The SEO Industry needs to grow a pair

The buzz continues to swirl throughout the search industry since the JCPenney nonsense, and on the heels of that maelstrom, the Forbes penalty for selling links, and then most recently, Overstock was nailed.

This week Lisa Barone added her take on the topic – approaching it by providing tips for finding a legitimate SEO.   Dave Harry let it be known that he’d been contacted by THE WSJ on the Overstock issue in light of that site being slapped in the SERPs.  Dave did a good job pointing out what might be a partial cause to the big O’s subsequent deflation.

Then yesterday, a discussion thread was started over on Sphinn entitled “Is it possible for us to educate the media about SEO?

The Fraternity Mentality

Finally, today, I awoke to read an article by Dave over at my beloved Search Engine Journal entitled “Would You Report A Competitor To Google?“.

In that article, he examines both sides of the issue – do or don’t…  And brings up the “Fight Club” case:

The first school we are going to look at is; Fight Club. And the first rule of fight club? (all together now) Don’t talk about fight club. These folks believe that SEOs are a fraternity and while we may disagree at times, we should never ‘rat’ each other out to ‘the man’.

He goes on to point out that using such language is troubling because of the tone it sets, and the article is balanced without getting too far into one camp or another.  Then he leaves it to comments from readers.  And this is where my head nearly exploded.
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Reverse Psychology Nonsense
Tim Biden stated in his comment:
I have to look at the outing other SEOs as a double edged sword. While it may help you or your clients to achieve a higher ranking, it’s also doing a disservice to the reputation of SEOs everywhere. Many people already think of us as slimy cheaters so why we need to add to that reputation? For a better ranking? To look better to our employers or clients?

OMG outing your competitors is doing a disservice to the industry?

Wake Up Suzy, Wake Up

Hell yeah, I report abuse within our industry.  I do so rarely, and only when something is, in my own opinion, severe and egregious.  I don’t, counter to Tim’s belief system, do so for better ranking, or to look better to my clients or anyone.  I do so because I choose to want to contribute to the betterment of our industry.

Self Police Or Government Regulation – You Choose

Michelle Robbins pointed out in the Sphinn discussion that:

there’s a whole lot of shady going on in SEO and we all know it.  Just like in every other industry. And the industries that fare the best are those that self-police.  This business is not unlike the advertising industry pre-regulation.  Key to note there is that they are a regulated industry now – whole other topic – but something that seems to get lost on the cult of SEO.

I agree with Michelle completely.  As I mentioned in a comment over on that Sphinn discussion, we’re either going to learn to police our own or the gov will step in.  It’s inevitable as billions upon billions of dollars are gained or lost based on our actions.

Even WITH regulation, consider what goes on in this country.  AIG, the mortgage industry meltdown, Enron, Madoff, Blackwater and the tobacco titans are all examples of severe abuse of the system even with regulation.

Yet without government regulation, and without a truly strong self-policing mechanism, every industry was even worse.  Unbridled greed led to all sorts of even more problems severely harmful to society.  Sweatshops.  Child labor.  Massive dumping of pollutants directly into the drinking supply…

The Real Causes Of Our Rep Problems

While I treasure the aspects of our industry that come from a “we’re in this together” perspective, hiding behind that shared drunken stupor mentality is harming our industry.

It’s 3rd grade phrases like “tattle tale” and gang-mentality phrases like “ratting out” that contributes to our problems.

It’s those very same blinded-by-greed companies that contributes to our problems.

It’s companies claiming ethics then using asshat tactics on a massive scale that contributes to our problems.

It’s people claiming “everybody does it so don’t be naive” who rationalize and justify unethical behavior that contributes to our problems.

No, reporting a flagrant, severe, and highly abusive issue is the ONLY right thing to do.  It sets the proper example for others.  It fosters an atmosphere of fairness in business.

It might just even ensure we don’t have to face completely unrealistic, expensive and probably even ridiculous government regulation.

But They’ll Come After Me

If you’re afraid that the bad guys will come after you for reporting abuse, then you need to learn how to implement best practices.  You need to monitor client sites for signs of 3rd party abuse.  You need to know how to counter that.  And if you don’t know how to do all of those, please don’t put yourself or your company out there in the first place.  Or at least hook up with people who DO know how to do these things.

Or make a big disclaimer on your offerings that you’re not really an expert, you don’t really know how to help companies in this league.

THAT is professionalism.  Keeping quiet out of fear is not.

Save The Cheerleader, Save The World

Google makes too much money off of crappy AdSense sites, and too much money selling AdWords to the asshats to take severe steps against the asshats.  They’re just not going to do it in a massive way in short order.  They have to do what they can through incremental soft steps.  Which allows the asshats to adapt readily.  Cat and mouse, needing each other. So don’t count of Google to be the hero.  They’re not going to save us from ourselves.  Or from government regulation.

And unless we take responsibility in a much bigger way, the cheerleader’s going to die.  And then we’re really screwed.

About Alan Bleiweiss

Just another guy. Who happens to have a lot of experience living, breathing and sleeping organic SEO. So that's my primary focus - high end SEO audits and consulting for sites ranging from thousands to tens of millions of pages. In my spare time I blog, rant, write eBooks, and speak at industry conferences.

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