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Are Seo's Part Of The Problem For Smo?


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#1 storyspinner

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Posted 20 April 2007 - 08:09 PM

Muhammad Saleem over at Pronet Advertising poses an interesting question. Are SEO's Part of the Problem?

He poses this in reference to how SEO's are known to use and try to "manipulate" Social Media, and points to the recent urging of the Steven Colbert as "Greatest Living American" Google Bomb going on (complete with prizes!).

Do you think Mu's got a point? I'm interested in everyone's opinion on this one!

#2 iamlost

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Posted 20 April 2007 - 10:05 PM

Much SEO behaviour that non-SEOs find objectionable is a direct result of the SEs (notably Google) giving sheer link quantity a value.

Link rushes are the web version of gold rushes:
The great Directory Link Rush
The great Guest Book Link Rush
The great Link Farm Link Rush
The great Blog Comment Link Rush
The great Reciprocal Pat On Back Wink Wink Link Rush
The great Triangular Square Oblong Trapezoid Link Rush

And now the Link Bait Link Rush. A prime target being various Social Media who, despite claiming to hate SEO link bait, still bite enmasse. Link bait is dead easy for the vocal SM detractors to stop - simply ignore it and don't link to it and SEOs will look for the next great link rush to mine.

But, first to last, the problem was created by the SEs and is maintained by their acceptance of mere quantity as a good thing (despite their droning mantra of quality, quality, quality).

Google either actually can not or (my view) chooses not to clean up mass blog links even after they are lost into site archives. The SEO link rushers are but a symptom of a SE disease. Beating on a symptom will not cure the problem.

#3 AbleReach

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Posted 20 April 2007 - 10:24 PM

On one hand you have what a SE can do.

On the other you have human nature.

I'm not going to try to lay out a plan for understanding either, though I do have a few opinions.

The idea of manipulating a carcasherdotcom, a redscowl bluesingsky or a nigritude ultramarine doesn't bother me. Those terms are not going to skew anything in a legitimate search. Anything anywhere near terms that could appear in a legitimate search will make SEO for real-life marketing and information access look like it's just another set of tricks available to the highest bidder.

The spam generated by SEO contests does bother me. A lot.

Sometimes SEO contests make me wonder if someone is bored...

:whistling: ...or, if some of us have a secret inner romance with the ideal of a renegade spammer with power over the mighty Google. :whip:

When you deal with automated spam all the time you know what it looks like. You know the signs. Take two steps back and imagine you aren't involved with getting represented in search engines, on some level, day in day out. Un-know what you know about scraping, feeds of feeds and spam.

Do you think most people differentiate between email spam, blog spam, forum spam, SE spam, automated spam and really bad advertising management? I don't.

The last thing I want is a perception that being found by a search engine means spamming a SE.

Edited by AbleReach, 20 April 2007 - 10:27 PM.


#4 iamlost

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Posted 20 April 2007 - 11:21 PM

Diseases can have a lot of nasty symptoms. It is important to differentiate between the behaviour and the cause of that behaviour.

That said, I agree there are are a lot of snake oil and spammy SEOs. However slimey or irritating very little of what they do is actually illegal (a SE ToS is not a law or regulation). The best defence, as always, is knowledge, a competent lawyer, and a good contract.

The last thing I want is a perception that being found by a search engine means spamming a SE.

That growing perception has existed for quite some time and the SEs have no one to blame but themselves.

The way for quality SEOs to benefit is to emphasise that this 'fly by night' variety of SE spamming is really a 'here today and gone tomorrow' SERP endless cycle of crashing with the next algo change. Those clients that want that 'easy' fix are best left to their addiction - you really don't need their hungover withdrawal whining. They are usually the stingiest and most problematic as well.

I used to state the need to optimise (back when I took clients) across the board: for the user, addressing various handicaps; for the browser, addressing a wide selection and versions (including mobile); for the SEs, addressing as many as possible as best as possible; for conversions; etc. etc.

SEO is a straitjacket with an increasing bad rep. Throw it off and optimise free.

#5 bragadocchio

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 12:30 AM

That said, I agree there are are a lot of snake oil and spammy SEOs


There are a lot of spammers who claim to be SEOs but aren't. These are the people who:

Submit your site to thousands of search engines
Spam comments and social sites and guestbooks
Create spam pages and redirects on unprotected and unmoderated and abandoned discussion boards and forums.

There are small business site owners who will only link to people who link to them, creating reciprocal link pages and Triangular Square Oblong Trapezoid link patterns. These are people who aren't
SEOs and link only to improve their pagerank rather than adding links on the basis of providing value to their visitors. This is not SEO. This is not an SEO tactic. This is a sad and misguided practice.

Most link bombs that I've seen, and I've seen many, were not crafted by the hands of SEOs, but rather bloggers acting out of anger, spite, or humor.

#6 SEOigloo

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 01:28 AM

Sometimes SEO contests make me wonder if someone is bored...


It kinda makes me wonder that, too.

It's sort of like people who take up knitting for useful purposes (like making an item of clothing) but then run out of useful things to do so they start knitting remote control holders and cd covers.

Maybe sitting for 12 hours a day in front of a computer leads to this type of thing..."Well, okay so I've got X client ranking #1, what the heck else can I do with this computer?"

It seems to me that this talk of hating SEOs comes from 2 main demographics: legitimate business owners who have been bamboozled by unethical service providers, and, Digg-type users who are saying they hate SEOs because it has become a catchy thing to do.

In the first case, legitimate SEOs have an opportunity here to educate clients about the differences between a respectable service provider and a scammer. In the second case, one cannot reason with a mob. There is no point. A waste of energy. 6 months from now, the mob will decide they hate florists or some other group of people.

I know that in our case, we are extremely cautious whenever we speak to potential clients. For example, I just got a brand new website onto the front page of Google in 5 days from launch. But, I would never say this to a potential client. I know I accomplished this in a completely organic manner, and am pleased with this, but we always present the long estimates to incoming clients. We tell them it can take 2-9 months to get indexed by Google. If we make this happen more quickly for them, great, but we never make the kinds of promises you see coming from scammers that raise hopes and give false impressions of the work involved in running a real SEO campaign. I think that legitimate SEOs err on the side of caution in order to protect themselves and their clients.

Miriam

#7 bwelford

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 05:50 AM

I think the crunch question here is "What extra website traffic have you produced?" It's so easy to get to be #1 on a SERP for a keyword phrase, but does the way you have done that produce extra visitors for the client's website. Beyond that you have how this traffic converts to revenues, but traffic is a relatively easy metric to sort out the sheep SEOs from the goats.

Unfortunately many SEOs go along with the client's ego trip in trying to appear on searches they do from their own computer. It's not all bad but it's only a tiny fraction of what the client should really be interested in.

#8 storyspinner

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 06:25 AM

Most link bombs that I've seen, and I've seen many, were not crafted by the hands of SEOs, but rather bloggers acting out of anger, spite, or humor.


OK... great point Bill, definitely true - the Bush/Failure and Kerry/Waffle bombs are great points to the fact it was bloggers. However, what I was getting from Mu's post was that he was calling out SEO's who perpetuate and even encourage the manipulation of Social Media with contests, such as the one Mu pointed out with Steven Colbert.

Is that an ethical thing an "SEO" or even an "SMO" should do?

Here's a quote from Mu's post

While one may argue that this was all in jest and that no harm comes from this, when you look at the core of the issue, it is an SEO urging people to manipulate search engine rankings for a particular phrase, outlining how exactly to do it, and offering a reward to people who participate.



#9 SEOigloo

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 04:34 PM

It's so easy to get to be #1 on a SERP for a keyword phrase, but does the way you have done that produce extra visitors for the client's website. Beyond that you have how this traffic converts to revenues, but traffic is a relatively easy metric to sort out the sheep SEOs from the goats.


Barry,
I completely agree about the traffic, but may I respectfully disagree about it being easy to be #1? It may seem easy to an SEO. But to average Joe, it remains a mystery as to how this is achieved.

I think we shoot ourselves in the foot if we call what we do easy, just because we know how to do it. For a dentist, for example, filling a cavity may be easy as compared to doing a root canal. But that doesn't mean that the dentist's skill at the former is negligible or undeserving of payment. Fillings may be easy for him, but goodness knows, a mystery to we non-dentists.

I would posit that top 10 rankings require education, skill, and dedication to a purpose, unless you are trying to rank for something like 'shoes for kangaroos'. It surprises me when I see folks devaluing the skills we have all learned over the past 5-10-odd years, just because they've become old hat to us.

These things are not old hat to non-web industries people. Can you see what I'm saying, Barry?
Miriam

#10 projectphp

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 10:38 PM

It is amazing that SEOs think people know who we are.

This sort of stunt is awesomely positive for SEO for so many reasons. I'll list just a few:
1. people are talking about what we do. All publicity is good pulicity.
2. It gets people excited - maybe they to can rank number one. I am sure TV sufffers from perceptions it is too expensive, but I bet often it isn't (late night, cable etc etc). Seeing tangible exa,mples like this gets people interested.
3. ANY opinion is better than NO opinion. Rank these professions in order of recognition by the public: Advertising exec, architect, lawyer, doctor, streetsweeper, chimney sweep, wed designer, graphic designer, SEO. I bet SEO comes out last on everyone's list, and more people would ask "What's that" to SEO than any other profession on that list.
4. It makes no real difference. I wonder if, two weeks ago, anyone had ever searched for [Greatest Living American] (just as I thought: http://inventory.overture.com/d/searchinve...iving+American). Who cares what that result is, except SEOs and SEs looking to promote their existence, and a bored public?

IMHO, the whole SEO industry forgets that the vast majority of people think SEO is three letters thrown together, infering no meaning at all.

The SEO link rushers are but a symptom of a SE disease.

I disagree. I think they don't need to. The PR from [miserable failure] helped Google tremendously. "Go to Google, type in [miserable failure and hit I'm Feeling Lucky". Hands up if you got that email? Me: sixteen times (and then I stopped counting).

But does anyone think that SERP is more important than global warming? Or more useful than car for sale? If link bombing helps "proper"s searches, isn;t it a good idea to use it?

The corners of SEO will always be murky, because getting the 80% of search right is far more important than the isolated cases that are fun, but ultimately irrelevant.

If this sort of thing creates a negative perception of SEO, the industry should learn to spin it positively.

#11 EGOL

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Posted 21 April 2007 - 10:59 PM

lol.... where I live, if you tell someone that you are an SEO they will know exactly what kind of work that you do... SEO = sewage enforcement officer

#12 AbleReach

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 12:05 AM

I mentioned "SEO" at a small business meeting - a chamber of commerce sort of a thing. I was the only web person there at the time.

Reaction? Blank look.

I said something like "Search Engine Optimization, online marketing that helps sites show up in search results on search engines like Google."

Reaction? "You mean tricks like repeating the same thing over and over again?"

Later I tried to bring up a study showing positive results from permission-based emails to specific kinds of businesses, especially restaurants. I was talking about ways to build community by keeping in touch with customers when they're not physically in your place of businesses.

Reaction? "I don't like getting emails like that."
Someone else said "Isn't that spam?"

They don't know what we do. They do remember when something isn't quite right.

The last time I needed to define SEO like that was a couple days ago. I started by describing search engines as being text-aware, like screen readers that may be used by people who are legally blind. That seemed to open the door. It was a longer, less formal explanation, in a less formal setting.

If this sort of thing creates a negative perception of SEO, the industry should learn to spin it positively.

Sounds good to me. Any ideas?

#13 bragadocchio

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 07:41 AM

I mentioned SEO at a local small business meeting that I attended about a month ago, to some similar blank expressions. Except for a couple of people who had been investing some time in updating their web sites, who got really excited.

SEOs probably should be careful when they discuss what they do, especially when it comes to things like linkbombs and contests. Putting some emphasis on the positive that they can do, instead of the things that people might see as outright manipulative might not be a bad idea.

#14 projectphp

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 10:03 AM

Conversation starters don't need to be positive.

From manipulation to "You can do that with {INSERT TERM} as well. It isn't difficult, you just need to..."

Anything that starts people talking is something you Can at least address. It is the unspoken prejudices in life that are so insidious.

#15 SEOigloo

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 04:47 PM

It sounds like Elizabeth and Bill went to the same meeting! :D

And it sounds like that was a rather uncomfortable situation, especially for you Elizabeth. When people ask what I do, I say "I run a web design company." Guaranteed not to cause the eyes of your listener to glaze over. At least, at this point, people do know what web design is. I think....
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#16 A.N.Onym

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 08:14 PM

Ha. I usually say 'I help get more customers through websites'. This one is more descriptive than 'I improve websites to get more visitors from the search engines', after which one has to
- explain how you *improve* a website
- how to get more visitiors?
- what is a search engine?

Then again, that could be a good conversation starter, instead :D

I think the whole thing is that there are so many scam SEOs out there, compared to scam anything, that people naturally notice "SEO" and "scam" together. SEOs need to get more positive words out there to fix this, I believe.

Edited by A.N.Onym, 22 April 2007 - 08:14 PM.


#17 projectphp

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Posted 22 April 2007 - 08:53 PM

I try to sound as boring as possible. "I do computer stuff".

Because the problem is, if you start, the explanation takes way longer than most people care to listen. Bore people, and they just go, OK... and where do you live :D

On rare occassion, someone will be genuinely interested, but that is VERY rare indeed. On those occassions, I'll talk their ear off them, but I'd rather not start if I can't keep going :)

#18 tambre

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 11:45 AM

yeah, i've stopped explaining to people what i do... it takes them a long while to understand. pretty much because i explain it in total lay-mans terms, but they get hung up on the "seo" term.

anyway.

what is this:

The spam generated by SEO contests

i haven't heard of SEO contents before.

Edited by tambre, 23 April 2007 - 11:47 AM.


#19 Ruud

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 12:37 PM

Muhammad Saleem over at Pronet Advertising poses an interesting question. Are SEO's Part of the Problem?



Interesting question. But part of what problem? I wasn't aware there was a problem. Is it the search question he points to; why people hate SEO? If so then there are definitely bigger problems out there, if we go by an "all words" search's page results. Why hate money is 34 times bigger an issue, apparently. And as a blogger he would be part of this problem: why hate blogs.

[...] to manipulate search engine rankings [...]


So? AA1 Acme Corp. manipulated alphabetical listing in the Yellow Pages or a software directory. And?

What's worse is that he offered a shot at an $80 dollar reward [...]


How is that worse? Worse than what?

As the main author of a site about online marketing I would have expected him to have a more balanced understanding of manipulation and intent.

By the way, hat off to Rand for getting a $80 link bomb research project launched that fast :) Very interesting to watch :)

#20 storyspinner

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 12:56 PM

tambre

i haven't heard of SEO contents before.


actually there's been quite a few. most recently to rank for "dave pasternack" that the folks over at threadwatch launched comes to mind.

Ruud -
What Mu's pointing out is that, although we (meaning most of us in the industry) see nothing wrong with these types of contests and actions, there are many more outside of our industry do. Basically these types of actions could possibly help to perpetuate the idea that we are all "scammers" and "showoffs" presenting easy opportunities to manipulate social media and search engines. When we do this, outsiders tend to judge on these actions and lump us all together and write us off as charlatans.

I'm not agreeing or disagreeing mind you, just pointing out where I believe Mu was coming from. :)

Edited by storyspinner, 23 April 2007 - 12:58 PM.


#21 Ruud

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 01:14 PM

Thanks :)

Well... I don't think most people know about these things. And when someone somewhere finally reads about something like the "miserable failure" bomb, I think they're a bit intrigued, amazed that it can be done but that's it.

If outside the industry the impression is present that we're a bunch of scammers, than to me that impression is based on mostly incorrect information. If a specific action, or lack of such action, could change that perception than yes, we could be part of the problem. But as the perception is based on misinformation there really isn't a whole lot you can do.

<shrugs shoulders> Kind of a "what you think of me is none of my business" situation :)

#22 randfish

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Posted 23 April 2007 - 05:54 PM

I'm with you Ruud - it's only our inflated sense of importance that has us thinking "wow, I wonder what people think of us manipulating the search results"

I'd find it hard to argue that something like the Colbert Googlebomb has a negative effect on anything. As was pointed out - it's not a phrase anyone searches for, it's like "miserable failure" - you have to know to look for it, and if it exposes how SEO works and gives the industry a tiny bit of publicity, all the better. If someone wants to be upset about it because they see marketing or advertising as inherently evil (in all forms, as I don't accept the hypocrisy that SEOs are the only ones "manipulating"), I'm happy to ignore it.

Personally, I think the effort was fascinating to watch, and it's even more interesting to see what else ranks for that search term and how the SERPs changed over the last 6 days. From a research perspective, this is very cool stuff.

#23 rustybrick

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Posted 24 April 2007 - 06:22 AM

On a related note, two of my stories were buried on digg yesterday - because I helped them along to the front page...

I am not upset with Digg, I actually feel a bit bad and part of the problem. ;-)



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