I love SEO. Really! And the funny thing is that I probably would have never known what SEO is, if it wasn’t for the necessity to reinvent myself professionally few years ago,
SEO, the real SEO discipline, allows you to be creative, to experiment, to test, to discover new ways to promote an idea, a product, a service, a dream, online
SEO, especially from a couple of years so far, is pure Marketing on Steroids.
But… yes, but! Even if we love strongly what we do, there is always something that we hate about our profession.
I was wondering what very well-known and respected SEOs were “hating” about this discipline and why. The answers I received were really a window opened to a more general sense of uneasiness the SEO industry feels right now; and even though the dislikes differ from one interviewee to another, it is possible to find a fil rouge and a logic between all the answers.
Before let me say that “hate” is surely a strong word, but in this post it is used to express more a dislike than hatred, and so it must be understood when pronounced by the interviewees.
I love SEO but…
(Will Crichtlow – Founder and Chief Strategist at Distilled)
SEO: there are probably few acronyms that generate so much discussion.
We SEOs are the black sheep of the Online Marketing, the bad guys. We are not cool as the Social Media Marketers or fascinating as some Web Designers.
But, as Jessica Rabbit, we are bad because there are people who paint us bad (and uglier than Jessica, for sure).
This reputation is caused by two main reasons. The first one is misinformation.
What I hate about SEO often has little to do with SEO itself and more to do with people’s perceptions of what SEO is, or what it includes.
Every so often, someone will write about SEO as if it’s the cause of irrelevant search results, spam found in search results, poorly written or keyword stuffed pages that they come across on the Web, and more. Usually those people don’t know very much about SEO, and categorize SEOs as spammers and scammers, and unfortunately there are people spamming either intentionally or through ignorance on the Web who call themselves SEOs.
The Web is a great source of information and an equally rich source of misinformation about many topics, including SEO. I cringe sometimes when I read some things about SEO, even sometimes from people or organizations that most people would consider authoritative.
Bill Slawski (president and founder of SEO by the Sea)
A sentiment that is common to all the SEO industry, who knows that something has to be done.
The main (and maybe only) thing that bothers me about SEO is that unfortunately some people still understand SEO as spam, a set of tricks that are used to game search engines.
For some reason, even people that are supposed to have some Online Marketing knowledge sometimes have this perception, even if they are exposed to well-known SEOs, SEO resources and information about good practices.
This also causes more misunderstanding and manipulation of our profession… and for me it is really sad that is still viewed like this. We have to change this!
Aleyda Solis (SEO In-house at bodaclick.com)
This misunderstanding of what really SEO is causes that media talk about SEO only to denounce how bad SEO is.
The irony is that those same media comfy a lot in what SEO can offer them as visibility and conversion.
The lack of respect it receives in the press, particularly compared to Social Media Marketing (which send less traffic, far less conversions, yet receives 100X the coverage by mainstream, tech, startup and marketing sources).
Rand Fishkin (CEO and co-founder of SEOmoz)
A shame… But what or who is the cause of this misunderstanding of SEO?
I love SEO but… I hate snake oil businesses.
This is the second reason why SEO has a bad reputation among the people.
Most of all, I hate the reputation the industry has and the fact that a few bad apples can ruin a necessary and valuable marketing service with their behavior.
Samuel Crocker (SEO Associate Director at OMD)
Samuel hits one sensitive point. “Bad Apples”, snake oil businesses… or simply con men are surely the SEO profession cancer. Maybe our fault is to not be able to really denounce them and therefore to clean our reputation. Please note that I and the interviewees are not talking about White, Black or Grey Hat, but of scammers.
See what says Bill Slawski:
I hate seeing people selling SEO tools that do things like help you calculate the best keyword density for a particular webpage based upon the keyword densities of other pages that rank well for a particular query. That’s pure snake oil.
I hate seeing SEO firms publish codes of ethics that fail to include not doing harm to the general public, and yet market themselves as “ethical” because they’ve published their code of ethics.
I hate seeing people engaging in social media voting clubs, promising to retweet, digg, mix, plus, etc., each other’s content that often isn’t worth any of those actions.
or Richard Baxter
Hate is probably quite a strong word to use […] My “pet peeve” is unreliable service providers – agencies that have a template product.
Particularly on the link building side of things, there are still some major businesses out there built on the back of article syndication / distribution networks. We recently reviewed a major high street retailer who wanted to rank well in the footwear market. They had a huge budget and were spending large volumes of cash on an SEO business that were writing terrible article content and rewriting it through an article distribution network. Very disappointing to see.
Bad service providers (or service providers with a bad product) really tarnish our industry name.
Richard Baxter (Director and Founder at SEOgadget Ltd)
But there are also others actors in the SEO game – the Search Engines – who are not really SEO’s cup of tea when it comes to one thing: spam.
I love SEO but… hate few things about Google (and Bing)
I hate the inefficacy of spam reporting. I loathe spam loop holes not being closed down and being exploited for SERP contamination, when there is evidence to the domain holders – and I’m referring to major domains, including ones that rank in the 95+ domain authority scale – that their abject failure to police the loopholes is half the problem of the proliferation of search spam.
Paul Gailey (Online Marketing & Website Development Consultant at MurciaMarketing)
Rand Fishkin too pointed to the weakness of Search Engines in fighting link manipulation and spam.
Google + Bing’s continued weaknesses on the link manipulation and spam fronts. I think one of the big things keeping SEO from becoming a more serious process and a more authentic marketing practice is the relatively ease with which the link graph can be manipulated. This “easy win” even if it is short-term, makes many practitioners bias toward short-term tactics, hurting the industry’s perception, reputation and long-term results.
The “shroud of mystery” that Google (and, to a lesser, but still substantive extent, Bing) put around the SEO process and specific ranking metrics and functions. Google claims to love transparent and openness, but doesn’t embrace them in this key area of their business, and I believe that dichotomy is a mistake.
Maybe it is also this Search Engines’ attitude that possibly leads to the misconception of the nature of SEO.
Misconception that is surely the base of others not so lovely peculiarities of the SEO world.
I love SEO but… I hate folks who discuss everything about SEO
Seriously? I still have to test Kindergarten SEO tactics?
SEO has become the global warming of internet marketing. It’s obvious, it’s in front of your face, it’s supported by overwhelming evidence. But hey, we’ll still argue about it.
Ian Lurie (Owner at Portent Interactive)
and folks that have a myopic vision of SEO
As says Dr. Peter Meyers
I think what’s really starting to drive me crazy is the people who only see SEO as a means to an end.
They don’t rank, and you look at their site and all you can think is “Good – you don’t deserve to rank.”
They don’t offer anything of value, not even original content wrapped around someone else’s product.
Marketing is just a tool. It’s an amazing thing when you’re connecting people with what they want, but it can be a destructive evil when you’re just promoting your own agenda at everyone else’s expense.
Dr. Peter Meyers (President at User Effect)
And confirms Michelle Robbins
What I don’t like about SEO is that I see a lot of tunnel vision amongst the practitioners. Everyone gets so overly focused on Google’s algorithm, that they almost completely disregard how consumers actually use the web. And it’s not necessarily making the web a better place.
Michelle Robbins (Director of Technology at Third Door Media)
Duane Forrester, while agrees in disliking the conception some people have of SEO as a gaming-the-system job, opens a new front: the dramatic change that SEO is experimenting nowadays.
[I don’t like] that so many people think it’s about gaming the system or finding some back-door tactic to vault them up the results.
Truth is, it’s about quality content and a good user experience.
Bing responds to what users tell us about the results we show. Those signals are every bit as important as your typical links, titles, etc.
Heads out of the sand people – it’s a new day for SEO: user experience (UX), depth of content, content markup and search behavior signals are more important than ever before.
Duane Forrester (Bing Webmaster Tools Senior Product Manager)
Surely SEO is not anymore a mainly technical discipline. It is influenced by all the other online marketing disciplines, as it influences them at the same time. SEO is now a more integrated part of the Inbound Marketing philosophy.
But all these news can have an unpleasant side effect…
I love SEO but… I hate the SEO’s shiny objects syndrome.
…just watch all the discussion around social right now…I dunno about most other people but across 40 clients, when I look at our data, I will tell you that crappy directories and exact match domains are MUCH more important than social TODAY, and the hard part is we don’t know how long that will be the case, but I am watching clients who are doing amazing things socially outranked by those who are just loading up on bought links and directories. That’s what is killing me right now.
Wil Reynolds (Founder at Seer Interactive)
Or, simply, the new broadness of SEO can baffle also respected SEOs.
Danny Dover (Senior SEO Manager at AT&T Interactive)
Then, the new SEO we are living can have as a consequence the proliferation of people who claim themselves as SEOs, but never did an SEO experiment.
Maybe a solution exists
SEO is an art and a science, but the science hasn’t been well studied or investigated. Moz works hard to help make this better, but we’re only one organization and our mission is to create great software.
I wish there were more people with true data science and mathematics background working more on making the process of SEO transparent. We’ve seen a huge value in recruiting the mathematically and computer-science inclined to the problem, and I suspect others would, too.
Someone I know very well (or so I hope) has his own idea of what a solution could be:
It is my personal opinion that us SEOs many times tend to talk to our own circle only, forgetting that the real world, our clients, probably don’t understand a word of what we talk about. They know they have to act firmly in the Web Marketing competition, but they don’t know how to deal with all the big changes it suffers every day. Sometimes we don’t hear their preach: “Educate us”
As someone new to the world of SEO, I have already learned not to tell people what I do…and it frustrates me. SEO is taboo–just like online dating and the need to “lie” about how you met, I have this feeling to constantly avoid saying what I do for work.
I appreciate what all of you have done to pave the way for successful SEO and new conversations about what it entails, but unless we eliminate “black hat” SEOs, (and here’s where I turn into Deb Downer) those doing it wrong will continue to ruin it for the rest of us. It’s just like elementary school…the one kid continuously talking and breaking the rules causes the whole class to lose recess privileges. The only hope we have is to continue to have conversations about the right way to do things and put an end to those “black hat” ways…educating by example.
Thanks for this list of ethical, useful and well informed SEO’s!
The snake oil merchants are the worst culprits for destroying SEOs reputation. Over promising, under delivering ultimately leaving businesses wounded by the experience. The number of people who have had bad experiences with SEO oil sellers has vastly increased as salesmen believe they can land a client, them dry and move on to the next.
Bleed* them dry.
Nice compilation. I would love to add the cheap sellers who does nothing but change some meta descriptions to the sneaky oil salesmen list with the top rank assured service providers starting @ 99$
It’s good to know a lot of my frustrations are shared, especially with regard to snake oil and the fact that spam is still winning the day out there in the serps. The lack of a regulatory SEO body is a pretty crippling thing.
Great concept and great post…sorry I didn’t get around to my reply.
Much of my thoughts are echoed above, so that’s okay!
At the moment, and perhaps in relation to the above apology, what I hate most is the lack of time. This I think is an unoriginal feeling no doubt shared by those above and by so many more. Between managing a team and SEO operations to actual client work, the overlap of SEO & social, more connecting points within the client’s organization, and the need for even more data and deeper data to validate directions, it seems more so now than ever, that we are pulled so many directions.
Of course, this will only continue as more understand that SEO isn’t a standalone tactic, but a key part of a holistic marketing program and in many ways, is rather a marketing hub and conduit that helps connect all marketing efforts.
Oo, great idea for an article! You have some good quotes there. (Didn’t realise you have a blog… So you do have an abode aside from SEOMoz ^^)
Lol… yes I have a life (a full one) aside from SEOmoz.
Actually I have a blog in italian about SEO at ItaliaSEO.net .
This is my “adventure” in the English blogosphere.
I love SEO but I hate when they call it SEO Optimization and offer $10 for 10 9PR .edu backlinks.
I wrote something similar a while back: http://lineswritinglines.com/seo/top-10-silly-things-about-seo-13042011/
Nice post… quite funny and surely we all can recognize in many if not all of those 10 things you list.
I love the SEO but I hate it because (fortunately) is constantly changing! Good post! ^_^
Great post Gianluca.
It’s a strange mixture of relief and frustration to know that all of these incredibly talented and experience people have many of the same issues and concerns as me…
Just one more I’ll add.
I LOVE SEO, but hate the fact that every Job opening in the field these days seems to require a Computer Science Degree. It seems the focus is more and more Tech heavy, while experience and an affinity for the craft count for less and less. Of course that makes sense in companies whose aim is to develop the tools practitioners use, but it seems the general consensus these days is that you can’t do a hell of a job for your clients if you can’t build a tool for yourself.
It’s always a struggle to back up what we do, mainly because of general (unfounded) stereotypes. Developers think we’re snake oil salesmen and writers think we’re scammers.
I think we all owe SEOMOZ for fighting for us white hats..
Good job Gianluca.
I like what my job is, but hate those people who thinks that SEO is an easy job and doesn’t understand the importance of SEO for their business. I don’t consider myself as a guru but i am proud to say that i whatever i’ve learned and still learning is through seomoz. A legitimate community of real professionals helping to make search engines a better place.
I agree with Rand on this. Since Google offer so little transparency, it means people will try experiments with automating SEO to a large degree, and that will naturally end in spam. At the moment, the only way to find out if 10,000 crappy links have no value, is to try an experiment involving a lot of spammy tactics. The thing is, this still works. I really feel google should be concentrating more on the site itself, putting even more emphasis on very good links, to stop these terrible directories/link exchanges that offer users nothing.
A lot of heavy hitters represented here – love it 🙂