Smoke and Mirrors, How SEO companies scam you

Business is down, you’re desperate, and then you get a friendly email from someone saying they work with all your allies and competitors and saying they boosted their rankings on Google and Bing. They want a nominal one time fee of $3,000 and only $300 a month for miscellaneous maintenance. Adjusting for how much money they think you have, of course. It’s a boondoggle, a scam, a sham, smoke and mirrors.

Their entire business is based on cross marketing. Once they bait one, they’ll use them to market to others. “All these competitors can’t all be wrong,” you may think to yourself. Their forte is creating reports and customer service, if they are “good” they’ll install random useless plugins on your wordpress site or print out some excel reports from semrush. None of it makes a difference, all of it gives the appearance of accomplishing something… a boondoggle.

There may be some small benefits to adding a keyword here or there to your website… nothing a $100 an hour upwork freelancer from india couldn’t tell you in 30 minutes. Nothing you couldn’t learn from a quick read of Google’s SEO document. Think about it from Google’s perspective, should a company that’s been in business for 15 years, gets lots of backlinks and lots of “good” clicks on their search page be ranked first? Or should a company that’s relatively new, has very few backlinks from reputable sites and doesn’t regularly post viral content be listed first? The most useful result should and will be listed first, regardless of meaningless meta tags, keywords and calls to action you put on your page. See how algorithms work for an interesting summary of how modern computer algorithms think.

The people you normally depend on for their expertise may not speak up, they may see it as a fight not worth fighting. If they know anything about politics, they know not to pick fights unless they need to. Everyone is surrounded by yes men, to a degree. So how can you protect yourself when you’ve already pulled the trigger on SEO consultants, or if it’s a train you can’t stop? It’s simple, track them. Use serps, semrush or the free keyword position Tool to get reliable position checks. Make a spreadsheet and put it on a high visibility location. If you can’t be bothered, and you’re already paying 5 digits for SEO, invest ~$100 dollars in semrush or serps to keep them in check automatically.

Keep your eyes open.

Inspired by some offers T&D PowerSkills and ISPC received.

Hexo was awesome, an origin story

Imagine running a blog on Drupal… then imagine running that blog on May 21st, 2018. Around that time an automated cryptomining zero-day exploit ran wild across millions of Drupal sites. There is no automated way to upgrade Drupal, so any security patches needed to be applied manually. To make matters worse, many of the patches available would not work on versions less than a year old. On top of that, even if you patched Drupal, you could not ascertain the state of your blog without rebuilding it… something I suspect most independent installations are not capable of doing quickly.

Contrast that to this statically rendered node based Hexo page whose security relies entirely on Gitlab’s management of docker, their nginx proxy servers and Cloudflare. At the core of what I manage, there lie only markdown, html and javascript files, which can be rebuilt with the latest dependencies with the click of a button.

I’ve ran this blog for over 2 years without ANY changes to the code. It works. It has practically no security concerns of any kind. It’s fast because it’s simple. It’s responsive and supported well by everything from an 8k display to a smartwatch. This is a better starting ground then “smart” dynamic websites. To be clear, I can still do analytics, comments and send things to a database.

That said, Hexo is not the future… real web apps are… and in that front vuepress is leading the charge. Once it matures to the point where adding comments and theming is easy… I’ll consider migrating. I reckon that will take 2 years. This code base will be about 4 years old then, and 5 years is the industry standar for “maintainable” code.

Until then, this site will still be up, for a total expense $12 a year, including exclusively, the cost of the domain.

Should Engineers "rock the boat"?

Self suffering is infinitely nobler than the suffering of others.
– Gandhi

In relation to Google’s quest to build the perfect team.

The foreword is this, In a Google study, teams of 3 people were tasked with
creating product proposals. Google found that teams composed of people who knew
each other and got along well produced objectively worse proposals, even though
they were confident about them. On the flip side, having one stranger as uncomfortable
as that sounds, ended up producing significantly better work, despite the team being
less confident about it’s quality.

Those results are a reminder that our intuition is flawed and we are predictably
irrational.

Instead of attempting to make everyone happy by going along with bad ideas, argue
and present evidence for a better way, while being open to the very likely possibility
that you are not completely right. Making everyone happy is counter productive,
that’s why in the current US culture, you must consider who you are talking to,
even if they are in a position where they “should” handle input well. If they value
the end result more than company politics, present unpopular ideas you know will
make a better product. If instead they are stubborn feeling oriented people,
you’ll have two options. Risk losing their support and argue why there is a better
way; Or prepare them for the proposal. The latter is not the most noble way to better
process, but the former may be risky, as the people worth presenting ideas to, are
often people you want to keep on your side.

This is a common theme of engineering ethics. The need to raise your voice when
a valve is broken. The need to raise your voice when you are unqualified for a
high risk task. The need to refuse to sign off on a dangerously faulty product.
Like sharks who need to keep swimming to survive, the future of your company is
risked when company politics are more important then the product and dissenting
voices are stimied, propagating chilling effects that compound the problem.

Why Websites Still Matter in a Facebook World

There are some who say that you no longer need a website because, Facebook is
taking over the world. Facebook has become the biggest walled garden of content,
much of which is not public and therefore only accessible in Facebook.
This “darkweb” phenomenon has made it “the” web destination site, right after Google.
So, why do websites still matter?

Some of us can’t use Facebook 24/7

Facebook at work is usually frowned upon or even BLOCKED.
This leaves a very important part of the population unable to access the content
you’ve laboriously placed on Facebook.

Flexibility

1
let ThisDemo = "Auto Syntax Highlighting.";

You are special, your content is too. There is something to be said for constraint
as in, It’s often hard for contractors to say no to misguided ideas. However, when
that power is used correctly, you can end up with a far more competitive product,
one that you can’t afford to be without.

Discoverability

In general people Google for information first. People expect you to have a website,
Facebook is still an optional second for many businesses. Even in markets where a
Facebook page is expected, it is not expected that you’ll have ALL your content there.

Integrations

Integrating third party tools into your Facebook page such as a Pinterest button, a VR Tour,
a live chat system, or any integration with competing services is not always possible.
For instace, it’s widely known that Facebook penalizes youtube videos posted on Facebook.
These are not a limitations you’ll find in a typical website.

Analytics and Privacy

Many larger businesses are quite conservative about their data. As such, asking clients to
handover their data to Facebook before interacting with you is quite a high bar. Not to mention
that Facebook is one of the most frequently blocked services by corporate firewalls.
Facebook’s statistics are also notoriously inacurate, counting video and page views for people
who scroll by their timeline.

In short, your website should be the number one priority when it comes to getting your
image, brand and message across in a way that meets your business goals. It should
serve as a jumping point from which your content spreads across NextDoor, Pinterest,
SnapChat, Twitter and of course, Facebook.