The arrogance of SEOs

The arrogance of SEOs

I am an SEO, I am not some illiterate pseudo marketer who talks about SEO, usually for declaring its death. I am an SEO but I can’t stand many things many SEOs usually do and think.

This is not a Black Hat vs. White Hat post. It is about something more serious, which – resumed in one phrase – is:

SEO is not the f$%&·$ng center of the Universe!

I think that SEOs unconsciously have a serious sense of inferiority problem.

Let’s be honest, SEOs never were really good in promoting themselves, and after almost 20 years the profession has been invented, still it has not been able to obtain a real recognition as other Marketing disciplines.

Somehow, it is the “nerd” brother sitting at the table of Internet Marketing. Everybody knows it exists, everybody knows it is important, but then none takes it into consideration when important decision must be taken.

I know, I know it well: there have been and there are still so many pseudo-SEOs in our “guild”, who were able to pollute the idea itself of what SEOs is and helped generating the concept of SEO as a snake oil invention. But that justification it is not enough for me. More over, I consider it an excuse in order to self-defend ourselves: Nobody understands me, I am not bad, it’s that they paint me so.

What if we have our dose of fault?

First of all, SEOs are an endogamic group.

Leonardo Da Vinci Last Supper

They talk with other SEOs, share only things done by other SEOs, clap their hands only to successful SEO’s case histories, seriously believe all marketing is what they do, and if someone tries to talk to them about something that even slightly is about something else, their first reaction is:

Is that actionable? How can I use it for my SEO advantage?

I cannot deny that it is a normal reaction, but at the same time it seems quite myopic to me. A better reaction should be:

Great, now I can understand what a content/social/email/CRO/online marketer does and want to achieve, and now I can help him with my own perspective. 

Just look at the SEO category at and then check the quantity of submissions in the other categories.

Or check the difference in social visibility of Search Engine Land and Marketing Land.

Open you perspectives. Be humble and learn from other discipline’s experts. Learn marketing, learn how really business companies works, and learn from the hatred Media Companies, because SEO is still a kid, who just ended to brilliantly attend Primary School confronted to other disciplines. Or do you think that the concept of Persona has been invented by an SEO, or that we are the first taking advantage from neuroscience and psychology in our campaigns?

Second: SEOs tend to think that they do everything, and that all other marketers are should simply execute what they – the SEOs – plan.

How many SEOs metaphorically see themselves

Marketing, not for that they have become Social Media Marketers and Content Marketers.

SEOs are at the same level of a Community Manager and of a Content Specialist in a ideal Internet Marketing organization chart. They cooperate with the others, don’t command them.

And if an SEO is really guiding the overall web marketing strategy of a business company, than he is not just an SEO anymore, he is something more: an inbound marketer – if you want to call it so – or an Internet Marketing manager/consultant or even a CMO.

On the contrary, we will see poor Social Media (give me all the Likes) and a Content Strategy that will be governed by the need of links and more links.

Third: SEOs love to cross gender so much that they forget who they really are. Well, obviously it’s a metaphor.

Are you a chameleon or an SEO?

Social Media signals are the (supposed) new ranking Grail? We are the masters of all the networks.

Content is King? None creates better content than us.

Ah! How many “Inbound Marketers” I see who simply are SEOs who have changed their job description on Twitter and LinkedIn, but who have understood an heck of what Inbound Marketing really means.

SEOs, and I am an SEO, should learn what humbleness means.

They are great, they have a powerful knowledge of how Internet Marketing works, they have such a wonderful consciousness of what does really means data driven marketing and the technical skills to optimize things, but they are not what determines the success of a business marketing.

To be humble for me means that an SEO is ready to listen to his client and is ready to put himself apart if something can be better promoted using another marketing channel, being at the same time ready to offer his own perspective and so giving the opportunity to obtain an even greater success.

For example, a campaign has more opportunities to succeed using Pinterest? An SEOs won’t tell a Social Media Specialist how to create a community in Pinterest, that would sound arrogant, but would help optimizing the dashboard and pins for the internal search on Pinterest and for a more visible presence of the dashboard themselves in the search engine, and the web site for a better Pinterest sharing, In that sense, an SEO would contribute doing SEOcial, not mimicking the Social Media Expert.

If business companies don’t treat us as we  – with all the reasons – think we deserve, if mass media never talk about our industry, if not for declaring us dead, even when SEO is at the base of their most consistent revenues, and if people never understood in 20 years what SEO is, the fault must be also ours.



  • Steve

    August 26, 2013 at 8:06 am Reply

    Interesting post, Gianluca. I’ll be honest – when I first started in SEO, I was the kid who thought “why bother doing anything other than SEO?” although I’d put it down to naïvety more than arrogance. I finally ‘woke up’ when I worked at (a big insurance comparison site here in the UK) and saw how SEO could correspond with the less likely suspects – e.g. I knew how SEO could tie-in with PR and content, but didn’t consider TV/radio advertising. I had that epiphany when I realised that TV/radio would get people thinking about the brand, and then when they did a search for “car insurance”, they would remember the other advertising that they saw/heard and it would play into their decision on who to choose…

    Also, ironically, I tried sharing this on in the SEO category (I thought it’d make for a good discussion) but for some reason it wouldn’t let me… :-/ I’ll confer with Ed! 🙂

  • Vinoth Shankaran

    August 26, 2013 at 12:10 pm Reply

    Its a very interesting post. But the contrast and font size hurts my eye. I had to push this to pocket and read.

    • Gianluca Fiorelli

      August 26, 2013 at 3:51 pm Reply

      Ah! Will change that soon 🙂

    • Arvin Buising

      August 27, 2013 at 3:44 am Reply

      I was going to say that too but you beat me to it.

  • HilarityEnsues

    August 26, 2013 at 8:14 pm Reply

    I generally really appreciate your work, Gianluca, but this whole rant is wrongly blaming the community for following the thought leaders. For years now the big names in the industry have been shouting about how SEOs can’t just be SEOs anymore. How you have to be multidisciplinary and cross-functional, how you need to learn social media, content marketing and strategy, UX, design, HTML/CSS, Javascript, IA, and so forth. Most presentations which pitch thinking beyond SEO tactics, let’s call it Inbound Marketing for convenience sake, are directing it at SEOs. They’re telling them they need to change. They’re telling them they need to step up or get left behind. Can you really blame them for trying?

    If the issue here is that some SEOs learn a little bit of these different fields and then think they’re a subject matter expert then point taken. But that isn’t a unique problem to our industry.

    I sincerely appreciate the idea of humility, or at the very minimum maintaining perspective on your role, but I think this post is misguided. You could just as easily write this for developers who read a couple posts and think they know SEO or social media specialists who read Kristina Halvorson and think they’re experts in content strategy.

    • Gianluca Fiorelli

      August 26, 2013 at 8:35 pm Reply


      And thanks for stopping by and commenting.

      And I am sorry, because your comment is making me think that I was not able to explain what I really wanted to express.

      I am not blaming against the community for following the thought leaders. Who am I to say that? I follow them too, chat with them and exchange ideas with every SEOs I know and with who I don’t know personally.
      What I was trying to say is completely different. It was: don’t limit yourself into following only SEOs for great they are, into discussing only with other SEOs for brilliant they are or to study only SEO case histories, for amazing they are. Exactly because SEO has evolved, if we need to learn more about those internet marketing disciplines we deal with more and more every day, then we should follow and learn from those disciplines’ experts, not from an SEO. For instance, if you want to learn the art of blogging, then follow Copyblogger. Or if you are interested in Content Strategy, then follow Shane Snow of Contently, and so on.

      On the other hand, I am all for Inbound Marketing – I talk about it since so many years publicly – and I do all I can for pushing SEOs in that direction. It’s for that same reason that I am scared from the attitude many SEOs (not all, many) have of been talking just with other SEOs. Inbound Marketing is the fruit of the sympathetic collaboration of more disciplines for achieving one common goal, not the evolution just of SEO. If I was a Social Media Specialist I would say the same to Social Media professionals 🙂

      Finally, as I try to be balanced, and even if I wrote posts against those that pretend declaring the death of SEOs, I am one who think that – except few cases – faults are not only on one side. My post, in that sense, was aiming to make SEOs reflect on what they are possibly doing wrong because, as I wrote at the end, if the consideration people have of our profession is generally not that big, maybe we have some fault.

  • Bharati Ahuja

    August 27, 2013 at 5:37 am Reply

    A good post indeed. As an SEO myself I am a very firm believer of the fact that SEO and Inbound Marketing are two terms having their own unique identity and meaning.

    Amateur SEOs or SEOs who are not sure about what their work profile is make statements like Link Building is SEO, Content Marketing is the new SEO or Social Media signals are the (supposed) new ranking Grail.

    The SEO industry will get its true identity and respect only when we SEOs can project our right work profile to the clients.

    Website owners made a similar mistake in the past when they focused only on the no. Of keywords on the page, the quantity of links they were getting from various sites to “take care of their SEO.” It took Google’s Penguin update to jolt them and remove that misconception.

    Link building was never SEO, Content Marketing is also not the new SEO and the same applies for social media signals.

    Content marketing may not be the SEO but implementing Authorship markup and explaining about the Authorship markup to the client is a part of the SEO deliverables.

    Similarly, direct involvement with social media strategies may not be included in the SEOs deliverables list but implementing Twitter Cards, Open Graph and explaining the benefits of social media sharing and explaining the difference between social media marketing and social media optimization from the SEO perspective surely is.

    SEO is a branch of marketing, but yet it is unique in its own way and beyond marketing when it comes to technical aspects. SEO also has many other objectives and long-term effects and benefits .

    As a matter of fact SEO has to be ingrained in each and every online marketing strategy to make it more long lasting and have a long term search engine impact else it will be short lived and will last only till the online marketing campaign is active and will not have any recall value once the campaign is discontinued.

    SEO can be co related to the string which holds all the beads in the necklace. Social media, content, links, etc. are the beads but they can be held all together to form the whole necklace only if the string is strong and is in the background passing through each bead to make it functional and look beautiful.

    Good SEO contributes to the larger objectives of the web eco system. The search and web ecosystem revolve around the people who publish content, people who index content and people who search for content. We all who use the internet fall in atleast one of the categories and we can in our own little way help the web by focusing on what way we can contribute to the web.

    An SEO I think helps in publishing content, also helps the indexing of content for the search engines by the technical SEO efforts and also helps the search engine users get more varied and quality results by optimizing sites.

    Aspects Of The Website SEOs Cater To, Which Help The Web Eco System And The Website Owners:

    1) Content: SEOs work on the 401 pages and also keep sending requests to delete unwanted pages from the index.Removing unwanted and outdated content from the site and from the index of the search engines surely hepls in reducing the content clutter on the search engine servers and thus helps the search engines indirectly to maintain the quality of search results.

    2) Error Free HTML Code: We are all aware of the W3C compliance but many times don’t pay much heed to it as the search engines have not made it as a compulsory ranking factor. But if the HTML is worked upon keeping in mind the W3C compliance and the HTML is error free though it may not have any direct benefit on the website but will surely help the web have error free HTML on the web servers which in the long run can help the search engines in many ways.

    3) Setting Proper 301 Redirects And Cannonical Tags : By using the 301s and canonical tags efficiently helps the SEO of the site but also again helps in reducing the duplication of indexing by the search engines thereby again contributing to the quality of the search results and also reduces content clutter on the web servers.

    4) Follow Search Engine Guidelines: Search engines always offer webmaster guidelines and tools so that they can guide the webmasters and these guidelines when followed by SEOs helps the search engines with their algorithms as it helps them to index and rank websites better.

    5) Educate The Client About ‘What Is SEO”: Many times the SEO company works hard and gets the high quality rankings, visibility and web presence for the client but at times due to some differences the client may discontinue with a certain SEO company and appoint another one and thereby the previous work done may get affected adversely but the client may not be aware of this at all as he has no clue about what genuine SEO is all about. Hence, it is necessary to have discussions with the client time and again to inform him about the SEO changes made and also about how SEO is making his digital asset (The website in this case) more valuable day by day.

    I have just mentioned a few SEO practices above but if you check on every ranking factor you use for SEO it will have a larger and broader purpose for the web ecosystem as a whole and the search engines individually rather than only giving you the desired search presence if implemented.

    The algorithms built are not built in a vacuum or as a result of someone’s imagination but by working on what would be the best practices based on past experience , research and detailed study of human behavior and indexing bottle necks so that quality results can be churned out for the searchers and genuine SEO contributes to all this on a very large scale.

    • Bhagath Guru

      September 30, 2014 at 5:15 am Reply

      Well, that was exactly like my 10th grade English teacher (Yes, I deeply respect her). But the problem is one cant really educate their clients. And as for as following guidelines, well people call it improvising.

  • […] The arrogance of SEOs ( […]

  • Lyndon Antcliff

    August 27, 2013 at 11:28 pm Reply

    I like this bit best.

    “Ah! How many “Inbound Marketers” I see who simply are SEOs who have changed their job description on Twitter and LinkedIn”

    Personally I don’t describe myself as an SEO, but as a writer who knows SEO. Although it does depend on who I am talking to.

  • Manu Medina

    January 9, 2014 at 5:30 pm Reply

    I do SEO in Spain and I have know you from moz blog. It’s a pleasure to have an Internacional SEO like you in Spain!!!

  • Andre Buxey

    January 15, 2014 at 1:03 pm Reply

    I just came across this post through MOZ and i couldn’t agree more with your sentiments. I prefer to call myself an “T-shaped” marketer with a firm understanding on SEO

  • Eugenio

    March 5, 2014 at 12:07 am Reply

    You maybe did not see clearly enough that the adjective you used in your title may refer also to some people to which you gave your avatar for the ‘chi siamo’ page .. great thoughts anyway, thanks for sharing..

  • Simon

    July 21, 2014 at 10:15 pm Reply

    Rather than think in terms of center of the world, I prefer the term foundation. After all, what’s the point in engaging in SMM or other SEM techniques if your website takes 18 seconds to load, or your web page is considered spammy by Google?

  • Famastudio

    September 20, 2014 at 7:14 pm Reply

    There are also some rude on the forums of Google, humility before doing anything, SEO, actor, singer, thief, engineer, doctor etc. …. etc…. Great post.

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