Pasternack Says It Again - SEO A Piece Of Piss


Originally covered in this thread was's Dave Pasternack writing about how SEO is well, pretty simple, and only really needed to be done once.

He's back, and he's sticking to his guns - An SEO critic answers his critics

It’s clear that I touched a raw nerve and I’ve received a fair share of critical e-mail.

I’ve also received a much larger share of e-mail applauding the fact that I seem to be the first guy to say what’s obvious to anyone who’s worked in the SEO/SEM business for more than a few months: SEO isn’t rocket science, it isn’t worth paying a fortune for, and in all but a few rare cases, it’s not something you need to pay some uber-geek to do month after month.

Apparently it should work like this:

Patient: My website's not being found.

Doctor: Let's have a look. Cough please. I see the problem.

Patient: Is it bad, Doctor?

Doctor: Not really. Hands over medicine. Hands over instructions on how to use medicine. Accepts a goose/bushell of corn/10 groats.

Patient: Wow. Thanks. Will I need a repeat prescription?

Doctor: Not at all. Don't rinse. Don't repeat.

We’re not talking about treating chronic, incurable diseases here, folks. We’re talking about fixing your Web site so that its current and future content is optimized for search engines. This is not, repeat not, rocket science. Anyone who insists that it is, is nothing more than a quack selling you a bill of goods.

Can anyone be arsed to put the case for the defence?



sometimes he's right

non competitive, non evolving industries, sites where a client naturally link builds and writes great copy, sites where no one accidentally cocks something up, tries to 'help' by changing something because they read an outdated article from 2 years ago or introduces a new product which needs kick starting, sites where the client will take your instructions and follow them to the letter.

I'm not sayimg that happens often of course, but I can see it could with a client who doesn't have ftp access to his treacle-snorkal website and got his 1st in literature from Oxford with the Editor of the Telegraph, Director General of the BBC and someone who writes for

Is it time for my meds?

What's that? Do I hear

What's that? Do I hear another name based SEO contest approaching?

Meds? Nah.

You clearly swallowed a shedfull of mellowness post tit-frenzy.

Bringing reason and balance to TW?

Clearly you're right, as is he. But the scale is all wrong. You just can't get from the specific (far from the norm) to the general as easily as he does. General to specific works, but not the other way round, and I truly think his toolkit is rusty, pretty much obsolete.

I agree with the guy to a

I agree with the guy to a certain extent - your little 20 page website is piss easy to SEO and certainly doesn't require the services of a professional SEO.

However, the majority of SEO clients aren't like this. In my experience (agency side), it roughly breaks down like this:

- 30% or so have had past SEO services (either by a dodgy SEO or by the client themselves) - this usually requires you to remove their spam work and / or get them unpenalised. This is not bog standard SEO and requires a certain level of experience and expertise.

- 30% or so arrive with problems due to the way their site has been technically built - CMS's causing dup content, dodgy URLs, etc. If SEO is so easy, why do so many web devs still churn out sites like these?

- 30% or so are larger, more complicated sites. If anything thinks that SEOing a site with 300k pages of content is the same as their 20 page project site, then they are showing their n00bness. ;) There are way more factors taken into account.

- the rest are straight forward cases but don't have the time or interest to manage the work themselves.

The billion dollar worldwide SEO market isn't just a bunch of clients too stupid to work it out for themselves...

That all said thought, I do agree with some of his points - some agencies charge a fortune for monthly retainers and clients just don't get the relative value from it compared to spending it in other areas of marketing. I know of at least 3 UK agencies that charge clients whatever they think they can get away with but in return give clients back the same service.

But at the end of the day, outrageous fees and borderline ethical pricing policies don't mean SEO is a rip off, easy or snake oil being pedalled to naive clients. It is a valuable service and no way negated by lack of due diligence by clients.


Works for me

Correct me if I am wrong.. but what's wrong with everyone following his words of 'wisdom'? Is that not what created the industry? The desire to rise above the DIY competition?

--- seek professional help --

If everyone does as he says, I shall have an easier time rankings my clients and then their competition will seek out other professional SEOs to keep up and it self perpetuates from there....

So it's all great link bait, but I truly don't care whom listens to him. It’s all good for business.

I thank him for his efforts ....ha ha ha ha...

I'd say he's correct

99% of the time. Half of what I read about SEO is bullshit, and 49% of it is simple/repetitive. So we're left with that damn 1% eh? Which is needed about 1% of the time...

The 49% bit is reflected in one of John's posts about PubCon. Most of this shit is really simple.

But when you have to tell a multi-million dollar company that has an entire inhouse SEO team that their content doesn't rank because it can't be indexed, and that the content they DO have that CAN be indexed isn't worth a shit because they pull it in from sources that already rank well for it, you had better damn well be sure that the advice you're giving them is correct. The reason companies pay big dollars for SEO is that they get some assurance that the advice they're paying for is correct, and that the person giving that advice is experienced and reputable.

The only real need I see for 'ongoing SEO' is to keep them from shooting themselves in the foot. But that could be worth a few dollars eh?

the value of SEO

I think it is also important to look at the relative benefit of a good SEO campaign verses other methods of acquiring customers. Under the best of circumstances Pasternack is arguing that a project is worth the sum of its man-hours, which is not the way modern free markets work. A product or service is worth its perceived value, and in online marketing that would be the cost per acquisition. Even at a very high hourly rate a skilled optimizer will have a much better return on investment than any other internet marketing spend.

This guy could use a serious reputation management problem.

SEO is not a one-time thing. Period. If it was, in-house SEOs like me wouldn't have jobs.

I am awfully suprised that no-one has mentioned the necessity of maintaining high rankings in a competitive SERP. If you have 1000 MFA sites you might afford for these to go third-page, because you've probably diversified. If you have an online business with a brand in a niche market, you need to be #1 and stay #1, or you lose money and your competitors will walk all over you. This fact by itself effectively negates Mr. Pasternack's argument, and in turn argues strongly in favor of hiring an SEO consultant long-term, hiring an in-house SEO team, or both. This is without considering Ted Leonsis-style reputation management challenges - factor those in and there really is no more argument against full-time SEO, unless you want to rank #1 for slorfle troughs.

But, I suspect I'm preaching to the choir, so I'll shut up...

Competition makes it a moving target

What he's saying doesn't make sense for anyone in a competitive industry. If your competition is constantly looking for ways to improve while you sit on your laurels, sooner or later they're going to take your spot.

Basic SEO is straight-forward and can go a long ways towards helping your "hand raised baby wombats" site hit #1 in Google. Cool. You're Happy. You're #1. But what happens when baby wombats become the next big Hollywood fad and Paris and Britney both get one? Now you have to compete with, CJ wombat affiliate sites, Shoemoney with his baby wombat ring tones, and hundreds of MFA wombat scraper sites...

When there's competition involved you have to constantly improve if you want to stay on top. How can that possibly be a one-time thing?

Reputation Management

Now causing some "reputation issues" for Dave Pasternack would be one thing but if someone really wanted to get the attention of say the two people listed above him on the about page they would try to rank for since Google shows more than one listing for that now, not that I'm suggesting that in any way ...

And I'd never suggest seo drafting on the YouTube page that's already in these serp's

I'd also make sure I didn't send any link love to the listing on page 2 that talks about replacing with a competitor.


Apparently a baby wombat sounds like this:

Latin Anyone?

I think what Mr. Pasternack is saying, albeit poorly, is that the priests are trying to keep the mass in Latin. In other words, it's really not that damn complicated, you can learn to do it yourself. No need for a shaman or a Regla de Ocha priest or a guy wearing a pointy hat to sprinkle holy water on your server once a week.

I would contend that if you still have to check rankings, you haven't optimized correctly. If your financial well-being depends on maintaining top ranks for a handful of phrases you haven't optimized correctly. Wombat rankings included. Even if Paris Hilton is caught on video having sex with wombats.

I agree with the points, but not the conclusion

I agree that SEO is not rocket science; I don't think many reputable SEOs would argue that it is. Clearly SEO doesn't require an advanced degree and you can become quite good at it in a short period of time (even "old timers" have only been doing it for a decade).

But this hardly means that everyone should do it themselves. In our book, "SEO: An Hour A Day" my co-author and I wrote out a 4 month, one-hour-per-day plan (actually 16 weeks - for a total of 5x16 = 80 hours of work). It was *really* hard to get all the basics covered in this period of time: keyword research, basic site optimization, getting a handle on your competition, basic analytics, learning where on the web to find trusted information, and of course content building and link building and PPC setup & management ... you can see where limiting the effort to 1 hour a day is a real challenge.

Now, realistically, how many small businesses owners can actually commit to even the minimum one hour a day of SEO effort? And does it really make sense for a shoemaker or candy store owner to learn all of this? Hence, outsourcing makes a lot of sense for many businesses.

But what about the price? Well, 80 hours at $100 an hour - a reasonable price for an SEO business - is $8000. Which obviously sounds like a heck of a lot of money to a small business and to anyone who has been seduced by the myth of the $39.99 "submit to all search engines" service. But so be it - that's just the time it takes to do the job right.

To summarize: SEO is not so hard, but it takes time. Time = money. It just can't happen for free.

Gradiva Couzin

There's a big difference in

There's a big difference in SEO as a compliance action (removing obstructions to indexing, efficient spidering, well-organized content, etc) and SEO as a tool in competitive webmastering (/me pays $.05 royalty to Andrews). Who doesn't get that?

People hear What They Want

Probably not a shock to anyone I play in the social media space, as a result I had lots of people coming up to me at pubcon asking my opinion about how to get listed on digg. I try to tell them find a way to incorporate subjects people like into their posts. 90% of the things people suggested were "36 Things Tile Installers can write about for Digg" or "22 Ways for Bakers to get Traffic from Digg". Despite my telling them diggers don't like stories about gaming digg, they ignored me. I even suggested things like putting the Rainbow Apple logo on the bathroom wall in different colored tile, or baking cakes in the shape of the "digg man" logo all they wanted to hear was "yep I think 99 ways Acrobats can climb to the top of Digg is great".

SEO Contest

There isn't a need for an SEO contest on this... people are already ranking for his name:

As it stands now, Yooter and Threadwatch are both up there on page one for his name..

Shovel my drive way

Shoveling the snow off my driveway or mowing a lawn isn't rocket science either... but it doesn't mean that I don't pay someone weekly or monthly to do it. Face it. We are a service that people choose to pay for.

Did-It Disasters

Mr. P is striding dangerously close to disaster. I am too busy these days with real seo to write industry-provoking editorials ;-) or to nudge up against the ledge he is walking along to show him a better view of the landscape, but I am real close to taking the time.

Real close.

Fear of SEO's competition....that's all.

What Paternack forgot to say: His company does only PPC bidding and charges a percentage of the spent. They don't offer any (long-term) SEO services.

If his (mostly large) customers rank well they obviously want to spend less money on PPC, which means less money for Pasteurnack and his company.

Exactly correct, seb, but

Exactly correct, seb, but the mission is supposed to be exposure (targeted traffic) right? I mean, if Did-It already did it (SEO) and has moved on to PPC exclusively, it must be because it's best for the client, right?


sounds like he's looking for publicity to me

there's points to agree with and disagree with in this article. unfortunately for him, he doesn't seem to realize (or maybe he does) that the way he's saying thing, is making him look foolish. Mostly because Did-It is a PPC firm that manages their campaigns by "buckets" of keywords to a specific ROI. That worked fine in the past, but now with the advent of Quality Score on Google and soon Yahoo, they could find themselves having to rework their business models..... this could be another reason why he's looking for publicity, trying to drum up business for possible client loss for not managing to Quality Score.

But hey .... I'm just guessing :)

Isnt he

in effect telling his clients that he is billing them repeatedly for his PPC services when they could just pay once for SEO services that would render more permanent results?

lets ask the cuttlets

reading the brownnosing, sorry, comments, over at Mr Cutt's blog today, it struck me that if its not rocket science, then why on earth are there so many basic questions asked all the time over there by people who know enough about seo to have heard of him and seem to be hanging around various forums in the main as well?

Many of whom seem to be called things like ''

SEO vs. PPC....

I agree with Storyspinner.
With the quality score and other changes, Did-it's common techniques (certain bidding rules) are becoming obsolit. Additionally PPC companies have a way better stand if they can cannibalize organic traffic and get the credits for it if an SEO company is not around.


Lets put it this way.... it IS EASY if you KNOW HOW! I mean come on! Most if not all of us drive a car but we take it to a garage to be serviced or fixed. We could do it ourselves if we had the time and indeed the knowledge. Some may have one and lack the other etc.

So lets get some scope on this, if you don't need to do anything after the initial work, why every time there is a search update do thousands of people moan about the drop in ranks and others jump for joy at the increase? Its because some keep their car maintained while others let it run and run or dont use it at all!

In short, what you have said about SEO is true to almost anything, being right in a general sense but wrong in a specific sense. Simple. Done. Bye. :)

Pasternack must fear Google CPA

As Seb said previously, he works on a percentage of spend like the old ad agency model that many marketers like P&G are revolting against by going with a Pay for Performance model of compensation.

In my many years of sales, marketing and advertising, I have noticed that the customer/consumer eventually is in control. It may take awhile, but right now, the president of the ANA is saying so:

CPA requires a higher degree of accountability, which I think is a GOOD thing for both buyer and seller. But, I just quickly checked and I don't find any articles since 6/06 updating the progress of the full roll out of Google CPA. Does anyone know anything about how it is doing?

PS - Yes, Jill (I do respect your knowledge), it is PART of my "mission in life" to help the SEO industry grow. I feel we differ only on this one point "SEO Pay for Actions (Performance)" used part of the time when it is appropriate.


I gotta laugh...

I started trying to count how many ?Millionaires SEO created in just the last couple of years, not talking about the SEOs getting rich, I am talking about the clients getting rich... There are sooo many... way too many for me to count...

Every good SEO has CREATED Millions and Millions in revenue and profits for many many large and small companies all across the web...

And some folks still try to say SEO is a waste of time... what morons.

David Pasternack is a muppet

Surely David Pasternack is Jim Henson's final joke creation - the ultimate muppet.

David apparently forgot all about the New Model of SEO Aware client, companies who are investing heavily in taking in full-time SEO staff and resources. He suggested that all these companies hiring in-house SEO specialists are idiots for taking in full-time employees to do what he thinks is a one-time fix. He expects people to believe that stupidity, because he is apparently that stupid himself when it comes to SEO. After all, this is the guy who believes, according to his latest post, that promoting a business is akin to treating acne. Yup, really.


But if you think this attitude against SEO or any other kind of rival is just coming from David then think again, and take a look at the flash presentation on the site.

At the end of a woeful presentation, you can either choose thier bullshit frog, or they'll introduce you to some 'toads' which include makers of bid management software, all consultants, and all SEO companies...


PS - Yes, Jill (I do respect your knowledge), it is PART of my "mission in life" to help the SEO industry grow. I feel we differ only on this one point "SEO Pay for Actions (Performance)" used part of the time when it is appropriate.

What do I have to do with it, I haven't even posted in this thread!

Pasternack's negative SEO opinion made me "do it"

Sorry, Jill. I just realized that a lot of time (10 months) has passed since you posted this:

I should not have assumed you would remember your now very old post. I just couldn't help comment on Pasternack's negative opinion of SEO by giving my POV about how SEO "Compensation Per Action ("CPA"), implemented properly for appropriate situations only, could help the SEO industry grow, while diminishing some of DP's weak points. I assumed, incorrectly, that you would comment on my infrequent persistence in mentioning my POV. Cheers.

It isn't rocket science

Although I think that SEO isn't rocket science, it takes skills. Most jobs/professions out there, with the exception of rocket science and brain surgery aren't that complicated, but getting really good at what you do takes some time. I do also thing that SEO contests are a good idea, because the next time my company tries to hire some SEO quack, I can ask, so how did you place in the Dave Pasternack SEO contest?

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