You know what? Fuck SEO.

You heard it right.  Fuck SEO all over the place.

I don’t like SEO anymore. “SEO” the term has been vilified and bludgeoned to death because of its constant redefinitions and wacko interpretations.  I’m constantly amazed  at some of the utter tripe I am exposed to in my daily internet meanderings, that I’m not surprised when so many of the general audience think that “SEO” is synonymous with sleaze and snake oil.  When SEO companies are marketing themselves as an ETHICAL firm, you know there is somebody pissing in the industry coca-cola.  Although there are fantastic internet marketing shops and experts out there, the rise in the dufus firms is frightening, if not downright dangerous for the site owners who parlay with them.

My gripe is not new and I am not the first person in the online field to rant about “the state of SEO.” or “SEO is dead.”  For the record, I don’t think that Search Engine Optimization is dead, in fact my business requires my understanding and implementation of it.  I’m a fan of search optimization.  But the “SEO” brand in and of itself is something I’m just not interested in anymore.  How can I care about an acronym that’s completely misused and misunderstood by people who are more interested in the “SEO fame game” than anything else?  In the interest of becoming famous, those partaking  will blog, speak and holler the most bombastically fruity information in their ever-expanding attempts at getting a landing on sphinn.  I’ve got some mad respect for badass Sugarrae, and on an interview on seobook, she hit the nail on the head.

SEO Bloggers are like reality TV stars… Most don’t have the talent, they just have the platform to pretend they do.

Kinda like, “I’m  not real SEO, I just play one on the internet.”

In a sense, I’m glad that more and more people understand and respect the need for a proper search optimization initiative, and that’s due to the awesome work  of some respected authorities in the field informing the rest of us on good practices.  However, the proliferation of get rich quick, adsense millions, easy money scams has enamored a set of misled individuals into believing that they are SEO super heroes.  It’s incredible to me that one can get a blog and a twitter account and suddenly brand themselves as  “expert” SEO and Social Media Consultants who wouldn’t know what qualified traffic is if it came and sat on their face and wiggled.  This flood of inaccuracy is part and parcel to my estrangement from the term.

A few weeks ago I read a post called “7 Red Flags that Reveal to Google You’re an SEO Criminal – Avoid These!“  Now, I think Gyutae Park is a competent search advocate, but this post in particular, in my opinion, completely misfires.  This conversation, in this framework, is all wrong, i.e., aligning search optimization with criminal behavior.

I’m sorry, but WTF?  Spamming the search engines is what one should avoid (unless you have ten thousand urls you can burn, but that’s another blog post).  In my opinion, the whole premise for this post is improper, let alone some of the points made.

While Google’s business is to return highly relevant search results that provide value to users, SEOs seek to reverse engineer the algorithm and manipulate rankings for their own gain.

Not a fair statement, and a little lacking in a correlation to facts.  Although Google indeed might be targeting seo’s, I would trust Michael Gray or Outspoken Media with any of my sites, and I know for a fact that they get awesome results for their clients.  These trusted experts are hired as advocates for websites where the owners know that they have what it takes to responsibly make the argument to the algorithm that their site is authoritative for a set of related keywords.   Or take this analogy, I wouldn’t even dare to go to court and represent myself, so I hire a good lawyer.  C’mon dude?!?  Link bait is one thing, but polluting the conversation is not right.  And there is more of this SEO criminality in the rest of the post, and the ensuing comments did not make matters any better.  When Todd Malicoat, another expert I’d trust with any site I own, makes the following comments on sphinn;

It’s discussions like this, why I decided it was probably best if I didn’t write things for the “seo community” much anymore.  Topics like this really make me want to rebrand “what I do”, even though I’ve always been PROUD to be an seo (little less so, when I read things like this).

I’ve got to agree.  It’s disheartening for this kind of karma to be out there.

A recent series of events has also attributed to my hatred of the term “SEO”.  I attended a local meet-up of search and internet people.  At first, I was really excited about hopefully meeting some interesting people and seeing who is out there in the Miami search and internet industry, and for the most part, it was cool.   Except that I had these two conversations that emphasized my belief that it is becoming too easy for a person to think they are an expert at Super Deluxe Super Hero Rockstar SEO.

In the first one, I meet a young and energetic dude who introduces himself to me enthusiastically to proclaim his prowess and seo stylings.  Telling me he’s been doing SEO for 5 years, he is really experienced at all this badass seo stuff and I should read his blogspot blog to see all the people he’s helped.

Blogspot blog, check.

The conversation turns to research and practices, wherein I mention a cool article by Danny Sullivan on Twitter and business cards.  The response.  “Who’s Danny Sullivan?’  Taking a step back so I could catch up with my shoes, I realize that it is entirely possible for someone to work in the search industry and NOT know who Danny Sullivan is, though if you are interested in expanding your skills past the sandbox, start knowing who he is ..now.  But to work in the search field, supposedly for five years, and not know who he just doesn’t make sense to me.

As a follow up, I also met up with another online expert, this time in website usability factors..  Again, as the conversation progressed, I found a blank stare for the words A/B testing, and an even blanker stare when I mentioned Kim Krause Berg, and a straight admission that she’s (NOT KIM KRAUSE BERG, the girl I was speaking too) never heard of eye tracking or heat map testing.  The usability expertise she proclaimed might actually be effective, but the value of it, in my eyes, went down.

Story time.  When I was a kid, about 14, I picked up the bass guitar.  I actually got pretty good; played in bands, jammed with some stars, got signed to a label on Tuesday, dropped the following Friday, all that stuff.  But when I had just picked up my bass, about a month later I knew who Stanley Clark, Bootsy Collins, Charles Mingus, and this up and coming badass Jaco Pastorius was.  I was intrigued with my instrument and the environment of it best practitioners.  This enthusiasm for the  professional bass – playing community was something I shared when I first started trying to get sites ranked, and I followed forums and articles.  My experience “coming up” was definitely during the internet wild west days,  when industry experts were first making names for themselves, but to be a professional in any industry and not know who the top players are just doesn’t imply validity to me.

Let’s put this out on the table; I don’t consider myself an seo expert, always more of a student and fan.  Search optimization is not something you learn in one sitting.  I’m learning something new everyday, and relearning something every other day.  I’ll even venture to bet that most of the seo rock-star set, those who earned their reputation from years of hard work, learn something new everyday as well.  Search is a shifting art form, with the rules being changed, sometimes on a daily basis.   But it seems that all of a  sudden, one wordpress installation makes someone the chief SEO bigshit at NASA.

And sometimes, people who should know better are the cause of the maligning of search.  I think these individuals have a perceived authority entitlement to either scream out their mistreatment at the hands of search suggestions (IMO because their intelligence suddenly ran out on them), or a whorish attempt to create link bait by outing a technique, pointing out a loophole beneficiary, or discussing in public that which is private.

Other times, it’s booger snot moves from the search engines themselves which makes a rumblepup do a double take.  The “nofollow” debate is over and Google does what it does because it can, and we deal with it and move on, but no one can tell me that the whole thing wasn’t an “Ahhh fuck this shit” situation.

So the acronym SEO has lost it’s luster for me.  I’ve had to correct so many completely backwards programs lately, that it’s no wonder those who need to hire a search advocate feel that the industry is full of badness and idiocy.  Adding in brand spanking new “social media tards”  who further muddy the conversation doesn’t help either.  There is a full, big picture here, that requires a conversation along all lines, search, social and offline, that’s not being heard.

The big picture is lost on some small eyes I guess.

36 Comments

  1. Nice article, sounds like something I’d write :)

    Although I couldn’t give a toss if someone had heard of Danny Sullivan or not. I’d rather they understood statistics and could tell me what hamming distance was.

    Reply
    • Although I couldn’t give a toss if someone had heard of Danny Sullivan or not. I’d rather they understood statistics and could tell me what hamming distance was.

      Like I said, it is entirely possible to not know who Danny Sullivan is, but after supposedly five years in the business, that name should have come up, no?

      Reply
      • Granted, though I don’t think this is the main thrust of your article and don’t want to distract from that… I think knowledge of your peers is a good thing – but all too often in SEO it leads to this bizarre sort of unquestioning fealty.

        Reply
        • Point taken, and I agree, and I’ll further add that sometimes this fealty might often lead to the problem. Centering on one point of view is never a good methodology.

          Reply
  2. I too don’t really care if someone is familiar with a particular expert in their field, as long as they are skilled and have a well rounded knowledge base that was acquired from a legitimate source. Many fields are just too big to know every expert in that field… whether SEO fits that description, I don’t know. And or course there’s the argument that many are too busy doing to be following.

    Reply
    • as long as they are skilled and have a well rounded knowledge base that was acquired from a legitimate source

      This makes the case for knowing who the players are in ANY field.

      I don’t think that SEO would fit your description, being an internet age, where information is readily available for those who look for it. This field is not something that exists in a vacuum, especially now that EVERYONE thinks they know everything about it. Someone who has a talent for understanding and implementing search engine optimization, and wants to increase that talent in order to market it, should for their own benefit and the benefit of their customers, WANT to know the environment of the industry, the best practices, the latest information, improvements or changes in how search engines work, etc. This kind of personal research, if taken seriously, would eventually lead to information on the players in the field.

      What if the story had a reference to Matt Cutts, or Vanessa Fox, or Aaron Wall, or WebMasterWorld, or Pubcon, or SES, or any high profile name or event or source of information in the industry or anybody else who is vocal or visible in the field. If you tell me that a person who has been doing search marketing for two years, I can understand not being exposed to these names, and would, in fact, be refreshed by it. But as I said, in an attempt to “be cool” and show off “mad seo skills”, hyperbole can lead to loss of validity.

      This is a potential for disaster for any professional in any field. Would you trust a plumber who has been in the field for 20 years and not know the brand Kohler? Conversely, if you don’t know the brand yourself, you would certainly trust a plumber more who would educate you on the pro’s and con’s of Kohler, or using copper vs nickel, or any other plumbing thingamabob he does, especially if I can then educate myself even more about this plumbing thingamabob he’s doing and know that yes, this plumber is doing a good job.

      Reply
  3. WoW! Kudos Robert…

    Since we talk all the time and share these opinion’s back and forth freely on the phone (figured I should put that out front) I have to say well done! I’ve been doing this “SEO thing” for a few / lot of yrs now… and nothing is more frustrating that running into the self proclaimed SEO Rockstar! Who’s just jumped on board and is spouting off on their blogspot.blog like Google doesn’t cache it :P

    When I first got started, granted this was more than 6mo’s ago, I quickly found out who the big players were and what they were doing. Some of them are some of my best friends today! This is a great industry but there is ONE major problem…. there is NO FRESHMAN HAZING! I don’t care what anyone thinks this is no different than a Frat house (in many respects) you have to pay your dues to the craft. And that does NOT MEAN signing up to a big forum w/ the user name SEOEXPERT in your username!

    Danny Sullivan? Isn’t he the Godfather of our profession? Bruce Clay? That’s like playing little league baseball and claiming to be a ‘pro’ when you don’t know who Mickey Mantle or Ty Cobb is… I know who Danny is, and I’m a big fan, not because he’s leaps and bounds above me… but because he’s earned his level of respect in the industry. http://tinyurl.com/lrpksz (Danny & I – yes I had to get a pic cause I was a fan!)

    Point being… the whole “seo expert” title has little to no validity – and those of us that have earned it don’t use it! For 9 yrs I never once called myself an SEO expert… although after a writer for inc500 magazine called me one I figured it’s ok to call myself one… no? eh? LOL… Who really cares, quite frankly, at the end of the day… you either know what the hell you’re doing or you don’t. But so you know… those of you that call yourselves ‘SEO experts’ and know diddly squat about the industry… knock it off will ya? PITA’s

    DB / @neoblog

    Reply
    • So what should the new Title be? Hmmm, Search Advocate is cool.

      Reply
      • “SEO Professional”

        “Internet Marketing Professional”
        (includes social media for those that actually had a prodigy, AOL or compuserve acct [on a modem])

        (we kinda have to force the issue a bit, ya think?)

        Reply
  4. Robert,
    You make good points, i think some of your examples do fall short..

    i’d agree, if you don’t know who @dannysullivan is your “search job” MUST be a part time thing.

    I think Bruce Clay might be for the old schoolers or the people that actually read about the history of SEO…

    Your blog topic was the reason i dropped out of the CNN, WSJ, WIred interviews back in 96ish..

    funny thing is.. the reason then? the squeaky wheel.. i.e. the noisiest SEO not always being the smartest, etc..

    Of course when an editor of Danny Sullivan’s Blog.. named Search Engine Land… posts an article with a title of..

    “SEO is complete bullshit and not worth the money”

    oops.. sorry.. it’s a boondoggle..

    f*** blogging, i’m just gonna twitter and do client work..

    i feel ya!

    Reply
    • Jill Whalen’s article did raise a few hackles to some online, but all in all, it’s a good thing to spark a debate. Although, yes, I’d agree, that blog post did seem to add to fodder.

      Reply
  5. Excellent post, particularly as you were able to work in Jaco Pastorius.

    I do think that if you’re in this industry, you should know who someone like Danny Sullivan is. As Eric indicated in his comment, you need to know who the players are in your field. If you don’t, to me that says you don’t read or pay attention to industry news, period.

    I’ve been fairly amazed by the number of clients who come to me and have been working with people that they’ll refer to as “an expert in the industry” when I’ve never heard of the firm/SEO, and no one I know has either. It’s even more amazing to learn about what these so-called experts have been doing and advising on, as it never tends to be anything that anyone with half a brain or an iota of knowledge about SEO would ever do.

    Reply
  6. I learn new shit all the time. SEO changes constantly.

    Reply
    • That’s what stays fun for me…LEARNING. Just when you think you know everything about a subject, out pops something that makes it all new again.

      Reply
  7. Great post, you have my full support with pretty much all of your comments.

    I have seen quite a few discussions on these line firing up over the past month (especially since the search patent on “detecting SEOs in forums” went out) and to be quite honest most of them are 100% bang on.

    Like you mentioned it is pretty much impossible to have a comprehensive knowledge of what goes on in this industry without at least running across Sullivan, even if you think he is a bad SEO/M (which he is not) you should know that he has been influential and more importantly, successful. It’s like saying you’re a historian but not knowing who Hitler is because you studied “the winning techniques”.

    The simple amount of blogs and forums filled with terrible, half baked advice is enough to put any prospective client off the industry and for each one of these there are 100-1000 “search marketers” doing everything but.

    Paisley’s comment above rings true a hell of a lot too, the “noisy” side of our industry is not, in general, the side people should be listening to and this rule is not just restricted to low profile SEOs.

    Reply
  8. I’ve noticed an increase in self publicising idiots calling themselves SEOs. And it kind of gets on my nerves. Even more troubling is the fact that most of the idiots call themselves “SEO Rockstars”. Where the hell did that come from and who came up with that stupid term? I’ve been to a few search conventions and I didn’t see any Keith Richards wannabes there. A few old folks and some geeks and some business people. I’m refering to myself as an Internet Marketing Consultant to differentiate myself. Anyone calling themselves an SEO Rockstar is an egotistical fool, that clearly should learn to drink copious amounts of JD and play a guitar instead.

    Reply
  9. Fuck! thats a hardcore emotional piece. I love the point you are making (well at least the point I am getting out of this post).

    Rockstardom is over rated, and I contsntly try and make a point of saying that. But you are 100% correct, you cannot be really in the SEO game without research and that research should have alerted you to the known people in the industry such as Danny, Rae, Rand, Michael, Jill, Jim and many others. Its like having a psychology degree without ever knowing who Freud was.

    Reply
    • …and it’s increasing exponentially, at least until some boiling point gets reached, which might hurt a lot of small businesses who fall into the “90 points of the algorithm” scam along the way. LOL. That one gets me every time.

      Reply
  10. Well put, well said, and just, well… fuck!

    It’s been almost two years now since felt my first tinge of embarrassment at hearing “Oh, you’re an SEO” with a negative connotation, when I met Scott Hanselman at a non-search industry related event.

    I was “embarrassed” because I instantly knew why he felt that way when he said it. i’m sure there are great lawyers, used car salesman and insurance agents out there that go through the same emotions, having to overcome the stigma that’s only getting worse. That’s probably why the term I prefer over “SEO” would be, “affiliate marketer”.

    Oh, and this?
    “I’m not real SEO, I just play one on the internet.”
    Priceless – ;)

    Reply
  11. Hey there,

    I picked up this post off the back of an Aaron Wall tweet. I almost want to hug you. SEO is one of many acronyms and labels of things I’ve been doing for years. However, I don’t want to label myself as anything and feel hard pressed to do so. I’m not an SEO expert. If people ask I asy I work in Internet marketing, but I *listen* and *read* on many topics including SEO and have done for years. Cream rises, and the Danny S., Rand F., Aaron W. and Matt C’s of our industry should be vernacular. Just as if you read a little more broadly other names should ring bells: Seth G. etc.

    I wonder if any of them would like to be labeled and “SEO”. Probably not – because it’s just a part of the overall skillset. We’re an industry in search of monikers and labels because we are shiny and new (and still strange to many).

    While SEO and PPC stuff make up the bread and butter of my work, my card reads “Internet marketing and strategy”. It suits for now.

    Great post. I love the passion. Keep it up.

    Reply
  12. Hmm… it does actually read fairly well, and there seem to be a number of respected people in the industry that seem to be following your logic around Rockstars and crash and burn. I know ive spoken with a number of educated developers/marketers in the past 2 years and there is certainly a split between who wants their face on billboards and those who want to refine and improve themselves.

    Its nice to have people know who you are, but as recent post I read pointed out it can also be important which social circles you are involved in. I know i have spoken with plenty of agencies who have no idea of who Bruce Clay is, or that companies like SEOmoz exist, if they dont do this 24/7 should they be punished. The same point goes when speaking with domainers or greyhat/blackhat most people in the industry wouldnt even know what they do and thats how they like it. But within the blackhat/domain industry they are seen as Gods, the online industry is sometimes too segmented with common spats between seo/sem on what is best.

    Im wondering about the whole end of the world if Google made it possible for everyone to do without SEO?

    Reply
  13. What’s the old addage? If you have to tell someone how good you are, then you aren’t. The longer I’m in this “SEO/Web/Marketing/Whatever you want to call it” game, the longer I realize it comes down to 1 thing, and 1 thing only. The success of the work for the client. Not any reputation I have with other “industry folks” rather the new business I’m able to help others achieve by working on their site and marketing.

    I’ve yet to run into 2 clients with the exact same needs. 2 clients that I could write up the same action plan for. And this might be why folks are trying to say “SEO is Dead” or “a boondoggle”. The web is an evolving industry, and at the end of the day, I’m about my clients success.

    Reply
  14. Nice one rumblepup. Couldn’t agree more with this POV.

    Reply
  15. Impressive. Found this via FriendFeed Best of the Day. Articles like this come out every so often but this one hits the nail on the head, and I appreciate the details of the “SEO Experts” you met. Puhleaze. I’ve always felt that to be an expert means that others call you that, not that you call yourself one.

    Reply
  16. Search advocate is a great term – since it’s been my experience that advocating, educating and managing expectations have made up 20% of my job, learning makes up 35%, and 45% of my effort is in implementation and reporting. For those of you keeping track at home, that leaves 0% for egotistical self-aggrandizement.

    Reply
  17. couldn’t agree more. this is why I stopped doing the shows and all the other b.s. back in the day — suddenly all around me were Noobstars and they were getting lots of credit for nothing but rehashing SEO basics (or worse).

    so I bailed. now some of them are big in the SEO space and I’m pretty much unknown. today’s Noobstars would die at the thought of being unknown, but what the hell does that have to do with SEO?

    If you are any good at SEO you don’t need to be known.

    Reply
  18. You are my new hero for posting this! I have been feeling this way for quite some time and it is very irritating. Unfortunately, many in the proclaimed “SEO” industry will read this more as a collequiem than for what it is worth: raising awareness about the posers. I am not an SEO expert, I do use SEO and implement what I do know as apart of my internet marketing and consulting. I have been in this game now for 12 years now and I can’t believe some of the guys who have stepped into the lime light with barely any experience in the field. There are guys at SEO conventions speaking on SEO, SEM, SMM, SMO, SERP, and its like you said, I want to hear something new. They want to talk terms that are cliche. I think I saw the demise of SEO last year when the supply spiked. The problem with SEO is there are too many calling themselves guru’s and they simply do not have the experience or the education, if any at all. I know one guy who I just found out was in the industry, a former teacher, started a website 2 YEARS AGO, and in an attempt to optimize his own website (failed miserabley) hooked up with a guy in the industry and now speaks at SEO conventions. REDICULOUS! My degree is in organizational innovation and internet marketing. I actually went to school to learn about what SEO is and let me tell others who are trying to fake it, SEO was a term we learned not an industry. SEO was right next to the word spamdexing and black hat. What do you think is going to happen when Google changes their search terms? Great post! Sorry posers stepped in on your pride!

    Reply
  19. Impressive, I’ve been thinking about that linked to the SEO post goes under in 2009 that you also linked to.
    I 100% agree that a lot of new comers, especially with the down economy in the US, we are seing SEO BS all over the place, more often than not overused. The only good point of that is because of all of the noise around SEO, lots of business now say “oh and gimme me some of this SEO too”… but a vast majority of those clients aren’t that good (profitable) and need to be educated anyway.
    great blog post :)

    Reply
  20. Wait. What? Who said I never heard of heat maps and eye tracking? WTF?

    A little fact checking please? I don’t conduct them. I don’t put much stock in them. But not having heard of them?

    Reply
    • Kim, just want to make sure you got the gist of what I was saying. The person I was speaking to proclaimed to be a usability expert, but did not know the basic names in the industry, most notably yours, nor did she know what A/B testing, eye tracking, or heat mapping was. I know that YOU know what those methodologies are. It’s that she didn’t know, yet is touting herself as an expert in a field where your name, and these methodologies, are a topic of everyday conversation.

      All good?

      Reply
      • Just a little note here, when I read it – I took it as you saying Kim didn’t know what the heat maps were. Probably just needs to be clarified. :) Glad to see you pointed it out here in the comments… was gonna say, Kim knows this shit! :)

        Reply
        • Whoopsee. rumblepup will fix.

          Reply
  21. We’re good! Smack me for reading it too fast :)

    Reply
  22. From one Robert to another and from one Assistant Search Service :) provider to another – I’d be interested in seeing a follow-up to this article. Have you read Google’s updated SEO Guide?

    Reply
  23. This blog post goes down in history for being the most epic thing I’ve read in a long while.

    Thank you.

    Reply

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