Advice for a New Internet Marketer (or How to Spot Internet Marketing Snake Oil)

I met her during my freshman year of college, though she was two years my senior. We’d exchange greetings when we passed in the dormitory hallways. Nine years later, we met again when we were assigned to the same tables at a local luncheon. She told me she worked in Internet Marketing, which I was quite excited to hear given that there was no marketing discipline taught at all in our alma mater.

We started talking about the last few years and our dreams for the years ahead. We then got into the nitty gritty of business. With Internet Marketing, there are many ways to go, from affiliate marketing to SEO to social media to email marketing. What was she doing? Her answer surprised me. Essentially, her focus was SEO, and her daily grind consisted of keyword stuffing clients’ websites.

Anyone who knows a good search engine optimization expert knows that keyword stuffing is not an approved tactic. Perhaps this is a fact that her agency overlooked, so as a good friend, I told her that it would be in her best interest to learn about approved tactics through the many free blogs, to engage in acceptable and informative (though not free) SEO training, and to read the best SEO book/training program (aff). Even though there is a cost for entry for some of the best resources, the solutions were highly worthwhile, I explained.

Over the next few months, I received multiple invites to various groups on Facebook and messages imploring me to participate in activities in which I had no interest. All social media etiquette rules were not heeded to. Rather recently, she told me that she had enough and was going to quit.

I was excited at the prospect that there might be some freedom for someone who was forced to clearly break every rule that was in the ethical Internet Marketing handbook. I suggested the same blogs and training courses and told her that she could potentially go out on her own and do her own thing after she learned the basics and knew how to apply them.  But first, I cautioned, “you must learn the material.  Your work environment didn’t allow you to do so.”

My friend ended up going out to do her own thing, offering “Internet Marketing services” to anyone who would bite. The instruction I gave her and resources I provided, though, were ignored. I am not afraid that she’ll find this blog post and know that she’s the subject of the story because I know she won’t. I’m honestly worried for her clients who are being cheated out of money and time.

A few weeks ago, another person connected with me on Facebook who was referred to me by a social media buddy I never actually met. “I am a relatively new internet marketer trying to break into the industry,” he wrote. “What are good companies to target? Should I learn a specific skillset?” Overall, the questions were basic and I worried that the individual was looking to target companies for clients before actually understanding the nuances of the culture of Internet marketing as a whole.

While this person’s intentions were more pure — I later learned that he was looking for agencies to target, rather than clients, and that he was willing to endure pain (learning) for ultimate gain (clients which would lead to money) — I began to worry that there are others out there like this college colleague of mine. There are others who sell internet marketing services who are ultimately clueless about changes in the industry that could ultimately amount to them not seeing any increased rankings or improved traffic. At all.

There Are Different Specialties in Internet Marketing

“What do you do for a living?” he asks.  “I do Internet Marketing,” I say.

“Oh.”

If you’re involved at all in Internet Marketing, “oh” is not a suggested response. Internet marketing is a vast field.  There are different specialties to Internet Marketing. If you’re going to take “Internet Marketer” at face value, you’re being silly.  In the study of medicine, doctors have different specialties; Internet Marketing is no different.

If you’re a brand new Internet Marketer, choose a discipline and a niche that you can tackle head on and be successful at. You can’t do everything at once. Sure, a basic understanding of different Internet Marketing elements is fine, but it’s not practical to be everything to everyone. Here are just some concentrations you can explore:

  • Search Engine Optimization:  Someone involved in search engine optimization is focused on building out websites in such a way to be understood by search engines (and by people).  A search engine optimization expert is usually focused on changing URL structure, optimizing title tags, and making code tweaks to a website to make sure the search engines find the site and the pages contained therein.
  • Link Building: Part of a search engine marketing strategy includes the process of building relevant links to your website.  This often includes submissions to directories and contacting webmasters of related websites.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Affiliates are individuals who market a particular product or service and who get paid commissions by a merchant when they make the sale.
  • Pay Per Click Marketing: PPC is another search engine marketing strategy that utilizes contextual advertising; based on a search query or the content of a web page, ads will appear.  PPC requires understanding of keywords, having appropriate landing pages, and other factors.
  • Social Media Marketing: In social media marketing, you are tasked with leveraging the social space through its media to market your products.
  • Email Marketing: Email marketing relates to the promotion of products and services through e-mail, such as an email blast.
  • Content Marketing: Content marketing refers to writing relevant articles on your site (or having good site copy) that can bring awareness to your website property.

Most people that I know will excel in one discipline but have a working understanding of the others. If you know someone who is great at every single Internet Marketing discipline in the book, it’s likely too good to be true. If you’re studying Internet Marketing, learn everything you possibly can, but you’ll typically find an area you’re most comfortable in and end up going with it. For me, that’s social media marketing.

Get the Right Training Materials

Depending on the type of work you’re looking to do, your best bet is to learn everything you can on the subject matter. Some of the sites I recommend for educational materials include:

Free

  • Sphinn: Sphinn is an Internet Marketing social news site.  Users submit timely news articles to Sphinn, and the community votes up the best stories to appear on the front page.  Normally, the front page consists of high quality content, though even the upcoming queue has good stuff that doesn’t always get promoted.
  • There are hundreds of blogs on each specialty’s subject matter.  How do you find the signal through the noise, you ask? Find those who influence you, and then find out who they are engaging with. And read this post from Mat with some good suggestions.
  • My top three forums include Cre8asite ForumsWebmaster World (which is mostly free but also has subscription-only discussions), and High Rankings Forum.

Paid

  • SEO Book: SEO Book is the bible of search engine optimization.  Aaron Wall nailed it when he released his extremely informative PDF about a decade ago.  In the last few years, he moved his forever-changing content online in the format of members-only training guides and forums.  He also offers high quality tools, many of which are free.
  • SEOmoz PRO: SEOmoz PRO features a rich library of informative guides, a myriad of tools, and a strong active and close-knit community.  If you’ve seen their free site and know what kind of great information is already provided, you can only imagine how much value is multiplied behind the pay wall.
  • SEO Dojo: David Harry’s SEO program is the newest kid on the block, but it already has a very active group of members and engaging online discussions, in addition to easy-to-read training materials and video tutorials.
  • PPC Training: Like its partner site, SEO Book, PPC Blog is an exhaustive resource of the best PPC offerings in the space, with audio and video tutorials to enhance your learning experience.
  • Exploring Social Media: From beginner to advanced, Jason Falls, Nick Huhn, DJ Waldow, and I provide great modules for learning everything about social media marketing.

If you like books, you should also check out Winning Results with Google AdWordsPay Per Click MarketingThe New Community Rules (which was authored by yours truly), The Art of SEOSearch Engine Optimization, and Search Engine Optimization for Dummies.

Find the Right Agency to Work With

Unless you’ve been doing it for years, it’s never a good idea to go into Internet Marketing without an educational foundation. And most people won’t follow sound advice, instead eying dollar signs as soon as formal education ends.

If you’re serious about this kind of thing, beyond online training guides and books, you need to apply those skills.  Any educational experience in the work world, thus, will help bring you to the next level. Consider working at an agency, even in an internship capacity. Being able to work alongside the brightest minds in the industry can be extremely empowering. Having hands-on experience — the much-needed application of your learned skills — is incredible, especially when working alongside brilliant minds and analytical thinkers.

Every newbie should start working for someone before he embarks on the journey alone. Learning among the smartest in the industry is a sure-shot way to get ahead of most playing the same game.

Not All Agencies are Created Equal

As evidenced by the the story I provided in this article, not all agencies are competent. Keyword stuffing, for example, might have worked 5 years ago, but it’s not a successful tactic anymore.  If you’re about to start working for an agency, study it out before you actually work for it, because if you don’t, you might end up finding out that you’ve wasted years of your life learning the wrong strategies.

One of the easiest steps you can take is to look at their website.  The first thing I normally look at for “SEO” firms is to see if their canonical redirect is in place.  It’s one of the smallest things that can be done, but so many “SEO” firms, including the one I mentioned earlier in this article, actually don’t do it at all.  Also, check the website’s footer: are there keywords stuffed there?  If so, it might be a good idea to turn your back away from the opportunity.

Another thing you should do is to talk to people in the industry that you know to see if they can tell you anything about the company’s officers or about the company itself. If the right people have never heard of the company, that could mean that the company itself consists of self-proclaimed marketing experts who likely get websites banned from search engines rather than ranked higher.  It could also mean that the company is keeping a low profile,  so use the website check to see if the company is up to shady tactics not worth your investment — even if the job offer is there. (You never want to work for a company who has a bad reputation, especially if you plan to remain in this industry. Word travels.  If you’re already there, get out while you’re still ahead.)

It’s probably a good idea to step away from the agency if you find out that the tactics employed in the company don’t match what is taught in the training materials I recommended earlier.   These materials are written and maintained by real experts who know their material cold.  You can do better.

Going Off On Your Own

Only after you have spent at least 18 months to two years at a reputable company should you actually go at taking clients alone. Keep in mind that it’s not as easy as it seems. Doing the solo gig requires you to be the sales department, the financial and accounting department, the secretary, and the person you were hired to do: the marketer. You’re not only doing everything, but your salary is variable as you take and lose clients on a month-to-month basis.

If you’re choosing this path because you’re unhappy with your current company, look for another.  If you’re doing it because your freshman college friend is able to do so successfully, focus on the food on your own plate, Miss. If you’re ready to take on more responsibility, by all means, go ahead and do it.

Just don’t be the girl who leaves a company that wasn’t challenging you anyway — and then starts your own thing without the right educational foundation or skill-set. Be the student who mastered the subject through learning and application, and who eventually graduated to be the teacher. And keep in mind that the best teachers never stop learning either.

Internet Marketing Snake Oil

The Internet is rife with “experts,” but not all self-proclaimed gurus can actually deliver. A lot can talk the talk, but they can’t walk the walk.  They might sound great on the phone,  but they might not be able to actually increase traffic to your website through search engine optimization.  They might not have any clue how to effectively manage your Pay Per Click campaign to actually increase leads.

Unfortunately, not all “clients” will be so savvy enough to know the difference between someone who knows his stuff and someone who doesn’t.  As such, when the marketing dollars they invested actually result in nothing, they call the entire practice a scam.  There will always be a few rotten apples who ruin it for the rest of hard working decent folk who are truly looking out for the entire industry.

Buyer beware.  If you or anyone you know is looking to engage in this practice, do yourself a favor and do due diligence before going with your expert.  Interview prospects.  Comparison shop.  Don’t just look for the cheapest option; it might be the worst.  (“You get what you pay for.”) Then again, the most expensive option might not be better.  High costs don’t always translate to better quality.

Don’t Be that Guy

Every single profession has “snake oil” salesmen. There are doctors who don’t really know how to practice medicine and teachers who don’t know how to teach. If you’re an Internet Marketer who genuinely wants to sell your services, consider being well-educated and well-rounded. Consider focusing on a specialty where you can excel — and know your stuff cold. It’s hard enough that there are con-men and scammers who bring the industry to shame, but if you care about the future of the profession, don’t.

There’s probably not a single one of you reading this who is that guy. However, you might have encountered individuals who want to be just like you but might be looking for a silver bullet. Give them the full truth. Let them know that this profession is real work, just like any other type of profession. If they want to protect the integrity of this profession’s future, they should consider being well-read.

For me, Internet Marketing is not just a profession but it’s a passion. I read books and blog posts on the subject not only to further my career but because I love what I’m doing and I want to feel empowered personally and professionally. If you’re like me, you’re in the right place. You understand that this kind of work comes easy, and that you were meant to do it. But someone might approaches you for direction despite the fact that they don’t have gusto to do the work and to learn the ropes. They might just try to cash in simply because they see that some other people can do so successfully, even though those are the people who consider this more than just work: it’s a lifestyle, and they had to climb a ladder to be where they are right now.

Those of you involved in Internet Marketing for a long time might have faced this dilemma. Be up front. This is a discipline and it’s not a walk in the park. Knowing the tools doesn’t make you an expert. Ignoring the tactics makes you even less qualified. Ignoring the paid (and free) learning materials makes you a failure.

Everyone needs to work for success. As your role is now of a mentor, be the guiding light.

165 Comments

  • Rennell says:

    This is really informative. I am actually like the girl in the story. At first I was just making keyword rich articles. I had no idea about how a website can get a good ranking. Basically it takes a lot of time and effort. You need to do backlinks and promoting your site. But you are right you have to focus on one specialty. You can never be good at everything. As they say, Jack of all traits, master of none.

    Rennel

    Editor’s note: Links removed. Sorry, adding keyword rich links in my comments as you did is a bit spammy.

  • KatFrench says:

    “Be the student who mastered the subject through learning and application, and who eventually graduated to be the teacher. And keep in mind that the best teachers never stop learning either.”

    That, my friend, is the money quote. Excellent post, as usual, Tamar. Hope you’re doing well, btw. :)

  • Ken Jones says:

    Fantastic read Tamar and it’s come along at exactly the right time for me as I make the transition to freelance consulting. Posts like this are the reason you’re on my list of must read Internet Marketing blogs.

  • Unfortunately i have come across many “so called seo experts” who claim they could get my website on to the 1st page of Google.

    At 1st i paid a few and was totally ripped off!

    Since that time i decided to take an interest in doing it myself and through trial, time and error i have managed to get my website good listings.

    I think it is important to learn at least the basics and then if you do employ a company you are aware of what is happening.

    • Agreed, thanks for the comments.

      Keep in mind that I do not allow people ranking for terms like “envelope printing” on my website, though, so I edited your URL. I explicitly ask for real names because I want to talk to the person behind the guy who wants to rank for terms and wants to exploit my comments for that purpose. In fact, this policy has been in place for awhile.

  • Thank you for this post Tamar. It’s so true and absolutely aligns with what I try to preach! Thank you for the shout out for Training Social. I’m glad you liked the program!

  • Teri Conrad says:

    I continue to learn and learn and learn! I tell everyone who looks to me for advice that it is a never ending process which is why I continue to read blogs from the experts (YOU) and books and articles – some days overwhelmed but like you, its a passion! I just find it so fascinating!
    Another amazing article and much to ponder! Thanks Tamar!

  • Teri Conrad says:

    haha….yet but loaded with goodies! :)

  • This is a nice article. Full of information and tips for the beginners and professionals alike. Thank you.

  • Dan Cruz says:

    This is great advice but like you allude to in your post the folks that need to see it and abide by it… won’t.

    Funny because I’ve been practicing seo on my own sites since about 2005 and to this day I’m still sometimes reluctant to offer my services which I just started doing this year.

    • True. As much as I worry that I’ve offended someone by using her as an example in this post, I do hope she reads it and learns from it. If you see someone like this in your path, just send them this article!

      Thanks for commenting, Dan :)

  • I sold used cars in the past and have been an “internet marketer” where snake oilers are a prominent thing. I’ve always taken a bit of pride knowing that I was one that was standing up against those that were trying to trick or fool people. Your word and your work are things that back you up and the people that may have doubted you in the past will have nothing to say when you show them results.

    There are a lot of great people in this industry and there are also a lot of bad ones. Don’t be “that guy”, do you work and be honest, and let your results speak for themselves. Excellent post…so glad to see more and more info showing up here again, Tamar!

    • You’re so right – the bottom line is that there ARE good people out there. There’s also a ton of noise that you have to wade through in order to get the signal. Hard work pays off, but you need to be willing to do it.

      Thanks Vince for commenting. :) You rock!

  • DGentry says:

    Wow, this was a great read even for non-Internet Marketers.

    • woohoo, thank you for the comment! :D :D :D

    • I think it’s even MORE valid for those not involved in any Internet Marketing as a profession. There are those of us that dive into Social Media (and SEO to a degree) as a hobby – that is, for FUN. We are information addicts and this is our entertainment… when we constantly see people cramming crap into Facebook and Twitter feeds because they’re “doing it wrong” (aka Snake Oil Salesmen), it’s very much the same feeling when your email inbox gets overloaded with spam: it’s a massive annoyance.

      Thankfully, there’s people out there (like Tamar for example) that clearly know the ins-and-outs of digital interaction: as an art, as a profession, and as enjoyment.

      And it makes it even better when we call out the issues like this!

  • Sam says:

    Some great advice and points you have made in your article.
    I agree with many comments above, it does take a very long time to learn all the basics and then develop further with SEO.
    I kept making the mistake of speading myself to thinnly across too many things at once, leading to terrible frustration. I have now learnt to organise myself better which has lead to some good results.

    • Organization is definitely key. And it takes time. You learn more and more with time — so even if you’re “perfect,” there’s always so much to discover in such an evolving industry! Thanks for commenting, Sam.

  • It pleases me to read this. I, for one, am tired of the ‘snake oil salesmen’ out there, who simply use the buzz word to make a buck.

    Quite simply, Tamar, with this post, you fucking nailed it
    Great work, as always!

    I’m going to bring this up on the Social Blend podcast as well; we record tonight :)

  • Steve Vranes says:

    Excellent post for people like me who are relatively new to Internet marketing.  As an entrepreneur with a non-technical background, I have to become a strong Internet marketer or the business will fail.  Thanks for all the excellent resources you provide in the post.  
    I think one of your most important pieces of advice is for Internet marketers to be knowledgeable about the whole spectrum, yet focus on being an expert in one area.  It can be overwhelming if you try to be an expert in all areas at one time – I find myself doing that on a regular basis!

    Keep up the great work Tamar.

    • Thank you Steve. You bring up a really interesting thought. I remember talking to an old colleague of mine who has a small business (but large enough to score really expensive clients) and told him that I think he needs to get this done. As a former employee at this company, I somewhat had a vested interest in their survival – and heck, I used to sit in the old business forecast meetings where they would hope and pray that they would score a big enough sale to hit their goals.

      These guys do good work. If they actually advertised it, yeah, they’d hit their profit goals! Therefore, I completely relate to the “I have to be a strong Internet marketer or the business will fail.” It’s true of those with technical backgrounds too.

  • It’s disheartening to hear all of the “social media expert” bashing, because as you just said, there ARE good people out there. Let’s hope that many newbies see this post and follow your suggestions instead of learning the hard way. BTW my internet marketing focus = social media marketing for sure. I plan on sticking to it and learning all I can every day.

  • Ryan Beale says:

    While I am in sales for a software company, I am no “snake oil salesman” and get frustrated when I come across them. About a year and a half ago I knew very little about “how to get found on Google in their non-paid ads section,” known as SEO. Thankfully, I’ve surrounded myself with some excellent seo talent, signed up for many trusted blogs RSS Feeds in the seo, ppc, social media marketing space. I do not own an internet marketing company/agency and it infuriates me when I hear stories about these fly-by-night “internet marketing agencies.” It’s reminiscent of some snake oil mortgage brokers selling sub-prime loans to High Quality and creditworthy home owners before Credit dried up in the secondary markets on Wall Street.

    Great Read.

    @RBeale

    • Thanks Ryan :) It really helps when you surround yourself by the right people who can really help you find your way.

      The Internet is incredibly rewarding. You really can get a ton of knowledge at your fingertips, mostly for free.

  • Tamar, this is a fantastic article for anyone looking to get their feet wet. Even with my experience in this field I’m constantly amazed at how much I can still learn on a daily basis. It just goes to show how widely varied in knowledge and techniques Internet Marketing can be, and that if you don’t commit to an on-going education, you can never make it to being as good as the big guys (and ladies).

    • Yup! I’m consistently reading articles in the space too, despite the fact that many of my “expert” friends said that they no longer do this. Why? Because you’re absolutely right — there’s much to learn EVERY DAY!

      Thanks Brian for stopping by!

  • Richard Kraneis says:

    More Internet Marketing Specialties

    Tamar, could I suggest a few more Internet specialties?

    Creative quant. Not just a number cruncher but someone who can analyze Google Analytics data and other data to suggest profitable solutions. If someone’s bounce rate is horrendous from banner ads, how do we respond? When we learn that our client is well branded for their name and products but receive no searches based on consumer needs (“best ipod earphones”, “college scholarship service”, etc.), what action do we take. I guess creative quantitative analyst is the term I’m after.

    Conversion expert. Every website that sells products or closes for appointments whether B:C or B:B should be interested in their conversion ratios and improving those ratios. Seems like an Internet marketing specialty to me, don’t you agree?

    Project manager. Is that an Internet marketing specialty? Getting the SEO/PPC people to talk to the copywriters and conversion experts while receiving feedback from the creative quants and following the ultimate directives from C-level executives.

    Tamar, I enjoyed your article. (I found your article via Lisa Barone on Twitter.)

    • Hi Richard! Good call. Those aren’t really their titles, and I’d argue that ideally the people dealing with PPC/SEO independently would have analytics knowledge and maybe even an understanding of conversions (at least the best do!), but absolutely – there might be folks who can specialize entirely in this.

      However, I’m not sure I’d contend that Project Manager or Client Service Coordinator really fits here, since that’s not necessarily specific to any one specialty (like SEO, PPC, social media). Personally, for many of my clients, I am the Project Manager also. You don’t really need to have a certain skillset to succeed as a Project Manager.

  • Read the article while sagely nodding in agreement:
    Sadly, we once bought monthly supplies of SEO snake oil. Common sense should have told me that if you are a real SEO expert you wouldn’t be cold-calling for customers; your website would be top-ranking and doing the selling for you.

    • OMG, you have no idea how many emails I get from those guys every single day. In the social media sphere, these are the guys who spam sites like Digg and other niche social bookmarking sites with totally off-topic spam. As a moderator at Tip’d and at Sphinn, I have seen the most ridiculous submissions ever — but it shows how desperate they are and how unlikely they ever will be to get MY money!

      Sorry to hear that happened to you, Dave. :(

  • Tamar~! You…You…YOU. The official adoption paperwork is in the mail. I’m adopting you as my new little sister. Officially.

    This post is a fantastic confirmation for me. After year of marketing for others…I started out on my own w/marketing anything I could nail down. Any Client. Any way. Hired employees. Worked the hell outta it. All of it, SEO, building sites, creating brand awareness…whatever it took. And it was…ok (?)…but…

    Now? Well…now I have Zero employees. My stress level is pretty much at zero, also. Why? I stopped. All of the work I was doing for everyone else (as terribly awesome as it was~!) wasn’t working for ME. And I found that over and over again…people were coming to ME. Not to the client’s brand I was selling. Not to the web sites I was linking. To me…the Brand of ME I created without really even knowing it.

    So my tactics changed dramatically. Or rather, they stopped being forced and hammered…and became organic. I use all of the tools I’ve been using for years for others. But now they are almost exclusively for me. Selfish? Ya’betcha. Fun? Yeppers~! I get a damn kick outta this now. I rock my ME…I read like mad…I give away twice what I get. And I have never been more productive.

    And my business? Internet Marketing? Inbound Marketing? Social Media? Yep. I own it. I am a leader in my community. I’m ablre to realy help the companies who come to me (usually the small biz)…get a handle on their own market. Help them define themselves…by what I’ve learned. And so much more. (damn…I need to blog about this~!)

    Oh…and I MAKE them buy your book….hehee~!

    *cheers and biscuits~!

    • LOL, thank you, big sister! I have two little sisters and no older sisters so this is most welcome ;)

      If you’re really good at something, people will come to you. If you succeed at a company, your brand grows. That’s why companies hate to lose good people — but hey, if they can make it work, it works really well! You go, girl, for doing it that way!

  • Pamela Jacob says:

    Great article full of resources – I am going to take you up on. Marketing is not the only business that has snake oil salesmen! I have had a lot of clients who have been “taken” by so called web designers/developers and it really reflects badly on my industry.

    Thanks for the great article.

    • Indeed it is true, Pamela. Snake oil salesmen are everywhere, but SEO (at least) has an especially bad reputation of snake oil. There IS good talent, though, but you need to be smart and find people who do it well.

  • Erin says:

    Hello,

    I am currently reading your book and, by the way, it’s great. (Which, incidentally, is how I found your blog).

    One of my favorite things about this post is the resources you posted- I, like many, am hungry for knowledge. What I think is interesting about the “snake oil” reference is that it doesn’t neccesarily just apply to people, but a lot of the information out there. It’s easy to see how people can be mislead: as I tell others, when information is free, you have to learn to separate the good advice from the bad :-). So, thanks for offering some credible resources (some which I have seen, some which I have not). While I’m a big fan of the O’reilly books, I will certainly buy the one you recommended since IMHO you are a very credible resource.

    Thanks again!

    • Hi Erin, that’s a REALLY good point. There’s a LOT of bad information out there. That’s why you should actually seek out the content that influences your influencers. What are they tweeting? What are they reading? Thankfully, social networking helps make these resources known — if I tweet that I’m reading XYZ, chances are I trust that content and want to share it with everyone else.

      I have experience with all these tools/programs. I actually wrote this exact post several months ago but was waiting to review another program. The lengthy delay was hope that I might have the opportunity to check out the program in depth and figure out if it was something I could recommend to my readers.

      I never got the green light to review it, and while it’s maintained by a friend AND it has an affiliate program, I’m not able to vouch for it.

      So yes, I trust these sources, and I likely will be updating this source with other tools (in fact, one that I’m involved in… stay tuned) as time goes on. :)

  • David Temple says:

    Tamara, another great post! To me this is the most poignant statement “For me, Internet Marketing is not just a profession but it’s a passion”. Passion leads to being the best at what you do, which leads to success.

  • Alex says:

    Hello Tamar,

    fantastic article, appreciated…

    Its been a real source, for marketing, called as E-marketing.

    Thanks for sharing the information with us.

  • Dave says:

    Hee hee… ‘New kids on the block’? Does that mean we have to start an SEO boy band or what? Nice post and reminds me of a few we’ve had over on the SEOBS blog over the last while. I can’t possibly count the number of words I’ve penned on learning SEO over the last 4 years from posts to an ebook and Dojo content… Oh and 23 weeks of chat sessions. A topic near and dear to my heart. This is one heck of a nice twist with not only resources, but words of wisdom and a little flavour of rant to boot… Nice stuff T!

    As for the snake oil, well…. sigh… there’s still far too much of it out there. I really do try to constantly battle it down on a variety of levels. It is frustrating to no end. One person that sent a post in for the SEOBS blog had one of my fav forum rants – people asking silly/beginner SEO questions that have ‘SEO Services’ in their forum sig… grumble mumble… $%#$&

    I also found it interesting that you put link building outside of SEO. This is something many of the senior members believe and we’ve been working more at educating noobs to… It really is something more about aligning buzz/PR with content strategy as it is anything else, when done right. So, I really liked that distinction you made… Kudos on that too… I shall certainly get this post into the newsletter next week to spread the word… once more, really liked the elements (education, rant, resources).

    Keep fighting the good fight and drop in real soon… (this week’s chat session is actually on Content Strategy for link building and we have some special guests lined up…hehe… )

    Have a great week T and thanks for the luvin’ :0)

    • Thanks for creating a program that I can stand behind, Dave. :)

      I love those forum visitors, don’t you? I happen to really enjoy the Search Engine Roundtable stories every so often when people ask the darndest things. I love it when Barry spots those golden nuggets — like when the SEO guy goes to a Google Groups thread and so does the site owner in another thread. (Gah, I wish I knew the link.)

      To me, SEO is an on-site strategy. Link building is part of a bigger picture — an SEM/offisite strategy. They can be done by the same person but they are pretty separate. I get a ton of link exchange requests daily, but I have a hard time believing that those are coming from people who know how to do SEO! :)

  • Jon Buscall says:

    Fabulous post, Tamar. I think it’s important that consultants include a high level of transparency on their site / blog so prospects can evaluate their skills.

    So many “marketing” gurus have like 10,000 followers on Twitter after 150 tweets which reeks of some kind of scam instead of genuine quality. They never have a post on their blog which says “How to achieve 1000s of followers with just 100 quality tweets” !

    • Yeah, so true. A few months ago, a prominent guy in this space commented that some other “expert” ripped off a blog post of his for an eBook (without permission). I decided to investigate and found out who this so-called copyright infringement expert was via Twitter. The guy had over 60,000 followers and I’ve never heard of him before. (That’s fine, I don’t always know everyone.) But then, looking at his tweets, this guy is essentially just a broadcaster. He’s pumping out blog content via twitterfeed. There’s no engagement at all there. And this guy is an expert? With 60k followers?

      For awhile, I’d been debating writing a post on “how to get tens of thousands of Twitter followers.” One of the tips I’d volunteer is “follow everyone who follows you.” That’s what this guy did. I’m not saying it’s WRONG, but it’s how non-celebs start appearing to be celebs. It was much easier, though, before Twitter instituted a 2000 following limit (to those who were following too much). He gamed the system and now looks famous.

      Social proof in this case isn’t enough. If you’re following 60k people and 60k people are following you, I’d bet that only 1-2% of those people actually *want* to be following you and explicitly opted in. Yes, that means the other 98-99% were using automated methods.

      If you don’t know the person, look at the ratio of followers to following. Following too many with an about equal amount of followers? Artificial inflation. Following too little with a big number of followers? Maybe there’s something there.

      Thanks for commenting, Jon. :)

  • JerryKFreeman says:

    Fantastic. Thank you.

  • Andy Beard says:

    Canonical tags aren’t always technically possible

    As an example I have been looking for a way to do canonical tags (other than the home page) for a Volusion store for the last week on and off.

    Something might be possible with asp, but not every SEO is a Microsoft MVP.

    They are also only a suggestion – if you can come up with redirects that prevent rogue URLs from being served, no more need for a bandaid.

    Not using canonical tags might actually show extreme technical ability or that the SEO doesn’t really care too much about his public facing site.

    • Thanks for your comment Andy, and fair point, but I’d contend two things:

      1. Canonical tags are just ONE part of the equation. Not everything. I hope I didn’t imply that it’s the ONLY thing you should base your assessment off of.

      2. If he doesn’t care about his public-facing site, he shouldn’t care that he will be judged by his public-facing site. If that public-facing site is a failure by typical standards, well, he’s going to be perceived as someone who can’t deliver. I don’t think my suggestions in the article are at all unrealistic and unfair. They are expected.

      My personal recommendation is that anyone serious about this should not host with IIS. However, there is a ISAPI Rewrite plugin for the IIS framework that seems to work pretty well in most cases.

      I get that you may have problems with *client* sites, Andy, based on your comments, but if YOUR OWN site or agency site can’t even do this, well, by golly, why should I think you even care about me as a prospective client to do this?

  • I was recently asked to review a “money making online” scheme for a friend who’d been forwarded a scheme from a friend of his. I quickly saw it for the MLM / Ponzi Scheme it was and responded as such.

    I responded including the comment that if the authors really did discover a secret method to generate a lot of money would they:
    a) reinvest the profits into building a massive empire keeping your method a secret so that it remains effective, or,
    b) flog it as a system for $49 alerting the search engines to any “loop hole” and creating masses of competition to yourself?

    The response coming back from the friend-of-a-friend was “anyone saying its too late for anyone new to make money is completely off their head.”

    Completely missing and/or subverting my point. Sad. He’d be better off at seobook etc and developing skills that will last indefinitely, and not require another 6 monthly payments of $497 to join the next “VIP Course”. Or should that be curse?

    • It is too bad. I think these types of things lose a lot of credibility if not backed by real people. I bet my computer-illiterate neighbor can start the next $49/month program and people might bite if he gets good copy, but can he deliver? No way.

      Still, people buy into programs without knowing and doing research. That’s what furthers snake oil, sadly. Sometimes, it’s as much your fault as it’s those guys’ fault. Make educated buying decisions!

      Thanks Liam :)

  • Anna Savoy says:

    I really love your writing. Specifically, your subject matter is always exactly what I’m interested in at that moment, and your style is very effective…for me. I have been digging holes for months looking for “the right place” to get some SEO and SMO and even content development training. The amount of resources out there is massive, how would anyone know where to turn. I want to go to school, I want a one or two week training course in each of these. Should you hear of such, I can pay and would want to travel to such a class, please, please let me know. Meanwhile I’ll study the sources you suggest. And thanks again.

    • Thanks for commenting, Anna :)

      I recommend a few training programs in the SEM space (in order of preference):
      * SMX. They have three really big shows – SMX Advanced in Seattle in June, SMX West in Santa Clara, CA in February (which just passed), and SMX East in NYC in October. There’s a lot of good SEM content there.
      * PubCon. PubCon is siimilar to SMX and occurs in Dallas in March and Vegas in November.
      * SES. SES runs three big shows. They have a NY event in March, a CA event in August, and a Chicago event in December.

      I’ve been to the aforementioned three types of events. There are MANY others, but these are the ones I know firsthand. There’s also SXSW that begins today, but it’s more general social media versus SMO (there’s some of that there, though).

      Hope that helps!

      • Anna Savoy says:

        Thanks so much! I’ve already looked at the SMX Adv. in Seattle, there’s a one day SEO training session that looks excellent. My husband’s been wanting to take me to Seattle…so there you go! I really appreciate the bit of knowledge and experience you have shared here, and will busy myself with the study of all and selection of some.

  • I’m not sure why this happens so frequently in our industry. First it was the “web designer” who had absolutely NO design experience but was billing themselves as a designer. Now you have Internet Marketing “experts” who have no marketing background. The real shame in all of this is that the client is often fooled because they either do not know any better or are too afraid to ask because, after all, this is the Internet and therefore technical and over their heads. Truth is that this is still marketing and a lot of the old rules still apply. I love that you reference “snake oil” and that many people still do because IT still applies. You are awesome (I’ve said this before) and should be commended for taking the time to put together such an informative piece. Hopefully you will educate and empower some people with this!

    • Thank you, Jon-Mikel!

      I hope that the client looks to this for advice, too, before making a mistake s/he may regret. Just like you can comparison shop for a camera (and you hopefully check ResellerRatings to ensure that the dealer is reputable), so too, you should comparison shop for a service provider. If they’re emailing you because they want your business, though, you better not jump for it. They’re doing it because they can’t get clients through word of mouth marketing or through SEO, even though they claim to be SEOs. Oh, the irony…

      The truth of the matter is that people will still fall for it. :(

  • Nice job! Well said.

  • Bill Cammack says:

    Excellent post, as usual. :)

    Unfortunately, this type of behavior doesn’t only jerk clients but spawns more fake SME clones that really don’t have any redeeming value other than the tricks up their sleeves. It makes the entire industry look like garbage other than the obvious standouts that are bringing added value to the space.

    Lots of promises, not much skill, close to zero ROI. Bah. :/

    • Here’s hoping those SME clones actually educate themselves. If they’re like Rennell up there (read the entire nested comment), they learned absolutely nothing from this article. You’d hope some people would take it to heart.

      As it is, the girl in the story saw this post (I wrote it before she got serious about her work; I guess people eventually learn that they need to work hard and LEARN hard to succeed) and was disappointed. I’m not surprised and understood the risks. What I do hope, though, is that she learned form this. Honestly, I don’t understand what her service offerings are but I hope that she succeeds. Of course, it would help if her website ranked for her full name, which isn’t even very common, but I’m just saying…

      You have to start somewhere and it’s never too late to begin.

    • Anna Savoy says:

      Bill, and Tamar,

      Isn’t is safe to say, that there are “fakes” in every business? Those in search of such should be wary in any case…correct?

  • Hasan Saleem says:

    Thanks for the great advice Tamar. It was awesome and I have forwarded it to at least 10 more people who I know would benefit from it.

  • Vlad says:

    I just want to say thank you for the author.Very interesting article!

  • Julia says:

    Thanks so much for making the entire list of EVERYTHING. I am the one-person shop for this little non-profit that every year is more completely dependent on the internet for survival. I think I need to study up a bit more on all of your resources. When you travel the world, even though you do not know all the languages, it is quite handy to at least know how to ask where the bathroom is. I would like to get to that level (metaphorically,) with your list.

  • Rick Bucich says:

    One thing I would add for someone getting started in SEO, when doing research via search, filter the results by date if possible. Things change so quickly that what pay have been an acceptable practice not long ago (link exchange) is now a next to worthless endeavor. The sites you mentioned are a good place to start but even their advice evolves.

    Also, don’t believe everything you read no matter how current, there is a lot of straight up bad avice to be read. I think SEO is attractive for some sketchy people because it is 1) somewhat easy to game in the short term 2) frequently misunderstood by the client 3) clients are looking for immediate results, the legitimate SEO expert knows it can be a long and expensive process, the shady practitioner just needs to make big promises

    Thanks again!

    • Very good point, Rick! It’s funny to see how many link exchange emails I get daily (and they’re all titled “Partnership Issue.” Dude, they aren’t partnership issues at all. Maybe you can vary your messaging, huh?)

      I always urge people to test any SEO theories and not to take them at face value. That’s important – you can’t just sit there and think that everything you read is truth. You need to test, retest, and continue.

      Thanks for the comments!

  • Can’t believe on this very post that someone was trying to slip a link! LOL! A great post Tamar! Can’t tell you how many times I end up educating prospects on that its more than just “code”, as they still hear this from others, as if there is a silver bullet. Thanks for the post!

  • Mrunal says:

    I think one should always be a student throughout his life, the day you feel you have become a guru/teacher, you have lost it.

    @Tamar – Indeed a great article, lot of information, informative links and above all a strong message to all self proclaimed internet marketing experts.

    Will wait to read your next article too.

    Have a great weekend.

    • Thanks Mrunal! I totally agree — you must always be learning. Even if I’m considered a teacher of social media, there are always stones to be unturned. :)

  • Ken Wohl says:

    Hey Tamar,

    Like always, excellent and very helpful post! Do you have any suggestions for tools or softwares to monitor social media? I know Radian6 is excellent but it’s also very pricey for someone who only works with one or two clients.

    -Ken

    • Hi Ken! Thanks!

      Radian6 is great and I recommend it — it consolidates lots of features of other tools in one single interface. You can get a lot of that functionality with a combination of Google Alerts, Backtype, Twitter Search, and others.

      There’s also Trackur which has recently come out with a free version of the “pro” offering but it limits you to one single query.

      Also, you may have an interest in Spredfast which has an exhaustive and extremely affordable solution set.

      Finally, I haven’t tried it yet, but Viralheat sounds promising, especially for the cost.

  • Sonik Porwal says:

    Great article. I am currently struggling to get traffic up for my site on Diabetes for Indians. Considering that there are 51M diabetics in India, my traffic is slow and my rating is low :-(

    My developers keep telling me that they are doing “directory submissions” and I will see results. Good only knows when.

    Any advice for me, I am in New Delhi India

    • Hi Sonik, good question. Personally, directory submissions might boost visibility (maybe?) over time, but I think it’s really your job — only because this is closely aligned with your vision — to go out and start finding sites (networks, forums) for other diabetics. Don’t go there to self-promote. Go there to build relationships with people who ultimately will be supportive of your endeavor.

  • Mrunal says:

    @ Tamar & Everyone – Can someone suggest a good book on Email marketing ?

    • Email marketing isn’t my cup of tea, so I have to defer this to everyone else. :) If I find something, though, I’ll be sure to let you know!

      • Erin says:

        If I may offer my two cents (disclaimer- I am a novice at email marketing as well)… I found a ton of great free info on MailChimp. I personally think it’s a great place to start and they provide a lot of free info in PDF’s. Very good advice on the CAN-SPAM laws as well.

  • Sonik Porwal says:

    Can you suggest a good book to help learn Social Marketing (Twitter, Facebook and Linked In)

  • Erin says:

    No, thank you. I am working on getting a photo for my comments also (as you suggest)- somehow I just can’t find one that I like :-)

  • Josh says:

    I realize this comment is coming a few days after you posted this but here goes. I couldn’t agree with you more about this being a passion and not a profession. Thanks for taking time to write this Tamar. By far this is my favorite post this year.

  • Thanks for the links Tamar…those are excellent sites for expanding on my internet marketing hairs! – I have never seen half of those before! Doing Google searches to expand my knowledge I had been finding TONS of SEO/SEM info out there, but alot of it is PLR stuff from 2006-ish!…so thanks for showing the foundational parts.

  • Dear Tamar
    Thanks for sharing this post. It greatly help me in my work. I’ve bookmarked it for future refferences.

  • Steven Dean says:

    Wow Tamar, I really loved this blog post. It was much longer than I have anticipated it to be, but the funny thing is – is that I was reading a book at the time I stumbled across this. It was a book on SEO and I couldn’t stay focused on what I was reading. And then i switched gears to read your blog and surprisingly enough I wasn’t bored one bit while reading through it. You have touched onto a lot of ground here, that has given a lot of value here for those who are lost in the dark on the subject of internet marketing. Your right about one thing though, you do need to keep a steady focus on a particular niche that you think you may excel at. But also in my opinion, as well as what you touched on, is that you also have to study just a little bit of everything on other fields of internet marketing. Since Internet marketing presents a huge learning curve with different fields of study, they all tie in together to boost your presence online with people who seek it out as well as Search engines. I could go on and on about the several things that you have written here, but I’m going to come to a close by just saying that I truly enjoyed this post and look forward to seeing a great sequel to this.

  • Hi Tamar,
    Thanks for the great post. Wow, so nice to see a lenghtly post that is so well thought out.
    SEO is by far my favourite subject/hobby on the planet. I am by no means a professional, but I am learning every day. I’ve heard good things about SEOmoz and see you recommended them, so will be sure to check it out. Also thanks for the freebie tools as well.

    All the best.
    Jim

  • John Arnold says:

    Great advice Tamar. I thank you for promoting good business ethics and know-how in the industry.

    JA

  • Steve says:

    I suppose we all go through a period of trying to cheat the system. Good content from an honest writer will always prevail.

    Good article Tamar, it should be read again by anyone thinking about straying off the path. A person can lose a lot of time and work using the wrong/ black hat techniques to fake their way into the rankings.

    If it does not take hard work and diligence, then it’s not going to make it through the test of time and the next Google algorithms.

    Thanks again Tamar, great imformative site.
    Alis volat propriis.
    Steve

  • John Carter says:

    I like your content. When I first got started in internet marketing I used pay per click traffic with Adwords. I did really well marketing Clickbank books. Unfortunately, I eventually lost interest in marketing this way as most of the books did not offer quality information and were really about the sales letter. I decided to stick with products that I had learned from and I haven’t looked back since. Then Google just decided they didn’t like my landing pages and banned one of my accounts. I got really frustrated with them and found that organic rankings offered more leverage. Now, Google really has made that difficult as well. I like their technology but I really think “SEO” as a thing is dead. I think that getting traffic is very much alive and well and is very achievable but you aren’t going to be able to count on search engine rankings to get traffic in the coming years. A combination of specialized link building tactics along with leverage paid traffic is the future in my humble opinion. I really liked your article you have a great writing style that is very readable and engaging. Thanks for the great content!

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