Content MarketingSearch Marketing

You Don’t Need an SEO Expert!

There… I said it! I said it because I see all of the money spent on search engine optimization by small to mid-size businesses and I think it’s a racket. Here’s my view of the search engine optimization industry:

The majority of Search Engine Optimization falls within writing great content, attracting authoritative backlinks to that content and following a few important best practices. These are all basics that anyone can follow – but most do not.

I still see a slew of new sites hitting the market that are image heavy and text light, that don’t utilize simple elements like headings, subheadings, etc… and don’t put a simple sitemap that a search engine can crawl. These tips, which I’ve written about over and over on my blog and see over and over on other blogs will get your site 99% of the way.

The fact is this: If you write frequent relevant content that incorporates keywords and phrases that searchers are looking for, your site will be found. The impact of that content will dwarf any tweaking that any SEO expert can achieve. Stop wasting your money and start writing content!

So many folks like to argue the secrets of search engines on things like URL length, outbound links, nofollow, etc, etc… but they’re only playing in the 1%. Sure, for some businesses, that little 1% can be the difference in millions of dollars… but for you and me, it’s bunk.

The other secret of the industry is 99.99% of your competition doesn’t have a clue what they’re doing. Write relevant, compelling content and you can win the battle on search.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and a recognized expert on digital transformation. Douglas has helped start several successful MarTech startups, has assisted in the due diligence of over $5 bil in Martech acquisitions and investments, and continues to launch his own platforms and services. He's a co-founder of Highbridge, a digital transformation consulting firm. Douglas is also a published author of a Dummie's guide and a business leadership book.

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  1. Douglas,

    I agree with your sentiment that the meat and potatoes (content) are more important then the gravy (SEO optimization), but am wondering if you’re recommending to not worry about SEO altogether…

    I’ve read around the internets that there are things that bloggers should do to optimize their posts, like picking a keyword based on demand and then sprinkling that keyword throughout the post at least X times but no more the XX times, etc.

    Do you feel that still needs to be done, or should we skip it and just focus on writing for an eventual semantic web?

    1. Hi Chris,

      Following the best practices of SEO are a must. Having a page that’s designed well, having a site that utilizes tools like sitemaps to show the search engines where to look and what’s important, etc.

      Too many people, especially SEO “experts” arguing the nuances of SEO rather than simply advising their clients to find a great platform… and write on it. A good content management system will incorporate the necessary best practices, or have a number of plugins/add-ons that will help.

      So many small to mid-size businesses are spending time and money on the 1% instead of working where they could really make a difference!


    2. Chris, there is no special X-times formula. It’s much more complicated than that and experienced SEOs completely ignore keyword frequency but you should make sure to use key phrases and variants of them in your posts.

      Selecting popular AND highly targeted keywords is also essential but I think this falls into the “content” part of the graphic on Doug’s post, not the SEO Expert part. If SEO is part of your blogging strategy, than keyword selection is very important.

  2. As an SEO “expert” I must make a comment here. If you search for “widget” on Google right now, there are 128,000,000 results.

    Only 10 are shown on the first page and only 1 is at the top spot. That 10 is much less than 1% of the results.

    While this is an extreme example, and I while I agree with the premise of Doug’s post, keep in mind that in competitive industries the 1% Doug eludes to can often be the difference between a top spot or a 3rd page spot. And to Doug’s credit he mentions that this can sometimes be the case, I’m just standing up for my SEO brethren a little 🙂 <- for Doug Thesis, inside joke

    Content and backlinks are the foundation of SEO. Focus on them until you’ve completely maximized their effectiveness.

  3. Doug,
    Thanks for writing this – it’s great to see an industry that is transparent enough to say “you don’t need an expert” while speaking from the expert chair. Yes, it’s hard work, but that’s just what it takes.

  4. I disagree with your main assertions. I work in SEO and it’s a job I love. SEO is an important aspect of web development that can’t be ignored. The problem is that, oftentimes, it is ignored in favor of flashy design and poor implementation.

    Look at it this way. Companies don’t WANT to think about SEO. They would rather pay someone else to think about it and make sure they’re doing it right. Just like they’d rather pay someone else to think about design. The main problem is that most designers don’t think about SEO.

    Why would someone pay for Compendium’s blog platform, when there are several free options that work just as well? It doesn’t take much to throw WordPress on a self-hosted server and start blogging. But people pay you for your expertise, and that’s what companies pay for when they buy SEO consultation.

    I won’t argue that there are a lot of SEO’s that really don’t know anything out there, but you’re going to run into that in any field. The fact of the matter is, I know SEO and do the best job I can for clients.

    So, companies need SEO experts, if they can’t be bothered to learn about SEO themselves.

    1. Jonathan – I think you’re making my case here! The reason why someone would want to put their blog on a platform like Compendium is so that they need not worry about SEO!

      I believe there are some companies that are in a war for the top 4 and I state that there is that 1% (or less) that should contact an SEO expert to assist them.

      My post is really about the average company… most of them simply have to find a good platform that utilizes SEO best practices, write relevant content, and make it compelling to draw attention. That requires no ‘expert’.

  5. Unless you are 100% dedicated to Search engine optimization you do need to hire an SEO. Search engine optimization theory is simple but actually ranking a website takes a lot of work and knowledge.

  6. Hi Doug,
    Great post! I have read you blog long enough to know that you enjoy a good back-n-forth, so here goes:

    I think you suffer from the “Curse of Knowledge”. The Curse of Knowledge is very common for technical people ( I am also afflicted), and happens when they forget what it was like in the beginning when they didn’t know anything.

    People with small business web sites need to know many things if they hope to do well in the search engines.

    You have learned all about SEO as you built this site, but that was a while ago and now it’s hard to remember all the stuff you learned along the way.

    Here is just one brief example of something that you learned “on the Job” with your site:

    When you moved your site from ->

    This move required you to:

    Install and understand Google Analytics and webmaster tools (to be sure the links were moving over, as well as the trafic),

    Use 301 redirects (in you .htaccess file)

    Create a robots.txt file (yours is non-trivial and not default)

    Avoid duplicate content and canonical naming issues

    …and many other things along the way.

    Your site move would not be a simple task for a non-expert, and remember, that’s just one example of useful information that you picked up along the way!

    You rank very well for the terms like “marketing technology” because you write very well, and because you know a lot about SEO.

    So, as long as we include these technical aspects of SEO in “Best Practices” I agree completely.

    1. Busted! Indeed you know me well, Pat!

      It is true that I definitely dabble and tweak my site for SEO quite a bit. However, my point above isn’t really targeting me, it’s targeting the average company out on the net. I tweak and tweak and tweak mostly because I’m a bit of a geek.

      In all honesty, I may have done more damage than good over the long haul.

      Truth be told, I have also admitted that had I targeted my content better and, perhaps, built multiple blogs – that I would garner a lot more attention. Relevant content, frequent content… wins every time.

      Thanks for a great comment!

  7. Doug;
    You hit the nail smack on the head again. The problem gets worse in the small to mid-size business arena because their knowledge of the web and websites is minimal and they are forced to depend on the consultants to even write and input the content for them. They are literally at th he mercy of the web consultants and they push SEO and the small businesses buy it. Also a lot of these consultants who build the sites for them are nothing more than designers who are only interested in how artistic the site looks because that is how they think and what they understand.

  8. Doug, Your statement “Write relevant, compelling content and you can win the battle on search” is right on the money. The lesson I learned: pick a topic you are passionate about, write often and link to others. After a bit more than a year it’s starting to work. Oh yes, and the Tuned In calculator has been a huge help. -Michael

  9. You are right that the the success of a website in hetting recognized can be attributed to content and backlinks. However, you can not discard the SEO experts altogether. The very thing that they are called SEO experts measn that they KNOW what to do to your website to make it land in the top page rankings of google.

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