SEO is alive – but not as we know it!

There’s been claims that SEO is dead for several years, and just as many claiming it’s alive and well, just in a different form.

Yeah, like in the form of a vampire or zombie: the ‘undead.’

It’s still with us, but it’s as hard to grasp as a ghost these days.

The only people claiming they can still nail that ghost down, are those pedalling themselves in the marketplace as purveyors of SEO services.

Now, I don’t think there’s absolutely nothing to be had from following SEO best practices and the advice out there, but when even Google says they can’t get SEO results/do it right, by the prescribed experts’ advice, you know something’s up. And they said that quite a few years ago now!

The problem for me, is that I read Neil Patel’s blog and Moz, and I reckon they’re full of a ton of great information… but also contradictory information. And to be honest, and maybe speak heresy, once you’ve read a dozen or so of these articles, you’ve more than read all the advice there is. The rest are just rehashing the same thing with different infographics. But there’s an SEO lesson in action for you: fresh content to keep the site relevant and its articles ranking highly. Doesn’t much matter if the same info’s being repeated more times than a Sgt. Bilko rerun. With literally 100s if not 1000s of articles, all that matters is that article you landed on hits your sweet spot and answers the question. Then you can add your thanks to the comments section, and the site’s SEO balance sheet, too.

And like I said, it doesn’t even matter if the site is being consistent with its advice as long as it’s giving it. One article will advise how best to get your on-page SEO tuned up and working for you, full of dire warnings about all the traffic you’re missing out on if you don’t – and the followup article will be one designed to demonstrate how up-to-date and current the knowledge on the blog is, and tell you that H1, H2, H3 etc., headers have no bearing… and contradict the advice you just read.

Content is king so we’re extolled to write at least 1,500 words, actually make it 2,500 to prove to Google how “valuable” it is – except Google officially says it doesn’t use word count as a ranking factor.

And here’s a thought – maybe it’s just incidental that the highest ranking posts for a particular keyword are 2,000 words plus, simply because padded content is the current fad. It doesn’t prove that Google rewards longer content, not when everyone is pumping out over inflated content, and trying to rank with it. Naturally, in an environment of overblown word counts, some of these article are going to place, that stands to reason, but it’s specious to draw any grand conclusions from that in such a pooled environment!

In mathematics, logic, this is inductive reasoning. “All the sheep I have seen are white, therefore all sheep are white.” It’s a logical fallacy in essence.

Sounds good though, and even more plausible with a good bar chart to back up the superficial claim.

Another example: get all your images properly named for SEO recognition – but Google says it can figure out probably what the photo relates to from the surrounding content, never mind what it’s called.

So where does that leave us? Remember everyone’s backward engineering Google results to come up with a model of how they think Google is ranking sites, they don’t actually know for sure! It’s all theory. And as a mathematician, I can tell you it’s largely padded out theory, trying to make a lot from a little, with a whole heck of a lot of dubious extrapolations.

When you consider that a lot of the sites that present traffic stats are essentially “guesstimating” too, the whole thing gets even more shaky.

I’ve written on it before, observed from my own experience that what I’m being told should happen, invariably doesn’t. What’s predicted in terms of ranking is as much of a plan as saying “run fast” to win the race. More detail? Put one leg in front of the other then.

In other words, write and apply the basic rules of SEO best practices that have been around for years. Then, through machinations we don’t quite understand, it might get picked up and displayed more highly by Google.

A lot of these High Priests of SEO are basically chanting around the camp fire and howling at the Moon now to try and elicit a result from their Google-god. And we still listen to them and pay them because no one’s come up with any better medication that’s been proven to consistently work and get repeatable results.

Witch Doctor

An SEO specialist at work yesterday

Speaking of High Priests, I’ve gotten a lot from Neil Patel’s blog (despite the contradictory advice, but then Patel doesn’t write all the articles himself) but I’ve read Neil wasn’t doing so well himself, or at least his Quick Sprout blog wasn’t, till he chucked some money i.e. drove some paid traffic, to it. Read too, that his challenge to build a website from scratch to make a £100k in a year, was helped enormously by not masking his association with it, and he used his extensive connections to get it linked on all the right high traffic sites.

You and I don’t have that sort of connections, though, so we’re going to have to rely a little more on time and tending to our patch of the internet allotment for it to ‘sprout.’

Beyond getting your best practice elements in place, and a bit of keyword research, then you may as well flip a coin. Or as I’ve previously said, post, and let the chips fall where they may.

Of course, if you’re running a business that relies on an image of understanding all this stuff and being able to control the outcomes, you’re going to rail against that. Understandably if it’s your livelihood and a business you spent some fifteen years building up – starting back when SEO was in its infancy, and SEO was something that could be manipulated to get results.

These days no one really wants to read that what’s required is writing (a lot of) content that people want to read, hope it somehow gets found, and then gets the Google acclaim it deserves… in a year or two of constantly banging out articles that you’re producing largely all on faith all that time.

Because there’s no guarantees that you’re ever going to crack ten visitors a day to your site. It is all on faith for a long time. Maybe forever.

I’ve read articles saying the Field Of Dreams belief that “If you build it, they will come” is internet marketing BS.

Well, what’s for certain is that if you don’t write it, no one will come.

waiting forever

SEO checklist ticked every box too. Including the one to include a RSS feed.

This is still a young blog. A newborn infant in internet terms, and as the internet grows older, maturing time for a site will only extend. It’ll get to be a time scale on a par with the cosmos eventually!

As this is still a youngster, I’ve noted ninety percent of my traffic comes predominately from one article. The Shaqir Hussyin review. Next up in popularity, but still a long way behind, is the piece on Timothy Marc.

Not so surprising maybe as Hussyin promotes his business more heavily than Marc, and has a lot more unhappy customers too (I’m not aware of any unhappy customers with Marc, but complaints abound about Hussyin). Thus more folks go looking for information on Hussyin. Especially as he makes more outlandish claims about creating millionaires…

Point is, that post on Hussyin was supposed to be a waste of time to write as the search volume and QSR figures were way too high. Too high in competition that is for that post to ever have a snowball’s chance in Hades of ever being seen.

But the complete opposite of that happened. So if I’d followed the advice on keywords and search traffic, I’d never have bothered – and lost a significant chunk of traffic to this blog.

I’ve observed this on my other blogs too. So much so that I now pretty much ignore QSR, Article Power, and only look at search volume. Even if that, as I say, is not a true figure in itself, but at least I hope it’s in the right ballpark.

The talk on SEO blogs has been of “user intent” and how Google’s trying to satisfy that, rather than in how you expect your keywords to perform. How all that’s being calculated and weighed, no one knows. No one does with regard to Google.

I read another article that examined how long it took a post to get on page one of Google, and it found that ninety-five percent don’t make a top ten listing within a year. The author pulls up short of saying the others were “lucky” because no doubt good keyword research was used, but the same was probably true of those didn’t make the listing too.

I was about to say I have one top ten listing for this blog to date, but after checking apparently it’s three. The one I was aware of is related to Timothy Marc. A few weeks ago it was page two, now it’s page one. Of the other two, I’ve had recent jumps to page one for my write-ups on Shaqir Hussyin and Chris Cobb. That was a surprise, as a few weeks ago both were hovering around the bottom of page two, top of page three. For why they’ve suddenly placed higher, I don’t know (the Chris Cobb post doesn’t have as much as a comment to accompany it), but I’m not going to lose sleep trying to figure it out and replicate it.

There’s no back links to these articles from authority sites according to my Google analytics, no mass of social media shares, and I’ve not promoted them outside of maybe Stumbleupon – wherein checking confirms they received very little interest. So, you tell me?

I’ve read enough SEO blogs that I could techno-flannel up an answer that sounds convincing, but really, I don’t know why they’ve done well, but my posts on Empower and Mobe, continue to flounder in the ranking stakes.

Because you know what the honest truth is with those three well-performing reviews? I just wrote generic review titles that related to the topics, and then just riffed on the topic as it came to me; just enjoyed the writing process in other words. I hope that shows. I’ve seen plenty reviews that are just copy & pastes of the source site with screenshots thrown in: they tell you nothing! If you’re going to do a review, at least put some effort in.

In that vein, I’ve read that it should take you an hour, or hour and a half tops, to research and write a review(!) My fastest maybe – and only when I’m in complete command of my subject matter – but usually it takes me anything from two to four hours to write a post. If you’re writing around 1,000 – 1,500 words naturally it’s less time, but 2,000+ words posts are essays, and you can’t write a piece like that without a few hours at the keyboard! But when I get going, I enjoy writing so it’s not a hardship.

It only becomes a hardship if I’m trying to pad things out to hit some prescribed best word count number. I’ve done that before, now I don’t. A post just takes as many words as it needs, no more or less. Mainly because ‘more’ is not necessarily better in my opinion.

I tend to write on who, or what, appears in Facebook news feed, simply because I go off and do some research if the individuals, and what they’re touting, interests me. And from that, I get something to write on.

Maybe I should try and work that up into a “system” I charge for? There’s gurus running round the net with less experience looking to be paid for ‘their’ advice. Same advice you’ll find repeated on all the SEO/internet marketing blogs.

Maybe my opinion will change on all of this as I get more data i.e. experience, but right now, I’m not stressing my “off page SEO” and whether my font type is SEO friendly. Yeah, I’ve read that, that your font type affects SEO… gimme a break.

So, I say look into the products that genuinely pique your interest, there’s no shortage of them or characters pedalling them, and find your topics. If you like writing it, hopefully folks will enjoy reading it, and that seems about the only part of this traffic process that we have in our control.

But where do I hail from? I come from the land known as Wealthy Affiliate. I joined up there in my affiliate marketing quest, and I’ve stayed. It’s not a MLM with endless up sells, there’s nothing sold to you except the membership, and you get a week’s worth for free to check the place out, no credit card required for “verification” purposes.

I stayed because I found it to be one of the more realistic and ethical places to receive training in all that goes into successful affiliate marketing blogging, and thus making money online.

You can check out my review here.

Have a look-see, see if it’s for you too.


  • Excellent article! I enjoyed reading this more than anything lately. I totally agree with the SEO being confusing and not following any pattern or making sense whatsoever. I just try to write what I enjoy writing about and hope it gets to someone that needs it. Thanks for the info.

    • Adam

      Thanks for the kind words, Grant. As I say, I think beyond implementing the SEO best practice tactics that have been around for years, and a little keyword research, there’s not much more that’s in our control. Strip a lot of those 4,000 word blog posts dealing in SEO performance of their infographics and padding, and they’re not saying anything new or making any great revelations. SEO discussion has been going in the same circle for years now. With the removal and penalising over the years of what’s deemed ‘black hat’ techniques, the majority of what was once the tricks of the SEO manipulator/consultant to get you ranked, have been eliminated. What’s left are the long game tactics we all have to deal with, and there doesn’t seem to be any short cutting them. Not that the same gurus will allow that to upset a proven business plan, and thus continue pitching courses and info-products purporting ‘secret’ techniques that have been open knowledge for years now.

  • Whew! That was one awesome post. I was terribly engrossed for at least most of the post. I am only saying it as the truth because this post is about SEO, Google, and content too. I have often wondered why so many were contradicting each other and now I know! Thank you for that. As to content and over 2000 words…………I like somewhere around 1000 and once again, controversy as it states by some that anything over 300 is okay but aim for 700-1000 and then on the other hand like you mentioned, it is 1500 to 2000. So who is right? I have visited sites that are very short and to the point and they did really well so……back to the confusing board or do what feels best? What do you think. Really great post! Thank you

    • Adam

      One of the biggest traffic blogs that I know of, the owner blogs just about every single day! So the majority of the articles are around the 500 – 700 word mark. There are larger ones published, but the reality is you just couldn’t be writing 2,000+ word posts every day (and never mind the time to produce beautifully illustrated info-graphics) and have time for anything else! The larger blogs like Neil Patel etc., are spending tens of thousands a year on getting professional articles created for them. Thus the essay-like style and also the frequent contradictory advice, depending on the actual author – because it isn’t Patel. Who doesn’t even appear in the Quick Sprout video product bearing his name, never mind writing all the articles featuring his picture on his blog.

      There’s also evidence that longer articles aren’t necessarily a plus, as folks sometimes just want a little light reading, entertainment, not an academic treatise every time they check out your blog. So visitors clicking off your article half way through is bad for SEO as Google can calculate the average read time based on word count, and recognise that visitors aren’t reading your post to completion. So Google will interpret that as an article of less interest than a shorter one that at least your visitors read to conclusion.

      One of the results of greater word counts appearing is more fluff to pad the articles out, and folks losing interest before the end. I’ll start out enjoying a piece and then after a few mins be thinking “how much more of this is there?” and skim to the end. Especially once the main topic’s been exhausted and the piece veers off on a tangent for no other reason I can discern except to try and satisfy a word count target.

      I reckon combining the old SEO adage of writing for people, and the literary adage to use just as many words as a piece of writing needs, is the best advice we can follow.

  • I have long thought many of the same things that you write about here. We spend a lot of time doing keyword research and trying to figure out what will get ranked in Google, but in the end, it’s all a mystery. And that is by design. Google doesn’t want anyone to know about their algorithm, so if you think about it, they want everyone writing content out there to have the same attitude as you. Try to write a good article that people will enjoy reading, and somehow it will get ranked.

  • Hello and thanks for sharing your knowledge on this topic and making it clear for a lot of us on this thing hat is call seo. Some time it can be confussing I guess but everyone waths the same thing and that is to get their post ranked in google. Tons of information, well detailed.

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