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Monday, January 25, 2010

Ranting about the snake-oil sellers

Search engine optimization has been a major buzz-word for a number of years now. While there are a handful of good practitioners out there, there are also a great number of people who are the equivalent of yesteryear's snake-oil salesmen. They know all the keywords, they have all the answers, yet they haven't worked a day in an actual brand-marketing environment. Once you're at the top of the search results, are you actually delivering anything to keep the customers thinking positively about you?

The barrier to entry is low for the internet, which attracts all of the get-rich-quick crowd. It can be very frustrating for a business who is looking for help, when so many seem to have all the right answers. These snake-oil pushers are now excitedly entering the social-media market. They can set up a Facebook fan-page, a Twitter account, and tell you about sites like Urbanspoon, Yelp, and Foursquare. They have quick-tricks with tools to get you thousands of followers. But once you get past the talk, have you really made a meaningful connection with anyone?

There is a great likelihood that they can make you feel great about everything you are paying them for, and they likely can tell you all about the thousands of businesses they have helped. Just like the street-side vendors who could make your hair grow, cure leprosy, and fix all of your problems with a simple elixir, these SEO or social media "gurus" will be quick to sell you tools and tactics to promote your business and get you to the top of Google.

The problem is, being a top result on Google doesn't pay your rent and overhead. A communication strategy is needed, products must meet customer expectations, and customers must want to interact with you. Social media and SEO are a piece of the puzzle, but if that is the only focus of your consultant, you may be left with an empty bottle of snake oil.


  1. Great post. Some businesses and the individuals who run them do want to see a quick fix to all of their woes; they view SEO as the salvation their organization needs. If we view SEO as one piece in a larger integrated marketing plan, the long term results for the organization are much more sustainable.

  2. You are so right. There is so much desire for quick-fixes, and simple answers. Every aspect of marketing is so polluted with the get-rich-quick practitioners who can't picture the whole situation. The internet has provided a false sense of security about short-term marketing results. So much is spent on analytics that really don't matter. So what if you're number one on search results and getting hundreds or even thousands of hits, if they're not quality hits. We don't know how many people are actually watching television commercials, but that does not mean it is not effective.