Learning SEO or looking for an SEO provider? Watch out for these bu11sh!t, meaningless phrases...

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Okay so for context, check my intro thread if you like: I'm something you don't see too often - An SEO with nothing to sell you! ;)

The above out of the way and as a reminder I'm not here to sell anything and am not taking on clients anyway, here's some info I thought maybe useful to some.

If you're looking for an SEO provider (freelance or agency), here's some thoughts & tips for you, from someone whose sole income for 15+ years has been from SEO & digital marketing. I'm not perfect of course, nobody is... I'm not 'google approved' for SEO (as nobody is! - More on this later), and these are just opinions mostly, but are based on a decade and a half of being paid to do this s**t, with some clients sticking with me for MANY years. This being said, for some of these if you're an SEO that disagrees with any of these that's OK. I welcome discussion & debate!


Then they are likely what I call a 'Guru regurgitator'. Why? Because some SEOs talk about Latent Semantic Indexing as a term to describe a word->to->word relationship in the context of Google's ranking algorithms. This is bullshit, sorry. YES, Google does likely use analysis of terms to build up topical relevancy, and actively tries (read: tries!) to understand the context of words within the broader context of a document & website... However, LSI (Latent Semantic Indexing) is a specific technique, and NOT one that Google does, or ever has used.


Because if you hire an SEO that believes in LSI, you're likely hiring an SEO that doesn't think for themselves too much, instead reads, and repeats, what others spout. There are some VERY high profile SEOs in the industry talking about LSI (still!). However it doesn't 'exist' in the context of Google's ranking algorithms. (Again, LSI does exist, but not in the context of Google's ranking algorithms).


Possibly, if they are good at what they do (everyone is a bit of a sheep at some point, even if they don't think they are!). I mean, it'd be better to hire someone that does question and test things THEMSELVES, rather than being an SEO regurgitator! So I'd take mentions of 'LSI" in the context of SEO, as more of a warning flag to dig a bit deeper into them, than to write them off outright as a provider. Just make sure that they don't JUST repeat others. You'd be surprise how many SEO's don't test stuff, which takes me on to...


Most decent SEOs like to test things, to prove (or disprove) theories. It goes like this, usually:
  1. They have a theory - Either their own, or something they've read.
  2. They set-up a throw-away domain to test on, or use an existing one (or if they are less risk-adverse, they test on a client's site... but that's a bit too naughty for my liking!).
  3. The test the s**t out of the theory, split-testing if possible.
  4. They sometimes:
    1. Publish results (if they genuinely want to discuss the findings in a public arena, or they want public recognition to build their brand).
    2. OR share with a small group of their friends, OR
    3. They keep it to themselves (often the 'juicy' stuff OR things they feel need more testing).
If an SEO doesn't test in this way, it's another sign they are an SEO/Guru regurigitator. If they also talk about LSI keywords, the red flag is growing ;)

Another red flag is if they seem to confuse correlation with causation. I've seen some pretty big SEOs (in terms of them being well known, not saying they are obese!!!) make this mistake.

Here's an example of where testing IS likely a good idea, BUT due to some feckwittery with analysing the study & jumping to conclusions, the gun is well & truly jumped, resulting in several new services being offered, and cash exchanging hands for s**t that simply doesn't work! WARNING: This is a long bit, but may be of interest to some, to show how things can go wrong, even with otherwise respected with 'SEO industry Bigshots'.

This is a big block of text, so I've set it as a spoiler for those not interested ;)

Mr. Bigshot industry SEO 'Guru' runs tests on YouTube, just something simple likely analysing a few thousand videos that rank well for competitive keywords. They discover that:
  • The top-ranking (Youtube page 1 for a competitive, revenue-earning search term) YouTube videos have more 'Likes' than the ones on pages 2 -> 4
  • Equally, they have more comments
  • The 'average' length is 1min 25 seconds (for this particular keyword).
So, Mr. Bigshot industry SEO writes a 10'000 word blog post proclaiming that to rank well on YouTube, you need to:
  1. Earn some likes
  2. Get some comments
  3. Make your videos (for this particular keyword or topic, anyway) 1m 25 seconds-ish long.
Sounds reasonable? Right?

Well... 3 or 4 days later, there are several hundred blog posts mentioning this, and a plethora of 'SEO services', from freelancers and small agencies alike, selling 'Youtube boosting packages', where they will:
  1. Get you YouTube likes (If you're lucky, Indian-based of south east Asia-based digital 'sweat shops' with PCs or phones all other the place and virtual desktops & multiple browser installs on each PC etc - if you're unlucky, multithreaded bots).
  2. Same goes with the comments - mass-spam or bots or tools like XRummer / GSA / Scrape box (which you can do yourself easy enough, but that's another story!).
  3. The instruct you to make your videos the 'sweet spot' length - Or they make some crappy robotic voice & video slideshow video for you instead.
This doesn't cost too much, but likely gives you zero fecking results. So, what went wrong?

Well, looking at Mr. Bigshot's study again, I'd personally say:

  1. The top ranking videos had more likes BECAUSE the are GOOD, informative, and rank well. So, this is an EFFECT of ranking well, not a CAUSE. = Study FAIL.
  2. Likewise, the top vids for tough terms get COMMENTS because they trigger DISCUSSION/DEBATE. So they are not only informative and easy to watch/listen to, they provoce something - emotional response quite often (excitement, enthusiasm, or even rage!). = Study FAIL.
  3. Sure - the 'average' length was that... But were ANY of the videos? You can have a few videos 30 seconds long, and few videos 3 minutes long, with the mean average falling in the 1min XXs range! Doesn't MEAN that there are ANY benefits to the 1m XXs video length = Study FAIL
So, what does that REALLY mean? Is it this?
  1. You need to make videos that are easy to watch, informative/educate people, and trigger an emotional response of some sort
  2. As above, really
  3. Videos should be as long as they need to be to answer the point of the damn video, but not so long that they are boring

What about things the 'Bigshot' didn't test? Like...
  1. Average % view-length of the videos?
  2. At what point was 'like' clicked? YouTube (and by definition & extension, then, Google) are NOT perfect with their algos, but it's likely they CAN tell the difference between a 'Like' being gained within 1 second of damn page loading, versus half-way thru, vs at the end... See? Sooooo many variables!).
  3. What about links? Do they videos get many links from other sites? What about embeds? Are they embedded many places and, if so, WHERE? Are they spammy auto-blogs with duplicate content, or highly respected, industry-relevant sites, embedded on articles from known authors (known 'Entities' in a specific industry)?
  4. Conversely to the about point (3), MAYBE the top ranking videos are actually plastered across a PBN of shitty spam sites, but for some unknown (or unseen) reason, it's worked? (unknown to US isn't always untraceable... sometimes some digital sleuth work CAN unvail PBN footprints, if you know where/how to look).
Interesting fact? - THE ABOVE HAPPENED & I WATCHED IT UNFOLD! doh948""doh948""doh948""fin4774"


This one can REALLY get SEOs into a debate :D

For many... White hat SEO is basically sticking to Google's terms. Black hat is breaking Google's terms. Grey hat is kinda sitting on the fence, pushing boundaries a little bit, but being scared with a fear of commit ;)

TO ME, HOWEVER... It's more nuanced.

For a start, Lot's of SEOs talk about white hat SEO, then go on to discuss tactics that are quite clearly NOT white hat SEO in the industry-understand meaning of the word...

If you do anything to 'build' backlinks for the purpose of increasing your ranking in Google, you're essentially 'risking' (for want of a better word) NOT being 'white hat' in your approach to SEO. There are no two ways about it! Manipulating your website's backlink profile to rank higher in Google is NOT what Google want! Paying for guest posts that contain a (dofollow/not falgged as sponsored in meta data) = not white hat... MANY other tactics = NOT white had. Does this mean doing so is WRONG? In my opinion, absolutely NOT! Why? Well, let's take a step back and get real for a minute...

Google is a company - owned by another company Alphabet Inc. They are a FOR PROFIT business, who have a produce (okay, several products), which is essentially a search engine. They then show adverts on that search engine to generate revenue. Also:
  1. They frequently try to increase the blending of organic & paid results, to get more of the organic clicks into paid ones
  2. They show their own assets above others, often in an anti-competitive way, for example
  3. They push their own affiliate-based comparison engines (credit card/finance, travel etc) above others (some of whom had paid/still pay £xmillion per month in Ad-spend to Google anyway!)
  4. At the same time, they threaten or penalise other 'thin affiliate' websites that are just data agregator powered affiliate sites (comparison sites) if they don't 'provide additional value' through content etc (but check point 3 - None of the Google comparison sites, which a data-aggregator comparison sites provide much additional valuable content besides comparsion! So do as I say, NOT as I do).
So, IF by being 'White Hat' some SEOs are breaking Google's rules, does it matter? Only in ONE way.

Who would you rather work with? Someone who tells you they will do one thing, then does something else? Or someone who will be HONEST about what they do, TELL YOU THE RISKS, where their approach crosses the lines, and ASKS you what YOU are comfortable with?

This is how I WORK WITH CLIENTS (again - not pitching here, and not really accepting clients, anyway - but giving this info to ENCOURAGE you to be HONEST with SEOs (and let them know that's what you want, too!).

I tell clients I CAN do purely 100% white hat SEO, but:
  1. I don't really recommend it. Because it's bullshit. Google are NOT a country, their rules are NOT LAW in ANY way. Nor are they the morality police (hellow Google's tax advisors :D :D). So... WHY follow their rules? Why REALLY? Of course, it's FEAR OF BEING PENALISED. Then let's talk about THAT ;)
  2. I then ask clients what level of exposure they're happy with.
  3. Based on a bit of Q&A, including also competitor research (as, well, what works is doing better than the people you're trying to out rank, at the end of the day!), I come up with a plan of action.
  4. I discuss the plan with the client, with FULL DISCLOSURE of where we're breaking "Lord Google's" rules, HOW we're breaking them, and WHY. Plus, what the chance of being caught is in reality, and how we mitegate the risks. PLUS what we can do if they get caught (hint - blame me as an SEO, remove some of the work done, and plead ignorance... It's the nasty SEO man's fault! - I'm fine with this... Though it's never happened, as it's MY job to make sure it doesn't) ;)
  5. Plan done, client understands risks, has asked questions until satisfied = Crack on and get s**t done.
So... ASK you SEO just HOW white hat their work is, where specifically they are willing/likely to break Google's rules, how they mitegate the risks, and what the plan will be should the worst happen.

IF they say "we only do white hat SEO" either:
  1. They don't trust you enough to tell you the truth (for fear of being 'outed'
  2. They are s**t at what they do (with a few RARE exceptions, like some folks who are s**t HOT at digital PR, and getting press coverage for links... Though I know a few very well respected in those circles who STILL push the boundaries behind closed doors... Seriously, you don't think well know business journos take a 'sweeteners' ? :D hahahaa. Yer... RIGHT!
  3. They are lying.
  4. They are not broken by a corrupt & egotistical industry yet. (ooops, am I showing my age & cynicism?!)
Side note: What MY definition of white & black hat is... an alternative standpoint!

MY 'White Hat' SEO:

- Doing s**t that works in the way that will stand the least chance of annoying the feck out of Google, that is sooooo hard to prove it has never resulting in a penalty for a client. All the while, NOT shitting on other 'real' people (don't trash their blogs with XRummer/scrapebox spam, Don't just XSS or SQL injection to take over their sites to sell viarga or Nike shoes, and don't steal from people.

- However, don't fear stepping outside of Google's rules around how THEY want the internet to work. (hint... they want to OWN the internet, REMOVE your privacy, STOP web URLs (seriously, they are testing this), and more...

My 'Black Hat' SEO: (s**t I won't do!)

- Lying to clients, taking their money to do pointless s**t that won't work!
- Steal from people (phishing, taking money for work I don't do, stretch my hours charging for stuff I've not done).
- Copy/Paste s**t other SEOs do without testing myself (ideally, testing to 'breaking point', to see where that point is currently, whilst 'guessing' how that may change in the future).
- Shitting on other people's resources too much (spamming the buggery out of sites owned by genuine businesses trying to make a buck).

Okay - Therein lies my post. May update this in the future - Questions? Opinions? Outrage? Disgust? Come on - let me know :D


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I've been making websites for a very long time, and the main terms in SEO that I pay attention to are long tail and keywords. Long tail search queries - a set of phrases that are given to the search engine. This group of requests is the most numerous and it contains about a third of the total number of search sessions. Keywords are words or, most often, small phrases that describe the topic of a page as fully and accurately as possible. All this greatly affects the raising of the site in Google. And here you can also use ready-made services, as you do, for example Keyword Density Checker | Free website keyword stuffing scanner. It will check the relevance of keywords instead of you, which greatly simplifies your task.
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