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Amex does a favour to the SEO profession

Ash Nallawalla

15 March 2008


Thanks to a sensational headline by Webpronews – American Express Guide Calls SEOs A “Waste”, the SEO profession might be pleased to know that American Express has done them an inadvertent favour.

The facts are a little less sensational. Amex USA sponsors an initiative called OPEN, which helps small businesses by getting them to meet locally via They sponsored a few publications to be made available from the OPEN meetup page. As happens in large companies, such publishing initiatives are a brief project in someone’s quarterly schedule and there isn’t time to check the contents of documents that were produced by external agencies:

The OPEN BOOK is a 96-page document containing contributions from several Amex experts and external agencies. I don’t think the book’s editors would see it their role to question assertions such as the following from the Cuban Council on page 59:


Search engines, like Yahoo! and Google, are usually the first place people will look for you. Make it easier for them to find you. Yahoo! and Google offer tools to let them know the site map structure of your Web site. Also, using clean U.R.L.’s like instead of will increase your chances of getting indexed in a search engine. Finally, don’t waste money on so-called Search Engine Optimization (S.E.O.) specialists. Search engines are very quick to penalize sites that try to trick their filtering techniques, and once your site has been put on Google’s blacklist, it will take forever to get off.

What a set of generalisations, purporting to be SEO advice? What was the writer trying to achieve here?

Another smaller document from OPEN is Marketing Your Business on Search Engines, a well-written document, clearly not by the previous author or publisher. It says, in part:

Maximizing your search engine marketing and optimization effectiveness may take more than just an employee with an aptitude for the Web. You may decide it is necessary to hire an experienced partner. Use these criteria to make an informed choice: (a list follows)

Now this is contradictory, but correct advice. In the other document, the youthful “Cuban Council” has its own agenda, being a web design company full of cool people who were perhaps only warning about “so-called” SEO specialists. The problem is that they did not tell the reader how to distinguish a so-called specialist from the real thing.

Therefore, the poor small-business person will be left with conflicting advice from the same page. They will probably get their website built by some cool young people who are unlikely to incorporate any SEO features beyond “meta tags” (every cool web designer knows about meta tags). Web design briefs almost never include any off-page factors.

Why is this a favour to SEOs from Amex?

My frequent refrain is, “The ignorance of web designers is the bread-and-butter of the SEO profession.” While business owners continue to buy websites from SEO-ignorant web designers/developers, their sites will always be in need of proper search engine optimisation. The better-informed business owners with their optimised websites will benefit because there will be less competition in the search engine results. Thank you, American Express.

AddedSEW picked up this story over a month ago.

Ash Nallawalla

Search strategist experienced in large, complex websites. Ash's Google+ profile

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