This week we are going to look at some of the key similarities between those that deny climate change and those that can’t stand SEO. I thought it would be really intelligent to irritate as many people as possible in my very first blog post.
Viewer discretion is advised.
1. Both are short-sighted
This is a fairly simple one. We will consider the costs of being wrong for Me (a climate change and SEO believer) and a hypothetical Challenger (a climate change denier and anti-SEO).
I'm wrong on both counts. I have made the client's website better tailored to their target audience and maybe a bit of taxpayer money has been wasted on upgrades to current industrial practices that are more environmentally friendly, but not entirely necessary to prevent the extinction of the human race.
The challenger is wrong on both counts. My client (and everyone else's for that matter) forced your page out of the rankings after your client got desperate and had to start buying links to try to compete. Rather than take the time required to gain traffic and relevant valuable links your client is forced to take anything he can get and downloads robots to create spammy links and pays off respected sites for a link. In the process your client wastes a fair bit of money, has his page banned by Google, all because at first he didn't believe. And then once he did, he didn't follow the rules or take the time to do things right.
Oh yeah... and we all die. Including the cute and cuddly little polar bears.
2. Both tend towards the dramatic
As evidenced in my last point, there is room for the dramatic at both extremes. I’m not saying we should all light a candle, sing sweet tunes with an acoustic guitar, and chain ourselves to trees. I’m also not going to say “we are smarter than nature and can beat everything it throws at us.” I won’t insist that all natural disasters that destroy lives and homes every year are caused by climate change, but I’m also not stupid enough to think that we can outsmart mother nature in light of recent catastrophes. Mama Great Outdoors can stop flexing her guns now, I get it.
Similarly, I would never suggest that SEO is always an honest business. There is some shady stuff that goes on from time to time. I wouldn’t defend all the tactics that SEOs use anymore than I would defend all of Greenpeace’s tactics. However, I also have seen the ways in which SEO can work to increase traffic and conversions and can tell you right now that there a number of helpful, intelligent, and honest SEOs out there.
Will SEO help a good or service that is overpriced for which there is little-to-no demand become profitable? I have not seen it yet, but it seems unlikely (though I won’t say impossible).
3. Both are usually unclear of what it is they are "against"
One of my favourite conversations to have with a self-proclaimed “climate change denier” usually starts a little something like this.
Me: “Just so I’m clear, do you deny climate change’s existence altogether, or just that man is contributing to global warming”
Challenger: “Oh, no, I don’t know... I don’t believe it is happening at all. Did you notice how cold it was yesterday?”
Now, I’m not saying that scientific consensus constitutes fact. I won’t even go so far as to claim that scientists agree (i.e. there is a consensus) that climate change is caused by man. However, you show me a scientist who says: “the general trend/average temperature has decreased over the last century” and I will show you a liar.
There are (yes I’ll say it) compelling arguments that climate change is cyclical and thus not entirely caused by humans. There are less compelling arguments that suggest climate change is not impacted by human activity. But either way, I can live with these arguments (even if the cost of being wrong could be potentially much worse in the case of the denier).
What I can’t live with is people who do not educate themselves enough to make an opinion and quite frankly spread misinformation.
SEO is cheating!
As with climate change, I am sure most SEOs have had a conversation similar to the following:
Challenger: “SEO is simple. It is also cheating and counterproductive to the work that Google does.”
Me: “And what is SEO in your educated opinion?”
Challenger: “I’m not really sure, I think it’s when people cram a bunch of unrelated words into blog posts, send me spam to their poker sites and play with meta tags to confuse Google.”
While I have heard of people who claim to do SEO recommend some of these tactics, this does not suggest that this is in the remit of what most SEOs do. Similarly, just because Sarah Palin thinks she can see Russia from her bedside window, it does not follow that all people in Alaska are stupid.
4. Both are missing out on a clear opportunity to increase competitiveness
While this is particularly relevant for the UK (where recent legislation means that all companies will be required to reduce their carbon output based on a benchmark/reporting year), those that ignore climate change (and waste time dragging their feet rather than jump on the bandwagon) are missing out on a serious opportunity to make money and will fall behind competitors in the long run.
In addition to the millions of pounds being offered as rewards for innovation, and the opportunities for tax breaks for earth friendly transport, everyone in the UK will be forced to comply with these regulations and there is (as always) a first mover advantage to those that innovate and establish themselves at the forefront.
Similarly, with SEO, there is nothing inherently wrong with optimisation of your website(s), and there are a number of activities undertaken by all SEOs that quite simply make sense. For example, if your website sells kittens, it doesn’t make any sense for you to use meta tags on your website that say they are about “Paris Hilton’s Latest Wardrobe Malfunction.” It does, however, make sense to make sure that your website is targeting the most relevant terms that are appropriately competitive for your business and your website.
SEO is not about “tricking” people. At the end of the day I might get a little extra traffic to my website by paying for a link with the anchor text “Chocolate Rain Interview”, but this is unlikely to lead to any conversions or meaningful gains for my company or my clients.
In every profession there are “bad apples,” but who ever said all used car salesmen are slimy? (ok, bad example)
Most SEOs are not trying to pull the wool over on the general public, we are trying to make sure our clients get found by the right people. A better, more spiderable site, much like a more energy efficient (read: inexpensive) company offer clear opportunities to increase competitiveness.
5. Both need that which they detest (a bit like Harry Potter and Voldemort)
If you type in “SEO is” in Google the first few definitions it would like to give you are “bullsh...” and “dead” (despite the fact that there at least twice as many results for “worth it” or “easy”). I’m not the first to notice this and it’s not a big deal. However, without SEO there would be no reason to complain, and to be honest, the leading post (link very intentionally excluded) for the query: “SEO is bullsh...” would have no hope of taking the top spot and generating heavy traffic.
And what does Alexa have to say about this?
Hmmmm... so this website clearly does not receive any traffic by way of SEO? Oh, wait. Nevermind.
Also, there is clear evidence of the fact that this website (which offers little more than opinion and is not filled with good content – but rather namedrops it like it’s hot) offers no clear or useful definition of SEO (which one should expect Google to target as the “most relevant” result for “SEO is...”). The existence of this post and its prominence are proof of the existence of SEO, regardless of whether or not it represents the worst possible use of SEO.
If we take the same approach for “climate change” the top result is “...a myth.” First, let me be very clear that this search was run from the UK (one of the only countries with legally binding carbon reductions) and not the US (where more than half of people do not believe in climate change).
Again, this is not the query containing the most results and certainly does not provide any information that is particularly useful. Also, without climate change many of the sites that are returned as top hits would not have any hope of ranking, least of all for a keyphrase searched with any sort of frequency. Below you can see the Alexa info for one such website.
Now ignoring completely my personal opinions on whether or not this information is valid or relevant, there is no way to argue that such sites would gain any traffic at all were they not written about salient issues. Many people probably make their livelihoods off of these websites, and though they may well be dedicated to fighting the “injustice” that is climate change, they should probably bear in mind the age-old teaching: don’t bite the hand that feeds you. Without climate change and thus “the climate change conspiracy” there would be no grounds for such a website to be viewed and no reason for anyone to read what these individuals had to say.
This argument is admittedly a bit circular but it doesn't change the fact that many deniers would be likely forced to argue about how Barack Obama is setting up death camps instead.
In closing, deny climate change and hate on SEO all you want. In the mean time I’m gonna be helping my clients beat their competitors and ride it (public transport of course) all the way to the bank!