February 14th, 2007

What Gives SEO A Bad Name


So here’s another example of what gives SEO a bad name — UPDATE: correction, it appears to be an example of Google’s bad results, which some (like me) might mistakenly blame on SEO. I was checking out search traffic for Publishing 2.0, and noticed that my Online Publishing category was a #9 result for “online publishing” on Yahoo Search. I often get more traffic from Yahoo and MSN search, surely a shortcoming in my SEO. So out of curiosity, I tried “online publishing” on Google, and here’s what I found:


So check out the second result, www.onlinepublishingnews.com:


Of course, I don’t rank high on Google for this keyword — who can compete with quality sites like these?

Thanks SEO!


All evidence, from the many smart minds who showed up in the comments below, suggests that this is a piece of garbage that Google has yet to purge, i.e. a former content site that is now defaulting to a domain parking page. See Aaron Wall’s intersting analysis. So while I’m not entirely convinced that this isn’t evidence of some shenanigans, there’s no clear evidence that it’s SEO shenanigans.

BUT, that said, the problem is that, when stumbling on something like this, it’s all too easy to blame it on SEO. And while people like me may not know how to correctly interpret such instances, people like me are also potential SEO clients. So perhaps this is better characterized as an example of why SEO has a such tough PR task with prospective clients.

THAT said, the SEO community has many execellent ambassadors (like Aaron), many of whom offered insights in the comments below. If you’re looking for a good SEO, there are a lot of things you should look for, but one of them is a good ATTITUDE in circumstances like this (i.e. NOT condescending). Fortnuately, there are many who fit that criteria very well.


SEOs have a choice to make.

They can either go about the hard work of educating people on the complexities of search and what good SEOs do and do not do, so that they are no longer the victims of unfair misperceptions:

Scott, if you ever have anymore of these questions about why one site is attaining a certain rank, I would be happy to answer them for free in oder to educate and help you understand SEO more.

Or they can write off everyone who doesn’t get it as idiots, and remain stuck in their pigeonhole:

Scott Karp, Get a Clue About SEO Before You Go Bad Mouthing it

So, thank you Scott for blaming poor search engine updating on SEO and proving how little you know about SEO.

Around here, I’ve seen much more of the former than the latter, and it’s certainly very much appreciated, but the latter is still an albatross around the SEO neck.

  • Since I have studied the Search Marketing Industry since about 1996/7, I have consistently noticed a pattern. In most/all discussions and debates I hear people defend and promote the sellers (SEO's, SEM's, Traditional Ad Agencies, etc.), the buyers (the clients of those sellers such as Marketer Vendors or anybody selling to an end-user/consumer), but I rarely hear people speaking up for the consumer end-users who are the online searchers, and should be the most important people of all.

    The major SE's say the online searchers are their #1 priority, but in many real world examples, that is obviously not the case. Scott, your "SEO misunderstanding", as an online searcher (and publisher) looking for "relevant to your intent" quality content, was caused by Google's algorithim, in this case, and I'm hoping Matt (who I have the greatest respect for, has much power in these matters, but doesn't own Google) can initiate a fix of the "bad algorithmic hole". If all the SE's truly put the end-user, online searcher/consumer first in all online search scenarios, it would solve a myriad of problems for all parties, IMO.

    My first blog post says: "In order to get a long term "win-win-win" scenario, the end user-consumer has to come first, and be happy with the overall value. Then the client-buyer will be happy. Last, but not least, the ethical seller has won, since he has a happy, long term customer." Whether anyone wants to admit it or not, "salesmanship" is at the core of every aspect of this discussion. Isn't it ironic that sales people got a bad reputation long before SEO's or SEM's did, yet eveyone is a salesperson at some point in their lives, even if it is only to "sell themselves".

    It also says: The perfect online search sale is one in which the user is educated to the most valuable, personalized, relevant opportunity, and then has it made easy for that user to buy, or take the next action."

  • Well if anything you've learnt the art of link baiting Scott :)

    Personally, I believe SEO like any other industry has individuals who react in different ways, I personally work with a number of individuals in the Advertising sector, and I can tell you that there are just as many if not more "attitudes" than there are in the SEO arena. To simply write the majority of the industry seems a little unfair.

    SEO does have to educate people, more in my opinion to advise those of its potential benefits and how it fits into the marketing mix as a whole.

  • Hi, don't mind me, I'm just popping in to tell Scott that I saw his post and will ask someone to check out that site. I think we can get this case handled pretty quickly (I'm traveling or else I would have mentioned it to someone even sooner), and I'll ask someone to check out why our algorithms to spot sites like this didn't flag this site. We may be able to improve the underlying algorithm in addition to solving this case, so thanks for mentioning this issue.

  • disqusererer

    Thanks a bunch Scott :)

  • Aaron,

    I added an update as you suggested because I very much respect your view -- and how you approach things -- and because you are absolutely right that this requires a correction.

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