7 Cringe-Worthy SEO Phrases You Never Want to Hear in a Marketing Meeting

We’ve all been there. You’re in the marketing meeting and someone brings up SEO. I don’t know how they’re bringing it up, but they’ve done it one way or another. Maybe they used some of the phrases below. If they did, you need to know why you wish you hadn’t heard what they’ve just said.

“I know a little SEO, we should be fine”

No you don’t.

I understand that quite a few folks learn the basics of on-site optimization. I understand that quite a few folks read SEO blogs, or read marketing blogs that talk about SEO in passing. I understand that quite a few folks learn a lot from the SEO that used to work at the company.

That is not the same as being a full time SEO professional.

Knowing a little bit about SEO is a good way to be dangerous to your marketing department. Without thorough SEO knowledge, it is easy to do substantial damage to your web rankings. Whether you’re optimizing for the wrong keywords, accidentally using some black hat techniques, or spending all your time on spammy link building, you’re doing more harm than good.

“SEO was already done to the old site, we won’t need that for the new one”

Good point! SEO clearly adheres to the transitive property, so we’re good here…
First of all, this isn’t even the transitive property, so you can throw that reference out. Secondly, huh?

You spent a bunch of money to optimize your current site. You saw results, you improved in the rankings, you increased traffic, etc. Now it’s time to look at rebuilding your site to improve bounce rate, time on site, user interactions and conversions. Why on Earth are you discontinuing SEO?

This is the time when SEO can be the most crucial part of your marketing strategy. Changing your site means massive changes in the search engine’s indexes. If you get rid of a page, it needs to be redirected and the links to the page throughout the site need to be updated. If you change a URL, the old URL needs to be redirected to the new. Image sources will need to be updated. Page titles need to change. Content will be adjusted or removed—will your keywords and pages still be optimized?

Don’t change horses mid-stream. SEO leads to daily changes when your site isn’t going through a major overhaul, why would you shut it down when it is?

“We got everything SEO’d back in May”

Oh right. SEO is a one time deal. Somehow forgot about that while doing hours of work everyday.

SEO is an ongoing process. I like to relate it to an ad campaign: your site is the ad, and SEO is what delivers your ad to the world. You wouldn’t create a great ad and then never publish it, so don’t do the same with your website.

Leverage your SEO to get your website in front of more people.

“Our meta tags are up to date”

OK… what does this mean?

Pages can have dozens of meta tags of various types (description, author, charset, refresh, name, http-equiv, content, robots, googlebot, google, google-site-verification, content-type, keywords). Far too often, “meta tags” means stuffing numerous broad single term keywords into the meta name=”keywords” field. Problem is, this technique went the way of buffalo back in the early part of the century.

Do yourself a favor and remove your meta keywords.

“We made a link contest”

Oy vey. Do you want to be kicked from Google? Do you hate revenue?

Link contests (see also: link schemes, link building plans, reciprocal link abuse, etc.) seem like a sure-fire way to speed things up, when all it does is slow your site down. The idea here is based around gaming the old PageRank algorithm in order to gain massive amounts of links to your site as fast and painlessly as possible. The problem is, Google doesn’t much care for it. In fact, they downright forbid it in their Webmaster Guidelines.

Want more links? Do it the old fashioned way—write content people want to share, sell something people want to have, inform people of something they need with off-page SEO link building.

If all else fails, post pictures of kittens.

“SEO best practices”

This one is near and dear to my bitter blackened heart.
What’s a “best practice?” Who defines “best practices?” To me, this is account speak.

From what I’ve gathered, it seems like this means all pages have a title tag (not necessarily properly formatted, nor optimized), a meta description, meta keywords (again, not used in SEO), and maybe (if you’re lucky) proper header tags throughout the site. Google measures 200 some odd elements to determine search rankings. If that’s the case, how are 4 on-site elements the crux of “best practices?”

SEO isn’t this simple. It’s complex and is beyond learning a few “best practices.”

“We’re going to add the SEO after it goes live”


So much is wrong with this one. Much of what I discussed referring to continuing SEO after updating your site can be applied here as well. However, there are a few differences here. With a new site, you’re preemptively killing its potential by launching it without any attention paid to SEO.
The first signals Google gets from your site are going to influence the next few months of your rankings – don’t launch without SEO…even if it is just “best practices.” πŸ˜‰

Ever heard any of these in your agency? Got any to add?

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  1. All good points but I don’t see how being snarky is a good way to stop these phrases from being uttered. Polite re-education about SEO, sure, but don’t hate on people for not knowing everything – it’s not their fault if they’ve been misinformed in the past.

  2. I always hear “We got everything SEO’d back in xyz”
    I’ve used “SEO best practices” – in my defense it was to discourage black hat SEO

    1. Yeah, I’ve used “SEO best practice” before as well, but similar to you, Yelena: in a white-hat, “following Google’s guidelines” type way.
      I agree with you though, Josh – talking about it in the context of the basics (page title and metadata) is clearly not best practice because it is only covering the basics…

      1. I agree with both of you guys. We don’t use the term often, but when we do say “best practices” we are referring to (as Steve mentioned) “following Google’s guidelines” and only doing White Hat SEO. There are many poor SEO practices out there, and we avoid them at all costs.

  3. Got a good chuckle out of this, Josh. I especially love the last one – “we’ll add the SEO later”. I hear that one about 100% of the time. Come to think of it, I should just write a book called “Why you can’t add the SEO later” and stop repeating myself every time I try to explain that one away. The other thing I hear a lot, maybe as more of a challenge, is why they can get SEO from {some other company} for $20 a month. Best to have a sense of humor about it!

    1. Ooof. I’m with you on that one. We’ve had some situations where staging websites lived on and were indexed long after their counterparts had gone live.

  4. I’ve heard we can do SEO after the site is built too… Then after the site was built… We had to redevelop the cool flashy thing they called a website πŸ™‚ Unfortunately I hear it so often – I don’t cringe anymore.

  5. I’ve only recently discovered your blog and it’s good to know that these types of conversations aren’t only still happening in little old NZ πŸ™‚ or it’s scary that they are!

  6. First of all, GREAT TITLE!
    Secondly, I’d have to agree with all of these except for the “SEO Best Practices” line. I mean, I see where you’re coming from, especially if the person who says it doesn’t do SEO for a living. But, I think it’s okay to use the line if you’re getting your information from Danny Dover, Peter Kent, SEOmoz, Google Webmaster, Hubspot, and others who have similar authority.

  7. This is really good. I tried to pick a fav and honestly it was hard to do. If I had to pick one it would probably be the “SEO was already done to the old site, we won’t need that for the new one”. Oh if only I had $1k for every time I have heard each one of these.
    Thanks for the laugh. πŸ™‚

  8. My favorite was we’ll SEO later. At my old company, the *marketing director* decided to push for a redesign *while I was on maternity leave*. I came back 2 weeks after launch and found all my hard work gone. All the metas were the same across the whole site, no alt tags, no internal linking, and duplicated content all over the place. Oh… and no backup made of the old site. Thanks to archive.org I was able to spend hours and hours restoring, but gosh I was mad.

  9. I have to admit that I throw up in my mouth a little bit every time some one says, “Best Practices”. I’ve banned people from using it in my presence unless they can tell me specifically what makes it the best and what the alternatives are.
    IMO, the main reason people use the phrase is to shut down discussion of alternatives. After all, why question something if it’s “the best”?
    There is no single best answer, there is the best answer for the circumstances. Except for peanut butter and jelly, which is always the best answer to “What’s for lunch?”

    1. Agreed. I also understand that it’s a glossy way to say standard practices or basics, but what it usually amounts to is the bare minimum of SEO tactics.
      Keyword Stuff the Title Tag!!!!

  10. You’ve also got to love the classic, “Let’s just outsource it to someone in India or the Phillipines. In fact I’ve just received an email about link building and it is much cheaper than the local SEO companies are charging. ” How convenient…

  11. I am an in-house SEO for a company that owns a group of websites, and my boss has told me when we were launching a new site that “That domain name is, like, ten years old, so it has tons of authority.” Cuz that makes so much sense.

  12. I agree with most of them Josh, good article.
    However I do tend to say “Best Practice”. As this to me defines what is the best behaviour for on-page optimisation at the time of building/amending. I’m interested in what you say in place of this?

    1. This is a good question, and I do understand how “best practices” can be legitimately used by respectable SEOs.
      In your situation, I usually say something to the effect of:
      “optimizing on-page elements prior to launch”
      “focus on on-page optimization”
      In the end, tell your clients what it is you’re doing as opposed to bucketing a bunch of changes into the “Best Practices” category. Because, even though you and I know you’re doing legit quality work, that phrase is used frequently by less knowledgeable characters in our industry. Sometimes, it’s out of date advice because they don’t have an actual SEO. Other times, it’s shady practices because their “best practices” come from nefarious link directory purchases and illegitimate companies.

  13. Funny- I came down to the comments to say that I saw nothing wrong with the term “Best Practices” but it looks like the other commenters beat me to it.

  14. The reason why we hear all this is the lack of knowledge and lack awareness of SEO in the organisation. Also many in the SEO world just try to give random advices to their clients yielding no results if not bad. SEO is an art, an optimisation process and more than all a business process that needs to be built in organisation’s culture and marketing community. It doesn’t stop at optimising for search engines it is optimising your revenue driving processes after all major search engines are now taking user behaviour into perspective

  15. I think it would scare the hell out of people if their doctor said they “knew a little about a medicine so you should be fine.”
    I couldn’t stop laughing at the “best practices” phrase. While the others I hear very rarely if ever, that one I do hear quite often. Enjoyed the post and the humor.

  16. Definitely what I needed to start the week! Good work Josh. I love Gaz’s comment about people asking how much it would cost to get to number one for a certain term.

  17. What about the guys that are sh*t scared of not fulfilling their dreamed up “seo best practices” and want to incorporate into every sector.
    E.g. “I’ve written this blog post. What do I need to do to so that Google likes it from an SEO perspective”
    ha ha there’s just so much wrong with that. I’ll usually translate for them to:
    “I’ve written this great blog post. What do I need to do to stuff it up so that Google hates it and my readers hate it even more (from an SEO perspective”
    Bit muddled but hopefully you guys and girls can relate πŸ™‚

  18. This is why it’s best to deal with smaller companies who’s only knowledge of SEO is: “Make me higher on Google”
    You can make a career off of these folks πŸ˜‰

  19. Oh, this is fabulous, and the comments are a wealth of cringe-worthy quotes. At my last company, where I worked part-time as an in-house, they hired someone who claimed to have SEO experience. He attacked my methods in a marketing meeting. and suggested we use “hidden keywords.” I literally gasped.
    In the exit interview at this company, when my boss found out I was going to work for an agency he said, “SEO is just a gimmick anyway.” That made me feel really appreciated.

  20. This post was a great find. SEO is an ongoing process and should be introduced before a site goes live.. thanks for establishing this point some people still do not realise this.

  21. Nice quick read for the morning Josh, thanks! My addition is from the client side – “We’ve got a site freeze right now so we can’t add any of the ideas you just shared, but just build a bunch of links to the site and we’ll deal with building something great later.”

  22. Brilliant post and brilliant comments. I guess if you meet clients and work for an agency you hear funnier stuff than being in house in an online marketing dept. Nevertheless sometimes you hear pearls of wisdom you wouldn’t believe.

  23. “I don’t need SEO, my site is going to grow so fast, just watch.” …how is going to grow fast? I hear this one quite a bit, and…well, the site tanks. Shocking.

  24. You missed “We put our Social Media Buttons on our website so our SEO is taken care of for now” . As the line blurs between SEO and Social Media more and more people are connecting the two as if they are one in the same.

  25. In a contact form submission: “We want the following SEO services, please respond with your quote.” — Uh, it doesn’t work like that. Let’s meet first, at least!

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