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16 Things That Give SEO a Bad Name

Online marketing information can change quickly This article is 8 years and 166 days old, and the facts and opinions contained in it may be out of date.

16 things that are wrecking the “SEO Community”

I’ve been putting this post off for quite a long time, but I figured it is a great way to start off a new run of blogging, and is still pretty much as accurate as when I wrote it over 2 years ago (I’ve taken out some of the spite and angst in the meantime).I’ve spent the last 7 years speaking at search marketing conferences and training sessions, and met literally thousands of search marketers. As with all of humanity, there’s good and bad things. Here’s the things that I have not been a huge fan of to date.

1. Selective enforcement

selective enforcement It’s okay for a big brand, but not for an affiliate or small mom and pop ecom shop. The barrier to entry for certain acceptable practices has gotten higher and higher.  The blurry lines of “good and bad linking” and “over-optimization” are muddying the already ambiguous waters.  There’s lots of examples. Google could have killed paid linking 3 years ago, but decided timing and execution was very important to proper enforcement of their laws guidelines.

I guess propaganda is part of the game, but if you could keep it to a minimum, that would be great.

2. Sucking up to google

google kiss ass

Yes, you can get your competitors banned and rank your site higher. Yes, your ethics are still twisted thinking that destroying someone’s income is okay because they violated google’s terms of service. Way to go you corporate sociopath, you shut down someone else’s job and probably got some people laid off.  The world is a competitive place, but just remember you might run into that person who’s site you torched one day at a conference and have to explain why you thought policing the web was your job.

3. Thinking lying and cheating is okay

seo cheatingIt’s not – Cheating on your wife, girlfriend, homework or taxes, or lying to friends, family, vendors, or even most strangers.  If there’s one thing just about any religion can agree on it’s these tenants. When you realize that “all marketer’s are liars”, it should make you wonder a little about the lies you’ve been telling yourself.  Bending the rules is one thing, but it becomes a slippery slope. Cheating and lying are entirely different. We have we all cheated on something or other – yes. Does that make it okay? Probably not. For some the lines have become all to blurry.  People that lie to themselves, and cheat their friends are the absolute worst.

4. Conference douchery

seo douchery

Just because you travel the world, and tell people what airport you’re in on twitter does not make you cool or a good person. People may love your confidence on stage, but they recognize your arrogance in the bar when you start demonstrating your entitlement mentality, and telling stories that make you sound like you think you’re better than everyone else. I’m sorry your parents didn’t hug you. In case you missed it – here is a guide on being a conference douchebag.

5. Spreading misinformation

josh made cash!Everyone can NOT make $1000 a week on the internet. Well – they can if they are willing to sell magic acai berries at a 10 million percent markup over what GNC sells them for.  Really all they need is business skills, legal skills, design skills, development and IT skills.  From there, all they should need is several thousand dollars in startup and administrative expenses.  Lastly, they’ll just have to get rid of that pesky conscience.  Just set up a massive spam network that includes “scorched earth” tactics to any websites in your path that you may be able to benefit from, and burn it all to the ground once someone figures out what you’re doing. Sell out your friends and family in your MLM scheme and you will make $1k a week for a few weeks.  Don’t worry your lawyer will still have your back.

6. Rebills

Josh made cash, but now my family,friends, and NIFS (non-internet friends – hat tip to the Bosers), think they can make a living in their pajamas too, and they have three monthly $19.95 rebill charges that will last an eternity if they don’t watch they’re statement close. Thanks for confusing everyone further as to what SEO and online marketing professionals really “do” dickheads.

7. Blog celebrities

Has there ever been a bigger oxymoron? There’s a very fine line between being an “expert”, and selling your soul for cash. There are SOME bloggers with some level of ethics who have managed to not cross the line, but plenty of others who need to stop googling themselves and drinking their own kool-aid.  Yes you made money – you can rock out with the other poor bastards who sold their soul for the cash.  If you start referring to yourself as an “expert” you should probably rethink your life a bit.

8. Egobaiting


I’ve been a proponent of this myself. I really like links, ranking, and money. There’s a point where you realize it makes you feel pretty dirty.

Pandering to someone’s ego, or trying to start a shallow discussion just to drum up some attention for yourself is a pretty poor way to try to make a living.  There’s nothing wrong with a healthy level of ego and confidence, but again, it’s a very fine line.

9. Hatorade

seo hatorade If Rand (or any other SEO blogger) spends weeks or months testing a theory, you don’t get to hate on the process without at least offering a compliment on the work first.

If you have to argue with someone who has contributed so much to a community as a whole, at least try to do so with intelligence and some dignity.  No one pays attention to your opinion because you suck at life. I hope you enjoy your miserable basement dwelling existence you hate-filled little emo-trolls.

10. Hypebeasts

Hey hypebeasts – I don’t want your “personalized” email every week. I used to think you were my friend who liked to talk search honestly over a few beers – now you’re just trying to sell me your latest ebook from a mailing list I can’t seem to remove myself from.

I’m not planning to out specific examples anytime soon, because, frankly, I’ve met a lot of bullshitters that I liked as people. It doesn’t mean i’ll sit by and promote overhyped affiliate programs (just so i can get a second tier rip), ebooks filled with recycled information, products that simply don’t work, or things that take advantage of people. You can’t really think selling magical tonics and vaporware traffic is okay just because everyone else is doing it. The only people who get rich quick, are the people selling the dream and those that learn to work hard through failures until they succeed.. You can make money and maintain your integrity by working your ass off over time, and learning from other credible people who don’t take the shortcuts.

11. Politics

Search is big business these days. We’ve went from conferences in smoke filled, booze drenched pubs to exibit halls at the Hilton, and Google lobbying the government. Personally, I prefer wearing t-shirts over a suit, but either way, there’s no doubt that there is plenty of political posturing going on in the world of SEO, and it isn’t going away anytime soon.  It was difficult to watch the idealistic little search engine morph into a multinational powerhouse corporation over just a few years for anyone who paid close attention to the ride.  Search has become one of the most powerful channels to distribute a message for mass consumption.    Conversations about Google these days inevitably spiral into discussions of power and politics these days when you discuss the different divisions and goals of the company.

12. What have you done for me lately?

It’s a shame how quickly favors are sometimes forgotten. It’s also a shame we always have to keep track. It’s hard to want to give things away when people always just want more.  SEO is a community that relies heavily on the sharing of information.  The level of what you share directly impacts how others treat and respect you.  It’s difficult to share information without sharing TOO much information – or knowing the appropriate venues for sharing information.  It’s easy to forget being given good information, and tough to forget getting bad information.  Just don’t start to think that you’re entitled to have people share with you if you’ve never done anything but lurk on a forum.

13. The “in crowd”

It wasn’t that fun in high school. It’s not that much more fun when it feels like high school with money. I’m a much bigger fan of geeks that are proud like lewis skolnick or rj berger. I respect people who treat others with respect at the detriment of being “popular”. Underdogs and Anti-heros generally end up leading more fulfilling lives, and ultimately living well is the best revenge.

14. Treating outsourced laborers like monkeys

You shouldn’t really need to be told that outsourced laborers are people too. Even in jest, it doesn’t make it okay to call a human being a monkey or treat them like one. I hope when India, China, and the Philippines wage their revolution on the US, (or just stop working and steal all the IP) – they’ll consider me one of the good guys, and not one of the criminal capitalists).

15. Twitter Narcissism

Blogs used to be fun too, then everyone turned into self absorbed twitter freaks that can’t spend more than 140 characters in a stream of conciousness on a thoughtful comment on a thoughtful post. No wonder people mainly write self-serving puff pieces built on regurgitated information. Yes, I can appreciate the irony that I use it myself. I’ve always been a self-loathing blogger as well.

16. Stinginess

I suppose greed and arrogance breeds stinginess, but having someone complain about spending $40 to get into a charity party that took weeks for a great group of people to plan definitely made me grumpy for a little while. Don’t be a stingy asshat – give something back if you are successful, and not just because it’s a write-off, or marketing ploy.

Time to let it go.

It’s taken several years where I didn’t want to contribute anymore.  I kept all the things I’ve learned about marketing behind the wall at MarketMotive or for conversations in person.  I was jaded.  Very jaded.  I was hurt, I was angry, and I was downright pissed off.  My idealism had left me entirely.  I doubt my jaded marketer anger will go away completely, but fishing helps ;)  I won’t, however, act like it’s okay anymore to not say something about the BS that goes on at least a little bit.  I’ll embrace the rage, and let it go.  I’ll talk about it when I feel like it.  You’ve been warned.

If you’ve worked at home, or in marketing for more than 5 years – you can probably relate.  You NEED balance.  You need hobbies the way I need a weekly (at worst monthly) fishing trip.  Find balance, and find something you enjoy doing.

I still love SEO.  I love learning about search engines, marketing, and building a better website.  It doesn’t mean I can’t stay a little pissed about the bullshit that often gets passed around in the name of “expertise”.

Yes, internet marketing is a very capitalist industry filled with people that like money. I like money too – but I also miss the open-hearted camaraderie that really made the seo community once so fun and attractive to me. Believe it or not, it wasn’t all about the money.

**Author’s note: It’s been over two years since I first wrote (and started) this post. It was so full of piss and vinegar that I decided not to post until I was in a better place (like the sun of Miami:). I thought a lot of this still applied though, and was worth putting up. I’m not this jaded anymore, but I’ve hit points where I have been because lack of balance and burnout which is easy to do working from home for 7 years. There are also LOTS of good things about online marketing communities, and SEO has been a life changing endeavor for me personally that I am very thankful for everyday.

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