Hey I have an awesome idea. Let's take a field of business that many people work in to make a legitimate living, and tear it down for being immoral and accuse it of fraud. And when it comes to solving the actual problem that this business works on, apply a nice helping of sunshine-up-your-ass, and everything's just fine.
Better yet, let's do this every six to eight months, because collectively we have the attention span of a fruit fly.
Well, it's been a solid eight months, and somebody kicked the hornet's nest. Is SEO good or evil? It's good. It's great. I <3 SEO.
When you hire a legitimate white hat SEO, you are paying for domain knowledge. Is it better to use dashes or underscores to separate keywords in a URL? I know the answer, but I've spent some time researching SEO. If I were, say, an online publisher, it would be worth money to hire somebody who knows the answer to this question and a pop-quiz full of other questions that isn't in your average web developer's job description.
Every hit on SEO eventually ends with the same solution. "Just write good content or make a good web app, and the traffic will come." Oh really, it's just that simple, eh? How many unpublished novelists are there out there? How many film students whose reels go unwatched? Google is the greatest media distribution channel that there has ever been, and you expect people not to look for every advantage they can get?
Here's the failure with the "make a good app, people will come" argument. Let's say you are making an application whose target market is one person in ten. That's a respectably sized market. You tell your friends, your family, people you know through the internet. You write on your personal blog about it. Let's say you reach 1,000 people, generously. If your hit rate within that market is 50%, that's 50 people you've got who haven't immediately dumped your app. Do they care enough about it to do your marketing for you? With that small of a user base, you don't have statistically significant feedback to improve the site, you've got to gun it on intuition, which is frequently wrong.
So there you are, with your 50 users, and since you don't have to spend any time or money on distributing your app (remember these 50 people will do it for you), then you can continue to develop the app, making it "better", as you see it, in a vacuum.
And let's just count on those 50 people bringing in 10 million of their closest friends in the next month or so.
Hell no. This is the internet, son. Kill or be killed. If you can spend some money on a good SEO who will bring a steady flow of traffic to your site, then you have a way better chance than with that initial set of 50. With search engine traffic, even if you're only getting a handful of traffic every day, it's a different handful. If you have built something of value, some percentage of users will recognize this, and maybe tell a friend, maybe they'll come back to your site, and maybe they'll link to you, but you have a continuous stream of people to try it out on.
Obviously there are shysters in SEO. Going to an SEO who guarantees that you'll rank in the top 10 for mesothelioma is like taking your car to the dealership to get fixed. Of course you're going to get scammed. Buyer beware, and all that.
Anyway, keep debating on whether or not SEO is evil. The rest of us have to find ways to handle our traffic growth.