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SEO Smash Mouth

In the SEO industry, it’s pretty easy to badmouth other SEOs. Whether it be publicly, privately, unanimously or otherwise, I find that many times when an SEO bashes the work of another, they are doing so bases largely on assumptions. And we all know what assumptions do, right?

I’m just as guilty as the next guy, so I’m pointing no fingers. Though I often play devil’s advocate on things so I’ll stake out a position just for the sake of creating a good discussion. Recently on a forum which I frequent (and respect) a member posted something they saw another site doing. Without even considering why the “tactic” was uses many members started trashing the the site stating that whoever SEO’d the site didn’t know what they were doing and should be fired. It didn’t seem to cross anybody’s mind that the “tactic” in question may not have been any kind of tactic at all. It may have just been an oversight.

Over in another well-known forum SEOs are routinely bashed because they implement tactics that are routine in the industry but deemed “unacceptable” to the moderators of that particular forum. They feel it is their goal to out any and all such search engine “spammers” and many times do so without ever having considered the legitimacy of the strategies being used. Its simply something they don’t like, so therefore it must be wrong.

Then there is the private badmouthing. This is usually done behind closed doors between and SEO and a potential client and it’s usually even intentional. A prospective client asks one SEO to review the work of another SEO. The SEO looks at the site and finds things which they would do that are not being done, other things they would do differently, and still other things that are being done that they wouldn’t. Over the course of the conversation the work of the current SEO is trashed, often times without the reviewing SEO being fully informed as to the specifications of the contract purchased and/or costs involved. It is then determined that the current SEO doesn’t know what they are doing or the client is overpaying for the services. Perhaps they are right. Perhaps not. It all depends on the contract.

When reviewing the work of another SEO sometimes its so easy to see things that you would have done differently. In fact, I don’t think I’ve ever reviewed the work of another SEO and found that they were doing things 100% “right”. Not that they were necessarily doing anything “wrong” but that there were things we say that could or should be done, whether it be on the page or off, or what have you. Aside from instances of obvious SEO spam, poorly implemented SEO can happen for a number of reasons that the potential client is not disclosing. It could be a financial barrier (not paying enough), implementation limitations, miscommunicated expectations or a number of other things. As the SEO reviewing the site, it’s easy to make assumptions and say “you’re not getting your money’s worth” with or without knowing how much the client is paying.

The SEO community has come a long way over the past several years. Recently there was an almost venomous separation between “black hat” and “white hat” SEOs. That has largely dissipated and many on both sides are respected by each other. But it still seems too easy for us SEOs to trash the work of others, even without knowing all the facts. Its a trap that is easy to fall in to, even by the best meaning of all of us. I think in such cases the SEO community can use a bit of tact. There is nothing inherently wrong with point out “tactics” and strategies and debating the merits of them. It’s even OK to disagree with strategies altogether. But through all that I think its important not to make assumptions. Even if we think we know what is going on, most often times we don’t.

There is an ancient proverb that reads, “The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know.” Words that often keep me humbled within our industry, and may serve to do the same for others.

Stoney G deGeyter

Stoney deGeyter is the author of The Best Damn Web Marketing Checklist, Period!. He is the founder and CEO of Pole Position Marketing, a web presence optimization firm whose pit crew has been velocitizing websites since 1998. In his free time Stoney gets involved in community services and ministries with his “bride enjoy” and his children. Read Stoney’s full bio.

3 Responses to SEO Smash Mouth

  1. Jason Green says:

    I think that if we look at the greater history of SEO intra-industry conflict, various trends of interest emerge but more importantly are the clear indicators of industry maturation.

  2. Liz Phillips says:

    It was interesting to see how many people at PubCon had never even heard of half of the tools or techniques that we use, but yet they are still ranking at the top of the search engines. I guess, I don’t think in the end it matters how we view each others work, but how the search engines do. As long as we are creating successful pages for our clients it doesn’t matter what other people think.

  3. Jonas Hartley says:

    It’s easy to talk smack in any industry and tear down the work of others to build up one’s work by pointing out the differences in a strategically crappy manner. That’s weak. I am clear and have no problem mentioning when something obviously bites, but at the same time quick to sing the praises of another’s accomplishments and point out their triumphs. I think it’s the difference between someone who knows what they’re doing as opposed to someone who thinks they know what they’re doing.