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June 19, 2011

Who Keeps Spreading Silly SEO Stupidity, and Why?

Not a week goes by where a reader or a client doesn’t ask me a question based on some bad SEO advice they heard or read somewhere. Most of the time they don’t know it’s bad advice. They assume that if they read it in a blog, went to a seminar, listened to a webinar or even discussed it with a company that provides SEO as a service, the advice must be solid. Sometimes (usually if they’re a long-term HRA reader 😉 they may think it sounds a bit fishy, and smartly ask for my opinion.

While it’s true that among SEO industry veterans there can be disagreement about what works and what doesn’t, there are some SEO tactics that have been known by all who have even the slightest bit of intelligence to be useless. And yet they still crop up as SEO advice — all the time!

Just last week I got an email from a longtime HRA subscriber who told me that his friend had attended a seminar where the speaker told them they should submit their website to search engines on a monthly basis, and proceeded to provide them with the name of a tool that would do so for only $99 per month!

And just yesterday, someone emailed me for my opinion when she read in another email newsletter that Google only indexed the first 100 words on a page!

When I hear this sort of irresponsible and incorrect information being spread to impressionable Internet marketers in the making, I get irate. In fact, here’s what I said in response to the question about submitting sites to the search engines:

“I honestly can’t believe that there could still be, in 2011, someone who would speak to an audience on any form of Internet marketing who would recommend submitting to search engines, let alone one that would recommend spending $99 (or even 10 cents) a month to do so. In fact, it enrages me. That person who spoke must be a sales rep for that [submission tool] company, and he or she should be thrown out of the business and not allowed to speak on the topic ever again.”

While it is likely that the speaker was a paid sponsor there to peddle his putrid website submission tool to clueless newbies, I started to wonder about others who spread this sort of silly SEO stupidity, and why.

Here’s what I came up with:

It’s Easy to Implement

This is likely the main reason that SEO stupidity spreads like wildfire, and the reason that is the basis for all the other reasons. SEO — that is, real SEO — is hard. Stupid SEO is easy. (So what if it doesn’t work? That’s just a small inconvenience!)

Incompetent SEOs have a vested interest in perpetuating silly SEO. The more people who think that SEO is about submitting to search engines or about meta keywords, the more people will sign up for their boondoggle services and the more ill-gained money they’ll have lining their pockets.

Old Articles Get Recirculated

There are more than 15 years’ worth of old, out-of-date SEO articles from a variety of sources that may look credible on the surface (and perhaps were at one time), but that provide advice that has nothing to do with SEO in the 21st century. Just do a Google search for “Should I submit to search engines?” and you’ll see all sorts of fun stuff. Even Google’s Webmaster Guidelines point to their Add-URL page, which is all but worthless.

Designers and Developers Know Just Enough SEO to be Dangerous

I’ll just point you to my “85 Reasons Why Website Designers / Developers Keep SEOs in Business article to explain this one.

Forum Circle Jerks

There are, surprisingly, still a lot of SEO forums in the online world, most of them full of newbies. While it’s great that new people in our industry want to learn SEO, they need some professional and competent SEOs there to guide them. Yet on many forums it’s a case of the blind leading the blind. A newbie thinks some silly SEO technique works and spreads it to the other newbies. Eventually one of the more enterprising young SEOs writes the “Newbie Bible to Stupid SEO” and at that point what is said must be true (cuz it’s in the bible!).

Believing What You Read or Hear Instead of Figuring It Out for Yourself

This truly irks me to no end and is definitely one of the major causes for the spread of many a silly SEO idea. If something you read sounds credible, then by all means give it a try. But unless you see proof of it working with your own eyes, then don’t believe it…even if the most credible person in the SEO world wrote or said it.

Mixing Up Cause And Effect

Another one of my pet peeves that has been common since the beginning of SEO time. Just because you changed the positioning of a word in your title tag and the next day you ranked one place higher in Google doesn’t mean that your change is what caused it. It may have, but it may not have. We used to joke on the High Rankings Forum that if you keep a cabbage on your monitor it will increase your rankings. Why not? It’s as likely as some of the silly SEO theories that are based on poorly drawn conclusions that mix up cause and effect.

They’re Set In Their Ways

We all know that people hate change. Many SEOs are no different. But just because a 1990s search engine could only index a certain number of kilobytes of information on a page (likely due to bandwidth constraints) doesn’t mean that today’s Google works that way. The search engines themselves have made huge strides over the years, and while the basics of making a great site will always remain the same, the mechanics of how to do that change often. So to the person who recently asked me if hand-coded HTML pages will rank better than dynamically generated ones, the answer is a definitive NO, even if it may have been true in 1996!

Coincidentally, just as I finished writing all of the above, I received an email from my friend and colleague Karon Thackston, who has a new client who was previously told by one of those silly SEOs, “You need a THOUSAND words of copy on your eCommerce Home Page, and cram it full of keywords!” She was also told by another silly SEO, “You need to rewrite ALL the copy on your entire site because it’s no longer ‘fresh.'” Apparently, he qualified “fresh” as anything over 60
days old. Sigh.

With SEO stupidity such as that being spouted to unsuspecting website owners each and every day, as well as for the reasons stated above, I fear it’s going to be many more years before most people can sort out the facts from the SEO fiction.

Jill Whalen is the CEO of High Rankings, a SEO Consulting company in the Boston, MA area
since 1995. Follow her on Twitter @JillWhalen

45 Responses to “Who Keeps Spreading Silly SEO Stupidity, and Why?

    avatar Bliss Ellison from UK Wholesalers says:


    I really enjoyed reading your article, particularly the SEO jokes.
    Yes, its a fact the web world along with the search engine sector have seen a tremendous changes for the past couple of years, because of few algorithmic jerks and more user oriented technologies introduced every day. But i feel SEO is much about taking risks, analyzing things and then come up with a conclusion. Yes, if you have found something that you think could be credible for your site, just give it a try and remember, you won’t enjoy the results today if you have implemented a thing yesterday. You have to be little bit patient while analyzing the cause and effect.

    Bliss Ellison
    Wholesale Pages

    avatar Scott Ludtke says:

    Great Article Jill!
    You certainly have some good one’s in your list. I especially like the one about the $99 per month search engine submission tool.
    One of my clients was paying $40 annually to submit his website to over 50 search engines. He’d been doing this for several years and the sad thing is that his “old” website was nowhere to be found… I assured him that he can keep his $40 now…
    I too get livid at these con artists who sell snake oil SEO promises to people that have no clue about what it means and how it works. The best thing that ethical SEO’s like you and I can do is to educate people, and try and expose the con artists and their useless products.

    avatar Paul Masterson says:

    I totally agree with you. I used to be obsessive about keyword placement, getting the SEO perfect. Now I don’t bother.

    I update the site when I have time and since my obsession has stopped I am getting between 500 to 600 visitors per day with about 9000 pv.

    I like and use SEO on client sites, but only by using proper page descriptions and keywords… mostly long tail. I do use SMO as well…



    avatar Laszlo says:

    You declare a lot of SEO tools are silly and doesn’t work at all – but you give NO proof, just declarations. Your article is silly. And I was silly to read it throug – without getting any useful hint from it.

    Great article! Unbelievable stories :d

    avatar Tom Shivers says:

    Here’s another stupid assumption I heard recently: just because Google doesn’t credit no-follow links doesn’t mean Bing doesn’t. As if Bing isn’t aware of what Google is doing and why.

    avatar Tim Barker says:

    The cabbage on the monitor works every time. I increased my ranking by 20 places in 2 days. Take a look at my bank statements. See the money roll in! become an SEQ millionaire! I will let you have my special cabbage for a one time only price of $47. Guaranteed #1 ranking in Google, Bing and Yahoo.

    I think within all areas of business there are people who try to rip you off and people who don’t know what they are talking about. SEQ is no exception. It is a case of caveat emptor as the lawyers would say. buyer beware.

    I spoke to someone fairly recently who thought that google ranked websites alphabetically and all he needed to do was get a domain name starting with a

    We shouldn’t let it get to us though. This is just how it is

    avatar Gloria Rand says:

    Excellent article! I get so irked by these big SEO companies that spout directory submissions as the be-all and end-all of SEO. I’ve found many companies are better off when they focus more time on Social media and local search.

    I have seen MANY suspect SEO ideas also. It is hard to weed through it all sometimes. Thanks for the article.

    Oh boy, yes, there is an awful lot of nonsense spouted about SEO, and one of the worst culprits are forums, especially ones where a lot of, well, let’s say newbies, congregate and continually recycle silly or over-generalised “advice” that then gets picked up and recycled again, and so on… And it is all somehow founded on this idea of things that “work” in SEO. “Do I do this, or do I do that? Will THIS ‘work’?”

    I always say, “Why don’t you try it and see?”

    avatar remonatrix says:

    Interesting Article.

    To me, nothing beats a good organic sounding domain name for the first SEO stab.

    The rest is organic text and premium content.

    If your website has good content it will get found.

    Awhile ago I create a web site about running and put some instructions about how to gear up for a 5k and a 10k. It got organic search results and gave me some good traffic.

    Do I always get the first result of Search Engine Results … heck no … do I still get good traffic… Heck yes…

    Nice title for this article :). Off course nice jokes! I am not sure if everything that you write there is true but it was a nice reading…

    avatar Kevin says:

    Great article Jill,
    Yet, even with all the hoopla about SEO and how easy it is to get your site ranked, these SEO sites, which are everywhere keep getting stronger and stronger. No matter what the hype is, people still believe and fall for many of the so called easy ranking systems. It kinda makes you wonder sometimes!

    avatar fred says:

    Hi Jill,

    A most excellent article that I wish people looking to hire someone to do their SEO would read.

    Unfortunately, the web is full of get your website ranked in the top 10 Google search result in a week deal for only $100 and since people are cheap, they fall for it giving our industry a bad name.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Thanks for all the comments, guys. Glad you (for the most part) liked the article. I’d like to address a few of them –

    @Laszlo, you said:

    You declare a lot of SEO tools are silly and doesn’t work at all – but you give NO proof, just declarations.

    Yes, that’s the point. What I’m trying to get you (and everyone else) to do is use your own brain and try different things. If you’ve had success submitting your site to 1000 search engines each month and don’t mind paying $99 for it, then more power to you. But you may also want to make sure it’s the submitting that is actually helping you and not something entirely different. (Cause and effect.)

    @Tom, regarding nofollow links, nobody really can say for sure whether they’re followed by Bing (or even by Google for that matter). But does it really matter? You should be getting links because they bring targeted traffic to your site. Whether they count in the search engines’ ranking formula is really of no concern when that happens.

    Keep the comments coming!

    avatar Glenna says:

    Hi Jill,

    How do you feel about link sharing? I was told that the more your site is listed on other sites, the better the ranking. And if this too is a myth, then what do you feel is the best way to get found?

    avatar Expert SEO says:

    I couldn’t agree with you more in what you said in your article. I hear the same kind of rubbish all the time and when you try to correct people in forums etc, sometimes the storm it creates from all the other seo experts (or people who think they are with only 2 months experience) it makes me laugh. Oh well, good luck to them I say 😉

    avatar Ryan says:

    Great article, I do find it ironic that on the side of your article there is an ad for a search engine submission service. I agree that to many people are out there spreading dumb information. It makes talking to new clients that have done a little research quite entertaining when you pop their bubbles. Thanks for the article.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Yeah Ryan, isn’t that awesome? Wonder if they’ll get much biz from this article? 😀

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:

    Your article needs more cowbell, Jill. It’s no less irresponsible to fling mud about stupid SEO without pointing-out specific examples and WHY they are dumb. I assume you are relying on your rep and credibility as an SEO professional as an argument in itself… Further, a lot of what you have written is pretty vacuousness – and demonstrably false – absent context and elaboration. The first thing that comes to mind is search engine submission: Search engines offer a submission feature for a reason, and offer a re-submit option for a reason. Moreover, there are certain search engines that will simply never list a site, or refresh that site, without an initial submission and subsequent requests to refresh. This is a fact verifiable by inquiring with the engines, themselves.

    As far as your comment on Metatags/keywords – and what it implies absent context and elaboration – I would never hire you for SEO for that reason alone.

    Alrighty then. I’m off to put “DERP! DERP! DERP!…I LOVE CAP’N CRUNCH!” in my metatags since SEO is not about metatags. And then I’m gonna submit that Mo Fo (since it doesn’t matter either way).

    I realize that Internet articles are written largely to get reactions from those who are already in agreement with, and thoroughly committed to, what is being written absent any critical thinking whatsoever. However, I typically enjoy the concision of your writing. This thing, on the other hand, is some embarrassingly empty, self-ingratiating poopy.

    Another pundit telling us what is not good SEO. Of course there is no helpful actual information on what does work. But it’s sprinkled with ads for just as silly crap that does nothing either. Well, except to get him more affiliate commissions from these services of dubious value.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Glenna, if the site you’re linking to is one that you truly recommend to your site visitors, it’s fine to trade links with them. But don’t just link to any site simply because they’ll link back to you. That’s the easiest way to cause problems for your site in Google as well as to be a total turn off to your site visitors.

    avatar Bryant Dunivan says:

    @aaron, while I disagree with Jill at times, shes right on on this one.

    re: search engine submissions – make a sitemap, its faster and far more bottom line oriented then charging for search engine submission’s. Submitting sites worked great circa 2000, now they are smarter then that. You also fail to point out specific examples of your search engines that “never list a site, or refresh that site, without an initial submission and subsequent requests to refresh.” If that is really the case, there is no reason to submit to them as the engines results would become stale quickly.

    Re: keywords, its a moot issue, yahoo quit using them in 2008, and now bing does their us searches. They are good to have, but dont put much time into it. the only meta info that matters is description and title.

    Time to school up I think Aaron, it is a post like this that may cost you clients in the future.

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:

    Straw man much, Jill?

    I want to see you type it. I want to see you type that it is never advantageous to submit a site to search engines. That there are no circumstances under which search engine submission is advantageous. And then I want to see you type that this is true of all search engines. Because this is what you are saying logically absent any qualification of your statement.

    Further, I want to see you type that good metatags are not good SEO, i.e. that SEO is not (in any way) ‘about’ metatags. Because that is logically what you are saying because you did not qualify your statement.

    You won’t do it.

    Why? Because you know (I hope you know, anyway) that that’s bull****. If you want to get sick over something, puke into that bag.

    This is the entire point of my previous post. You are doing “newbies” no more good with vacuous, broad-sweeping generalizations about SEO than the scumbags taking advantage of naive people.

    Your article was a McWritten ad hominem, simple as that. You’ve got the talent and experience, so why not do a “Retarded SEO” series (whatever) where you can actually present some manner of depth? Where something is actually said?

    You have some clout, and your article is irresponsible.

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:


    Dunivan: “You also fail to point out specific examples of your search engines that “never list a site, or refresh that site, without an initial submission and subsequent requests to refresh.” If that is really the case, there is no reason to submit to them as the engines results would become stale quickly.”

    My friend, I have no interest in arguing the exact shade of blue that the sky is. It is common webmaster knowledge that most tertiary search engines need to be notified of a new site and subsequently refreshed. The rest of your statement pertaining to my post makes no sense: one refreshes exactly because listings go stale or the length of time between crawls is ridiculous.

    I want to thank you though for pointing out specifics about metatags as they pertain to Yahoo!. And yes, you are correct: They only matter to Yahoo! in the manner that they matter to Yahoo!…understand where I’m going with this?

    Metatags are still an important aspect of SEO, and therefore SEO is ‘about’ metatags to the extent that it is important to each engine.

    Dunivan: “the only meta info that matters is description and title.”

    Lol. My dude…. are you saying that this is true of every engine? Please tell me you are not trying to say that this is true of every engine…..

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:

    Jill: “And it is true of all search engines that matter.”

    Eureka! Progress. Now please explain how the search engines that [don’t] “matter” (whatever that means, exactly) are not search engines and you’ll have an argument as to how it is never advantageous to submit to them.

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:


    I’m on the horn right now with Google, Yahoo! and Bing letting them know that you said it was okay to eliminate their URL submission feature now that the matter has been settled. There’s 3 less snakes in the grass thanks to your good self; and I, for one, can’t thank you enough.

    In a bit, I’m off to an early dinner with all of the search engines that aren’t really search engines that utilize meta-data to let them know that you know what they don’t know.

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:

    This is the road your going down? Taking the focus off your woefully incomplete article with the implication of impropriety on my organizations behalf, more ad hominems against me directly, and attack an out-of-date graphic meant to illustrate that there’s more search engines than Google…

    You can personally attack me and try to divert attention all you want, but the truth of the matter is that your article is pedestrian. They can’t all be War and Peace. Move on, do better next time.

    avatar Beamer says:

    You mean people are still paying for search engine inclusion? I haven’t submitted to search engines in eons and manage to get sites indexed in 3-5 days.

    When I received this Site Pro News newsletter, guess what was advertised on the left panel? ExactSeek offering paid inclusion for $29/site. LOL

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Agree Beamer. It would be really, really, really nice if websites such as would not allow those sorts of advertisers which sell useless SEO services to unsuspecting newbies. It’s this sort of thing that perpetuates people thinking that they must be good to do.

    I allow sitepronews to republish my articles in the hopes that I can educate more people to what proper, professional SEO is truly about. But it is difficult when you all receive these very mixed messages from them.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    @Aaron, please keep on wasting your time and presumably your or your clients’ money submitting websites and writing meta keywords. It gives me lots of business when they come crying to me wondering why they haven’t seen a lick of Google traffic.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    And Aaron, seriously, you should be ashamed of yourself offering search engine submission services in 2011. And you even submit to AOL and Lycos! Whoohooo. I bet that helps your clients tons.


    This is what keeps the industry full of black eyes.

    avatar Mel Strocen says:

    Over the years we’ve received numerous comments from SPN readers regarding the ads placed on the site and in our newsletter. Our policy is fairly simple – we don’t allow advertisers to dictate our content (which is why we publish articles by Jill and other authors) and we don’t allow authors and readers to dictate our advertising.

    Having said that we have internal ad guidelines and we have turned down numerous advertisers over the years.

    Regarding Paid Inclusion, this service provides more than submission. It provides site search to those who want it, a means of testing SEO techniques on smaller engines and backlinks from those same engines.

    We all have pet peeves – for Jill it’s SEO Stupidity – for some it’s dubious advertising. For me, it’s the monopolization of the Web by a handful of cos. like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft and the widespread belief that these cos. are actually toiling on behalf of the masses.

    Now that we’ve all expressed our points of view, I’m sure we all feel better.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Yes Aaron, without a doubt it is never advantageous to submit a site to search engines. And there are no circumstances under which search engine submission is advantageous. None, Nada. Never, ever, ever ever ever in a million trillion years. And it is true of all search engines that matter.

    So please stop wasting your clients money.

    avatar Aaron @ TheWarehouse says:

    It’s like a clinic on being logically challenged, coupled with a sidebar of sophomoric and disingenuous rhetoric.

    Jaded, we’re not an SEO company.

    Les, Congratulations, you’ve found the singular complaint about Website Traffic Warehouse to be found anywhere on the Internet in nearly 7 months of operation. Impressive. Your time would be better spent not being a gossip.

    For me, this is the bottom line: submit, don’t submit; metatag, don’t metatag I truly do not care. What I care about are articles that source their assertions. An article that relies almost entirely on the purported expertise of its writer as opposed to facts that can be checked is more manipulative than it is informative or helpful. Indeed, I believe it to be a type of spam.

    Fact: Search engines offer a submit feature. Therefore, the search engines, themselves, including Google, Yahoo! and Bing, recognize as needed, when it is needed, and by implication recommend, submitting one’s site.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Oh and I forgot to mention in the last post, that yes, Aaron, the meta keywords tag is a horrible waste of time when it comes to the major search engines.

    Certainly, if your own site search engine uses them to help people find stuff within your website, then they can be useful.

    I’ve said as much about submitting and meta keywords tags for at least 10 years. Just read my past articles. You can rest assured that I will and do shout the same from the rooftops and will also call anyone out who tries to sell such snake oil.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Aaron, why don’t you explain to us how you have a list of 70+ search engines, and what they consist of.

    Cuz Lycos, Excite, and the other ones you list on your site are from 1997. Please don’t come and try to convince the good people here that there are 70+ search engines that matter.

    Please do everyone a favor (especially those you’ve suckered into your sham services) and get a new business model that works in the 21st century.

    avatar JadedTLC says:

    Why would an SEO have an outdated graphic on its company website if that is the main focus for its services? Oh wait, that’s not SEO. Unless it stands for “Spamming Engines Optimization.”

    avatar Les says:

    For what it is worth, I have been reading Jill’s posts for years and subscribe to her White Hat SEO techniques 100%.

    Aaron, your time would be better spent working on getting negative reviews ( off of Page 1 of Google (and the other important search engines such as MSN – LOL). At least add Bing to your list…..

    avatar Shailja Jha says:

    The article is really wonderful and I also emphasis the fact that right SEO tactics are essential to put your website on top.

    avatar madhusmita says:

    SEO is a very important aspect for the website.Thousands of sites are emerging daily.If you are not promoting your site, you may get disappeared in the crowd of the sites.As its the current trend in the market, we need to keep ourself updated regarding the changes in the strategy of the SEO.Otherwise our work will have no value.
    Website Design Bahrain

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    Thanks for the spammy link drop @madhusmita. It’s that sort of crap this very article is talking about. SIGH

    avatar Web copywriter says:

    Unfortunately there is a saturation of seo ‘know how’ out there. I think many time-poor businesses take ideas from all over the place as they come across these. This can be a real trap because as your article shows only too clearly, not all sources are reputable. Or even genuine in their implementable value. It is worthwhile taking time to establish a couple of verifiably sound seo information sources. A trusted web copywriter can point you in the right direction. Or you can invest time researching the actual results and effectiveness of what specific seo ‘experts’ are touting. There are genuine experts out there with a desire to help businesses achieve strong seo. It is just a matter of finding them – but they are worth the wait…and the work!

    avatar Ryan says:

    Most SEO peddlers at the moment are using the same kind of laughable pseudo-science that is common in the diet industry. People love to believe in over-simplified rules and silver-bullet cures.

    WHAT?! Diet, exercise and research?! F*ck off! Give me that silver bullet and I will show you how to lose 20kg in 8 hours!

    What I am trying to say is that SEO is a joke industry. You constantly see forum posters, in one thread claiming to have made “$8000 in 1 week” and in another begging for advice on why his pirated template site is only earning $0.78 in AdSense clicks. It really is quite pathetic. What’s even more embarrassing, is that this sh1t is the rule rather than the exception.

    Diet product users will stay fat and you daydreaming “SEO Consultant” m0rons will stay broke.

    avatar Jill Whalen says:

    You are right, Ryan. And it sucks. Which is why it’s important to call this crap out when we see it.

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