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Thursday, February 17, 2011

10 reasons you're not an 'advanced' SEO

I’m warning everyone: I’m blogging angry. I waited 24 hours. I’m still angry. So here it is.


I am @#$)(* sick and tired of people telling me they’re “advanced” SEO’s, sitting on “advanced” SEO panels and speaking at “advanced” SEO conferences after three years of screwing up people’s web sites with a nofollow tag.

Here are all the bits of knowledge that do not make you an advanced SEO:

So, you know what robots.txt is. You’ve even figured out how to not bury someone’s website with it.

Do you know how the different search engines treat robots.txt?

Do you know how it compares to the way search engines use the meta ROBOTS tag?

You do? Congratulations. That’s not advanced either.

Knowing robots.txt in SEO is like knowing not to pour sugar in your gas tank: It doesn’t make you mechanic. It makes you not a moron.

You know what makes you advanced? Knowing how unhelpful robots.txt is if you have 999999 duplicate pages on your web site. It’s a start, anyway.

Nofollow does not help SEO. At best, it prevents you from getting banned if you sell links on your site.

This is not a news flash. It’s been true for a while. If that surprises you, you’re not advanced.

Now, if you know how to design a site’s architecture to funnel authority around to the pages that need it, that could make you advanced. If you know why it works – not just the fact that it does, but the math behind it – that makes you an advanced SEO.

There are plenty of lousy black hat SEO’s, too. Downloading Billy Bob’s Blogomatic Spammerizer does not suddenly put you on equal footing with the Fantomasters and Dave Naylors of the world.

Advanced black hattery is highly technical. If you don’t know what a reverse proxy is, and can’t figure out how to deliver different content to user agents from specific IP addresses, you are not even in the ball park.

If that last sentence made your eyes cross, guess what? You’re not advanced.

If you’ve successfully cloaked content for more than 2 days, you might be advanced. If you’ve constructed your own link farm and it still works, you’re probably advanced. If Matt Cutts crosses himself when he hears your name, then you’re definitely advanced.

You know how to use the META HTTP-EQUIV tag. That’s good. And I mean that – I’m not being sarcastic.

It’s also basic HTML.

If you can double your rates by saying “I’m sorry, but you don’t have the right doctype declaration in your pages” I’m really happy for you. But do not try to tell me you’re a leader in the industry. You’re just someone who knows how to click ‘new from template >> HTML’ in Textmate.

If you understand which HTML tags matter to SEO and which don’t, you’ve moved from preschool to Kindergarten.

If you know how to make a page load faster with smart HTML, you’re in grade school.

Learn how to render javascript last, optimize for mobile crawlers and pull together pages that are blindingly fast, look good and are SEO-friendly, and you’ve made it to SEO grad school.

Oh god.

Links are not advanced. Link building is not advanced.

Knowing that air is important for human life doesn’t make you a surgeon.

Knowing that links are important for SEO doesn’t make you an expert. Nor does:

Knowing new and creative ways to grub for links;Writing posts with f-bombs in them in an attempt to accumulate links;Posting images of scantily clad men/women to accumulate links;Regurgitating what you read on SEOMOZ. Those guys are advanced. You are not;Putting 45 links in the footer of your site. I’ll actually punch you if you suggest it.

Here’s advanced. If you know:

How links pass authority, and why;The effect of adding a link to a page;The known math behind PageRank;The Rational Surfer model;Why PageRank is an iterative model;What makes some links better than others;How to turn a great article into a great link generator;How to encourage folks to link to you in subtle, smart ways.

Then I tip my hat – you’re an advanced SEO.

Does. Not. Make. You. Advanced.

I’ve heard some of the worst stupidity in the industry spouted at SEO conferences. I love conferences, and I’ve learned a ton there. But for every great, well-informed speaker, there are at least three who have no business on stage.

If you are:

Using the slide deck from 2 years ago;Presenting on ‘title tag optimization’ for the 12th time;Telling the audience that creating an XML site map equals SEO;Having to pelt your audience with erasers to keep them awake.

…you may have good stuff to say, but you’re not in the ‘advanced’ category. Nor are you a ninja, a rock star or a guru.

If you can give your audience something they haven’t heard before, help them really improve their rankings and have them leave your session still scribbling notes frantically, then you might just be an advanced SEO.

I’m repeating myself a bit. But knowing how to generate an XML sitemap is not exactly mind-boggling SEO trickery. Anyone can download Xenu Link Sleuth, run it, and export an XML sitemap in about 10 minutes.

‘XML’ made people in suspenders sound experienced back in 1998. Give it up and move on.

Learn crawl budget, and how to evaluate your site’s crawl budget (Thanks Tom - link to article now in place) and you’ve got a decent start.

You may not need be an advanced SEO. Not being ‘advanced’ doesn’t make you a bad person. But declaring yourself an expert and then ripping off clients and misleading audiences all because you’ve got self-esteem issues is pathetic, and it hurts our industry. So cut it out.

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