Not Your Parents SEO

by Michael Hubbard on December 12, 2009

in Search

Search Engine Optimization, or SEO, has frequently been referred to as voodoo magic…  All right, maybe only frequently called that by me – but nonetheless, I find myself preaching SEO relevance more and more in every conversation.  Whether it’s in building a supporting Search Engine Marketing (SEM) campaign, or display advertising campaign, or even social media strategies – my message is always the same: Forget what you were sold 5-10 years ago about SEO, it’s now all about relevance.  (For the record, it’s always been about relevance – that’s just not what you were sold before.)

Many of our clients and colleagues have been asking how we got to the number one listing on Google for the search phrase Interactive Planning & Buying (see results on Google)  .  The reality is, that’s what we do, so it is probably the most important page listing for us.  When you go to our interactive planning & buying page, you’ll notice one thing: Relevance.  What you won’t see is 50,000 links pointing to the page; meta tags flooded (read: spammed) with the same words over and over; body content that tries using the terms Interactive Planning & Buying so many times that you have no idea what the page reads.

The page is about relevance, and so I’ve been imploring our clients to quit worrying about what the old SEO companies used to be selling and focus on what the user experience should be.  Make it a relevant and resourceful read, and you will be rewarded.  If you don’t believe me, try paying one of those firms thousands of dollars a month for your guaranteed search results, and just see where it gets you.

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

Jeremy Victor December 12, 2009 at 9:04 am


Thank you for spreading this message. It is so important that we re-think SEO in terms of relevance. So much noise is out there on the topic. As you suggest, if you focus on “what you do” and surround it with good copywriting, you are bound to succeed. Plus you will also enjoy the benefits of the long tail of search by having good content on your site that will always be found.

Thanks for reminding us of this important message.


Phil Buckley December 13, 2009 at 7:55 pm

I agree that context is super important, but the coin of the realm remains links. I think what’s changed is that crappy links are now known to be, well, crappy.

I think that relevant content that is well written and makes people want to read it, attracts links – so it is a catch-22 in a good way, and that is indeed rare.


Morgan Siem December 13, 2009 at 8:13 pm

Michael! Glad to see you’ve come around about SEO :) I guess there’s nothing quite as convincing as the proof in the results! I enjoyed this post. You’re absolutely right that we can’t stick with the old-fashioned SEO techniques – repeating words over and over, tag floods and paid links. If you’re not doing it for the benefit of your users, you won’t benefit from it either. So, spoil your users with useful content in appropriate places, relevant links, and so on.


Michael Hubbard michaelhubbard December 14, 2009 at 8:43 am

Morgan – Oh I didn’t say I’ve come around – most companies still practice the voodoo magic!

Phil – I agree that it’s a catch 22, but I think you’ll start to see links having less and less relevance as the intelligence of the search engines improve. Google has already done away with meta tags as a factor, and from the start – those used to be THE thing to have in place. Now it’s links, and I think it’s only a matter of time before links become just another one of a million factors – with the top factor being how relevant the content is.

Anxious to watch – but until then, you can’t go wrong with relevance!


Jason Pedley December 15, 2009 at 8:33 pm

In my opinion, you can’t fake good content. And I think eventually that’s exactly what Google et al will have to fall forward on because it’s one of the few things on the Internet that holds true authenticity. (even if it’s terrible copy)

Hopefully website owners will realize this sooner rather than later. I spent nearly as much time this year clearing up my clients’ SEO misconceptions as I did actually writing web copy.


Nicholson J. January 9, 2010 at 5:46 am

what a magnificent notice about seo. I’m frankly stupefied that that hasn’t been said earlier to such a great length.


Gunshot Money Scam February 2, 2010 at 6:04 am

Hello, This blog is very interesting and enjoyable to read. I am a big fan of the subjects discussed. I also enjoy reading the comments, but notice that alot of people should stay on topic to try and add value to the original blog post. I would also encourage everyone to bookmark this page to your favourite service to help spread the word.


Michael Hubbard Michael Hubbard February 2, 2010 at 8:15 am

I love how the SEO people understand the value of commenting on relevant articles and content, and to not get themselves deleted as spammers, they say things like “You are so brilliant – I wish I would have thought of that!”. Because I’m not stupid, rather I’m humored, I’m choosing to leave the disguised comments posted for all to see. Not that they’re valuable, but more that they teach a valuable lesson. If you can add intelligent feedback to articles of SEO interest to yourself or your firm, you are going to have link backs from within relevant copy – which will in turn help your Page Rank. So consider it a quick lesson from some of the above commenters :)


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