete. Until the day that ranking equals traffic and traffic equals conversions, which they do not, rankings are good for one thing only –reports read by Newbies.
Your Competitors Plays Fair
Assume this at your peril. Even large branded sites are not playing fair. So following what they are doing, as if that is ALL they are doing, is simply naieve. Which leads to…
Benchmark Your Competitors
When Southwest Airlines wanted to reduce their time on the ground they looked to Indy Racing Pit Crews, not to their own industry. “If you try and match what your competitors are doing you are just going to be as bad as they are!”
Listen to the Experts.
A lot of conferences have a “My black hat is bigger than your black hat” theme. You can pick up some really bad advice that way so listen very, very critically.” And finally…
You are Smart.
Well, maybe you are, but if you don’t understand the correlation between confidence intervals, sample size and variability, and what a T-test is, you may not be smart about SEO. Fortunately, there are lots of people in the SEO world who are willing to help the less informed.
SEO has an End Point.
SEO is never over. The better at it you get, the more paranoid you get. In fact, if you’re not going to sleep or waking up by looking over your shoulder, you are not doing SEO really, really well.
The wrong assumptions are useless. The right information is priceless. Conrad ought to “know.” [24×7]