I came across three pieces of mind-numbingly bad advice today, all from experts in their respective fields, all to prominent organizations. Each of them have caused me to question:
A) the quality of expert advice
B) the lack of digital knowledge in the business world
C) how organizations can determine which advice they can trust.
But let’s start with the bad advice. These are clangers.
The first company, a prominent industry leader, wants to get more search traffic for a new service they offer. Whilst weighing up an organic search engine optimisation strategy they’ve received advice from an Adwords specialist. The response: spend the budget on an Adwords campaign because the clicks from the traffic will increase your organic search results.
WRONG. There is no relationship between paid results and organic search results. Organic search results come from a combination of inbound links (indicator of popularity) and on-page optimisation for targeted terms.
The second company, a small independent team, are also looking to grow their meager website traffic. They spoke to a prominent social media expert about how to increase traffic, also mentioning that the site isn’t yet optimized for search. The expert told them not to worry about SEO because social media is affecting search results.
Um, NOT QUITE RIGHT.
Google commands over 90% of the search market in Australia, so they’re the ones to worry about ranking with. Google was indexing Twitter for a while but that relationship ended mid-2011, about the time they launched Google Plus. Now Google is including Plus in their Search Plus Your World results but that is all. They’ll include LinkedIn profiles in name searches but that’s about it. At this stage the indexing of social sites by Google is not enough to build an SEO strategy around.
The fact remains that most good websites derive the largest part of their traffic from organic search, often more than 50%. Social is a good driver of traffic to a site and it’s important to address but not at the expense of search. I would always recommend a client gets their search under control first then moves onto social.
The third story just blows my mind. I spoke to a friend today who owns a white collar franchise business. He optimised his blog site for search last year and also got some blogger friends to add him to their Blogrolls, pointing to both his blog and his page on the national franchise website. As a result both sites rose rapidly from search obscurity to first and second on Google for his highly competitive industry search term. In fact, his properly optimised blog outranks the less well optimised company page.
Now, on the advice of an international SEO firm engaged by the parent company, he has been instructed to remove the inbound links to his site from the Blogrolls. The experts say that the company risks being punished by Google for having too many inbound links. If the franchise owner doesn’t comply the parent company will remove his page from the site.
HUH??? To me this is almost negligence. This guy receives a healthy stream of qualified enquiries due to his prominent search results. His sales become part of the parent company’s revenue. They are threatening to punish one of their own franchise owners for his success in search, for doing his job well.
The SEO experts are concerned that he has too many inbound links (compared to rest of group) and so have drawn the incorrect conclusion they come from link farms. Link farms are bad and Google is looking to eradicate them. That’s a good thing.
Problem is that in this case the links come from being listed on the Blogrolls of 3 reasonably popular blogs. It’s totally white hat, totally above board and totally within Google’s rules. The fact that this guy’s sites are ranking first and second demonstrate that, far from punishing him for these links, Google is rewarding him.
The craziest thing is that the company is willing to punish one of their franchises because other people like him enough to link to his sites. How can they dictate and control who can and cannot link to him? How can they punish him for web popularity when in modern marketing that is the aim of then game?
Three examples of poor advice by highly paid experts in one day. And that’s just the stuff I was told about.
What is clear in at least the first two cases is that if you ask a specialist for help they’ll tell you to do what they specialise in because that’s what they know and that’s how they make a living. An Adwords reseller will tell you not to worry about SEO because SEM will do the job. And a social media expert will tell you to grow traffic using social media. No surprises there.
The challenge for businesses is to first seek advice not from specialists but from generalists who can see the overall picture.
When we are sick we go to a doctor who assesses our overall health. The doctor will then refer us to a specialist if necessary or prescribe a less expensive solution if he or she is able to.
Given the amount of poor advice being given out by specialists in the digital world it would seem that businesses first need to find a “doctor” to assist them with their digital marketing.