Three Lessons From the Crash of Iceland That You Can Apply—Today—to SEO.

flickr_user_traitlinburkeWe’ve all heard about what happened in Iceland. It’s been written about everywhere, and is being held up worldwide as a kind of microcosmic case study on what a country shouldn’t have done when entering the high-stakes world banking system.

Lots of people are busy extracting their own little lessons out of Iceland, so I’m going to go ahead and do the same, and tell you that Iceland can teach us three fundamental lessons about SEO. And they’re good, interesting lessons to boot.

#1: Don’t Use Non-Experts.

The first thing Iceland did wrong was use non-experts. The people who were responsible for running their banks were simply not smart or trained enough to engage with the insane complications of international financial engineering. And yet they went ahead and did it anyway.

flickr_user_de-veIf guys from a tiny island that’s only existed as a country for the last 50 years suddenly felt confident enough to start purchasing football teams and foreign banks, can you imagine the number of shifty-but-overconfident SEO companies out there, thinking they can make a quick buck in this still-wild-west world of the internet?

So beware. If an entire country can succumb to a kind of collective hysteria driven by people who really don’t know what they’re doing, what’s to stop any number of incompetent amateurs from getting into the make-money-from-nothing SEO game?

#2: You Can’t Make Money From Nothing.

Speaking of which, that brings us to our next crucial part: Iceland was making money from nothing. The lack of serious oversight and the complexity of the financial transactions meant that Iceland was constantly borrowing against its own currency, inflating it, and then reaping the profits.

But there was a big problem with all of this: most of these riches were coming from nothing. They were the ultimate bubble. So when the crisis hit and Iceland’s currency was suddenly devalued, they were left with huge foreign debt and no real way to pay it off.

flickr_user_gudmundaThe same goes for ‘black hat’ SEO companies. We all know what happened to those Icelandic profits—they disappeared in a few weeks. Pay an SEO that sets up an artificial traffic network that Google suddenly cuts off with a simple change to its code, and your ‘profits’ and ‘traffic’ have disappeared overnight, too.

#3: Not Everyone Can Do Everything.

Finally, there’ s the fact that most of Iceland’s banker kings were former fishermen. Pure old school. Nothing wrong with being a fisherman, except that it sometimes means you aren’t the best person for a new, difficult job.

Same goes for SEO: that old-school ad agency desperately trying to re-brand themselves an SEO company might not be the best company for the job. You might like and trust them, but do they really know the new market? Have they done the research, and can they give you the analysis down to the last detail?

Don’t Force Yourself to Ask for a Bailout.

There’s nothing like a huge financial crisis to bring into sharp relief some fundamentally unsound practices that we should all avoid, no matter what context we’re working in.

Online marketing is growing and expanding at a rapid pace. But it doesn’t mean you need to throw your ethics to the wind and jump on-board, whatever the consequences. You might gain some short term cash (or notoriety) at the beginning, but take Iceland’s lesson to heart: there is no substitute for real, hard work. Don’t wake up one morning and realize this painful lesson is still ahead of you: use Iceland as an example, don’t get ahead of yourself, and stick with integrity.

(photos from flickr users traitlinburke, gudmunda, and de-ve. Used under a creative commons license.)

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