10 statements that make my head explode, and what they really mean

Ian Lurie

Every now and then, someone says something that passes cringe-worthy and goes straight to neural overload. At those times, I get a temporary case of Exploding Head Syndrome (it’s real). I’ll skip the political stuff like “Global warming isn’t real” and “Get your government hands off my Medicare” and stick to internet marketing:

Quote 1: “We don’t need the internet. We get all our business from direct mail.”
Really? Wow, you’re lucky. You’ve established that not one internet user could become a customer. That eliminates a big expense of, maybe, $200k/year. Except, of course, that direct mail costs at least $100k per sending.
What you really said: “I like burning my company’s money. The internet is scary. Plus, I have zero motivation to improve anything.”

Quote 2: “SEO? That’s a fiction. The search engines figure it all out. We’ll stick with PPC”

I thought I was the only person to hear this quote, but Vanessa Fox wrote about it in her book, Marketing in the Age of Google. So I’m in good company.

I’m so proud of you! In the face of overwhelming evidence that 85% of people who use a search engine click on the unpaid results, you’ve stuck to your guns. You’re going to ignore that 85%. That’ll show ’em!
What you really said: “I also refute global warming, and believe firmly that T Rex used its teeth to crack coconuts in the Garden of Eden.”

Quote 3: “We won’t use Google Analytics, because they’ll spy on us.”
I sympathize with this one, but it’s hopeless. Google already knows everything about you. They have access to your domain registration information, PPC data, phone records, e-mail and anything else that passes through their wires. What possible difference does it make? Also, using analytics data to spy on you isn’t really worth the effort. Google can gain far more by combining your data with thousands of similar businesses and then looking at the aggregate. That’s anonymous, doesn’t hurt you, and is more useful to them.
What you really said: “I just figured out Google is spying on me!”

Quote 4: “Social media? If I can’t measure the ROI, I won’t do it.”
Good job. You’re making your CFO happy. Unfortunately, you’re also ignoring the place where more and more of your customers get together to talk about you. I doubt you tracked the ROI of answering the phone in your store/office. Nor did you track the ROI of customer service training for your staff. How exactly is this different?
What you really said: “If my customers go online but aren’t ready to buy, I don’t give a flying crap about them.”

Quote 5: “I don’t want comments on our web site. People might say bad things.”

I actually nearly swallowed a Coke can when I heard this. I was tilting my head back for one last delicious sip of the Nectar of Life (Diet Coke) when a VP of something-or-other threw out this bit of genius. My jaw dropped, and in one horrifying, uvula-flapping moment, I nearly ate an aluminum can. Which probably isn’t much worse for me than the Diet Coke.

Here’s the thing: People are already saying bad things about you, Mr. I-have-rat-turd-for-brains. They’re going to keep saying them. By shutting down comments on your own site, you do a great job of shoving those bad things out onto thousands of other web sites, where they’re harder to track down.
What you really said: Sound of crickets chirping

Quote 6: “We’re going to optimize our META keywords tags.”
OK, OK. Maybe you read a web site that someone hasn’t updated since 2003. Maybe someone you think is credible told you the keywords META tag matters. So I’ll take a deep breath and explain why the keywords META tag doesn’t matter any more, and we can go from there.
What you really said: “Someone who has no business in SEO gave me advice.”

Quote 7: “Our competitors have [insert web feature here], so we need to.”
So, you’re trying to beat your competitors by copying them? Shouldn’t we figure out if that feature actually helps, first? My… logic… centers… are burning out arrgh grok fooble mensch gibblegibbet flewb hrm bzzzzzt aauuuuuugh.
What you really said: Sorry, I can’t interpret. I’m lying on the floor in a puddle of drool.

Quote 8: “Sorry, the SEO changes just aren’t on our priority list.”
You’re the same person who told me everything has to have a measurable ROI. I just showed you the opportunity gap between the traffic you get now, and the traffic you could get later if you make these changes. But instead of making them, you’ve got your team working on a feature you tell me will yield no hard dollar results. I get it! This is a joke, isn’t it? Right? Sir?…
What you really said: “I flunked math.”

Quote 9: “We should send e-mail to every customer we’ve got. They’re customers. They won’t mind.”

What you really said: “I’ve always wanted to see how e-mail blacklists work.”

And, my favorite:

Quote 10: “$10,000 for a web site?! I can do it myself!”

Yep. And you can save a lot on dental work by doing it yourself, too. Enjoy.

What you really said: “I want to triple profits to $1.2 million, but I won’t invest .833% of that online.”

Phew. For a while there I thought the snark train had left the station. Apparently it’s back, though. I’m sure everyone’s just tickled pink.

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team- training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at www.ianlurie.com

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  1. You know I am still a fan of direct mail when done right but SEO should get equal footing in the marketing mix. The buzz word is “integrated marketing efforts”.
    BTW – good thing you were drinking a can of soda. A glass bottle would probably hurt more going down and out…

  2. Haha amazing rant. Clients can be so stupid sometimes.
    But the customer is always right, right? :S

  3. @Liam it’s interesting – I never, ever mind if someone is uninformed. If you don’t know, you don’t know, and it’s time to learn.
    What drives me CRAZY is people who clearly DO have the knowledge, but simply refuse to use it, or for some reason won’t apply it, or clamp their hands over their ears and yell LALALALALALALA. Grrrr.

  4. Ha ha ha ha ha Ian!
    Your posts make me laugh so much, not the content, the way your share the content.
    I loved the diet coke comment, can just imagine your head tilted back as you guzzled it down!
    I think I have to say my fav one was, $10 for a site I can do it myself, yes I have seen many DIY sites and I certainly don’t recommend that.
    I think it’s funny that most people will rely upon the professionals for things such as car repair etc but they seem to think it’s ok to do their own website when they obviously don’t have a clue what they are doing.
    Sally 🙂

  5. Your weakest quote is #6. There’s no harm in optimizing keyword tags. Doing so might not be crucial to achieving search engine results, but it’s part of a holistic approach to SEO that educates clients on page design and as well as produces longtail results.
    You, like most subject matter “experts” rely on um, snark (?) and an assumed sense of authority to get pageviews. Plain and simple. Then your half-baked blurb concepts get retweeted. Which you then tell people is valuable.
    Admit it, you’re just selling the idea of Ian Lurie. You’re not an authority. You just want to make a buck and you’ve figured out that being cocky and being cocky about not being cocky will make you a little scratch. Go ahead. I’ll wait while you admit that to your readers. Come find me when you’re done and we can go have a drink. Like men. I’ll be the at my desk making something useful for people.

  6. Re: keyword meta tags. So true!
    There are still some cranks who go around peddling those techniques as being high-priority SEO items.
    Glad you called them out.

  7. @Michael Whitehouse – Ian didn’t say anything about peddling meta keywords as high priority items. He’s implying that it’s unprofessional to be concerned with them at all.
    I wouldn’t pat this clown on the back for something you imagine he wrote, lest you be lumped in with he and the other huckster “authorities.”
    Consultants are consultants are consultants. They all charge a lot of money to clients, sell ad space on their blogs and criticize other practitioners that aren’t necessarily doing it wrong, but doing it differently.
    It takes a small mind to criticize a harmless act.

  8. @Ozzie There’s no harm in optimizing meta keyword tags – that act is harmless. But every “professional” SEO I’ve ever seen who does recommend optimizing meta keyword tags is a hopeless crank. They typically miss important items like, oh, optimizing title tags. THAT’s why I feel optimizing keyword meta tags is bad – it draws attention away from real issues, when resources are already tight, and getting changes made to a client’s site is already difficult.

  9. If “getting changes made to a client’s site is already difficult” then why are they a client? How do you even get them to agree to a proposal? What are you doing for them if not changing their site?
    I (and most SEO professionals that I know) make the same recommendations to all of our clients: optimize everything. It doesn’t matter what a gimmick-driven blogger tells you; if there’s code or content to optimize, then optimize it. That includes meta keywords, page titles, urls, links, copy, headers, etc. Take your time and do it all or don’t do it at all.
    Now, while I think we both agree that the days of heavy meta keyword importance are well behind us, I think it’s irresponsible of you to suggest that someone recommending meta keyword optimization is ignoring some other crucial page/site element. Besides, Google’s not the only game in town. Smaller search engines – that while driving less traffic, often lead to greater conversion rates – still place weight on meta keywords.

  10. “We won’t use Google Analytics, because they’ll spy on us.”
    HUH? I’ve never heard that one, but I have heard something similar: “I don’t want to put my contact information my web site, because then people might stalk me.”
    Oh, honey, no.

  11. I could have sworn I left a comment, but maybe not.
    How about this one (paraphrasing):
    “We don’t want anyone to link to us without written permission.”
    (Part of a long, legal policy on the website of a sporting event).

  12. I have another one:
    “SEO is dead, we missed the train”
    My boss thinks that that everyone has done SEO two years ago and they don’t do it anymore. There is no point doing it because we are too late. We should have done it two years ago….
    Lucky I didn’t hold a gun when I heard it. Not sure who to shoot me or him …

  13. I particularly liked the references to tracking, analytics and ROI – SOOOOOO many clients can’t put that together, even when shown in a simple and helpful spreadsheet…let’s see, organic search engine traffic produces 50% of the traffic to the site this month, PPC about 12%…
    Hmmm, let’s increase our adword budget?!? Yeah, were obviously not spending enough!
    (disclaimer for Ozzie – using Adwords is a good strategy and part of the overall picture of an effective marketing program, as are several techniques mentioned here. no personal attacks here please…)

  14. The SEO team at my work includes a consultant who says a few of these on a regular basis.
    He’s sometimes referred to as “the fraud.”

  15. It is really interesting, your comment on Direct Mail. Just as the lines between PPC and SEO are blurring, the lines between online and DM are as well.
    The old spray and pray methods of DM (equivalent of maybe say display or content network)are dead, response rates are in the toilet and a lot of people surviving on DM are desperate to get online.
    Too bad they are years behind most of their competition. The type of targeting we now have to do is even more complex than what we do online, were not targeting areas, credit scores, population density, or anything like that…we’ve had to totally change the game to make money anymore…
    Great post.

  16. While on the topic of title tags and keywords, I wonder if anyone has heard of keyword density within a title tag being important? My boss is convinced that we dropped from #1 in Google to #2 for a particular keyphrase because our previous title tag had “MLS” in it twice, and now it’s only in there once. Anyone heard of keyword density within a title tag affecting your ranking?

  17. Maybe you’ve already done this, but you could prove your boss right or wrong by just restoring that second occurrence of “MLS” to the title tag. There’s, of course, a lot of variables, but that could be one of them.

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