The Internet is Getting Worse. And SEO is to blame.*

The Internet is Getting Worse. And SEO is to blame. (1)

The internet is undoubtedly getting worse. It’s full of shit content and it’s getting more and more difficult to find useful information and, to use Google’s own terminology, “hidden gems”.

I’m an SEO consultant. So the self-serving, defensive position would be “it’s Google’s fault”. And well, it definitely is to a large degree. But myself and other SEO professionals and a certain type of “search engine optimization”, in particular, are also to blame.

The type of SEO that I’m talking about is widespread, and I’ve been guilty of partaking in it in the past but will do my best not to take part in it going forward. It’s the type of SEO that’s focused on targeting high volume keywords at all cost, usually at the expense of targeting highly relevant searches.

One part of the problem is client objectives. Many websites seem to serve a singular purpose – generating inflated traffic figures as quickly as possible in order to either:

  1. earn more money through ads / affiliate link clicks / other on-site digital advertising
  2. showcase “growth” to stakeholders or potential investors

Too much focus is put on finding the highest volume keywords to rank for, and not enough focus is put on understanding our actual target audience then understanding what queries they have that we as a business can answer with genuine expertise.

The role of an SEO practitioner should be to help business owners to articulate:

  1. what their product or service actually is
  2. who their target audiences are
  3. what problems their product or service solves for each of these target audiences

… and then to assist that business in building a website and creating content that ranks well for queries that are super relevant to all of the above.

Traffic should not be the holy grail metric. Relevant traffic, genuine user satisfaction, community building and ultimately sales / signups / leads / any other bottom line conversions should be the end goal.

Some people would call bullshit on even the idea of creating blog content as a business. A part of me is drawn to this position. But given the way the internet works, I believe that there is a place for content and blogging for most businesses. There has to be since Google has evolved to a point where so many bottom of funnel search queries trigger ads, or listicle posts (usually on super-authority domains or aggregators that are full of bullshit affiliate links), or reddit forums, or YouTube results, or Shopping results, or one of Google’s own featured results that a cynic might be inclined to think are designed to take traffic away from genuine small to medium businesses. The chances of your home page or product page ranking well for a search that specifically describes the product or service that you offer is almost zero in most cases. Check out the example for “podcast recording software” below:

Apparently, Google is (extremely slowly) losing market share. However, to quote Ed Zitron of the Better Offline podcast, these alternatives are “better than Google now, but they’re all worse than Google used to be”.

Source: https://gs.statcounter.com/search-engine-market-share

So, in this totally unbiased SEO consultant’s opinion, there is still a place for blogging or creating other useful content resources and adding to the seemingly infinite zettabytes of data that already exists on the web. But please don’t just focus on volume metrics when writing content for your website.

And crucially, please make sure that you have genuine subject matter experts writing your content. Do not rely on AI and do not rely on your in-house or outsourced content writers. That’s not a dig at content writers – I have worked with many great content writers over the years and continue to do so. But they would tell you themselves, it is not the job of a content writer to be responsible for the first draft of a content piece – that is the job of a subject matter expert. That’s what makes the content actually useful and unique and authoritative instead of just being a mish-mash of other SEO-optimized content that’s already out there on the web and ranking well on Google. Because that’s what happens when you leave the entire content creation process up to an SEO or a content writer with no in depth expertise on the topic they are writing about – they’ll look at the top ranking results on Google for the topic you’re writing about and come back with a frankensteins monster version of the top 5 Google results for that topic.

So what’s my point? If I could try to distill the essence of this aimless rambling post into three key pieces of advice, they would be:

  1. Don’t chase search volumes – focus on relevance.. think carefully about what your product or service is in the eyes of your customers, and what problems it helps to solve
  2. Be patient – build a genuine, engaged audience that will come back to your website because they want to and not because you’re really good at tricking Google into ranking a bunch of your content really high
  3. Include subject matter experts in your ocntent writing process – It’s unfair to expect a content writer to write an authoritative, engaging content piece on a topic that they’ve never thought about before.
darren mcmanus seo
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Darren is SEO Growth Lead at Velocity Growth. He is experienced in developing bespoke SEO roadmaps and implementing long term SEO strategies to build organic visibility, traffic and conversions for clients across a diverse range of industries.