Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs

Tue 22 December 2009 15:15, Sam Murray

Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs

Sam Murray is a young SEO with not yet the many miles some others have. But you will recognize talent without years of experience when you meet it. Sam is one of those talents with a bright future. In his post "Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs" he started with a bang, making us all think.

Don't Believe the Truth - Challenging SEO Beliefs
Originally posted August 5th 2009

I have only 20 seconds to ensure I grab your attention, I know this, or think I know this, from what I have heard or been told about online user behaviour. The simple truth is, is this really a fact? If not, why don’t we question our beliefs and knowledge?

I would hesitate a guess that at least 20% of what we know stems from what other people have told us. This may have worked for them, but how long ago was that? Are we basing part of our knowledge on essentially hearsay? 

We all know search is a dynamic and vastly changing environment so why do we still hold on to beliefs and opinions that might be outdated. I think this goes for people who have 1 year experience to old pros who have 5 or 6 years within SEO. If you stand still and believe what you learnt a year ago is valid today then you are going to fail.  Part of the reason I love working within search is the fact that sometimes I happen to come across techniques and methods that I have previously had no experience with. A quick search on blogs and et voila, I can stumble upon an article surrounding a topic and learn from it. I do however, reserve some judgement until I test it myself and read other articles concerning the same topic.

I always find testing allows me to learn rather than just hearing people say it. People learn in different ways. There are 3 main types of learning:

1.    Listening learners
2.    Seeing learners
3.    Touch / experience learners

If you learn via number 3 like me then testing and experiencing not only helps you learn but allows you to build your knowledge base instead of trying to remember that time when so and so told you about how to do something.

I recently experienced this when setting up and implementing tracking on one of our clients local business listings. Given the increasingly opportunistic nature of the Local Listings to drive traffic to a website, but no easy solution from Google for distinguishing this traffic, this was a learning curve for me, even after I had read through many articles.

After speaking to various people and reading articles surrounding the topic we implemented the suggested tracking only to discover that the tracked campaign was not appearing on analytics. (Note: is anyone else experiencing problems tracking Local Business Listings via the Google analytics URL builder?) We have since implemented a successful tracking code (thank you Martijn Beijk for our discussions and priceless advice) through the use of vanity URLs combined with 301 redirects but it proves what works for some people at a certain point in time may not work for you and this could be due to various reasons. This does not just apply to our tracking experience but to the whole spectrum of SEO and further into developing campaigns for clients too.

We know the target markets for clients vary just as well as we know there are search engine algorithmic changes, adjusting the value of certain trust metrics. So we need to be constantly aware of the environment we work in and be open enough to admit that we don’t always know everything. Testing and documenting our experiences can help and this is part of what I want to bring to Search Cowboys.  I would like to share with you in the upcoming months experiences that work, some that didn’t and how best to resolve these issues, and also produce some how to guides.

David Ogilvy was considered the ‘father of advertising’ and his philosophy on how he became successful was wholly research driven. Even when he started his own company he labelled himself the research director. One of his famous quotes was:

"You don't stand a chance of producing successful advertising unless you start by doing your homework. I have always found this extremely tedious, but there is no substitute for it."

Testing and experimenting within SEO is crucial. Not only does it enable us to learn but to base future learning from it. As previous Nobel Prize winner Albert Gyorny stated:

“Research is to see what everybody else has seen, and to think what nobody else has thought”

So I ask you to challenge what you hear from now on, not physically of course, i would like to start a revolution but in the intellectually sense! Commit to undertaking your own research, test and evaluate, develop your own ideas and it will not only make you a better search professional but also help push others forward. 

Lastly but most importantly, I just want to say how excited I am to be involved with search cowboys, I consider the blog a great resource for information and discussion and am really happy to be on board. I know to some, 2 years within the industry may be fairly new, but I hope to bring a fresh perspective and a different outlook. Also, working with Lisa D Myers for two years has allowed me to learn a great deal, and not just the ability to drop SEO related jokes into conversations!

  • Comments (16)
  • SEO
  • Tell-a-cowboy

Comments (16)


  • Excellent blogpost Sam and very true, SEO is very much about trials and testing. It's what makes it so exciting, it's so important to listen to others, read up but eventually make your own thories and conclusions. In short; just because someone says thats the way it is doesn't make it true. Even if 20 people say it's the way it is doesn't make it true. If you test it and it works, then you KNOW it's true.

    And also don't encourage me by laughing at my SEO jokes :)

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 14:21

  • Separates the men from the boys does testing and analysis. There, I said it.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 14:31

  • This is one cowboy who aims, shoots and hits the bulls eye at his very first shot. Great post Sam & welcome to the team, good to have you 'saddled up' ;)

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:10

  • Great article Sam!

    Many issues with local are only to be found and solved by testing, testing and testing. Many times its Google Maps you are fighting but its good to tackle the small problems that occur implementing different strategies.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:13

  • 'search is a dynamic thing' yes I fully agree

    'If you stand still and believe what you learnt a year ago is valid today then you are going to fail' No Sir, it is not 100% true.
    I mean, of course there are things completely outdated but the recognised basics are still working quite well so, to make a good start, better be sure they are solved. For more competitive markets or niches, yes, you have to be aware of how the things are going today or, even better, tomorrow but you can not start the building working on the roof

    'Testing and experimenting within SEO is crucial' I agree again.

    Anyway, search is full of categorical affirmations, nothing scares me more as someone who likes test and experiment.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:16

  • I think that everything is going to work slightly different for everyone. What works well for one person or company will not necessarily work great for another.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:16

  • Thank you for all the comments made so far.

    *Richard - I do truely believe that testing and experimenting improves your learning and understanding.

    *Bas - happy to be on board!

    *Ani - completely agree that there are some fundamental basics that will probably never be obsolete. I generally meant that if your mindset is closed then within a year there would be so many different techniques that have evolved that you would not know about/have experience with.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:34

  • Yes Sam, we agree. Closed mindset people don't usually succeed in any life aspect.
    ok ,ok, someone do, they even become presidents.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 15:49

  • Very true indeed, it happens weekly i stumble across people online and offline that are telling me about thinkg wich have been outdated or debunked years ago. Re-Search is extremely important especially in this business.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 16:05

    • Gifford Morley-Fletcher
    • [website]

    Great post Sam and so true. I always say that the best thing about Online marketing as a whole is that everything you do can be measured, and if you can measure, you can learn what is working and what isn't, and thus improve... otherwise known as testing! It might seem obvious, but as I'm sure you will agree, there are still an amazing number of people who should know better but just aren't doing the measuring and learning.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 16:18

  • Thanks Giff and Edwin.

    * Just wish we had the time to conduct more research and testing to be honest! As like you say Giff you can learn so much from the results.

    Wo 5 aug 2009, 17:39

    • Web designing seo company
    • [website]

    A mere online presence won’t serve the purpose of reaching out and impressing your target audience, to beat the competition you need a well designed website with a good search rank and for that you need help of companies which provide complete solutions in <a href="" ;>website designing and development</a> and <a href="">se arch engine optimization</a>.

    Do 1 okt 2009, 14:28

    • David Ansell

    You have certainly done your homework with this very well edited piece of writing Mr Murray.

    As EA Games would say, Challenge Everything!

    Wo 28 okt 2009, 02:37

  • Well done for making the Top 10 of 2009 blogpost Sam, it was a great blogpost, I'm proud of you Sam Linkwalker ;p

    Di 22 dec 2009, 17:23


    Wo 17 jun 2015, 14:46


    Wo 17 jun 2015, 14:48


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