Are SEOs Obligated to Create a Better Web Environment?
Enrico Chiodino joins the SEO Rant Podcast to discuss SEOs and their role in protecting the digital environment:
SEOs and their obligation to the web
Why having a purpose helps SEOs care for the web environment
Fooling users is far worse than fooling bots
You may not realize it, but SEOs leave a major mark on the web. We have a lot of power to both help and harm the web as a whole. This puts a unique obligation on SEOs to ensure they care for the web and its overall health.
In this episode Enrico Chiodino and I discuss the unique role SEOs play in protecting the web and how they might go about doing so.
Here's a summary of what we discussed.
The Obligation for SEOs to Take Care of the Web
What people find on the web can either help or hurt them. As SEOs we play an integral role in this process. While there is an enormous amount of discussion around not breaking Google's guidelines it's a bit bizarre that there isn't the same concern around not breaking ethical "guidelines.'
It's all about creating quality content. Fundamentally, all of SEO comes back to creating the right content for the right users and ensuring search engines can crawl and index that content. Nothing is more important than creating quality content (at least in this author's opinion).
While it sounds simple enough, the facts on the ground point to too many SEOs not taking quality seriously. To be fair, the same problem seems just as pervasive, if not more so, as it related to CRO.
Either way, we as SEOs need to care for the digital space by providing users with something reliable and of the highest quality.
SEO Work Should Have A Pristine Purpose
Purpose defines everything. In the SEO sphere, we constantly talk about targeting user intent, and for good reason. Intent defines the entire product you are trying to produce. Your underlying intents always become manifest in some way. It's exceedingly important to have a clear and "noble" purpose.
Too often, it appears as if there's a lack of purpose. A lack of purpose is in many ways just as harmful as a specifically nefarious purpose from a practical point of view. For example, there's a ton of churn and burn content out there. Content for the sake of producing content. Not having a clear purpose makes it exceedingly difficult to create something of substance. Moreover, without purpose, it's hard to target the right audience as you're intrinsically not considering user needs at the onset.
The net result is content that is thin/superficial and that does not take user concern into account. No harm no foul, right? Wrong. What happens when an unsuspecting human being takes the advice offered in your superficial content?
As SEOs having a clear purpose in mind can be everything. This is especially true as Google gets better and better at profiling content and pages and sites in order to understand the underlying indemnity of the content, page, or site. This has always been true as offering crappy content is a major disservice to people.
The Ethical Irony of Not Considering Digital Quality
Our generation of SEOs understands that the jig is up. The era of trying to fool and manipulate search engines is over. Search engines, Google, in particular, are too advanced, too smart to be fooled with whatever scheme that used to work in 2006.
In fact, heaven spare the SEO who admits to using black hat tactics lest they feel the wrath of the SEO community. There's a sense of intolerance, and rightly so, in trying to manipulate search engines the way "we" used to. Those practices are not considered "professionally sound" and garner a large amount of criticism.
Well, isn't that ironic because the same is not true when it comes to manipulating and "tricking" users with low-quality cookie-cutter content that's the equivalent of a 1 cent toy pulled out of a box of cereal? It's a bit hypocritical to bash black hat SEO but then have no issue creating content that's not meant to help users at best and attempts to slyly pull a fast one on them at worst.
I guess it's not OK to fool bots but it's OK to fool actual people?!
Be Wary With Templating SEO Work
Creating a better and higher-quality digital world stands in a bit of juxtaposition to templating SEO work. Of course... SEO templates are incredibly helpful. They can help you create "order" and process your work and are a great resource that can ensure you don't make a silly mistake that negatively impacts a site.
That said, going "full template" with a client is not the way. Every client is different. Every site is different. Standardizing the SEO work you do across the board ignores the unique circumstances a site finds itself in. Moreover, it results in the production of content that lacks depth and specificity. The lack of specificity, of course, means that it's not helpful to people.
Just Say No to Copycat Content
The same holds true for creating copycat content. With such content, you're not helping anyone and certainly, your goal is not about users more than it is about "beating the competition." This content is not only unhelpful but to the unsuspecting user, it can be really harmful. Content that offers advice without fully considering the user creates a shallow experience that can result in users not fully understanding the advice they are about to act on. (I know I made this point earlier but it's worth repeating).
If you're not an expert in a certain topic area, don't write about it yourself. Find someone who is who can help you create that content so that it has actual value to people.
SImply, you can't help create a better web for the world by producing templated solutions that don't actually help people.
You Have the Power
I can quote all sorts of pop-culture icons and superheroes here... With great power comes great responsibility... and so forth. The bottom line is with our powers combined... we play a huge role in what the web "looks like." As SEOs, we can either work to make the web a better place or a pretty bad place (or a mediocre place, but who wants that?).
It's worth thinking about that and how if we don't put that at the forefront how we might be negatively impacting the lives of our fellow humans (and some animals).