When I read Chris Dixon’s piece claiming that SEO is “no longer a viable marketing strategy for startups”, I didn’t know what to make of it—ignorance or linkbait? The one-dimensional blurb headlines the article, which is supposedly supported by evidence of lower value websites outranking high value ones due to link popularity.
SEO is not the problem, people that use SEO to index garbage content of no value are the problem.
2011 SEO ≠ 2004 SEO
According to Chris, high-quality content is losing the battle of the SERPs because of the tens of thousands of blackhats working to “game SEO”.
Yes, we know many that claim to be SEOs are selling nothing but links, keyword spam and directory submissions, but anyone that equates SEO in general with the spammy blackhat demographic is obviously more than a bit confused.
When you criticize SEO as being a “dark art” or snake oil, you’re confusing the shady work of internet hustlers with skills of search visibility professionals that work on a daily basis with content strategy, Web usability, Web standards, content marketing and Web analytics.
Dixon goes on to condescendingly offer that “Some of the SEO industry is “white hat,” which generally means consultants giving benign advice for making websites search-engine friendly” (my emphasis). This is where his lack of knowledge regarding search visibility becomes crystal clear.
SEO isn’t just about keywords and anchor text anymore.
Before you accuse SEO, take a look at yourself
There is a lot of garbage on the Internet. Sharing that same garbage heap—you know, that one with the shady, spammy Internet hustlers—are members of the media that sniff out current news items, take them out of context (usually without understanding the subject matter) and run with them around their pathetic little sensationalist race track. This is even more damaging than black-hat, spammy, snake oil SEO, because at least the stench of the latter is obvious, unlike editorial FUD disguised as fact.
Criticizing SEO because of spammers is just as silly as criticizing journalism because of wannabe-relevant authors and their misguided editorial efforts.
I was happy to see some recognized search professionals chime into the comments on Chris Dixon’s piece; including Laura Lippay, Alan Bleiweiss, Dharmesh Shah, Andrew Shotland, AJ Kohn, Ross Hudgens, Terry Van Horne, Doc Sheldon, and others. All good examples of people in the industry that know the difference between adding value and pretending to add value, à la blackhat.
I’ve been using Quora on an almost daily basis for the last couple of months and I love it. The culture is great; it reminds me a bit of the freenode IRC network (minus the real-time factor). People have hung out in the same IRC channels on the same networks for years, and think the same will be true for Quora. It’s a real niche environment.
How Quora sets itself apart from the crowd of similar communities is best described by them:
Quora is a continually improving collection of questions and answers created, edited, and organized by everyone who uses it. The most important thing is to have each question page become the best possible resource for someone who wants to know about the question.
I don’t think that the spammier folks will ruin it either, simply because of a lower tolerance in this type of community for garbage. Useless posts will just be voted down and/or idiotic members banned.
How does Quora compare with X?
With the aim of becoming a collection of answers produced in a wiki fashion, Quora sets itself apart from question and answers sites such as Yahoo! Answers, which is primarily centered around, well, the answering of questions. Quora is focused more on what’s being discussed right now and on becoming a longterm, quality resource.
Those that have compared Quora with Twitter have obviously not looked that deeply under the hood. Aside from the not so immediately obvious differences, there are some glaring ones:
- There can be only so much depth to engaging within 140 characters or less.
- Quora allows for much easier segmentation of contacts and topics.
- The number of people involved in a single discussion isn’t dependent on who’s following you.
Quora is very similar to stackoverflow, a question and answer site for programmers, and the latter still is probably the best option if you’re looking for that type of hacker knowledge base.
I haven’t quite made my mind up about the ‘follow’ feature yet. I’m hoping Quora will add some functionality that compliments it such as feed filtering.
Where is Quora going?
As long as Quora maintains its relatively high standards of discourse, I believe it will continue to gain popularity as the go-to place for what’s being talked about in now, and on a slightly more elevated intellectual plain than many other popular discussion platforms.
If the typical internet users that sometimes lack good sense or netiquette start invading Quora on a mass scale—similar to the Eternal September of 1993, when an influx of new Usenet users appeared thanks to free accounts supplied by AOL— hopefully the downvoting system will help retain the site’s value.
Whatever your interests are, if you want to engage with like-minded individuals to learn, teach, or grow, there’s a good chance you’ll enjoy Quora. If you’re looking for another place to pitch your self-serving, veiled promotional message, you’ll probably find yourself doing more harm than good.
As I expressed recently in an answer on quora:
The main attraction of knowledge sharing, or Knowledge Networking is the knowledge. If you’re primarily seeking “followers” in social spaces, you’ll mostly be ignored. On the surface, this might seem ironic, but it makes complete sense: you don’t find happiness by looking for it directly, you chance upon it as a result of doing something else.
Connect with me on Quora.
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