The SEO Industry Regulator OfGoog by Ben Mckay (Guest Poster)
Thanks to all those that commented on the “How to become a famous SEO overnight” post. I’m contacting each and everyone of you who left a comment for your contributions to the DaveN blog.
Ben Mckay is first up, so thanks Ben.
About Ben McKay
Ben McKay, http://www.justmeandmy.com, has been in marketing since 2001, in various online and offline campaign management roles. In the last 2/3 years he has made a more permanent move into search marketing on a in-house and consultancy basis. He currently consults on online projects for clients of webdesignfromscratch, bourn design and greensplash.
OfGoog – the SEO Industry Regulator
You’ve all heard of OfWat, OfCom…well now there’s OfGoog! Give them a round of applause, please!
Google has been increasingly playing at teacher, covering ‘good practice’ SEO in more and more detail, but is it right for them to go any further regarding regulatory or accredited industry standards?
Game of Monopoly: Google Wins
If a search engine has a monopoly of search results, which Google does (currently at 90% in the UK [the Competition Commission deems a company with 25% market share to hold a monopoly]), then we could say that the industry power is a little skewed. This is like HSBC buying-up Lloyds TSB, Barclay’s and RBS and then becoming the FSA too. Can Google be all things?
Now, you’re probably thinking, “woo there, you’re developing quite a militant, anti-Google stance here, ranting and raving because you’ve got a slot on DaveN’s [awesome] blog”…well not really, but it sets me up for something else. If it doesn’t make sense for OfGoog to be the industry regulator, then who should do the dirty work? Or should anyone be ‘regulating’ it at all?
SEO Industry Standards
There has been discussion about industry standards for quite some time, with Dan Thies taking lead on the topic with his SEOpros website many moons ago, but it’s not really taken off. Why is this? Well, why would a SEO consultant not want to be accredited in their industry? Here’s why:
- The buying public is unaware of such an accrediting organisation, unlike bodies such as the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) – therefore there’s minimal commercial pressure to do so
- There is not the peer pressure to sign-up either – offers little competitive edge
- Cost implications, although minimal, are worth noting
- Restrictions on techniques / procedures – some of these items are still debated and procedures are changing…
- Brand management. Too formal? Is it uncouth to be part of such a rule abiding club?
Maybe though, there will be enough instances of SEO cowboys for the reputation of the search marketing industry to decline in a way that will encourage some level of formal accreditation other than personal recommendations / reputation being the single indicator. The kind of formal accreditation I’m talking about is certificates, badges, handshakes with the PM, a uniform…the full works!
Cowboy’s Grabbing Headlines
Search marketing needn’t be another cowboy industry, but there will always be those headline grabbing stories of ‘another blackhat/cowboy SEO firm’ being brought down, but these headlines exist in any industry: surgeons, accountants, lawyers, lawyers, lawyers…so maybe it’s nothing too much to worry about?
Future of Accreditation in SEO
The FSA’s regulations didn’t exactly do an excellent job of regulating the financial industry and I don’t think this would work in the SEO industry, both are complicated and constantly changing.
Instead though, I do like the idea of industry standards, but in a way that promotes professional best practice, not specifically the technicalities of search engine optimisation. Being pragmatic, I think there is some time to come before we see change on any sort of industry-wide basis. If it comes sooner rather than later, it will be from OfGoog in my opinion. Google et al have had PPC accreditation for some time now (well done Adam), so maybe formal SEO accreditation will be next on their agenda – it sounds odd but considering the amount of advice they put out, this could happen…
However, do I want Google accrediting my professionalism, playing OfGoog AND raising my concerns over the monopolisation of online information? Well no, not really, so in that case I hope us search marketers chip in a few ideas, maybe a few quid and set-up something that represents us at an industry level. At least this way we can be seen to be taking the role and responsibilities that we have very seriously indeed (importantly in the eyes of Google et al, and the buying public).
Representative Body not Regulatory
I know some people are against SEO regulation and others that are for it, but I like the idea of some sort of representation at an industry level, a club if you like, just like the forums, social media sites and blogs that we so enthusiastically engage in, but on a national and collective basis. It’s not to everyone’s liking but for me, right now, as an aspiring SEO consultant, clubs are good. People needn’t sign-up if they don’t want to.
I would see the ‘regulating body’ as more of a representative body that considers education and best practice, but doesn’t enforce certain protocols as Jill Whalen suggests a regulatory body, by definition, must. It could take on a role similar to the CIM, of which I’ve been a member and it does have some benefits: education, national representation, networking and career development. Who can complain at that?
In the mean (and friendly) time
Now that I’ve made all this cafuffle, I’m going to crack on with getting accreditation with where it really matters – the SERPs! Do I need a certificate? No. Do I need a uniform? No. A badge? Well, it would be nice actually!
Feel free to leave comments on what you think to Ben’s post and his perspective