The Inconvenient Truth About SEO

An Open Response to “The Inconvenient Truth About SEO” By Paul Boag

Over the past several months many people have asked me about my opinion on Paul Boag’s article on Smashing Magazine about The Inconvenient Truth About SEO. I decided to share my email to one of my colleagues detailing my take on the article.


Regarding the article you sent, very stimulating read, and thanks for asking my opinion. I think you probably saw the update to the post on the 17th where they mention the backlash. He summarizes his point via these bullets so I will comment on them each:

My message can be boiled down to the following points:

  • Website owners are unhealthily obsessed with their rankings on Google.

I actually think this is the opposite, most people I know are oblivious to SEO and have been remiss at updating their website. They invest too little of the advertising budget in what is arguably the most important advertising platform, their website.

  • We should be creating primarily for people and not search engines.

I agree, but the conversation is more nuanced then this. Everyone agrees content has to be written with value for the consumer. But what content do you write? If the two end goals are to write about content that is valuable to consumers and has SEO relevance, you need to evaluate what keywords/topics should you target. You cannot ignore the tactical best practices of optimizing your page for the best keywords. For instance if you have a title tag on your page that says: Page, or Article, you are missing an opportunity to optimize. These are typically the things an experienced SEO specialist will guide you through.

  • The best way to improve your ranking is to produce great content that people link to.

Again, I would say, its only part of the story. Yes linking is EXTREMELY important! But, the “FASTEST” way to improve rankings is to get the links AND have a well optimized page. To my prior point, whats the target? You have to make sure you set out with a plan to target a specific topic that is relevant.

  • That great content is better produced in-house, rather than being outsourced to an agency.

I think this point has merit, but is not really scalable or attainable for most companies. Therefore, why not outsource the tactical writing and let the thought leadership come from inside. This is most easily exemplified when a person interviews someone and writes a great and compelling story. The writer is not the person who actually thought of it, they are just writing what they heard. Good collaboration can overcome this issue. I will concede in highly technical fields its a harder issue to address as the writing and subject matter knowledge have to be much greater.

  • A good web designer can take you a long way in making your site accessible to search engines.

This goes against everything I have experienced, most designers hinder the technical crawl-ability of sites and have no concept of usability. Most designers are not usability or SEO experts, which is why those two fields exist. There are exceptions to the rule, but in general this is what I have found to be true.

  • Before you spend money on an SEO company, make sure you have the basics in place first.

Sometimes the basics are too complex for people and they need someone who has done this a hundred times to walk beside them and get it done. I liken this to automotive repair, which I am horrible at. I do not change my own oil, some of my friends do, but it takes me way to long, I need instructions, I have to get the tools together, and I am distracted from doing things I really love to do. I am technically and intellectually capable of changing the oil, but I would rather just take it in and pay to get it handled while I sit and answer emails on my smartphone in the air-conditioned lobby!

I would encourage you to share your thoughts and leave comments below!


1 thought on “An Open Response to “The Inconvenient Truth About SEO” By Paul Boag”

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Click to access the login or register cheese