Ch. 6 – What do you Read – Critical Thinking

What Do You Read?

 

There are more blogs and websites offering SEO and IM wisdom than all of us together could read in a week, so determining which are the best to follow can be a major undertaking. Let’s make a couple of assumptions, just to simplify things and make a point.

Assumptions:

  1. 50% of them are spouting incorrect or outdated information (personally, I think that’s a generous number… some would probably say 75% or more);
  2. Of the rest, 75% are simply repeating something they saw elsewhere;

That would mean that only 12.5% of those fonts of wisdom are offering information that they feel they can vouch for as valid. Let’s take it a step further:

  1. Only 10% of those sources actually test a theory (remember that word, “test”… we’ll be coming back to it later)

Now we’re down to 1.25% that are offering information that they have found to be valid through a “testing” process.

Now, of course, those numbers are arbitrary figures, and could be way off. But I honestly believe they’re charitable assumptions. If you disagree with them, feel free to plug in your own percentages and do your own math… I doubt the result will be different enough to paint a vastly different picture.

For the sake of argument, let’s run with my numbers. 1.25% of the sites and blogs offering SEO and IM information are offering something that they feel is valid, because they tested it.

Because I’m feeling so charitable, we’ll gloss over the fact that probably less than 1 in 1,000 has a clue of how to perform a proper test with multiple variables. We’ll just assume that they all tested in a reliable manner.

How many different sources do you absorb on a weekly basis? Two? Ten? Twenty? One hundred?

Fine. Let’s go with 100 different sources per week (that’s a lot of reading).

On average, ONE of them will be providing you with tested (supposedly validly, remember) information. Only ONE!

Now if you’re already careful about who you follow, and selective about what you accept, you’re probably seeing a considerably better number than one. But if you’re new to the game, you’re probably reading someone’s blog either because it was recommended to you, or because you just saw it so often that you assumed they must know what they’re talking about.

My point is, you can’t afford to blindly accept anything you read, no matter the source. There are too many reasons that what they’re saying might not be valid. And even if it’s valid for them, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’ll be valid for you.

The key is to find out who’s got their act together, and the only way to do that with any certainty is to test things yourself!

Once you find out that someone consistently provides solid information, you’ll probably be willing to relax a bit on testing their data. That’s up to you. I certainly do. You can also take advantage of various opportunities to see how others react to their theories and statements, via forums, blog comments and communities. Networking is a wonderful thing, and this is just one area in which it can be very useful.

Slowly, but surely, you’ll begin to classify individuals as to the level of credibility you feel they deserve. It can be a time consuming process, and if you’re just starting out and anxious to learn, it can be a little frustrating. But taking time to learn the right things the right way is a lot less frustrating than having to undo things because you learned to do them the wrong way.

 

We put this question to our contributors:

 

5. If you could only follow one single source of information pertaining to your internet work, which would it be, and why?

Alan Bleiweiss

I wouldn’t.  Sorry – can’t give in to that temptation.  If you want to succeed in this industry, you need to follow multiple sources across a wide variety of specialty topics.  No single source that I’ve found truly covers the breadth of areas we need to have expertise in or at least collaborate with a team who has a combined expertise in.

Sphinn, Search Engine Land and Search Engine Journal come close, in combination, in some ways.  Yet not everything that matters gets in even those three combined sources, just because there are so many places high quality information ends up being found these days.

Andrea Scarpetta

At the moment I would say “Google+”, because there are a lot of amazing people discussing internet marketing and the possibilities to interact in real time is amazing.

Andrew Bleakley

I love SEODojo for the people, but if I had to pick just one source you can’t beat the experience and depth of knowledge at Webmaster World, it is probably the ugliest website online but before you see it on Twitter it has been dissected and argued about in detail on Webmaster World.

Anthony Verre

I would have to choose Search Engine Land. It offers the broadest overview of all internet marketing from SEO to Local to Social to PPC and everything in between. They produce timely news, keeping me abreast of “what’s next”.

Barry Adams

If I say Twitter would that be cheating? Technically it’s a single source, but I follow hundreds of people that share valuable insights on a daily basis. That makes my Twitter feed the most valuable information source I have. I rarely visit my feed reader anymore these days, because if it’s not shared on Twitter by the people I follow, it’s probably not worth reading.

Dana Lookadoo

Google – Read and watch everything that comes out of the Google webmaster blog.

Danny Sullivan

If I couldn’t follow our own Search Engine Land site, it would be Techmeme. That’s my daily tech newspaper, keeping me apprised of all the major stories.

Dean Cruddace

I suppose it is personal choice and being able to have dedicated answers from experienced journeymen and women for me though I have drawn so much knowledge from the SEO Dojo members, there is such a fountain of experience from within the forums and chat room at so many different stages of the journey.

Debra Mastaler

I have three sources I read daily:   Search Engine Land, SeoByTheSea and SEOBook.

Search Engine Land is my daily newspaper, if it’s happening in our SEO world, I’ll read about it there.

SEOByTheSea helps me understand why search engine results may be displaying the way they are.  Bill does a good job of tying in ranking trends with what’s being published by the search engines and other prominent search engineers.

SEOBook is thought provoking, I don’t always agree with Aaron, but his content motivates me to look at issues in a different way.

Eren McKay

Single source? I don’t follow single sources as that would give me tunnel vision and a distorted perception of reality.

However when there are the best minds united in one place, you will find the highest quality of information to research from and draw great conclusions. Therefore, if I could only go to one place for information about my internet work it would be at the SEO Training Dojo.

Gabriella Sannino

Twitter, because there is so much information. I can go through various lists /accounts and find exactly what I’m looking for…plus it helps establish your presence, authority, and value online.

Garrett French

Would it be cheating to say Twitter? I follow a fantastic collection of link building and content experts that keep me updated on the latest great content from everywhere. In case that’s cheating I’d have to say SEL since they have the SearchCap that rounds up the day’s most notable search stories 🙂

Heather Lloyd-Martin

This is a hard question to answer because I read so many blogs – and they all pertain to what I do. Search Engine Land is a fantastic site. As is ClickZ. Target Marketing Magazine has some good articles, as well as Search Engine Journal. I couldn’t choose just one – I enjoy reading multiple perspectives.

Hugo Gill

Search Engine Land as it brings together a good blend of news, tips and information.

Ian Lurie

That changes every few months. Right now, I’d say Hacker News. It gives me a little bit of everything, from nerdy stuff to marketing to trending stories I should look at for content work.

Jahnelle Pittman

There’s no such thing. I have yet to come across a single site that offers up all the necessary information. If I could only pick a few, though, they’d be The Blind Five Year Old, SEO By the Sea and Search News Central.

Jey Pandian

I’d go straight into the SEO Dojo’s Study Hall. Content is presented as factually as possible with scientific rigor and several rounds of feedback by prominent SEOs. It is rare in the online world to find such a place where user generated comments do not run amuck.

Joe Hall

My Twitter stream. I get probably 90% of my information from it now.

Joshua Titsworth

I try not to get tied to one single source. Instead I follow a list of people that write awesome content consistently and read what they publish, when they publish. In that similar manner I follow a core set of people on Twitter that share information that might not be written by people on my “must read list” but are gold nuggets that are “must reads”.

Justin Parks

It would be the SEO Training Dojo, without a doubt.  The people involved in that community are real, experienced and friendly experts in their respective fields and in all the years I have been working online, no other community has been so supportive, instructive or helpful.

While catering to all levels from beginners to the most experienced individuals, the level of expertise that is behind The SEO Dojo still boggles my mind and in conjunction with this, the access and willingness to share ideas, results and pertinent information is fantastic.

It’s the first and last place I go to for feedback and advice.

Lyena Solomon

The most valuable source for me is Avinash Kaushik’s Analytics blog. The reason is simple – if you – an SEO professional – cannot make the company money, you are useless to that company.  Analytics gives us areas of focus and provides us with information about how we are affecting the bottom line. If you made millions for your client, they will not care that your ranking did not change much.

Michelle Robbins

I have a diverse background, and my position requires that I stay abreast of 3 distinct fields – web design, web/web application development, and internet marketing. So I’m going to have to give a source for each discipline.

For web design, hands down, it’s A List Apart  – it’s absolutely the best resource for standards based web design and usability.

For web development and programming, I look to O’Reilly. I have multiple shelves filled end to end with their books which include comprehensive programming manuals as well as field guide like ‘cookbooks’ for specific languages and protocols. They are an excellent training and reference resource.

For search and internet marketing information, I follow Search Engine Land. There’s no way to include that without it seeming self promotional, but I honestly don’t think there is another publication that better presents the broad spectrum of information and news that encompasses internet marketing. The coverage is comprehensive, the writing top notch, and the combined experience and knowledge of the editorial staff as well as columnists and contributors is unmatched in my opinion – as both a reader and a practitioner.

M.J. Taylor

SEOMoz. They back up their work with solid research.

Rand Fishkin

Probably Hacker News: http://news.ycombinator.com

Rebekah May

This question is probably the hardest because I am forced to just choose one!  There are a variety of great sites I like to follow which specialize in different aspects of online marketing.  Due to this, I might cheat and say Twitter as Twitter will provide me with direct access to a variety of content from multiple sources.

Steve Gerencser

Only one? My own testing and analytics. Online marketing has finally evolved to a point where there are too many variables, too many ways of driving traffic, and too many ways to convert that traffic to limit yourself to just one source of information.

S. Emerson

The webmaster guidelines published by each of the main search engines and directories.  It just happens that Google is the most forward about providing easily accessible information between their Webmaster Tools Help and GoogleWebmasterHelp YouTube channel. You can learn a lot from reading through these sources yourself and be able to verify or debunk other information you see around.

Taylor Pratt

My analytics. It provides me with everything I need to know. I can see which areas of my site aren’t converting or aren’t getting enough traffic and can then form my hypothesis as to why. There is no more telling and helpful resource than your own analytics.

Thomas Fjordside

This one is unfair 🙂 but I think it would be http://econsultancy.com/uk/blog well rounded, all around marketing reading and you don’t get 200 articles about how a title tag should look. I believe that to do SEO you don’t really need to know whether Google counts bold or h6 as being most important. These small details will keep you from doing more important stuff, like creating content or reaching out or buying advertising.

Tim Nash

I warn people away from any single source (unless you count google.com search results) but if I had to choose one,  it would be Stack Overflow. While not a dedicated Internet Marketing resource and being aimed at programmers, its wealth of information goes from coding problems, to analytics and javascript issues. It has become such a central point for information for me that I actually include a modifier when googling to search stack overflow first.

William Slawski

I’m a huge fan of primary sources, which brings me to the pages of the USPTO often to search for patent filings from the search engines, Google scholar for whitepapers from search engineers and the official blogs and research sites from Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo.

If I had to choose between those sources, I’d pick the patent office offerings every day.

Granted patents may have some age to them, but they can sometimes fill in details that have been guessed at, introduce new ideas that may not have surfaced but should have, and sometimes even introduce approaches that haven’t happened yet, but still may.

Published pending patents may offer insights into contemporary processes that are in use today, or tell us about areas of research that a search engine may have explored or might introduce in the future.

Both have the power to allow us to see through the eyes of search engineers, a perspective that can add to our knowledge and experience of optimizing pages and of marketing sites. We can learn from them some of the assumptions that search engines work with when considering search, searchers, and the Web.

 

You can begin with Chapter One of Critical Thinking for the Discerning SEO here.

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Doc Sheldon has worked in marketing since the 1980s and he's been writing professionally since the 1970s. He owned and published weekly and monthly newspapers and magazines during the ’80s, before becoming a business consultant and ultimately "retiring" in 2008. He began studying SEO in earnest in 2003, and now specializes in technical SEO. His passions are the development of the Semantic Web, trying to figure out what changes may be coming next from the search engines and eliminating misinformation.