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I get asked "Do you still do SEO?" and I have to answer, but the answer depends on what the hell you mean by that.
Most people who ask "Do you do/know SEO?" have very little idea of what SEO actually entails.
Most people who ask me "Do you do/know SEO?" have very little idea of what SEO actually entails for me, when I engage with it on targets. Even those who knew me once, and knew my work back then, don't actually know very much about my "SEO work" these days.
Because SEO has changed, and I have changed. And.. they have changed.
I believe that the term "SEO" today applies generally to the field of competing in business via internet-specific tactics that produce business-positive outcomes from search user activities, without paying the search engines.
Do you still do that? Do I still do that?
How do you do that? How do I do that?
Years ago I drafted a framework to support an Competitive Webmaster mindset that worked for me across vertical industries. It worked regardless of what tactic, technique, or strategy I was deploying. My way-of-thinking-about-SEO had worked for me since 1987, when I first got involved in driving attention via the Internet (long before there was a World Wide Web). It worked well for me at the start of my SEO career back in 1996, and then later at the start of my full-time SEO career when I first discovered the challenges associated with turning down more work that I accepted. It still works for me today, although the simple framework often needs a chapter or two of detailed furtherance in order to be understood adequately for deployment by anyone who is not me.
Times have changed. People have changed on all 4 sides of SEO -- the SEO practitioners, the searchers, the SEO consumers, and the search engines -- they have all changed quite a bit since 2015, for example.
And they should be expected to continue to change. And a decent framework of understanding should keep up... because it should be based in human nature, human behavior, and the technology that we have come to call "search" on the internet. To the degree that these things change, a useful framework of understanding must reposition itself in context, or adapt.
I suspect that for the first time in 40 years of my observations, the fundamentals of American human behavior, based in such things as language, beliefs, values, and perspectives, are changing significantly. Not all-of-the-sudden, but changing substantially nonetheless.
All of the obvious changes we all see around us are part of that, of course, but more than ever in my lifetime a set of societal changes that impact SEO are present: language, culture, norms, expectations, and the commerce supporting economics.
This is in addition to the also obvious failures of Google and other search industry players.
Will my framework of understanding endure? Continue to support prediction of real behaviors, and thus, business outcomes?
This is where SEO fractures into distinct parts.... this is where "persuasion" separates from "conversion" and "search query targeting" separates from "marketing". This is when "positioning" and "marketing" diverge beyond traditional reason. This is where learned-but-not-combat-experienced practitioners are challenged to accept the fiction that is reality in SEO Land.
But remember that general definition of SEO posited above... even if craziness like "positioning is no longer driven by marketing", the measurable objective for SEO is net-positive business outcomes from search activity without paying search engines. As long as the results come in, and can be attributed to SEO well-enough to pass the internal ROI tests, the SEO tactics are legit.
Analogy for those who appreciate analogies: Fiction is by definition not real. Yet, to a fiction writer (and her editors and publishers), fiction is very, very "real". The actual, real works of fiction are packaged and sold to buyers of fiction, and thus produce the business revenues that support the writing.
Creative writing is an art, a practical endeavor, and consequently an academic pursuit... and writing is a fundamental human endeavor that enriches life for both writer and reader. Fiction, as it is called, is in fact very, very, real.
And SEO... as defined as the set of deployed endeavors that support, encourage, and often drive free organic search traffic to productive business mechanisms, is very very "real" even when portions of those defining terms (e.g. what do we mean by "free"?) are fiction.
R.I.P.E. Reach, Inform, Persudade,Encourage/Educate.
The tactics, methods, and measures associated with R.I.P.E. change because the people (and systems) change. As long as search is a voluntary, prompted human activity interpreted by humans, this framework will endure.
I'm not sure for how long, or to what degree, search will continue to be "a voluntary, prompted human activity interpreted by humans", however. That... I now report, is today's most interesting, amazing, and therefore intriguing aspect of today's "SEO".
And that is why I am still 100% engaged in SEO.
Sometimes I tell people I am a professional Minutia Manager. I manage small-but-significant things. It really is a big part of what I do as an SEO practitioner.
When you get down to brass tacks, the difference between a quality piece of furniture and another quality piece of furniture can be quite simply the brass tacks. A small detail that defines one piece as superior to another.
For a significant portion of the search marketplace, minutia drives competitive SEO. Not all of SEO, of course, because strategy can play a very major role in competitive webmastering today (like yesterday). But for many uber-competitive search verticals, the minutia matters.
The most valuable contribution I can make to a given search marketing challenge involves identifying if, when, and how minutia matters. That includes examining and elucidating the relative significance of specific minutia compared to the potential for more strategic matters like content, voice, positioning, and the art of persuasive communication.
Testing is so easy and is effective for understanding the realtive importance of (and potential associated with) minutia.
This is late 2021 in America. Thanks to the internet and technology, for the first time in my lifetime, that "how it is here" also reflects "how it is there" across much of the world. Not everywhere, but many places -- are like here. And here, things are not great.
Where are the blogs? Well, they're in the same place as publicly-expressed independent thought. Suppressed.
Where are the archives of this blog? Same place... deleted.
I started blogging way before most.... back in UseNet days. The emergence of LiveJournal in the late 1990's was cringe to me... personal oversharing like that was more akin to the alt.s*x.whatever portions of UseNet than anything I would follow. As an IT pro I was on most of the platforms as they emerged... especially when html and later CSS supported free expression. It was always an exercise in communications technology, and I enjoyed the creative part of the exercise.
I still remember my first published inset image in a blog post. It was on RadioLand or Typepad or something... and it was a glossy showcase photo of a one-wheeled motorcycle. It was cool.
Those posts are long deleted. As are most of the posts to this blog. Why? Because they have no value. There is no reason for them to be published.
And now, in late 2021, what you say (and what you said) can and will be used against you.
Cloudflare has been working on an image hosting solution that follows the rest of its CDN-based hosting model, and promises to disrupt image serving. It will be a game-changer, of course, but the core SEO questions always interfere with these innovations -- and this time SEO for Cloudflare will be even more important than before, when images were 3rd-party hosted.
A few of the immediate SEO issues with Cloudflare Image hosting, which will need investigating:
Cost is one of the more entertaining aspects of SEO, because good SEO services are so much more expensive than all other aspcts of web tech. The pricing pressures suffered by tech are often insignificant to those who successfully deploy high-performance SEO. If you drive tens of millions of dollars per year via SEO, you don't care if you hosting goes up $500. This is one of the SEO Dividends we SEOs enjoy (and appreciate).
It's practically free to jump in the deep end for most emerging technologies today, as long as we on-net produce gains from our research and experimentation. I barely need to even consider cost-averaging for most tech these days (but I would if I needed it -- do the work, to get the wins!) To be honest, the biggest "cost" of my own tech spending is not the direct cost, but the indirect costs of tech that doesn't come even close to delivering on its promise (I'm pointing at you, Apple 2018 hardware, and you unnamed innovative host who decided to block server extensions "temporarily" while building prettier dashboards, prioritizing the Growth Marketing team over customer retention concerns).
Cloudflare is pricing its image hosting very cheaply: 100,000 images served (without counting the autogenerated size/crop/quality variants at all -- they are "free") plus $1 per 100,000 served. Cloudflare must make it unquestionably affordable in order to make the huge adoption numbers it needs to succeed as a near-monopoly CDN, which it must do to compete with its market competitors. Cloudflare directly competes not so much with traditional "hosting companies", but rather the near monopolies on hosting content (Google, Facebook, etc).
Cloudflare customers can already sign up for the new service.
I hope you SEOs are all-in on pushing The Goog to make quick decisions on how to handle this... because that G-haste is what we need for us to continue to win, lol.
Ignorance used to be bliss. Now, it's paranoid, resentful, and desperate.
Soon you, and everyone else, will learn what it means when ignorant yet insistent bullies get to write the rules. Those rules, we may see, consider earthly existence to be a zero sum game. In order for someone else to move up, you'll need to move down.
American Exceptionalism is the only framework that has successfully bypassed this form of mental illness thus far. But now American Exceptionalism has been left rudderless. It didn't fail... it simply let the wrong people plan the excursion, and those "leaders" forgot to pack the rudder and supplies.
My cowardly ex-pat friends in Ecuador recently noted that Cuenca is a "small city". It is only the 3rd largest city in very small Ecuador.. and trails considerably behind its larger siblings.
Cuenca, Ecuador has over 4 million people.
If one more midwestern USA marketing idiot tells me that there's no more room in the world for mankind, because of "overpopulation", I'm likely to leave Texas and go live in a mountain cabin somewhere, away from the idiocy. Maybe in the mountains. Near a stream.
I hear it's really peaceful in the mountains of... Ecuador... outside Cuenca.
Your mid-sized US cities (like Cleveland, duh) have populations of near or below 1 million. Many have to extend their reaches pretty far out into extensive suburbs just to reach enough taxpayers to support the city infrastructure and welfare programs (see how "Urban Development Zones" consume thriving independent suburbs). Most American "cities" are of the 100,000 or less population variety.... a very, very far cry from population densities in many very peaceful places.
Somehow (perhaps with magic?), those nations and their city governments manage to organize and operate those "small" cities, with less. I do acknowledge the citizens are far more likely than Americans to execute or otherwise eviscerate corrupt politicians, but that's a different story.
And this is where my midwestern USA marketing idiots chime in... to make a case using FACTS in order to prove cities like Cuence in Ecuador are inferior to US cities, citing healthcare, access to clean water, poverty, food security, etc etc etc. The very case for American Exceptionalism these idiots otherwise drown out by humming "nah nah nah" while plugging their ears with their fingers.
You can't fix stupid.
The first rule of totalitarianism (or cultism) is to isolate the idiots and keep them dumb, so you can mislead them with propaganda, including fear-inducing fake news that disrupts independent thought.
The second step is organizing them to be "activists", so they can scare their local politicians into towing the party line at the local level, where control is excercized.
Same idiots? Nope.. the activists are harvested from the idiots' children... easy pickings, and as a bonus, the idiot children are easily turned against their idiot parents when that time of the plan arrives.
Someone once told me that when they hear a conference speaker describe some SEO issue, they prioritize finding out "what would JA do..." as their next step. This blog was named "JohnOn" because it represents my opinions "on" a variety of topics (most related to entreprenuring using the web, in competition with other publishers).
"To an experimentalist, everything is an experiment. Observations are rarely what they appear to be."
MediaPost highlighted a blog post of mine about healthcare search marketing consultants and agencies. I had noted that ranking for a healthcare search term was not always associated with servicing the searchers finding the top-ranking result. If you were good at SEO you could rank for a term, even if you didn't deserve to be top-ranked for that term (https://www.mediapost.com/publications/article/68284/top-ranked-search-firms-all-aint-the-same.html).
After that, I decided to rank myself for "healthcare search marketing" and promptly earned the top #1 position. I held for over a year. During that time, I received emails from professionals in the health space, complaining that I had insulted them. Remember, this was back when people actually believed Google was a benefactor for the web. Some successful yet amazingly ignorant programmers back then were so sheltered, they openly hated on SEO (even technical SEO), preaching that you could rank for relevance by just-making-good-content (Cal Evans, "Just Say No to SEO", July 2007 updated Feb 2019).
Prior to Threadwatch I mostly stayed out of forums and the like, due to frustrations I felt dealing with those who quietly "managed the message" as moderators. People only see what gets published, and they want to believe it’s the whole story. If they are told "we only edit out obscenities" then they believe that what they see is what was written, perhaps sans obscenities. Sadly, that is far from the truth. Posts are edited and deleted as needed to manage discussions, and often there are strong agendas at work behind that process. Threadwatch started as a place that promised not to do that, and it didn’t. I was one of the first 3 editors of Threadwatch, and I didn’t even get any instructions for doing the job. It was simply assumed that we would only fix problems, delete obvious spam and bring questionable issues up for discussion. Everyone had a voice if they exercised it. If there were too many UFO posts the community complained to the posters before any moderators did.
I follow the consultant model in my business, rather than an agency or practice model. That means I focus strategically on those aspects of search marketing (and competitive webmastering) that bring business success rather than simply SEO success. I believe that a business looking to succeed in search marketing is actually looking to succeed online in general, not just gain more search traffic. Unfortunately, many businesses don’t have that general online success model worked out yet, and their SEO efforts fail to perform cost-effectively even if they succeed based on SEO metrics alone.
Fortunately, the same knowledge an SEO needs to achieve SEO success can be used by the business itself to refine the online success portion of the overall Internet marketing equation. This can be done at the same time, and with relatively little incremental cost, via the consulting model. I hope to demonstrate that for the Search Fest audience, by showing how working effectively with an SEO at the strategy level can guide you towards overall online success, while simultaneously empowering you to effectively manage your SEO engagement and empowering your SEO to succeed on your behalf.
Much of what we do as search optimizers is really just good web publishing, following proper technical and usability guidelines. But as search becomes the default access channel for Internet users, building for search (search friendly publishing, or SEO) is actually necessary.
And that is a self-reinforcing thing -- the more search works for people, the more they use search. If every webmaster optimizes, they all need to optimize further to compete. So if you expect to be competitive today, you need to be search optimized. If tomorrow we have something new that is more important than search, we webmasters will need to accommodate that as well. In general, you are a competitive webmaster.
Content. That word, is so important. And when you read it.... like when you read it above, you believed more than the type expressed. You projected into the typed word on my web site, your own committed belief of what it meant. And not just the meaning, but the pronunciation, as well.
Chances are very good that you read "CAHN-tent" as in the content of this web site post. But I wrote "content" pronounced "cunn-TENT", meaning at peace, pleased, satisfied, or perhaps some flavor of happy.
Stop projecting your own meaning into other people's words. Read what I wrote, not what you think I wrote. You look like an idiot when you do that.
*If there is a way to contact me, it is provided at the bottom of the page.
"...we need to protect ourselves from the unchecked, undemocratic, Orwellian power of the big tech companies, before it's too late. If it's not already too late..."
Craig wrote about making a joke on Twitter, and getting locked out because some numbnut (or AI lol) misinterpreted his obvious joke as promotion of self harm. At the end of his blog post, he warns of the "Orwellina Power" of tech companies, quoted above.
Dude : you are that "tech company". The problem is individual people, not some elusive "company".
While I will graciously grant that maybe some AI "algorithm" is responsible for the error (and I only do that out of excess kindness), a person you probably know actually committed the specific act that initiated this erroneous decision. Someone you work with, or someone who is friends with someone you work with, and with whom you probably have interacted with at some point.
Let's highlight of few of "your" failures that led us here:
For years, you have permitted overly sensitive people to whine and complain about even the slightest insults, and often encouraged their reactions by agreeing that something or another probably "should not have been said", or "wasn't very kind", or perhaps you simply agreed that "mean people suck".
For a while, you've ignorantly expressed strong opinions on issues about which you know very little, and have committed very little attention to knowing.
You've signed various "petitions" proffered by street advocates, putting your name on lists used by political activists without reading the details or even knowing how the lists would be used to influence structured power in our society. Perhaps you've even participated in the collection efforts.
You started using hyperbolic adjectives like awesome, incredible, amazing... for everything, no matter how legitimately normal it actually was.
You still don't know what enabling, let alone understand it. It's not easy... I get that, BUT DUDE -- AT LEAST RECOGNIZE IT'S A THING!
Social feedback from others is a fundamental component of human psychological development. Without it, or worse -- with false feedback -- humans do not develop sound character. In the extremes, aggregate social behaviors shape norms, resulting in rules that define society. At the "local" level, they define behaviors, via reinforcement and voluntary inhibition. The feedback you provide to those with whom you interact, whether it be a simply glance, a direct comment, or anything in between, can encourage civil behavior and can encourage sociopathic behavior.
You are the threat you are (still!) warning others to guard against!
Here we have a guy both claiming software programming is "engineering" and suggesting software programmers be licensed and carry professional liability insurance, "like almost every other engineering profession".
A double whammy of ignorance, without any recognition of the conflict inherent in the engineering part of the delusion.
A majority of "engineering professions" do not require professional liability insurance. Of course every professional association sells professional liability insurance today, but what does that prove? If you do business today, you have to carry liability insurance regardless of your profession -- people sue as a matter of course today, as an attempt to recover losses via policy coverage limits. Lawfare is real. Let's not be stupid about it.
Another engineer so convinced he's an Engineer that now that he's aged to Senior status he believes he should be crafting (and lobbying for) Engineering policy/regulation over his peers.
Go ahead... we need better controls over these programmers and IT people, for sure. But leave big "E" Engineering out of it, thank you very much. Or, consider pursuing a legitimate Engineering degree?
More reading here.
They're calling it Behavioral Informatics. It's a nice label for a field of technical study and Engineering development, but behind that marketing is the truth -- the money is coming from the tech tyranny's desires for total surveillance as a means of civil population control.
Behavioral Informatics is early research work to study how measures of population behaviors, such as personal movements about the house or community, sleep/wake patterns, or even bathroom visit frequency, might reveal aspects of behavior that could be useful for predicting future behaviors.
The technology is sensor based. Think wearable sensors (trackers embedded within clothing), or motion sensors scattered throughout your home or apartment, or even simple vibration sensors embedded within flooring. Things that report activity, which, through statistical analysis, can be associated with people's activities.
The assumption is that the measured activities across a large data set will provide a statistical basis for reasonable probability when predicting individual behavior. The Tyrant's Dream is that this statistical probability will be powerful enough to convict an individual of a propensity for bad behavior before any bad act is committed.
PreCrime, for the movie fans. ThoughtCrime for the book club members. Modern day China for the unaware Engineer dorks.
Of course any "outliers" who suffer collateral damage from tech-driven policy-making will simply be part of the cost of maintaining civil society. Same old hypocrisy we nearly always see from the "Social Justice" extremists... since probably before Herbert Spencer's Social Darwinism.
It's an old plot re-scored in yet another screen play.
Biometrics was cool, but are ANY of the subsequent biometric technologies we see deployed 30 years later also cool? Or are almost ALL of them used for some sort of overrule, such as facial recognition to identify and then harass political protesters?
Engineers are personally responsible to society for their own contributions. Even the stupid ones who graduated recently from Engineering programs that don't bother to teach Technology and Society or whatever "ethics" is called these days. The individual Engineers doing the actual development work are responsible. Just like in Terminator. Karma, baby. It can hurt. There will be pain.
For all the GodFather fans out there (the original, not "II" lol), we now have an update on the proper definition of a rat.
"you give up people around you, to save yourself (from a prison sentence). The people that you were in bed with, the people that you trusted, that trusted you -- to save yourself, you bury them, whether they were your friend or not. That is not something that you're supposed to do" - Michael Franceze
Now you can debate whether the guy who violated his oath and left the life is a rat or not, but like everyone else you have to work within a proper definition of "rat" so here we are with one that not only works but seems to match the working definition defined by decades of street life.
Not everyone is courageous. No everyone is wise. Not everyone has the skills needed to manage every situation. But no one, ever, should be a rat. It's not just ugly, or disgusting, or wrong. It's quite simply inhumane. Which is why the rodent was chosen as the model.
Do whatever you can to not be a rat. There is nothing better for you to do.
Need to reach me? Call me, or text me, or hit me up on Slack, Discord, Telegram, or other. I'm not active on Facebook, nor am I on LinkedIn.
If you need my contact details or phone number, just find someone you know who already has it, and ask them for it. #simple.
If you discover that you don't know anyone who knows me, well... sorry about that. Maybe you can you ask every SEO person you know "Do you know how to contact John Andrews?". That sometimes works well.
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