The First Rule of SEO - Do not talk about SEO

The First Rule of SEO – Do not talk about SEO

By Sadie on February 18, 2010

After watching Fight Club last night both myself and my SEO alter ego have been inspired to blog on the myths and rules of SEO and look at how they apply to Internet marketing in 2010.

For anyone who hasn’t seen fight club I will give you a brief summary (without spoiler), the narrator (Edward Norton) of the story is a lonely individual, sleep deprived and reaching out for something more in his life, he visits support groups to find comfort until he meets a charismatic Brad Pitt who introduces him to anarchy and a less superficial lifestyle after his own apartment blows up.

The pair creates a group called ‘fight club’ which is an underground club for testosterone charged men to act out their aggression by fighting each other. The fight club has a number of rules;

#1 – The first rule of Fight Club is, you do not talk about Fight Club.

#2 – The second rule of Fight Club is, you DO NOT talk about Fight Club.

#3 – If someone says stop, goes limp, taps out, the fight is over.

#4 – Two guys to a fight.

#5 – One fight at a time.

#6 – No shirts, no shoes.

#7 – Fights will go on as long as they have to.

#8 – If this is your first night at Fight Club, you have to fight.


What does Fight Club have to do with SEO?

The first two rules reminded me of SEO, as many SEO companies operate a cloak and dagger approach to SEO techniques, this is sometimes because they are using black hat techniques, or sometimes they feel threatened that too much knowledge will eliminate the need for their services.

In the film, fight club, Tyler Durden (Brad Pitt) comments that there are a lot of new members of fight club, meaning someone has been talking about fight club – breaking the first two rules the “you DO NOT talk about fight club”. The past year has seen an increasing demand for SEO and Internet marketing, and to fill this need many SEO companies have appeared. Agencies with marketing experience suddenly have a digital side and web design companies add a section on SEO. With all these new companies and departments people must be breaking the first rule of SEO and talking about SEO! Is this a bad thing?


8 rules of SEO and how they apply

I have put together SEO Creative’s take on the 8 rules of SEO and we will see how they apply to SEO today;

  1. The first rule of SEO is, you do not talk about SEO
  2.  The second rule of SEO is, you DO NOT talk about SEO
  3.  If Google says stop, you’ve done something wrong and it’s all over
  4. Only use one SEO Consultant/Company at a time
  5. One SEO Campaign at a time.
  6.  No black hat
  7. The Campaign will go on as long as it has to.
  8. If this is your first SEO Campaign, you have to do on-page SEO, link building is not enough

The first and second rule of SEO is, you DO NOT talk about SEO

I’ve already covered why SEO’s don’t talk about SEO but is this correct? You can find a lot of information about SEO on blogs and websites that give away plenty of information. Even Google webmaster tools gives you guidelines on what to do and what not to do to get indexed.

Many SEO companies will still operate under this secret society guise that what they are doing is unique to them but in truth any good SEO or webmaster can look at a site and see what has been done on and off page. By talking about best practice methods and changes in Google algorithms, SEO’s carve out a place for themselves, they build up trust in what is a typically suspicious industry and they help webmasters and other SEO’s reach a better standard.

A good SEO has nothing to be scared of so sharing a few gems does no harm and helps qualify that they know what they are talking about. SEO is not about the basics and best practices, but how you use your knowledge and experience on individual sites.

If Google says stop, you’ve done something wrong and it’s all over

If you do something naughty – really naughty- whether is is by accident or you’ve been trying some black hat techniques, Google will kick you out, they will remove you from their index and it’s game over for you and your SEO campaign.

Google can apply penalties for your site that will stop you doing well but you have to do something really bad like hidden spammy text or hidden links to be removed from Google’s index completely. You can still do well in the other search engines such as Bing or Yahoo, but with an 80% share of searches Google is the one that you need to do well in to get traffic. So if they kick you out of the Google club, can you do? It must be game over!

Not really although it is a big set back to a campaign, and your SEO consultant should have made sure you weren’t doing anything to warrant such a drastic action, you can get re included.

The first thing to do is find out what you have done, your SEO consultant can help you, and go through your site making sure it is whiter than white! Once your site has been sorted you can file for a reinclusion with Google. It may take some time – as Google is very busy and important you know, but if you have done everything right there is a good chance your site will be reincluded and ranking as it was before the drop.

Just because there is a chance of reinclusion does not mean you should push your luck with spamming or other black hat techniques.

Only use one SEO Consultant/Company at a time

SEO’s can be quite territorial and when one SEO is working on your site another SEO could undo all the good they have done. This is a fair comment but most SEO’s sing from a similar hymn sheet – if they are any good. The problem only arises when one SEO is using black hat techniques and the other isn’t. It is, for this reason, many companies will include a clause in their terms and conditions that they will not be held responsible for any penalisation if the client is using another SEO company at the same time.

That being said I have worked with other SEO companies on the same campaigns, if the communication is good there is no reason why you can’t use one company for link building, another for on page and another for social media. However, if your SEO has the resources to do it all I would stick with one to help the campaign run smoothly.

One SEO Campaign at a time

This goes hand in hand with working with only one SEO consultant but to answer this you need to establish the definition of an SEO campaign.

SEO’s work in different ways and can split SEO campaigns into various parts including, on page SEO, link building, social media etc, all of these campaigns go hand in hand with each other so just working on one element of this will not give you a successful all-round campaign.

At SEO Creative we work more on SEO as website optimisation and include on page SEO, SEM, Social Media, link building and Viral campaigns under the same offering. We do this by developing a strategy to suit the client and help the site to do well in the Search engines, this can include techniques that are primarily for traffic, but with this often comes links and conversions contributing to success in the search engines.

There are occassions when SEO and PPC, or two campaigns can work against each other but good communication and a good strategy will prevent this.

No black hat SEO

Black hat SEO is wrong, Black hat SEO is evil and if you use Black hat SEO techniques you will make baby Jesus cry!

This is true baby Jesus will cry if you use Black hat SEO and you will cry if you get caught out and your site is banned from Google’s index. Black hat techniques can be a quick fix and work well for a time, but the results don’t last and can cause a lot more damage. Domain trust and authority are becoming more important so if you lose that trust with Google it is very difficult to get it back!

However, it’s not just black and white but shades of grey, many SEO’s will engage in some grey techniques that will be beneficial to the site both short term and long term but make sure they don’t do anything that could lean onto black hat or affect the user experience. There is no point in getting traffic if the user gets pissed off with doorway pages or spam.

The Campaign will go on as long as it has to

I agree with this rule, as SEO takes time to get going many clients will want to leave early. This can be a waste of time and money and by letting the campaign keep going the client will get to see a return on investment.

Once you get success from a campaign you won’t want to stop the campaign and you will see the SEO efforts change in line with trends and Google updates, in this case, your campaign will not stop but evolve.

If this is your first SEO Campaign, you have to do on-page SEO, link building is not enough

Many companies come to me and to save money they request link building and off page rather than a full campaign, this is fine if the site is accessible to search engines and has good up to date and relevant content. I have yet to see a new site that has this, this doesn’t mean the sites aren’t good and designed well, but content often uses jargon specific to the industry, you’d be surprised how many sites don’t even mention what they do! Other sites may have flash navigation and other things that look great for the user but are almost invisible to search engines.

Links are great and can get you so far, but linking to a site that in not relevant or not accessible to search engines means the campaign will fall short and you are not spending your money wisely.

SEO Club

So whats the future for an underground SEO club?

Although many of the rules have validity, most good SEO’s know that rules are often just guidelines. When dealing with search engines that constantly move the bar in efforts to improve the user experience it is important that SEO’s are flexible enough to keep up.

By sticking to strict rules you are limiting your campaign, by keeping up with industry changes and exploring new ideas an SEO can help you get the most from your website. Be wary of any SEO that sticks to these rules, especially rules one and two!