Great SEO Debate: Guy Kawasaki doesn’t understand SEO

Guy Kawasaki doesn't understand SEO

 

Rand Fishkin, CEO of SEOMoz.org kicked off this great thread on Guy Kawasaki & his comments about SEO.  I had to keep a record of it here in my blog & below are the comments up through the last one (i.e. me) that I saw.  I enjoyed reading it and even spending the time writing my thoughts about the whole topic.  I don’t claim to be an expert on the VC world…thus, Mr. Kawasaki’s lack of understanding of mine is validated.  
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Guy Kawasaki  -  +Rand Fishkin Not “getting” SEO is one of the secrets of my success. Eg, search for “enchantment.” Notice the results. Zero “SEO” effort. Nothing but content. 14 months ago I never used the word enchantment–11 months ago I got on the first page, second or third from the top for the past 11 months.
Mar 4, 2012

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Tim Buchalka  -  I mostly agree with +Guy Kawasaki – There has been a huge shift with this recently – Good content is getting ranked with far less backlinks or SEO stuff than in the past.

In my experience I am getting traffic on content with zero backlinks.

Backlinks aren’t what they used to be anymore, and for me thats a good thing.

People search for content, so that should be the focus.

Mar 4, 2012

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Mar 4, 2012
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Rand Fishkin  -  +Guy Kawasaki Ranking for the name of your book (in the second result) isn’t really what I’d call SEO. I have massive respect for you and what you’ve done – in fact, I’m close to a drooling fanboy. But I don’t think you’re appreciating the practice of SEO, nor giving good advice to those who’d like to increase customer acquisition, branding and awareness through organic search.

Did you check out the blog post response re: Chris Dixon?

Mar 4, 2012 (edited)

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Rob Cubbon  -  The people who say “good content is good SEO” are the people who have backlinks and social signals already. If you just have good content without backlinks and social signals no one’s going to see it.

If you’re just starting out you simply have to do a bit of SEO – otherwise you’re an orphan site lost in the dark. IMHO

Mar 4, 2012

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Tim Buchalka  -  +Rob Cubbon not necessarily true in my experience – although I tend to agree with the just starting out – a brand new site needs a bit of a kickstart.

Not saying backlinks and social signals are bad things – The point I am making here is they seem a lot less relevant than they used to be.

Mar 4, 2012

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Rob Cubbon  -  +Tim Buchalka I agree, Tim.

Take two great content sites one with links and social signals, the other with none. Which will do better?

Mar 4, 2012

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Guy Kawasaki  -  +Rand Fishkin You’re too kind. I just read it. I think we’re talking about two different things–or at least two different approaches to get high in Google searches. All I do is write the best I can, ask people to review my books which they will only do if it is good, and depend on Google doing its job.

Is this SEO?

And with social search, I think this is even more true: write about “venture capital” and when people who are members of Google+ search for “venture capital,” you come up in either the social search results or the right sidebar.

Mar 4, 2012 (edited)

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Tim Buchalka  -  +Rob Cubbon If the content is identical and great on both, then yes it’s more likely the one with the links/social signals will do better. But the line between the two is becoming increasingly blurred.

Up until recently a site with good SEO and sucky content could easily outrank a site with purely great content. I think this is where things are changing. With this change it will drive up the quality of content and rightly so.

Great content is being rewarded and I for one think it’s great that is the case.

Mar 4, 2012

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Tzafrir Rehan  -  When my WordPress blog was active, I would usually get the top result in Hebrew for most titles of my posts. 5 years later I’m still the top result for the Hebrew word for archives.

Nothing but proper HTML markup and organic incoming links produced by my activity.

Mar 4, 2012

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Rob Cubbon  -  +Tim Buchalka I also think it would be a great thing if the web was wonderfully democratic where all the cream rises to the top purely on the basis of merit. However, I’m more cautious as to whether this will be the outcome although recent changes are going in the right direction.

I agree with +Rand Fishkin ‘s example of restaurants in the article. The best restaurants are tucked away with no one knowing them and the successful ones are the branded and well marketed chains that are good but not great. It’s the way our culture manifests itself.

Mar 4, 2012

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Tim Buchalka  -  +Rob Cubbon I am not sure if it will ever get to the stage of being wonderfully democratic. As a programmer I am also acutely aware of the limitations of getting a computer to actually recognise great content. Social signals will most likely be needed for some time to come yet.

To me backlinks was always such an easy thing to abuse (those with the most authoritative backlinks were winners) when it should also have been about the best content (or both as you pointed out).

One thing is for sure though, there has been a big change of late and I think it’s the start of something big.

Mar 4, 2012

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Mar 4, 2012

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Mar 4, 2012

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Rand Fishkin  -  +Guy Kawasaki Fair enough – you’re certainly engaging in a form of web marketing that touches on search engines. I’d argue it’s not what people typically think of as SEO (the practice of optimizing a website and creating content to appear in search results).

Producing “great content” is a wonderful foundation for SEO, but if that’s the extent of the effort you put in, you will almost always be surpassed by someone who invests further. The same is true in any field – social media, public relations, blogging, writing, etc. The principle of “do something great” or “build something people want” are fine pieces of advice, but they won’t get you far in crowded markets.

Mar 4, 2012

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Tzafrir Rehan's profile photo

Tzafrir Rehan  -  At the time I did, sometimes too much unwanted traffic. And I have that domain linked to my Google profile, so I expect eventually that reputation will seep into promoting my social results.

Traffic was never my main metric though.

Mar 4, 2012

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Tim Buchalka  -  +Rand Fishkin I respectfully disagree. That used to be the case with SEO, doesn’t appear to be that way any more. All else being equal then yes if your competition is doing everything well (including great content) and you are just doing great content, then yes I expect you are going to struggle.

The thing is though, in so many niches there are so FEW people writing great content, instead seemingly relying on SEO efforts first and foremost as a means to rank well.

This is what I see as changing. Content is more than just foundation, it should be the main focus of your website. Yet I see in many cases this is not the case, it’s almost an afterthought.

e.g. I’ll just go and get 50 articles outsourced with these keywords and then I’ll put my 100 step SEO domination strategy plan into action. To me that is totally the wrong way to go about it.

Writing content for “keywords” and not humans is in and of itself a flawed strategy in my opinion.

What does appear to be happening is great content is getting noticed much more than in the past, with or without any/much SEO effort and thats a great thing and a sign of things to come.

Mar 4, 2012

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Carlos Fernandes  -  I would say “not getting SEO” is not part of the success. Your success is because you write great content. These are green apples and red apples (ie not oranges) and two different approaches – with commonality (perhaps the writing of quality content, the goal, customer acquisition, readership, followers etc).

I think your success could be complimented by SEO – just as the online success of many webmasters / SEO professionals / business owners could be improved if they just spent less time worrying about getting low quality meaningless links – and spent more of that time concentrating on the content.

Both approaches are not exclusive. They can and should work in harmony. Writing quality content like Guy – will attract natural high quality links which is great – but I think the point is that SEO involves so much more and there are many other good component processes and techniques within it that can help you get improved results – even when your content (and books) ROCK.

Mar 4, 2012

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Jake Belfry  -  Most of you are saying the right thing in respect of both SEO and good content. It is the combination of both that will be the future. “Placing the best restaurant. In the high trafficked. Areas.”
Mar 4, 2012

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Tony Lee  -  I believe in content is king, seo is something that can help get that content more visable and get it to a greater audience but content is whats going to make convertions, ad clicks and earn you the real money!
Mar 4, 2012 (edited)

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Mar 4, 2012

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joe p  -  Interesting. In the past few months I’ve been veering away from content and concentrating on backlinks. I need to step back and reevaluate.
Mar 4, 2012

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Daylan Pearce  -  I’d be curious to know if +Guy Kawasaki has seen any noticable differences/influences in the organic rankings/traffic of his Alltop content/posts based on the social sharing he does – in particular Twitter. Guys’ account is posting tweets almost every 15 mins 24 hours a day to content on his site (exclusively). Sure, this is social promotion. But I bet it has (directly and indirectly) SEO influences on the content of the site.
Mar 4, 2012

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Curtis Noble  -  These types of threads can get frustrating. Here’s someone +Guy Kawasaki claiming that people don’t need to be concerned with SEO (and I’m going to expand that to include Inbound Marketing) and just create great content because “that’s what I do.” But one quick look using +Rand Fishkin ‘s tool, Open Site Explorer reveals links that would be considered “SEO” links. Including links from a handful of SEO blogs! One blog author talks about how Kawasaki reached out to him to contribute to his book four pages of content relating to YouTube videos (a form of SEO and Inbound Marketing). I would venture to say that reaching out, building relationships, promoting your content, asking people to review it and LINK TO IT is SEO. It’s also Inbound Marketing and is much more complex than simply writing great content. I agree with Rand, Kawasaki’s advice on ignoring SEO (and by extension inbound marketing) is misleading to his readers. The truth is that Mr. Kawasaki doesn’t rank number 2 for his book name just because of great content. It ranks there because of SEO. I could go on and on…including the fact that the page itself is optimized for search engines.
Mar 4, 2012 (edited)

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Tim Buchalka  -  +Curtis Noble Frustration can also be caused by people thinking “it’s their way or the highway”.

In this case, there is an increasing amount of evidence that it’s no long just about good SEO only.

If you want to keep on believing it’s all about SEO, far be it from me to try and convince you otherwise.

I think a lot has changed already in 2012 with content/ranking, etc already and no doubt more changes will flow on from here.

Mar 4, 2012

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Curtis Noble  -  +Tim Buchalka point taken. Although, did you read what I wrote? I wasn’t saying SEO is just one thing. It’s lots of things, content promotion, relationship building, social promotion…you know, all those things that get people to link to you! Links are STILL the overriding ranking factor. But the most effective ways at obtaining them is what has changed. You can’t just go out and buy them (well you can, but that’s another issue). You have to be creative to get them. I was criticizing Mr. Kawasaki for saying that SEO is just creating great content….when even he is doing way more than just writing great content. I believe I pointed out some great examples…like recruiting people to “review” his book and asking them to link to it.

Here’s a thought…if he wasn’t doing SEO (like SEO today, you know Inbound marketing that I mentioned several times above as well) then why are bloggers who “review” his book linking to HIS page rather than to Amazon? If I’m a blogger and I want to naturally and organically recommend a book to my audience, would it not make more sense to link over to where they can buy it, rather than to a promotional page? That’s because he’s soliciting those links. It’s easy to see if you look at the backlink profile. Perhaps it’s not fair to say “he” is doing it. Perhaps he’s outsourced his SEO!

And for the record, I don’t think it’s “all about SEO.” Guy Kawasaki is the one who said SEO is “all about great content.” When, as you pointed out (same as I did) that there’s much more to it than that. I think we’re saying the same thing.

sorry for being critical…But I’m often critical of people who say one thing while doing another. That’s what is frustrating to me. These threads where people are saying SEO is ONLY about one or two things, when it can be proven that they, themselves are participating in the various other areas of SEO, sometimes knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Truth is, in this case, is that Google isn’t ranking Guy’s page number 2 because it’s “great content.” It’s actually very thin content. But it has LOTSA links to it with relevant anchor text. And he got many of those links by hitting the pavement and working for them…whether he knew it or not. And as such, Rand is right, his statement is misleading.

Mar 4, 2012 (edited)

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Adam Marsh  -  Good engaging content is only part of it. I’m sorry +Guy Kawasaki, you probably have a career longer than my lifespan (LOL) but I would be 100% committed to the fact that if your website was search engine optimised for relevant keywords then you would attract more visitors who are interested in your books.

I do think it’s great that you are committed to creating good content first and foremost, as this is what 90% of websites out there neglect to do. But whether you need the visitors or not, failing to utilize search engine optimisation will cost you visitors or fans!

Take this as a constructive analysis of your website – http://www.guykawasaki.com/ There are 3 main call to actions, but not much in the way of engaging content for the index page!

If someone who had never heard of you went to your website, they would have no content to read on the front page that explains who you are and your extensive track record.

Although the other pages on your website are sending signals that you were an Apple Evangelist, that you’re the author of ‘Enchantment’ – it would help visitors & Google even more by displaying such content on your home page!

Take the advice as you see fit, I really wish you well in your future business and I hope the trove of information at seomoz helps you cause it certainly has for me :)

Mar 5, 2012

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Aris Vrakas  -  You guys are too held up in all this debate. Go write some good stuff
Mar 5, 2012

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Orun Kabir  -  +Guy Kawasaki, in summary, if we don’t “help” Google find our awesome content, the majority audience might have a difficult time finding it in the immediate future.

I’ve found this to be especially true in my case, as I have a somewhat obscure writing style in which I- at times- use uncommon, downright peculiar word combinations. In other words, the keywords that the general population would prefer to search for don’t coincide with those that naturally appear in my copy. As a result I improvise without jeopardizing the authenticity and quality of my content.

Mar 5, 2012 (edited)

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Jon Moss  -  +Guy Kawasaki was interviewed by +John Martin at a +Social Media Club Chattanooga meetup last year, and his comments on social media as a marketing channel were surprising to some. Getting ones message across is likely easier when you command a large audience to begin with, but how do small businesses create a following? Guy, and many other icons, have a following because of things they’ve done in the past. That’s not to say they’re not doing things now to generate buzz, but for a small business to break out they need more than just good cupcakes.

Here’s the podcast if you’re interested in listening: http://johnmartinsbr.com/john-martin-sbr/interview-with-guy-kawasaki-thursday-at-5pm-est-or-2pm-pst

Mar 5, 2012

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Guy Kawasaki  -  +Jon Moss I’ve written a book about Google+ that will ship on Friday. In it, I spend about a chapter discussing how to find content to post on Google+. The book is called What the Plus! Google+ for the Rest of Us.
Mar 5, 2012

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Mar 5, 2012

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Mar 5, 2012 (edited)

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Mar 5, 2012

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Mar 5, 2012

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Chanté D. Newcomb  -  To me, there is a huge difference. While sure at the end of the day we all want to sell something. But, constantly broadcasting (ei: yelling) your message and GOOD content, are two completely different peas in the social media mix.

So then, smaller businesses should be constant broadcasters of a one way message about our products and services on a constant cycle while responding to questions with a sales pitch of their latest product instead of listening and having a two way dialogue?

Mar 5, 2012

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Diana Santaguida's profile photo

Diana Santaguida  -  +Guy Kawasaki have to agree with +Chanté D. Newcomb and +Jon Moss. A reply that was more about your audience and less about your book would have served you better here… even from a sales perspective it would have been more effective to quote insightful information from you book that was in relation to Jon’s comments. THAT would have been GOOD CONTENT.

Good content begins with LISTENING to your audience and in a very applicable sense I believe this is what +Rand Fishkin meant today… Just as listening is only part of a process that creates good content… Good content is only PART of the process that substantiates good SEO.

Mar 5, 2012 (edited)

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Gyi Tsakalakis  -  These debates seem to arise from differing definitions of SEO. If SEO is providing high-quality content on your pages, using a variety of marketing strategies that develop natural links and social shares (natural as in effective for ranking), and building your site with a logical link structure, then I would suggest, at the risk of being presumptuous, even +Matt Cutts would agree that SEO is more than just great content.

The “if you build, they will come crowd” always seems to oversimplify why “they’re coming.” Sure, in many cases it’s because they want to link to, share, and otherwise promote your great content. On the other hand, sometimes people share content that’s “less than great” because of who is doing the sharing. In my view, that is SEO too (in fact, really impressive SEO).

Mar 6, 2012

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Dan Shure  -  +Rand Fishkin Interesting discussion. I’d be curious of one thing;

How much of +Guy Kawasaki ‘s search traffic is branded keywords (they already know him or books – ie what some call a “navigational” search) vs. generic keywords (discovery traffic). I’d be willing to bet its highly skewed towards the former. Just take a look at what Google sees as the keywords for www.guykawasaki.comhttp://screencast.com/t/zEPOCWSFwGpx

Even the word ‘enchantment’ gets only 3,800 exact match searches a month (and how many of those are now because ppl already know about the book?) – and if you didn’t know about the book, I’m sure you’re not looking for a book when you search for ‘enchantment’.

Mar 6, 2012 (edited)

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Darwin Hall  -  Interesting. I would say that he understands search, but maybe not marketing.
Mar 6, 2012

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Guy Kawasaki  -  +Jon Moss +Chanté D. Newcomb +Diana Santaguida Here is the part of the book (now you don’t have to buy it!) that explains how I find content:

Where to Look

How hard is it to find interesting stuff all the time? On a scale of 1 to 10, it’s an 8 because curating takes knowing where to look and what to look for. How does one do this? Allow me to use a hockey analogy: a “face-off” is when the official drops the puck between two players, and they battle to control it. I asked Jamie Baker, a former San Jose Sharks player, how to win face-offs, and his response was, “Cheat.” In other words, do whatever it takes.

Curating requires doing whatever it takes too. In other words, piggybacking on people and sites that are already curating content. I share posts five to ten times a day on Google+, and here are my main sources:

• People you follow. Cherry-pick what the people who you’ve circled have posted. (You followed them because they were interesting, right?) When you find an interesting post, click on “Share,” add your own thoughts, and let it rip.
• StumbleUpon. StumbleUpon is a community of approximately twenty million people. They “stumble upon” websites and rate them. This enters the pages into the StumbleUpon system for the rest of the community. StumbleUpon has categorized websites so that members can select topics such as gadgets, design, or sports.
• SmartBrief. SmartBrief curates content for trade associations. It employs people who pore over blogs and websites in order to select the best articles. You can benefit from this work because SmartBrief makes its selections available to the public. For example, to find stories about social media, use the social-media SmartBrief page.
• Pinterest. Pinterest is a “virtual pinboard” that people use to share “all the beautiful things you find on the web.” It’s a great place to find cool stuff to share with your followers, such as this pasta pot with holes in the cover for easy drainage. If appealing to female (and increasingly male) followers is important to you, Pinterest is a great source for content.
• Alltop. I am the cofounder of Alltop. Our goal is to provide an online “magazine rack” of topics ranging from A (Adoption) to Z (Zoology). Our researchers selected RSS feeds from more than 25,000 websites and blogs that cover more than 1,000 topics. Alltop displays the headline and first paragraph of the five most recent stories from each source. Let’s say you want to find stories about Google+, food, photography, Macintosh, or adoption. Alltop will take care of you.
• HolyKaw. I’m also the co-founder of HolyKaw. The purpose of this site is to find twenty to thirty stories every day that make you say, “Holy cow!” (Holycow.com was taken, but since Kawasaki is pronounced like “cow-asaki,” I thought HolyKaw would work.) HolyKaw represents twenty intelligent people who are looking for good stuff.
• The Big Picture and In Focus. These sites represent Alan Taylor’s vision of how to create photo essays about current events. He started with The Big Picture as a feature on the Boston Globe’s website Boston.com and then moved to In Focus at The Atlantic. The photos on both sites are always breathtaking.
• NPR. NPR delivers great content every day of the year—remarkably so. My favorite shows are TechNation, Fresh Air, and Wait, Wait Don’t Tell Me. You can find something every day on NPR that’s worth posting.
• TED. TED produces some of the most intellectually stimulating videos in the world. Its eighteen-minute limit forces speakers to get to the point. The expansion of TED to local conferences makes this source even richer.
• Futurity. The basis of many stories in the mainstream news is press releases from research universities. Futurity enables you to beat the press because it publishes research findings from a consortium of universities in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia. An easy way to access Futurity is to use Futurity.alltop.

What to Look For

Knowing where to look is half the battle. Knowing what to look for is the other half. There are five main categories of material to use as Google+ posts:

• Information. “What just happened?” Examples: Google incorporates Google+ circles into Gmail and new evidence on whether videogames are good or bad for kids.
• Analysis. “What does it mean that this happened?” Example: Brian Solis explains the effect of a Twitter facelift.
• Assistance. “How do I get this to happen for me?” (If it’s a good thing.) Or, “How do I avoid this?” (If it’s a bad thing.) Examples: how to get more Facebook comments and how to get your résumé past automated-screening software.
• Amusement. “How funny is this?” Examples: a Diet Coke and Mentos–powered car or my family is going to raise chickens.
• Amazement. Can you believe this? Examples: jumping through a cave in a wingsuit with your mother watching or watching

Extra Credit

In addition to information, analysis, assistance, amusement, and amazement, there are other types of posts that work well for me. (I can get away with more than most people, but I’m also held to a higher standard.) Here are some types of posts that I encourage you to try.

• Studies. People enjoy reading analyses of studies because it helps them stay on the cutting edge of research. Studies about social media, marketing, and security are popular on Google+.
• Assistance. I mentioned earlier that posts that provide assistance is effective, but you can also request assistance when you need help. For example, when I wrote this section of the book, I asked people about using some features of Google+ posting.
• Food and recipes. People love food and recipes. You don’t need to be a chef to pull this off. In fact, the less connected you are to stuffy haute cuisine, the better. Here’s my post about making ice-cream-cone cupcakes and my apple gyoza at Wagamama.
• Everyday frustration. Document an everyday frustration such as setting up a HP printer, the line for a taxi at the Las Vegas airport, or traffic in São Paolo and watch the empathetic comments roll in.
• Everyday satisfaction. Good experiences work too. For example, share how well wireless works on Virgin America, the access speed of Verizon 4G LTE, or how a genius at the Palo Alto Apple Store fixed your MacBook—after the store was closed!
• Titillation. Titillation occurs when something cool happens to you. For example, Porsche loaned me a Panamera to drive for a week. People loved this post because they could live vicariously through my blind, dumb luck.
• Celebs. People love to discuss celebrities, so posts about famous folks generate comments—pro and con. Here’s one about Wine Library TV founder and tech celebrity Gary Vaynerchuk speaking in Istanbul.
• Travel. No matter where you go, share a post about your experience. Almost every place in the world holds interest for some people. Here’s an extreme example from my visit to the San Quentin Prison.

Mar 6, 2012 (edited)

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Brandon Na  -  Guy Kawasaki is a great Venture Capitalist. Rand Fishkin is an incredible SEO. Tim Buchalka is a Programmer talking about SEO. Who are you going to trust about SEO?

Guy even says he “doesn’t get SEO”…so again, when people heard the statement “My recommendation for SEO is…”, they should of taken whatever came after that with the grain of a salt.

Hopefully, people can appreciate Guy’s words as a VC & if they take his thoughts on SEO too seriously…well, it’s their fault. Someone who’s truly experienced as much as decent SEO’s have, you’ll realize that SEO isn’t JUST about writing good content. As repeated over and over, good content is definitely a great part of the SEO puzzle, but if that is all SEO was, there would be many more folks who would rank much higher. But that’s the point too…it’s not just about rankings.

I’m not going to rehash some of the great stuff that Rand. Curtis, Carlos and a few others have already said about what SEO is, but there are 2 major pieces to the SEO puzzle or as I call them the 2 C’s of SEO: content AND credibility. While Guy talks about writing the content, there’s more to it because google indexes the content in a way you have to “optimize” the signals of “good content” among many other things to show you have “good content.” Also, google needs to even know you exist to know there is even valuable content out there. And the part that’s neglected quite a bit here is the credibility aspect where social media is growing a larger part. The reason why backlinks and other “signals” that support a site’s credibility exist is to prove to the search engines that the content can even be trusted and comes from a respected source. Guy has the credibility and others who “think they get SEO” and have had success with what they call “SEO” are probably getting it because they have a number of these signals working for them already.

SEO is not just about writing great content, but then again, SEO is not the only way to become successful online despite it supporting potentially billions of dollars of business in many arenas. I used to work at both Amazon and Expedia where SEO has driven both companies to the upper echelons of both business and SEO success. They “get SEO”. And they didn’t just write a bunch of good content to optimize their sites.

I don’t usually read threads this long, nor do I even visit Google+ that often, but thought I should chime in…like Dan Shure said, it’s an interesting discussion.



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