If your read much in the technology space, you've probably read something from John Dvorak. He's a well known columnist that writes for publications like PC magazine, and his latest effort takes aim at SEO, calling its proponents the modern day equivalent of "snake oil saleman."
I'm going to take the high road, and not point out that PCMag uses those incredibly annoying tags over common words (screwing up the elegance of his column), but his main beef is he took his Wordpress blog and converted it from the short form, using numbers to denote entries, to the long form, which uses words in the title url.
Traffic fell on his site from 1.2 million to 900,000 pageviews that month, and it took him several months to recover. He thus concludes that long url's are a scam. He also tags his pages, and doesn't see a rise in traffic, and concludes tags are a scam.
I'm not an SEO expert. I get pretty good results without the help of PC magazine sending traffic my way, but no one is paying me $200,000 a quarter to drive traffic. I know people like that, and they're worth every penny. I also know people who charge $100, $1000, and everywhere in between, and they get some different results. There are a lot of snake oil salesman in the business; some liars, some underinformed, and some 5 years behind the times, but there also earnest practitioners who can improve your website traffic results. In the case of John Dvorak, this column turns out be complete and utter foolishness. It's not nice to call out people, but Dvorak just misses the boat and makes a complete fool of himself.
John. You altered the architecture of your site. Anytime you alter the architecture of your site in a wholesale manner, you're going to affect your site traffic. You basically removed hundreds of pages (maybe thousands) that had been indexed, and replaced them with new pages. What did you think was going to happen? All major site changes have effects on your traffic. It happens. The question is the long term viability of your site, and url architecture with keywords in the title is more efficient than a series of numbers. Are long url's some kind of panacea? No! But url architecture is an important component. Your developer friend may have inside knowledge, but she gets it from Google, who is engaged in an ongoing information war to prevent SEO consultants from gaming their system. Using that information as the basis of your column was journalistic malpractice, and let me tell you - 90% of developers have a blind spot when it comes to SEO. They write compliant code that can be indexed, but don't understand how to write pages that have an impact on conversion and traffic. And by the way, you're using Wordpress. A free software. You're not even building your own site!
Your trick wasn't going to magically solve your problem, but the long form url had its uses for some time, and unless Google has made major changes, it still has an effect. Of course, Wordpress and Typepad represent large numbers of sites pumping out a lot of webpages. If they all do it, the use of long url's loses it's relevancy, and has to be changed to something else. Much like the use of metatags, the "power" of the longform url may have dropped - but to suggest that it is some kind of scam shows a lack of knowledge on the topic and a cringe-worthy column that should be followed with an apology.
You want to write a column? How about a column talking about the number of business owners and website operators that live in a fantasy world where free SEO advice will make them millions and bring in free traffic?
As for tags? Again, you're missing the point. Yes, tags can be misused, but there are uses. Do a scan of links to your site and you'll find remote tagging creates a series of backlinks that matter to some search engines and not to others. They also provide a quick scan visual clue as to what you're talking about. If you're not getting results, maybe it's you're not tagging correctly, or expecting too much for too little?
SEO is about a strategy, not a gimmick. Yes there are a lot of bad actors, but your column does nothing to help that. You've just spread inaccurate fearmongering because you made a rookie mistake. Yes, an apology is in order.