Having worked in IT for many years I invariably ended up seeing the classic user who had a modicum of knowledge about computers and, using this, have destroyed their PC. The problem, I think, comes from the fact that your average PC user will generally harbour enough fear to stick to what they know and just use the applications.
Someone with a little knowledge will try to make the PC faster or attempt to fix a problem when it occurs. Often their knowledge came from fixing something before on a PC, however not all problems are the same even if they look that way on first inspection.
I have also seen this type of “basic knowledge” scenario occurring more and more in the world of SEO. Increasingly, I am seeing websites or meeting people who have decided to save some money and do the SEO work themselves. I can understand this mentality, I love learning new skills and when faced with a problem I like to think I can overcome it using my own resources. Indeed this is how I got started in SEO.
However, the biggest problem anyone in this situation faces initially is finding a credible source of information. Because, whilst there are more than enough “sources” of information on the internet, there are relatively few credible ones. One only has to search for “homeopathy” or “astrology” to find 10’s of millions of results; I think this proves that there are millions of sources of misleading and far from credible information on the net!
As previously mentioned, I have seen many sites that have undergone search engine optimisation from a novice; there are normally two mutually exclusive reasons why I am looking at the site. The first and best is that the client has taken the site as far as they can with their knowledge and resources and now want to outsource to a professional agency. The second reason, which is just as common, is that the client has been seeing some good results for a while and then all-of-a-sudden they have been dropped from Google for a wide range of their keywords.
A little PPC knowledge
Over the past few months I have also started seeing AdWords accounts come through and straight off the bat you can tell that the person has a little knowledge. Often this takes the form of two or three negative keywords in a campaign or maybe even the odd keyword with a different match type to “broad”. The result is usually the same, a poorly optimised account with huge overspend and virtually no fine tuning. AdWords can be an even bigger minefield in the short term than bad SEO, depending on your daily budget you could be spending hundreds or thousands of £’s unnecessarily.
Unpicking the mess
Bad SEO work can take many forms; from buying links, spammy linking to simple on-page elements being misused. The cost of bad SEO can range from getting no results to getting slapped with a Google penalty. Undoing this work can take some time, identifying dodgy links contacting websites and getting links removed etc.
Learning new skills is great and in my opinion makes life more interesting, but you should have respect for the topic and an understanding of what could go wrong. People often don’t know the price for breaking Google’s rules or have dreams of making their millions through PPC. The price can be steep; it can range from hugely overspending to getting your domain relegated to the oblivion of the lower depths of Google’s rankings.
To draw an analogy, if you wanted to learn some electrical engineering, start with a toaster not your plasma screen TV; if you want to learn how to change your brake disks on your motorbike, get the work checked by someone who knows what they are doing. The same goes for SEO, if you want to learn maybe don’t practice on the website generating your bread and butter income. This gives you room to make mistakes without financially crippling yourself.
Unfortunately for any novice search specialists out there, there are likely a lot more untrustworthy sources of information pertaining to SEO than to electrical engineering! So you will need to validate your information a little more thoroughly, in order to find credible sources. Follow industry experts on Twitter, get an RSS blog client and sign up to blogs from professional SEO agencies and corroborate information from multiple sources.
Google is the ultimate authority, so read through their resources and guidelines and if in doubt err on the side of caution. Use a scientific method of approach to establishing facts, for example if you have found out that link farms are a great way to get tonnes of links quickly, do a little searching to find out if there are any pitfalls of using link farms. Try to both disprove and independently confirm information before jumping in with both feet.