5 SEO lies that are killing your ranking

Here’s a (heavily edited) pitch email I got recently from a service offering to optimize my business site. Can you spot the 5 lies?


“Dear TempoStrategic,

Are you missing potential new business that’s looking for you? 

I was just running an analysis of your site, tempostrategic.com and found that your search rankings could be improved dramatically. We have a proprietary method for increasing your SEO results fast!  

OurSEOCompany.com knows how to create valuable SEO content written just for Tempo that will increase your visibility on Google, Bing, and other search engines using the keywords that potential customers are using to look for you!  

We can create a unique strategy just for you, to increase your website ranking and build your business leads!  

Can we set up a time to talk about how we can dramatically improve your SEO rank as fast as 3 months?

I really want to see you succeed!

Newbie Sales”


The 5 lies

1.”We have a proprietary method”
Complicated SEO process

Okay, you ask, why is it implausible that they have a completely secret and cool way to make my site rank in Search Engine Results?

Lemme ‘splain you how search works:

You put in a word or several words that relate to the topic you’d like an answer for.

That’s called a ‘query.’

The search engine wants to keep you coming back, so they have a vested interest in sending you to the site that has the highest probability of providing the answer you’re looking for.

In order for yours to be the site that the search engine (let’s call it Google) will display in their top organic results, they look for

content that is relevant to the query (indicated by keywords)

relationships (i.e., links) with other sites that show you’re reputable

…and 200+ other Ranking Factors, some of which are a mystery known only to Google, and some of which the online community has a pretty good idea about.

Now lemme ‘splain you what SEO specialists do:

SEO specialists spend their limited time on Earth trying to figure out what search engines consider most important. To improve your site, they use several different tools – gated ones like SEMRush, free ones like Ubersuggest, Backlinko, and others, to find out which or your competitor’s sites are ranking, what related phrases are ranking for them, how many backlinks they have for popular pages, etc.

A wise SEO specialist uses several tools, because each tool measures differently and finds different content. Specialists get a broad overview before making a recommendation. And some of them won’t tell you what they look at.

But is it a proprietary process? Not so much. Do they have a tool no one else is using? Please. Building a platform from scratch is prohibitively expensive and again, offers just one view of the landscape.

So be skeptical of anyone who claims to have a unique/proprietary method.  The only real method is a ton a research.


2.“Valuable SEO content written just for Tempo.”
The emerald city as a symbol of fake SEO promises

Content that has SEO value takes TIME and effort. You have to know what you’re writing about. You have to care. A lot. And you have to be able to make it unique.

Let me give you some free advice we paid good money to learn: anyone who says it’s easy is lying, or using AI to create content. And it’s a fantasy, at least at this pre-singularity moment. How do we know? We tried it as a test. We paid $50 for a blog on a digital topic.  At first glance, there were lots of keywords and it sounded decent.  But on reading it, it was clear that the copy strung together a lot of phrases that sounded appropriate to our business, but none of it made a lick of sense.

So what is valuable to your site? Whatever is valuable to your customers. What do they need to know? What are they confused about? How can you provide answers? It’s your business and your website and you’re the person who knows that better than any robot.

You also know it’s unique, because you created it. Cheap outsourcing depends on scraping to get the job done fast, which could land your site in the penalty box, which is the opposite of your intentions!


3.“Unique strategy”
a unicorn as symbol of claims to unique strategy

Like “proprietary process”, “Unique strategy” makes us a little nonplussed. That’s because the strategy for SEO is basically, “see what works and do that.”  If your site is much less robust than the sites that outrank you, you’ve got to catch up to your category with a ton of content.  That means creating at least the equivalent of your competitor’s sites.  If you’ve got the bases covered and are doing pretty well but want to improve, you need to develop niche content that no one else is focused on.  That’s the long and short of it.

Want more on  strategy? Follow Neil Patel.


4.“Dramatically improve your SEO rank as fast as 3 months.”

We actually managed this once  for a new business client in a brand new field of healthcare which sprang up in response to a change in Medicare. The information for the field was brand new, so there wasn’t much competition.  We launched the site using our SEO specialist’s recommendations as a guide, and poured thousands of hours into all kinds of content – long white papers, infographics, news, blogs, checklists, explainer videos – all produced in a massive rush. We had the site ranking in the top 10 inside 2 months.  It cost a fortune and took complete focus.

How did we pull it off? One key was that it was an emerging field of healthcare, so there were no category leaders yet. We were able to get in front with a ton of information. Another was that the owners wanted to accelerate the work and was willing to pay for it.  We were working with the top people and didn’t need clearance to get the work planned, drafted, and approved. So to recap, we had 1) unique sector 2) big budget and 3) a streamlined process.


5.“I really want to see you succeed!”
Roy Lichtenstein Mickey and Daffy catching a fish as a symbol of a bait and switch selling technique

Am I getting cranky? Or have we all had too much of the over-enthusiastic sales pitch followed by the deafening silence from the account person once the credit card has cleared?




4.5 TRUTHs about SEO


1. We know a lot about what Google wants, but we don’t know everything.

Brian’s Dean’s list is incomplete. Until then, checking the keywords and links of the competitors who are consistently outranking you is a place to start.depiction of an algorithm as symbol of SEO opacity


2.Natural language and voice search formats are ascendant.

So is video. So flex those muscles and work with different formats.
fellows talking to illustrate preference for natural language


3. SEO takes time.

It’s a long-term strategy, an essential part of your business, it’s not very glamorous, and it’s never ‘done.’ So don’t get impatient before the 6 month mark, at least, and don’t get complacent.
man pushing a rock uphill to show persistence required for SEO success


4.Professionals really do make a difference, but they aren’t necessarily volume players.

As with any business service, the people who do it all the time do it better. SEO specialists use several different tools to get a full picture, they dig down and do the research and they can work with you to generate quality content. But the people who rock at SEO don’t tend to be the big volume platform pushers, because it takes time and thought and attention, and that’s not a great high-volume profit model. The sales pitch is never going to mention exclusivity.  Do yourself a favor and don’t fall for it.
man carving to illustrate patience and skill required


Oh, and one more truth. SEO is like the weather. It changes.