Why SEOs are hated

by Paul Carpenter
See Dave Speak SMX London

“We are the outcast, the banished, the shunned
The cheated, the punished, the feared.
The loathsome downtrodden whom nobody loves,
But, with reviled comes revered.”

Back in the good old days, when men wore tights and bells, people were afraid of witches. One thing that was supposed to stop witches from entering your house was a bottle of piss and ironmongery buried under your front door. Thus you could sleep safely at night. We might have moved on from that belief, but the psychology of protecting yourself from nameless horrors continues.

Only today, instead of burying a bottle you’d use Disqus for your comments system, nofollows on your links and redirects on your outbounds. And instead of witches, you’re doing it because you’re afraid of SEOs.

SEOs have become the villains of the internet. Fear stalks the webmaster at every turn – that somehow your website might fall “victim” to SEOs. When my.telegraph got shut down, the finger was immediately pointed at SEOs. When Powazek bitched, he used the word ‘SEO’ as a catch-all for lazy developers, shoddy content writers and outright spammers.

Like lawyers, MPs and cockroaches, we’ve gotten a bad name.

Even SEOs are running from their own rep. Some like to use the phrase SEM. Or to call themselves Web Marketers. Or to loudly proclaim that SEO is just a branch of marketing or some such bullshit.

And yet we are the people who build the content as often as not. We build the links so that content can be found. We write for humans not for search engines. We make it accessible to the spiders. We advise our clients not to use Flash… to not hide their content… to invest in unique copy… not to cloak… to reach out and communicate with their audiences on blogs and forums and social media.

We make our clients leap through hoops they don’t even know exist just to fulfill Google’s vision of the web. We sit and explain that their £12000 Flash animation might be brilliant in every regard, but it has to go because Google won’t like it.

When a new social media site starts up, we flock to it to see what it offers. If we can, build up our clients’ profiles – protecting their brand equity from the unscrupulous and making sure that their official channels are covered properly. We engage with the audience. We publicise these sites to an audience of tech-savvy early adopters. And then when the site has enough content and backlinks and advertising revenue…? Links are nofollowed, comments are Ajaxed, outbounds are redirected, profiles are banned.

We do this with no professional infrastructure beyond conferences and blogs – and amid a blizzard of misinformation. There are no accredited university courses explaining how search algorithms function.

So why are we hated?

We’re hated because people can discern no difference between spam and good SEO. Because Calacanis is quotable and can say that black is white and be believed by a gang of credulous dupes and cackling stooges looking for a hobby horse to ride.

We’re hated because people need a bogeyman to blame for their failure to have a problem business plan or to hide their own corner-cutting. Much easier on the soul to blame your SEO then take a long, hard look at your business model right?

We’re hated because people set up shop promising to rank you for ‘iphone’ for $100 a month. They’re either just ignorant of reality or outright scammers. And yet they fly under the same SEO flag as the decent guys.

We’re hated because of the pointless grey hat vs. grey hat battles – when people try to pass themselves off as either “black hat” or “white hat” – or blue or green – when really only one dividing line matters: good SEOs vs. bad SEOs.

We’re hated because we stop content writers copying and making sure they speak the language used by searchers. We’re hated by developers because we make them rewrite their code and re-architect their sites. We are hated by designers because we obsess over every kilobyte of every image to make our sites faster.

We’re hated because morons fire off cookie-cutter link requests to the most inappropriate sites imaginable.

We’re hated because the sites we work on rank higher than others who think that they should be in the top spot because they’re inherently superior and don’t understand why Google thinks differently.

We’re hated because all of these things are seen by some as attempts to ‘game’ the search engines to deliver results that are somehow ‘fake’.

Where are the SEO heroes?

So who are our representatives – the people who will stand up and tell people that SEO is worth it? Do we have a figurehead? Are there badges, degrees and stamps of authority we can reference? No. We have to beat our own drum in the face of a hostile/indifferent public and site owners who don’t like what we do because they don’t understand what we do.

Our SEO Heroes are those people who not only do great work, but go out to bat for the team week in, week out. Here’s a few that we could think of – I’m sure you could add to the list:

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