Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Are SEOs blind to the harm they do themselves?

At SMX London I was – perhaps – a little bit too harsh on the state of link development. I accused the SEO community of so much poor quality that they’d forced Google to push the bar so very high. High enough, in fact, that many traditional link techniques didn’t work anymore.

I have an even bigger concern. I worry about the status of the SEO industry as a whole. I believe we are being eaten away from the inside. SEOs are harming SEO. It isn’t just the cowboys – there are still many – at fault, but also well intended but unperceptive SEOs.

Back in July, over on David Naylor’s blog, Paul Carpenter asked Why Are SEOs hated? He raised many interesting points and he certainly meant well.

I just had to chip in. Paul had noted that some SEOs – attempting to run from the shame of the industry – and started to suggest that;

“SEO is just a branch of marketing or some such bullshit”


I disagreed. SEO is a branch of marketing. I don’t try and tell friends I’m a programmer. I tell them I’m in marketing. They might look at me in a puzzled way and wonder why the geek thinks he is in marketing but the work I do for clients is marketing.

SEOs need to accept that they’re not special. We work in marketing.

But wait; I’m also the first one to admit that most of the old school marketing sucks. They’re the enemy. They’re the idiots who still don’t understand the web. Don’t have a Twitter account. Don’t grapple with ROI. I could go on.

My point – just to be clear – is that SEO is marketing.

It was actually a comment to Paul’s post that worried me the most. Someone – again, well intended – said this;

It’s similar to sheep and sheepdogs, the sheep don’t like us until they need us.


My gwad. No. Our clients are not brainless flocking creatures. Clients have brains. They might not be SEO experts but they’re not fools. Don’t treat them like such.

My response to Paul was to point out that SEOs are hated because we’ve had a history of snake oil sales that we’ve never attempted to rise up from.

For example; when was the last time you heard of a search agency being thrown out of SEMPO for breaking Google’s guidelines and buying links?

If a plumber used a technique that was blacklisted by the local trading practise board then they’d face the enmity of other plumbers. It’s a simple and common sense issue in my mind. I don’t see why SEOs don’t act like this.

Today’s post is inspired by an observation from The Next Corner.

Dennis, very rightly, lays into a voucher code affiliate site that’s trying to make some gain out of the terrible disaster in Pakistan. The company in question has an info-graphic on the disaster (though I wonder if it was ‘borrowed’ from somewhere) which is combined with an SEO attempt to gain links. The embed code provided for people to re-use the info-graphic is rich with text links and is cheeky enough to put a nofollow on the only link back to the charity.

Are we horrified at this attempt at SEO?

Not quite. The title suggests the info-graphic is to blame!

The headline isn’t the attempt to profit off death. The headline isn’t the appalling unpleasant SEO approach on the back of human tragedy. No, the headline speculates on the end of the info-graphic.

Gah. I can see how this might have happened. Dennis had the info-graphic in mind as he started to write the post. He might have initially wondered why a voucher code site was writing about Pakistan at all. However, I feel, the dirt he’s dug up can be planted, fair and square, on the boots of the type of SEO that encourages the world to hate SEOs.

It won’t be easy but I really do think we need to start protecting the industry’s reputation.

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