How can you instantly find yourself ostracized by a subset of the SEO community, on a matter that doesn’t have anything to do with SEO? Well, aside from going to work for whatever company is considered “The Enemy” by SEOs that day, it would be opening your big mouth with opinions on certain topics that you should have known to wire your mouth shut over.
And let’s face it, there are a lot of hot topics out there to pick and choose from to rankle people’s ire. Komen pulled grant funding from Planned Parenthood’s breast cancer screening program over the abortion issue. President Obama came out in support of gay marriage while certain states were pulling out the stops to prevent it from ever happening in their own states. Yes, it is all hot topic news and people are debating it endlessly. But you should probably think about how your debate will come across to people who don’t share your opinion – like me.
Someone I respected and considered an expert in the industry ranted about how supporting gay marriage was wrong, evil, that marriage should be between a man and a woman because that was how God intended, those who think otherwise are going to hell, on and on with the whole nine yards. Yep, he went there. And best (worst?) of all, it wasn’t just Joe Webmaster ranting like a lunatic to his subset of “real life friends” who might share his opinions on a personal blog or real-life-friends only Facebook account, but it was Joe’s SEO Consulting jumping up and down with a “Look at me and F you everyone who thinks gays should be allowed to marry.” And let’s just say my paraphrase was worded much more nicely and politically correct than what he actually said. Real professional there “Joe”.
So I did what any pissed off industry colleague would do. I removed all traces of him from everything he was connected with me socially so I would never see his opinions on ANYTHING, whether SEO or gay marriage (and I am sure if I cared to look, I probably would have found some choice opinions he had on abortion too). I will never again link to him as an expert or recommend his expertise to a client, which I regret to say I had done. Not exactly what a SEO consultant who is constantly trolling for clients should be doing. And I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, judging from the comments going back and forth.
If he had simply said “Not happy with the President’s decision today” or “I am not a fan of Obama’s stance on gay marriage”, I probably wouldn’t have batted an eyelash at it – and it wouldn’t have cost him referrals from me and others. After all, everyone is entitled to their opinions, I just choose not to want to associate it with someone who is so openly trying to force his thinking upon others. I would have thought “not something I would come out and say, but whatever.” But his rant bringing up God, the bible, sexual health, and all the kinds of homophobic slurs that get actors kicked off of tv shows, I am just not cool with.
Heck, maybe he thought his statement would gain him some new contacts/followers from people who agree with him. Well, it sure got him noticed, but not in a good way.
A couple years ago, another SEM came out pretty hardcore on the abortion issue as pro-life. And yes, he got the same treatment from me. It wasn’t just a casual “I am pro-life” comment, but a whole rant about anyone who thinks they are pro-choice are all baby killers and don’t deserve to have kids of their own, sparked by something that had happened in the news I can’t even remember now. Same thing, everyone is entitled to their opinions whether I agree with them or not, but why try to force it down other people’s throat in a threatening way?
The other thing is this industry is a pretty progressive and young industry. At any time at a conference, chances are good that you will be sitting in a bar with a pretty diverse mix of straight, gay, transgendered, pro-life, pro-choice SEOs, but the difference is most of us respect each other’s opinions and we won’t try and argue with you about why our view is the right one and how anyone who doesn’t agree with it is going to hell.
Have I ever gone toe to toe with someone over any of these hot topic issues? Well, having been in this industry for as many years as I have been, I am sure the topic has come up over late night bar sessions at a conference with the drinks flowing. Heck, it could be a pretty lively debate at the bar, but then that is only in front of maybe a half dozen to a dozen people – not the thousands of people who will see your ravings on Twitter or Facebook. And have I ever gone out and tweeted / Facebooked / G+’d it? Hell no. First, it isn’t really anyone’s business and two, I have better things to do than get into a debate over something people usually have very strong and passionate opinions about. And the fact I can’t even remember having a conference bar conversation about it means either we have more interesting things to talk about than what we feel about gay marriage or the discussion was respectful enough that it didn’t end with someone telling those that agree with gay marriage are <expletives> that should go to hell.
Just like I believe everyone should have the choice to marry whomever they want, or do what they choose to their own bodies, I cannot respect anyone who comes out so vehemently on the opposite side of the fence than me. If that is your opinion, keep it to yourself. And that is precisely what I do, I won’t try and force my own personal opinions on any topic on you.
Still want to get your voice out there without pissing off the masses that have the the opposite stance? Bring it up casually in the context of something else, as Shoemoney did a few years back when he discussed about who he was voting for in the last election. Pretty non-offensive way of putting your opinion out there on some hot topics without coming across like a douche.
At the end of the day, feel free to harbor whatever opinions you have on the hot topics, I respect the right of anyone to have their own opinions. But keep it to your damn self when it could affect your business and you come off looking like a total douche to those on the other site of the fence from you. And trust me, now matter how much you rant and rave, we aren’t going to suddenly change our minds and decide the grass really is greener on your side.
And I would love to hear comments – but I really would prefer they are on how you preceive others when they post about these hot topics, rather then your own personal opinions of said hot topics 🙂
Added: A couple people commented that I only bring up people who are opposing my personal views on hot topics, but I have definitely given the same treatment to those who share it, because they have gone about it in the same offensive way. One of them was someone who ranted back at the anti-gay marriage guy with some anti-religious slurs and another was just a non-stop stream of anti-Republican propaganda during the last election. Like I said, I respect people having their own opinion, what I don’t agree with it is a mudslinging approach to ANY opinion, whether it matches my views or not.