Warning– this post may offend some stalwart SEO consultants.

They get visibly red in the face when I point out how times have changed.
I’m not here to destroy the livelihood they’ve made selling the same SEO services via feigned technical sophistication and toolsets.

But if you’re a marketing consultant or a small business owner looking to improve your Google traffic consider the rationale here.

When I first started doing search engine marketing, before the days of Google and before the days of working at Yahoo! thirteen years ago, it was all about tricks to fool the search engines. In fact, today, as many SEOs (as they call themselves), still mention there are loopholes.


Yet, this fails for a few simple reasons:

  • When your strategy is to fool the robot instead of creating awesome content that deserves to rank on that keyword, you set up an antagonistic relationship from the start.  You’re not trying to please users (inbound marketing), since you’re too busy spamming and tricking Google.
  • We’re in a pay to play world now. Google has an economic interest in showing ads and you want to drive sales. High relevancy through great content and perfect targeting satisfy both ends.
  • If you’re not an expert in the client’s subject area, you’re a fraud. Sure, on-site SEO stuff such as meta descriptions, 301 redirects, sitemaps, and various forms of markup are good. But there’s no avoiding actually producing awesome content that hard-core fans would appreciate.

Guess what?
You have to be a true fan to produce content that other true fans will love.

See all the SEO companies, who used to hide behind their algorithmic witch doctor voodoo now sell the new snake oil of content marketing and social media strategy?  It’s the same PowerPoint, but with different logos and tools.

The old tools, which many of the old-timers are still using, do keyword research, rank checking, and link building (buying).
No longer can they avoid having to understand intimately what you do.

But if you’re an agency with 20 clients, each in a different field, don’t you face an impossible task?
How can you be an expert in each of these areas?
The client will reveal your fraud, despite your tools and black box gibberish about Google’s latest algo changes.

That’s what SEO companies (the agencies, and soon the tool providers) are starting to realize now.
Even SEOmoz had to change their name to just Moz, since they saw that social, PPC, content marketing, PR are really the advanced forms of SEO.

2014-09-01 23_18_51-Moz_ Inbound Marketing and SEO Software, Made Easy

These folks are smart and know that true link building is creating content so awesome that other pros (high authority sites) will share it.

And that’s exactly what great PR, content marketing, and social people do, right?

If that’s the case, then you’d have to agree that this great content bubbles up from a fan’s true passion.
Thus, personal branding is the process of helping a brand’s top fans more easily share their content.
Same for the employees of that company, to unlock the expertise, passion, and content machine within the company.

Certainly, people go to search engines when they want to find something or make a purchase decision.
Yet, search engines are personalizing results to what users are doing and what their friends are doing– so your SEO reports are not accurate anymore.
And most of this activity occurs in a mobile app, where the SEO tools can no longer scrape.

Want proof?
Go find a keyword/target/audience report for Facebook, in the same way that we’d use a SpyFu or WordTracker. You can’t find it because it’s not possible to do.

A robot can’t scrape the ads that a particular audience will see, unless it has those interests in its profile, is a member of a particular brand’s CRM, has actual purchase data tied to that user, and is fans of certain pages.  Can’t just scrape Google for a set of keywords every few days and call it a day.

So if you’re an SEO, don’t freak out.
Time to start learning about personal branding for yourself and your clients.
There is a completely new set of tools for you to use. (hint, they’re not made by the old-time SEO companies.)

You’ll have to narrow down your client base to just the few that you are truly passionate about.
We call these “lighthouse clients”. And when you have one solid example to talk about, you can get dozens more of the same type.

If you’re a regional agency, don’t keep branding yourself as a “San Diego SEO agency”.
Is there really a difference in how Google looks at results in San Diego vs Los Angeles?
Brand yourself as a travel vertical specialist, who drives traffic and ticket sales to amusement parks.

Get all your people to each own a vertical and network with the other pros in that vertical.
Then you can harness your client successes to drive more inbound marketing.

By the way, I put together a guide for you on how to do it here.
Go grab it and let me know how it works for you.

When you guest blog at another expert’s site, you’re sharing your knowledge with real people.
And at the same time, you’re building backlinks on relevant domains.


You’re getting SEO value by doing content marketing, PR, and social; but it’s not from trying to do Search Engine Optimization.

And at the same time, you’re building backlinks on relevant domains.

Are you keeping up with the changing landscape of online marketing?