The #1 SEO Myth: Clarity Amid the Criticism

Nick Anson

May 17, 2024

The Rhetoric Surrounding SEO

SEO, as an industry, while generally embraced, is no stranger to criticism.

The most recent and discussed example is a recent Verge article by cannabis commentator Amanda Chicago Lewis, called “The people who ruined the internet.” In it, Lewis paints search engine optimization as something of a necessary evil filled with manipulative tactics and opportunists exploiting the system.

Amanda Chicago Lewis

Generously, she does touch on a slightly sympathetic counter-portrait, portraying SEO as a marginally innocuous symptom of a deeper systemic problem within Google and the search industry.

She introduces us to a somewhat diverse array of SEO microcelebrities ranging from vulgar to virtuous in an attempt to walk us through the nuances of SEO’s degenerative effects on search results quality.

The piece is rife with condescension for SEO and the people who practice it. When she’s not placing an abstract magnifying glass on cringey mannerisms of the nouveau riche, she’s painting a portrait of early-2000s SEO that calls The Wolf of Wall Street to mind.

While Lewis makes great points about the perils of a world increasingly inundated with ad campaigns and marketing noise, she leaves the few substantive conversations she has dangling in mid-air. There isn’t much provided in the way of data-driven analysis either. Instead, the article relies on references to bad vibes and vague distrust.

The more material aspects are understandably overshadowed by more compelling anecdotes of money-raking keyword-stuffing schemes and alligator parties.

This isn’t to say there isn’t any credence to the piece. It raises plenty of troubling questions.

What The Piece Gets Right

The most glaring of these questions being, how can SEO specialists continue to prioritize authentic and substantive content in a sea of AI-generated marketing noise? Is it even possible? Or have we reached a boiling point, with no one nearby (or willing) to turn off the stove?

At Extreme Exposure Promotions, we try not to jump to cynical conclusions about the future of the internet (and we’re not the only ones).

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We recognize that SEO has contributed its fair share to this noise, but regardless of how anyone feels, it’s become an indispensable tool for connecting people with the information they’re searching for. And, as mentioned in the article, Google’s recent initiative of prioritizing E-E-A-T ( their acronym for “Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, Trustworthiness”) has had palpable benefits for search engine users. Something Lewis counters with what seems to be a soft defense of quackery and nostalgia for an age of unregulated misinformation:

““E-E-A-T has had a pretty big impact on what types of results you see,” [Lily] Ray told me. She’s done extensive (and fascinating) research around how certain sites have fared under these new guidelines: Urban Dictionary, down! Mayo Clinic, up! Some people consider EEAT part of what’s making results better than ever. Others see it as a form of censorship, disproportionately affecting right-wing perspectives. Not every search query takes EEAT into account; Google has described heightened concern over sites that could impact safety, happiness, and the ability to be an informed citizen. But the point that really hit me was that for certain kinds of information, Google had undone one of the fundamental elements of what had made its results so appealing from the start. Now, instead of wild-west crowdsourcing, search was often reinforcing institutional authority.

This felt complicated at best. When it comes to health and wellness, for example, quackery is often in the eye of the beholder. Everyone knows someone who has struggled with the limits of Western medicine. So much of the original draw of the internet was the opportunity for outlier voices to be heard alongside established experts and elites.””

The Truth of Modern SEO

We want what the author yearns for as much as anyone else: a democratic internet in which outlier voices are given their due platforms in a land of free speech is essential. But there is simply no data supporting the notion that prioritizing nonprofit academic sources while deprioritizing slang dictionaries is in any way correlated with the suppression of outlier voices online. In fact, I think we can all agree there’s a surplus of that.

More realistic expectations of the internet as a service or tool (as opposed to a mythical place) may drop the hammer on this golden age thinking. Let’s say I’m one of the few who have had beneficial results with holistic medicine. I may disagree with the doctor on the efficacy of this medicine, but I’m still going to them when I get a sinus infection or a broken bone. In the same way, we’re going to go out on a limb and suggest it’s better for everyone that Mayo Clinic comes up before Reiki centers and supplement shops when looking for medical information.

The overwrought idea that SEO is some sort of hyper-lucrative grift for marketing vultures and the wayward is not only an antique vision of a bygone past. It also dismisses the wealth of integrity- and data-driven work of people like Barry Schwartz, Lily Ray, and many others.

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In the end, search engines are driven by their users’ needs, aiming to deliver relevant, accurate results. While the landscape of search has a lot of much-needed adaptation ahead, we believe that ethical and skilled SEO continues to leverage these goals to ensure websites provide value and insight, instead of adding to the clutter.

It’s not about tricking the algorithm, it’s about aligning with it to help users find exactly what they’re looking for. It’s the SEO agency’s job to help reveal to the user that this, in fact, is their client’s website or services.

Authenticity As a Driver for Success

And this is the real crux of the thing: In today’s age, an SEO agenda whose goal is to spam some low-quality content to the top of search results — while often having some short-term success — is fundamentally doomed in the end. Our solution for agencies? Only take on clients you believe in. This is a principle we adhere to at Extreme Exposure, and it’s a principle that we encourage others to keep in mind.

If you don’t believe in your client’s success, you will only be able to provide superficial results for a limited amount of time before someone outspams that content. But the way things are moving, it seems in the near-future there is a very limited shelf life for such spam.

At Extreme Exposure Promotions, we know the internet’s reputation is at stake. Nobody likes to click through pages of spammy, irrelevant content. That’s why we’re committed to creating value-driven strategies that carefully observe the guidelines set out by search engines.

This includes writing original content that’s researched, informative, and tailored to your audience. Our job is to enhance the user experience by providing material that’s not only visible but also worth the read.

Conclusion

Despite its flaws and the naysayers who decry it, SEO remains a vital tool for making the internet a more useful place. Gone are the glory days of hacking search engines; The new name of the game is aligning services with user needs and creating a valuable, well-structured online presence.

This said, not all SEO companies are created equal. If you’re in the market for an SEO partner, find one that prioritizes transparency and integrity. Your chosen company should clearly explain its methods and provide regular updates on how its strategies impact your traffic and conversions.

We strive to uphold ethical SEO practices, believing in the importance of educating clients and staying true to Google’s guidelines.

By being transparent in our approach and offering regular performance reviews, we ensure our clients our provide absolute clarity on what we’re doing and why, generating maximum success for all parties.

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