One show my wife and I used to be fanatics of was Cesar Millan’s “The Dog Whisperer”. In each episode a desperate dog owner would ask Millan to help with a beloved dog with a terrible behavioral problem.

The show would usually start with an introduction to the dog at its worst—tearing up furniture, biting people, attacking other dogs, etc. The dog owner would drag the dog kicking and screaming to Millan, and within a few seconds after meeting Millan he’d be calm and smiling. By the end of the 30-minute show, the dog and his owner would be smiling ear to ear and everything would be all fixed.

Cesar Millan gets a lot of flak, and I believe undeservedly so. Yes, his shows do tend to over-simplify things—after all, the producers have to make it entertaining and squeeze it within a 30-minute timeframe. But there is no questioning Millan’s success at what he does, and it comes down to a few things:

I rehabilitate dogs. I train people.

In my career as a consultant, an in-house SEO, a freelancer, and as my own Webmaster there are countless times I’ve been brought into a situation where a Web site has collapsed in SEO and no one has any idea why.

Most companies assume there’s something wrong with technical SEO. I’ve seen companies obsess to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars just to achieving “green” for all their Core Web Vitals and then scratch their heads as to why they’re still not #1 on Google for their target keywords.

The reality in the vast majority of cases it’s not the Web site that needs to be corrected, it’s the owners.

It becomes very obvious, by reading a dog, how stable or unstable his human companion is. Our dogs are our mirrors.

Look, I “get” why a lot of executive teams want to believe that technical SEO is at the root of all their problems and not anything else. For many of them, their SEO knowledge dates back to 2012, when most SEO problems could be fixed using technical SEO.

The reality these days is that Google is very forgiving of bad technical SEO. Let’s put it this way: if you have a site with terrible Core Web Vitals, no XML sitemaps, and incorrect canonical tags BUT you were a site that people trust and turn to, you are going to fare much better than a site with perfect technical SEO that no one cares about.

When you see companies big and small that are thriving in SEO, there is invariably one thing they all have in common. Their leadership team still “gets” its customers and they reward their employees for doing whatever it takes to understand their customers and make sure their needs are met.

When you see big companies that struggle in SEO, you can see the same patterns. They’re fixated on looking good for their investors or their shareholders. They look at their customers as walking ATMs to be drained dry and their employees as resources to cut in order to make their next quarter’s balance sheet look good. There is really no hope in SEO for companies with leaders like this.

As far as small businesses, poor SEO generally isn’t as much as reflection of them having lost touch with their customers as it is just not having enough hours in the day to attend to a Web site.

Change takes effort. And the reality is, most people don’t want to put in effort to better their life.

The irony, of course, is that the way for big companies to look good for their investors and shareholders is to understand their customers and make sure their needs are met. But that takes way too much time and effort. And let’s face it, most C-Suites know that they’re going to only be in their position for a few years, so their focus is going to be on making the next quarterly earnings report look good, and if they do long-term damage to their brand, that’ll be someone else’s problem.

For small companies, all too often I see them being served by SEO consultants that tell them the wrong thing, waste time on work that’s not really important, and charge monthly retainers for both.

The Google Whisperer

One of my favorite books when I was starting out building Web sites in the 1990s and early 2000s was a book called “Web Sites That Suck”. In it, the author picked a Web site with terrible design and critiqued the Web site.

I’m going to start a series of posts called “The Google Whisperer” where I’ll pick a site that is struggling in SEO and break down why it’s not doing well and tell you how I’d go about fixing it.

Here’s where I’ll pull the victims examples from:

  1. SEMRush’s Winners and Losers report. This provides an excellent monthly snapshot of the sites on the Web that have gained or lost the most search engine rankings. Here’s an example.

In this particular screenshot, you can see that the biggest loser in March 2024 was a site called I won’t even bother to break down why that site dropped 92% in organic search—just go there and you can see why for yourself. I’ll be focusing on some of the more well-known sites that fall in the top 1,000 or that have good name recognition.

2. SEO Job Listings. If a company is hiring an SEO person, there’s a good chance that this company is in a pretty bad spot SEO-wise. From time to time, I’ll choose a company advertising for an SEO on LinkedIn or and highlight their site. Bonus: if you’re looking to apply to an SEO job, you might be able to pick up some pointers in the process.

3. Your Business. Would you like a free SEO audit? All joking aside with my “victim” gag above, I’d be happy to give any business owner a free audit that would probably cost well over $1000 if you hired a consultant to do it, with the goal of helping your business succeed in SEO and helping others learn. If you’re feeling brave, contact me out the form on the home page and let me know that you’d like to be featured on The Google Whisperer.

You may also like

Leave a Comment