More reasons to call BS on the SEO/SEM industry

I’ve said before that I’m sceptical about the SEO/SEM industry — and here’s yet another example of why.

Guillaume Bouchard from the Montreal Montreal-based SEO/SMO firm recently told a conference how he used social media tools to generate brand awareness and increase the “online street cred” of Canpages, a Canadian directory company competing against Yellow Pages Group in Canada. The Praized Blog reported:

It starts with the creation of original and quirky content in the Canpages blog. His team then seeds that content in the various social news sites like Digg and Reddit. Working with a large network of friends and contacts, he’s able to catch the eye of online influencers who might (or might not) promote that piece of original content.

His best success so far with Canpages has been this blog post about “Weird Canadian Restaurants”. It was submitted to Digg and generated 676 diggs and 101 comments. It was promoted to the first page of the site and generated good traffic (he did not disclose how much) for the Canpages blog. It was also favorited by people in StumbleUpon, another social tool that has the reputation of driving a lot of traffic. The post was well enough crafted to be picked up by Dan Mitchell from the New York Times, which generated some more traffic to the Canpages blog.

Ok, fine. So I decided to see how Canpages ranked when I googled Montreal restaurants and the answer was nowhere in the all-important top-10 Google results. Sure it’s there for Canadian restaurants, but who googles Canadian restaurants when they’re in a Canadian city looking for a place to eat? That’s why it’s way easier to rank high for Canadian restaurants than Montreal restaurants — because it matters way, way less.

Now, I do think the Canpages blog has some fun content like this post on plumbers, but surely it’s not a coincidence that it uses the same photos of Lee Marvin and Joe Cocker as this earlier piece on famous plumbers. You’d think that at least some credit would be due, given that this is social media, after all, and that the web has a link-driven attention economy, but, alas, there’s not even so much as a mini-font hat tip.

What’s more, when I google Montreal plumbers, Canpages doesn’t make the top-10. Only its paid ad appears on page 1 of the Google results.

While I definitely think this is a potentially interesting strategy that may pay off in the long-term, it also doesn’t strike me as SEO but rather as good old fashioned content creation. And isn’t it rather ironic that the ultimate confirmation of “online street cred” is delivered by that number one bastion of the MSM, the New York Times?

As Jason Calacanis pissed off alot of SEO types by saying, most SEO is BS, and if you create good content, they will come — and the Google rankings will follow. It’s entirely possible that all this quirky blog content will help Canpages catch up to the Yellow Pages, or maybe the New York Times will realize that, with its headstart, it could still win at this game by beating out all those others who need its links for “online street cred.”

6 thoughts on “More reasons to call BS on the SEO/SEM industry

  1. Hey Ann. I think you are right. We should put more references to some of the content we produce. Actually, I went ahead and told our team to do, I think it will provide the credits where need be. Thanks for that feedback, I think it’s wrong not to quote great content, wherever we find it.As far as “ranking” for specific top10 Google terms, the goal of social media marketing is not necessarily to score high for keywords, but more to bring alot of attention / natural traffic & many links to the site, which raises all pages rankings. Other methods are used to get specific, keyword related rankings. And Ann, I’m fully aware that “Canadian Restaurants” doesn’t bring much traffic… but I can tell you the rest of Canpages traffic skyrocketed.++


  2. Hello Guillaume,Thanks for adding your comments. I’ve now fixed that broken link.Question for you: Did your really experience increased traffic to all your pages as a result of one blog post? Was it just over a matter of days or did it have a prolonged effect?Most bloggers say the effects of a top-page Digg mention or a link from an A-list site wear off pretty quickly and don’t usually help to permanently increase traffic.


  3. I have done that experiment with at least a dozen sites so far and the results were always the same; Google seems to like recency and great websites like Digg and websites / blogs that pick stories from there (like the NYT). This being said, you can consider that 20-40% of links stay after a year or so, so let’s say you got 1000 links out of it, you still keep 300 after a year, and from great sites, so the power it brings it great. You should go out and read, they have the best “white hat” blog I know about SEO and there is several articles on Social Media impacts… I can say the daily organic traffic exploded the very day after that post hit… and yes, it’s still holding very well and keeps increasing… Imagine… Digg has 230 000 000 links pointing to hit, so a homepage who gets picked up by heavy websites will help alot.++PS: I’d be happy to submit one of your article at one point, but on subdomain like this, it’s not the same impact 😀


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