The Sad State Of The SEO Industry

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Barry Schwartz is one of the most respected journalists in the SEO industry and when he wrote this article called The Sadness In The Industry the other day I was a bit surprised.

When I wrote Why I dont Like 95% Of The SEO industry it seemed to upset a lot of people who thought it was a blanket statement about SEO. It was not at all. It was a statement about the PEOPLE in the industry. Pretty much every established SEO who has been around a bit that I know agreed with the post or atleast thought the points had some validity.

I had Danny Sullivan (the godfather of SEO) on my webmaster radio show and I felt it was a very good show. From the beginning it was pretty clear that we agreed knowing SEO obviously is a very powerful skill but the industry needs to be held to some standards. There was a lot more to the discussion but that is the just of it. After the show there was a huge backlash against Danny for not coming at me with guns blazing… I think that even opened Danny’s eyes a little more at what I was talking about in regards to all these people who call themselves SEO’s.

So the current state of SEO is no surprise to me. While I am not a professional SEO (I have never been paid to do SEO) we attend many internet marketing conferences and have become very good friends with the most accomplished SEO’s walking the planet.

You pretty much have 2 groups of “old school” SEO’s:

Those who have celebrity status for what they have written about -
These people have become venomous… They hate the fact that new people have come along with their blogs and made them irrelevant. They are super jealous of anyone who is recognized more then they are. The occasionally make forum posts or blog posts outing other SEO’s tactics so that people remember they still exist.

Those who have celebrity status for what they have accomplished These guys have distanced themselves from the industry. They used to blog, be apart of forums, have radio shows but they have slowed way down. They never really cared about the spotlight in the first place and now that there is all this venom in the industry they would rather rack up contracts with companies for actually *DOING* SEO then writing or talking about it.

Honestly I think the SEO profession is a victim of its own success.

I love SEO… I love the way it works. I love optimizing sites for search engines. SEO is a important part of internet marketing. I still believe SEO will become less important as time goes on but that does not mean I do not respect the skill ATM.

I feel very insulted when I am labeled a SEO and have for a long time. Are you proud to labeled a SEO?

91 thoughts on “The Sad State Of The SEO Industry

  1. james

    great article shoe. People in the SEO industry love negativity just look at the success of wickedfire. I think these SEO’s need to toughin up a bit. Who cares if they call donna fat

  2. Garrett Pierson

    Great post and very true. I know everyone has different opinions and perspective about all of this but this is crazy what has been going on the last couple weeks.

  3. netmeg

    Has SEO always been so meta? Honestly, I haven’t seen such a tempest in a teapot in I don’t know how many years. Why do people get so seriously freaked out when folks behave online almost exactly as they do offline – i.e. some are nice, some are jerks, some have no social skills, some are kiss-asses. Squabbles pop up and then calm down. Sadness in the industry? Please. Over this? Get over yourselves. As someone who has been participating in online communities for over twenty years, this little dust up ain’t nothing but a thang.

    There’s a reason my .signature says “Watching idiots online since 1985…”

  4. Wesley

    Eh, SEO. It is just finding the right keywords to optimize for, using the correct tags, and link building. It’s nothing more.

  5. Ben

    I think the term SEO has become much more than “Search Engine Optimizer/Optimization” over the years because a lot of people don’t make a clear distinction between “SEO” and “Internet Marketing”. Also, SEO will become less important in the next couple of years but Internet Marketing will become more and more important. SEO is a buzz word and while it’s core definition is Search Engine Optimization, it will be associated with Internet Marketing a lot because it’s what will actually get you ranked better in SE.

  6. cheap used cars

    I think the state of SEO is similar to the state of comments on shoemoney.com. I also think that anyone who has time to talk about SEO isn’t doing much. Where’s the feedback thread for your new tools offering Shoe?

  7. james

    I take it you do not read many a-list blogs? ShoeMoney has about the most knowledgeable commenters I have seen.

  8. JustinM

    Usually, ya. But it also depends who I am Labeled by.
    When word of mouth spreads amongst local businesses in my area that I am an SEO, I am very much proud. If someone calls me an SEO it’s likely because they don’t really know about the term Internet Marketer, they just know SEO.

  9. TheAnand

    I would loved to be called an SEO dude. Its a valuable skill, but nothing which cannot be studied.

    The very power of it comes from doing what you know than just knowing. It is a big deal :)

    P.S: I occasionally use it to woo girls….you know, tell them you can make their name come on google tops and stuff ;) Don’t know if its a good pickup line!!!

  10. VaBeachKevin

    I find it to be very similar to an auto mechanic. I know how to do a pretty good amount of work to my car, but by no means would I call myself a mechanic. Most of us do some amount of SEO to our own sites, much like Shoemoney does, but may not necessarily have the desire (or skills) to be hired to do it for someone else’s site. This is where I feel the difference comes in with knowing SEO, and being a SEO. I know a pretty good amout of optimization tips and tricks, but would never choose to do it for ayone else. Its not something I would enjoy doing on that level. Call me SEO or not, I’m not too worried about it.

  11. Nick Wilsdon

    Well I stopped using the term SEO once PPC took off – but I have no problem referring to myself as an online marketer or search engine marketer (SEM). As with any industry there are good and bad elements. Many of the professionals I know do a great job and still have a lot to give back to the community.

    I think you may have a point about the whole celebrity thing getting out of control though. Newcomers to the industry complain about newbs being ignored because they have not reached the stars within 6 months. Name any other industry where you can move up that quickly. Blogs and social sites have leveled the playing field dramatically, there’s a much lower barrier to entry. I can understand why some of the old school have decided they are better off taking the money. Especially when the presentation of the message has become more important than the message itself.

  12. Mario

    I personally don’t like beeing called SEO guy…In fact, I’m trying to “integrate” it in Internet marketing guy ;)

  13. Boston Wine

    There are quite a few “famous SEO” people who are looked as as authorities, yet the world has no idea if they were ever able to accomplish a single thing as far as SEO is concerned.

  14. Agent Magenta

    While there are some very good SEOs out there, the industry seems to be flooded with wanabee SEO ‘experts’. Part of the problem is how do you know if someone really is anygood at SEO? Lots of people out there just want to make a quick buck.

    My blog certainly isn’t the best and I do it just for the fun of it, but ultimately content is (and always will be) King. Build a great site with stuff that is useful or interesting and you don’t need SEO to get good rankings.

  15. Craig

    While some SEO experts are great in that field, I would not want to be labeled with such a narrow description. If you are an SEO chances are you are an expert at so much more like programming or marketing.
    If you have the skills to be an SEO and other things to compliment it you would do so much better overall if people knew you could more than just SEO.

  16. Archie Pennies

    The SEO market is just over saturated, most of these services and are relatively expensive for people just starting a business. Most people want to actually make money not spend it. To most people surfing the internet at their home thinking on how to create a website to earn a few bucks, paying a big portion of their hard earned paychecks to try to get some sites to rank well just to see if they actually make something out of it is out budget unless that person happens to have butt loads of cash to invest. Some firms charge extremely high prices. Some principles of Economics if supply is far higher than demand disaster is bound to happen. As more SEO jump in and more people start their own do it yourself SEO service prices are bound to go down just like what happens in most markets.

  17. TEKFIRM

    we ALL are seo , we know how to put and bold and get some backlinks and write comments on other blogs etc … and to make it faster we can just install wordpress with some plugin and that’s it !! we are PRO SEO !

  18. sean

    oh so now you like SEO ;) seo is a skillset not an industry. A skillset that most developers will integrate into their designs. The other things lumped in with seo are mostly marketing techniques(linking,bookmarking,digging etc)

  19. crash

    I’m more like SEM, but hey… we are what we do and after all I don’t care what people think about me. They call call me whatever they want, as long as I pay my own bills.

  20. ShoeMoney

    I was surprised that you just now are getting fed up with it. I got fed up with the crap a long time ago. Sorry I should have been more clear on that.

  21. seven grain salad

    I haven’t come across a single SEO site that looks respectable to me. There are way too many people that seem to be in it to make money from writing about how to make money.

  22. Erica DeWolf

    Oh but its so much more! I can see where you’re going with this- just include your keywords, use your alt tags, and build links and you’ll do okay. But there’s so much more to it…using keywords in vs. tags, decisions to put your business name or keywords in title tags…there’s hundreds of little things that can be done! That’s why I love SEO, personally. Because its so complex, if you want to be #1, but so simple, if you want to do very well!

  23. Erica DeWolf

    I agree- some posts by Shoe with little content spurs on a conversation that I learn much more from. His blog is social media at its best- conversation!

  24. Mark Mitchell

    Shoe. Great Post. I was nervous about the Calicanis style statement in the beginning but then the light made its way to the surface. PS you should consider a coffee table book of you in those Friday T-shirts, IT is funny.

  25. Goran Website

    Simply put yeah, thats why SEO is only a component of a marketing strategy, SEO on its own only brings visitors, its the website that converts visitors into leads (business). I have seen so many sites with lots of visitors with no business.

  26. Goran Website

    I would not be able to, or have not thought of getting up on a stage with 1000’s of people, I think it takes a particular type of person to be out there. There are many experts that “just go about their business”

  27. Barry Schwartz

    I am not fed up with it. I am just ashamed at the internal fighting that has been recently been going. I suspect things will get better, internally – as the summer passes. But I am in no way fed up with the industry. :) I honestly love covering SEO/SEM topics and the industry.

  28. Chris Abernethy

    Agreed. I think the important distinction made here is between someone who offers professional SEO services for others in exchange for a fee vs. those who simply know how to optimize for search engines and are doing it for their own sites.

  29. Chris Abernethy

    Good poing Goran. I think that’s probably one of the first lessons learned when getting into online marketing. Having a boatload of traffic means nothing if your landing page doesn’t convert. That’s probably where a lot of people who consider themselves straight SEO need to cross the line into marketing in order to succeed.

  30. Chris Abernethy

    I definitely agree that content is king, but depending on your niche SEO could be essential to getting good rankings. If you are the only one out there, you’re probably right about not needing SEO, but if you are pushing ringtones without PPC (just an example, I don’t recommend that!), you’d better have great SEO.

  31. Kieran Hawe

    This conversation is getting old. This industry is going to go through some serious changes soon and bottom line is that if you dont know your $hit you need to find a new job. Also, enough talk from so called “SEO experts” …start showing results. You want my respect? Show me what major keyword you own for a website you worked on.

  32. rumblepup

    I use SEO, SEM, SM, lego blocks, oreo cookies and milk, plenty of beer, and an occasional blunt to work my mojo. I figured out a long time ago that a real marketer isn’t in the job to make himself/ herself famous, but making their customer famous. I don’t really care about the SEO “club” anymore. If they do a good job, then they should get paid for doing it, and let their reputation make them famous. This social thing for instance, has been weirdo crappy for the longest time, and now it’s hit the sphinn set. Yawn! I’d rather learn from Shoe how to make good sites that earn good money.

  33. Action Figures

    Ed seriously has a lot of spare time on his hands, he has an epic ‘expose’ on his site. Not sure it was necessary though – any social voting site is corrupt like digg controlled by power users etc – we all know this…

  34. Sheila Sultani

    Part of the problem is that too many people call themselves seo experts when they aren’t. I’m pretty new to all this but isn’t google always changing things around to kind of beat the seo experts at their game?

  35. Pedro Sttau

    Sheila, agreed. As a matter of fact, that the problem with the IT industry in general, people feel it’s too easy to jump into the industry. The reality is that anyone can be a SEO, a Web designer, programmer, etc.. but very few can reach the professional status. (professional = doing it for a living, not really referring to people who do it when they get back from their real jobs) ;)

  36. Semi Pro SEO

    There are a lot of great web designers, CSS gurus, and kickass coders who can build killer sites that look amazingly professional and that a client will pay in the thousands of dollars for. These highly skilled people are adept at wonderful things like Flash and JavaScript rollovers. Then, the client comes back and says, Why aren’t I in the #1 spot in Google? I mean, I paid you all this money….” And you say, well it don’t exactly work like that. You have to “optimize” your pages. I find it really satisfying to work with these people because sometimes just minor changes in their pages can get them ranked pretty high up for the keywords that they should be ranking for in a short period of time. Then you feel like you’re doing your job–the client is happy, Google is happy, and you’re happy. But when you start getting into months and months and thousands of dollars, pages and pages of content, and sometimes on page add-ons that are borderline crap just to make a site rank higher, well, I can see the need but I sometimes feel like, as Charles T. Munger put it, “a one-legged man in ass kicking contest.” You’re just chasing ghost. But, there are large dollars involved and, more often, large egos as well. It’s kinda like having the biggest schlong, you know? But hey, as long as they’re paying for it. I’m sure it does help, but at what cost? Is it really possible to measure what a first-page Google ranking will mean to your bottom line? And what about those periodic “updates” to the algorithm? But I find it a fascinating field to observe and think about how people look for and find information. It’s pretty addicting…like a game.

  37. Web Services India

    Hi Shoemoney,
    I think search engine optimization works as a back bone for the promotion of the page rank of a particular site. And it’s a challenging work and we can’ t ignore its importance.

  38. John Loch

    There is of course a third group you haven’t mentioned..

    Those who’ve been around for years, view popularity as a closet toss, and never accept contracts. They’ve always been good enough at what they do to get by with their own practices and assets. Self made without the ‘hype’.

    I suppose at the end of the day though – if appearances are what describes you, then labels matter.. it is after all, no matter what category you’re in, about audience :)

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  40. Web Design

    Yes, that’s true. I have noticed that many of these “SEO” companies just spam to try to rank higher, by spam I mean they’ll try to get links to your site in every way possible, not even taking into consideration if the link will help or not.

  41. Web Design

    Right, many people misunderstand this. And to call someone who just build links a SEO is way overrated, I guess those who has been able to get sites on top of the search engines can be called that way.

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