From My Inbox: More Defense Of SEO

I spent about a half-hour today defending SEO privately in an email to someone questioning it. Upon reflection, I thought those responses should go into a public post. After all, the discussion involved Stephen Colbert, the great Jason Calacanis mystery project that will kill SEO as well as those scumbag SEOs themselves. So I’ll end my week with a Friday defense of SEO once again (sigh).

To put my email discussion in the right context, I have to go back earlier this week, to the Google Says Stephen Colbert Is No Longer The Greatest Living American article I posted.

Yes, Stephen Colbert is no longer ranking tops for "greatest living american" in searches on Google. That’s thanks to Google updating its Googlebombing detection algorithm. The real news here, by the way, isn’t that Colbert dropped. It’s that Google’s supposedly automatic Google bomb detection system is anything but. From what Google’s Matt Cutts commented:

It’s not a manual change; it’s just a fresh push of our Googlebomb data. The algorithm doesn’t run every day

In other words, no, Google didn’t go out and manually yank Colbert out of the results. But then again, the algorithm clearly wasn’t smart enough to catch this new link bomb. Instead, about three weeks after Colbert began ranking, a "fresh" link bomb algorithm was pushed out to catch it.

Frankly, Colbert was a classic Googlebombing situation. The existing algorithm should have grabbed it. Instead, I tend to like what Michael Gray suggested happened:

I hope by algorithmic they don’t mean

if($query == "greatest living american"){ "colbertnation.com" = false;}

Also commenting on the article was Brandon Wirtz, feeling all left out and lonely from my Colbert story:

No mention of me? I was number 2 prior to the change and am now number one. ColbertNation had no mention of the words Greatest Living American when they took the number one spot, so many people thought Google was playing along the other way. Is it that hard to believe that with my paltry 85 links that I achieved more than Rand Fishkin, and Joe Griffin with their several thousand? Colbert has something like 500k at last check. It screams Google Bomb. I was the only person trying who actually optimized my page and strategically chose links.

This article was carefully written to not mention who was in first. Likely to keep me from gaining a legitimate link.

Indeed, if you search for greatest living american, Brandon’s page now ranks tops (Postscript: SF Gate has a nice article now up about it). What’s up with me not giving Brandon some mention love? As I commented back:

Brandon, the article wasn’t carefully written to avoid mentioning you. You weren’t mentioned because, well, you’re not Stephen Colbert. Sorry to break this news to you :)

It’s not hard to believe you are ranking tops. I believe you are the only other person who has tried to overtly rank tops for that term, by asking people to link to you that way. Rand did NOT ask for links to his sites. He asked for links to the Colbert site. And as you, as well as my article, note – Colbert would be in the tops if those words were on the ColbertNation.com’s home page.

As for paltry 85 links, Yahoo reports that at 174. Google probably has this many if not more if you log into the Google Webmaster Central system rather than use the public reporting tool.

Still, that’s far less than the 56,000 links Yahoo reports to the ColbertNation home page. However, it’s not just the number of links — it’s the anchor text of those links Google Now Reporting Anchor Text Phrases explains more about this.

You and Joe (he’s got 25 links) are working some good anchor text, but it also suggests that if some other people using the words "greatest living american" on their pages were to gain more links, you’d start to drop.

Maybe not, of course. Being the first to really play hard to go after this game, you’ve become uniquely relevant for the term. You might hang in there.

Now we get to the email defending of SEO. Brandon’s friend Jake Ludington (nice in-car wifi-equipped Xbox setup, Brandon & Jake!) emailed me, along with Jason Calacanis and Chris Pirillo trying to figure out the mystery of Brandon’s spectacular success. Since several people were on that email, I don’t think the question is particularly private (nor was it flagged that way), so I’m pretty comfortable reprinting it here:

How do you account for a complete unknown coming in and crushing the SEO experts who were trying to put Stephen Colbert at the top of the search for Greatest Living American? Brandon Wirtz, the guy who now owns the term, is a video expert, but he knows nothing about SEO.

Including Jason and Chris because I think it might make for an interesting podcast conversation.

My response:

I think that Brandon knows well if he gets a lot of people linking to him with that phrase — and he uses that phrase on his web page itself, he has an excellent shot at ranking well.

That’s also SEO, at least the link bombing part. SEO is much more broad than that, of course. But fair to say, Brandon knows some things about SEO and certainly knows plenty about getting links pointing at him.

Jake still wasn’t satisfied and came back with:

But according to some Google searching, Brandon’s page has a lack of meaningful links, topping out at 105, while Rand Fishkin of SEO Moz has 1180 for his page.

That’s one example, but the other SEOs in the hunt all had considerably more links as well.

Based on what those 105 links are, I’d guess that the offer of free software didn’t amount to much. I guess my point is, the pros got beat at their own game by someone who shouldn’t have had a chance; someone who by the numbers shouldn’t be at #1 now. This sort of leaves a question about why someone would pay for SEO services or what SEO brings to the table that can’t be figured out by any average Joe.

Ah — back to the debate over SEO. I thought we were done with that. I wanted to be done with that, at least for this year. But as you’ll see in a bit, Jason Calacanis in particular is going to keep beating that dead horse over the coming weeks. But first, my response to Jake:

I don’t know that any pro tried to rank for that term. They all got behind Colbert trying to rank for the term, and he did — until Google adjusted the Google bomb algo to knock him out. He doesn’t use those words on his page. If he did, he’d be back up there.

I commented more about this on my original post, after Brandon came along trying to figure out why the article wasn’t all about him. Yep — he has relatively few links, and Joe Griffin who ranks in the top results has even fewer. But it’s not just the number of links — it’s the anchor text, the words int the links themselves that count most.

It’s fairly likely that if a pro (or anyone more notable than Brandon) came along and said they wanted to rank well for those words — and also used those words on their page — then Brandon might drop off. Of course, he might hang in there simply because he was the first out the gate to try and go after the term and ride the Colbert coattails. That gives him some notoriety.

Why pay for SEO services? Because SEO is more than trying to get ranked tops through a Google bomb. There is indeed plenty of things that an average joe can figure out. There are plenty of times when they can use help. I have sat on endless site clinic sessions where it becomes clear that many people have serious site architecture issues that stop them from ranking as well as they might. They just don’t have enough education nor the time to learn more.

At this point, I’m fairly tired of having to reexplain this every year every time someone wants to shout SEO is dead. I’ve been having to read and respond to it since 1997.

Here we are 10 years later — 100 years in internet terms — and search engines and SEO is far from dead. I tend to think it’s not going to die anytime soon. I understand the bad rep. I understand how fun it can be to call it all snake oil and so on. I challenge anyone to sit on a site clinic panel who wants to diss it and either put up or shut up.

If you really care more about it Jake, then read this: Why The SEO Folks Were Mad At You, Jason.

I cannot explain more beyond that, really.

I mentioned that Jason was on this email thread. I’ll share what he sent, because that’s also not particularly private and also part of what he’s been saying publicly recently. He sent back:

Jake: it’s all moot… after 7/14/7 SEO will start the long slow death it deserves…

Jake, intrigued, asked:

What happens then?

Jason continued to be coy, saying:

mark it on your calendar… it’s the day SEOs became irrelevant.

Chris Pirillo was also puzzled about what Jason was talking about, so I jumped in:

Jason’s referring to this:

  • Introducing Mahalo, Valleywag
  • Jason Calcanis Challenges SEOs Worldwide, Threadwatch
  • Calacanis’ latest, Project X, Kokua?, GigaOM
  • Rumormonger: Is Kokua the new site from Calacanis?, Valleywag
  • Reports are this will be a search engine where the most popular queries are answered through human powered results. And if you have humans in the mix, then those tiresome crappy snake oil salesmen SEOs can’t mess things up.

    Of course, Yahoo, Ask Jeeves, Microsoft, About.com, Lycos …. oh, should I keep going? All have used humans to answer some of their top queries at different points in the past. And they ought to do more of that.

    Still, there remains a huge chunk of tail terms that you will never, ever, ever get answered by all those humans. You’ll still have to have a crawler that you fall back on for them. And SEO is as much about tapping into the tail as the head. In fact, the type of SEO that people tend to ignore and not diss or talk about is the SEO that ensures your site is search engine friendly, crawlable, so that you naturally do well for some of those tail terms. Surprise, surprise — a lot of sites just don’t naturally come out of the box this way. There is indeed some real value in having an actual professional help you.

    I can build a web site. I have built web sites. They work. They might work better or be more nicely designed if I hired a designer. Yet people tend not to slam designers as snake oil salesmen anywhere near the way they slag off SEOs. This is despite the fact I have been to so many crappy designed sites that I want to gouge my eyes out — sites all in Flash when I was stuck on a broadband connection. Sites that were impossible to bookmark. Sites that were all pretty yet not helpful.

    There’s good and bad in any industry. SEO takes more lumps than it deserves because in particular you have a small segment that can be seen in a big way doing link and comment spam. People want to color the entire industry that way. And right now, it especially helps Jason’s interests to do that if he’s launching a search engine. Rile the SEOs up, and that’s just more publicity for the project.

    No need to do that, of course, Jason. Just make Google your target. After all, that works for Jimmy Wales. Punch at Google needing to go extinct, and the mainstream press you’re really after will gobble you up. After all, they don’t know SEO from Adam. But they know about big bad Google. Shift the cannons over there.

    If I’m starting to sound cranky, it’s because I am. Jason’s long been anti-SEO (where he defines SEO as the worst elements of it), even before the stealth project rumors came out. But as my email notes, I’m expecting he’s going to stir the SEO pot once again to pull in some attention.

    Meanwhile, I’m cranky because with all this debate going on, I’ve tried to actually get a reasonable discussion going on. First for SES New York, I asked both Dave Pasternack and Jason to sit on a site clinic panel (Matt Cutts provides an excellent rundown of a recent one). My invite explains why:

    So we’ve all seen the "SEO is rocket science" debate, along with the stupid contest. But you may have heard that what I really think would be useful is for Dave and Jason to take part in a SEO site clinic session.

    If you’ve never seen one of these, they involve people in the audience asking for help about their sites. They aren’t getting listed or have other issues, so they get live advice from a panel of SEOs.

    I’ve done many of these, and I realized it’s probably the best way to demonstrate to Dave and to you Jason that there are indeed a ton of people with real honest-to-goodness SEO problems that aren’t covered in help files and have nothing to do with blog spamming, link jamming or any of the garbage that SEO is often dissed about.

    The format would be simple. Dave and Jason would be one team; Greg Boser and Todd Friesen would be the other. We’ll take volunteers randomly from the audience, look at sites and offer advice on fixing things form both teams. The deck won’t be stacked. I’ll let the audience decide through applause which team they thought offered the most advice.

    If SEO is really as easy as you think, this is an easy contest. You should have no problem dealing with questions about site issues. In honesty, it is much harder than either of you think, and putting you on a site clinic is the best way for you to really understand that. If you’re brave enough, I promise you’ll come away with a new appreciation of what it means to be an SEO professional — and while you might not launch rockets by doing it, you’ll also realize just how common problems versus "you just build it" or "you just fix it once" situations.

    To his credit, Jason said he was up for it. Dave never responded. And with enough already set for the agenda, I didn’t push harder to try and make it happen.

    Instead, I thought for the upcoming SMX Advanced show that we’d have a formal debate on whether "SEO Is Bull." You know, a real debate with statements, responses, counter-responses and so on.

    Greg Boser and Todd Friesen immediately agreed. Dave said it sounded interesting but that he wasn’t going to attend the show. Jason agreed in general but then pitched that there was this new thing he wanted to show first, something that would be make SEO dead. What was it? He wouldn’t say. Just give him about 10 minutes, then how about having the audience throw questions and comments at him?

    Well, I had Greg and Todd already set to do this other format. I wasn’t comfortable changing stuff around unless they were happy with it. Todd, being pretty mellow, said he’d go for it if I wanted. Greg — quite reasonably — said he wasn’t going to do a session like that unless he was told what Jason was planning to spring as a surprise. But Jason didn’t want to share those details in advance. So I canned the session.

    It was disappointing. There’s so much noise about SEO, and the debate was meant to constructively advance the conversation, not just having the usual round of link-baiting and attention-seeking. Sure, perhaps it might have been fun to do a "yell at Jason" session. But there’s been enough yelling going on, don’t you think? There really is an SEO profession. People actually do get paid real money and provide real services that help people. The profession has a reputation problem, true (though it also continues to grow and be in demand despite this). Perhaps it’s time to shift toward addressing the profession and its issues professionally, rather than with yet another round of knee-jerk attacks on one side and contest-style link-bombing attacks from the other that prove nothing?

    By the way, Jason did later reconsider giving the debaters a preview, but by that time, it was too late. My agenda had been all moved around and locked down. Maybe I’ll do a debate for the SES San Jose show or do the site clinic idea there. I’ll do anything that I think could bring more education to the space.

    Meanwhile, Jason has said he’s not blogging for the time being and that he’ll be back on July 14, the date he mentioned in the email discussion above for when SEO will be shown as irrelevant. So that’s when the new search engine will be coming, I assume.

    That’s fine. I’ll look forward to looking at it. But I’m going to stay as much as possible out of the baiting game that this is some anti-SEO tool. Jason’s great at the baiting, but this is one I think the SEO industry as a whole should ignore. Instead, I’ll just be interested to see it from a search perspective. Trot it out — let’s see if it is more useful than Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask.

    Postscript: A tipster points out

    See the questions posted at:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:Jasoncalacanis

    e.g. “Who is the fastest wikipedian?”

    Jason isn’t asking these questions for a blog post. Wasn’t the Jason Calacanis playbook with Netscape to hire top Diggers? Do you think he might be trying the same strategy with Wikipedia and his new wiki/community-driven search engine? Wikipedia is the site that can outrank any SEO. What if he could somehow “harness” all that wikipower to make a search engine and drive all the SEOs out of business?

    Postscript: Someone passed along a post today from Did-It’s marketing manager Steve Baldwin, who takes a rip at me for having removed the SEO debate panel from the SMX agenda:

    Search maven Danny Sullivan, who has insisted that "SEO is Rocket Science" on numerous occasions, recently decided to add a session to his forthcoming SMX (Search Marketing Expo) entitled "Is SEO Bull?" to capitalize on the furor and stocked the panel with pro-SEO partisans and, presumably, someone who would take issue with the "SEO is Rocket Science/SEO Rockstars Deserve $500 an hour" camp.

    OK, fair enough: it’s Danny’s show, and he can run it anyway he wants. But I noticed something interesting today when I checked SMX’s agenda: the "Is SEO Bull" session has been deleted without any explanation. You can see this yourself by comparing the Google Cache for the conference agenda with the live page.

    I’m very glad that Danny decided to cancel this "debate," which would have been one-sided and largely self-serving to his SEO pals. But why didn’t we read about this cancellation on Danny’s site, SearchEngineLand.com? Maybe because such an announcement would have served as an admission that the debate was lost long ago, and those who insist that SEO is Rocket Science are a rapidly dwindling fringe group.

    I didn’t recently decide to add the session. It was there from the start of when the agenda went up back in early April. I did recently pull it down, for the reasons I’ve explained above. But to further explain, here’s what I emailed Steve (as well as Did-It execs Dave Pasternack and Kevin Lee):

    As it happens, if you’d read Search Engine Land today (I gather you don’t regularly read), you would have found an entire explanation here.

    I didn’t do a more specific post about why this was being pulled because that was hard to do without it seeming to possibly embarrass both Jason and perhaps your boss Dave.

    In Jason’s case, he effectively wanted to change the entire format, so that it was no longer a thoughtful, considered debate. You might disagree that there’s a debate to be had at all. I don’t. But after getting people to agree to one thing, a change in midstream wasn’t going to work.

    I could have done a big post saying hey, Jason tried to potentially hijack this session, but that just wasn’t very nice. But I went ahead with my post today because Jason has continued on his anti-SEO quest now for some other very specific reasons that I’ve outlined. So, it seemed fair enough to discuss why I was unable to do something more reasonable.

    The other reason I couldn’t do the debate is because Dave himself wouldn’t step up to take part. Perhaps he had other priorities. Perhaps he saw no value in it. But of the two people on the anti-SEO warpath, at least Jason was willing to give it a go. If Dave had also been willing, I’d have worked harder to save this. But as it was, you know — it was just all my buddies I suppose that were willing to try. Sorry you don’t get to be my buddy, Kevin. I mean, I’ve known you for years, but I guess your marketing manager is going to shove you into some opposing camp he seems to have crafted in his mind.

    Since you’re the marketing guy for Did-It, Steve — here’s a formal request for you. Get Dave, or get Kevin, to be on a site clinic panel for SES San Jose. Dave never agreed to do this for SES NY. My post explains why I think this would be a useful education all around.

    Let me know. I’m working on the agenda shortly. If it’s all bull, there should be nothing to lose. If, you know, SEO might possibly be a bit hard for the average person, you’ll find that out in short order — and it would be a good learning lesson.

    Alternatively, if you want to bite for a more formal debate, happy to try this again in the original format I wanted for SMX at SES instead. It was never meant to be one-sided. It was simply that only one side actually was willing to turn up.

    Related Topics: Channel: SEO | SEM Industry: General | SEO: General

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    About The Author: is a Founding Editor of Search Engine Land. He’s a widely cited authority on search engines and search marketing issues who has covered the space since 1996. Danny also serves as Chief Content Officer for Third Door Media, which publishes Search Engine Land and produces the SMX: Search Marketing Expo conference series. He has a personal blog called Daggle (and keeps his disclosures page there). He can be found on Facebook, Google + and microblogs on Twitter as @dannysullivan.

    Connect with the author via: Email | Twitter | Google+ | LinkedIn



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    • http://seoblog.intrapromote.com/ Erik

      Crap. Well, at least we have two more months. Did Jason say whether all our clients will leave right on 7/14, or will they trickle away all during the fall? I need to do some planning.

    • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

      An SEO defending SEO is just not credible enough. Just from this article, readers get the feeling that SEOs are so busy defending themselves that they don’t see the other side of the picture.

      For example, when Wikipedia installed sitewide nofollow, SEOs tried to start a nofollow Wikipedia campaign instead of empathizing with a real problem Wikipedia has with spam.

      SEOs should have suggested solutions; offered to code up a viable alternative to nofollowing every outbound link. SEOs should have owned up to the fact that some people inject links into Wikipedia for selfish reasons.

      Instead, most SEOs attacked Wikipedia’s decision (I think Rand was the only notable exception).

      It’s that ego-centric view of the web where links you get matters more than what negative impact you have on communities like Digg or Wikipedia that turns people off to SEO.

      We need more SEOs that are able to look at issues from multiple viewpoints, and right now, that’s just not happening.

    • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

      > Just from this article, readers get the feeling that SEOs are so busy defending themselves that they don’t see the other side of the picture.

      Read the other article I pointed to. It goes into depth beyond the defending to discuss the real problems that SEOs can and do solve for people and web sites.

      > SEOs should have owned up to the fact that some people inject links into Wikipedia for selfish reasons.

      Actually, there were some creative responses, such as Wikipedia perhaps coming up with trusted resources. It also wasn’t just SEOs upset with Wikipedia. Plenty of people dislike the fact that they benefit so much from inbound links but refuse to credit outbound. Nofollow hasn’t stopped people from trying to get links — there’s still value there. The problem, fundamentally, is they have a system that lets anyone do anything. Anyone — not just SEOs — can take advantage of that.

    • http://www.seo4fun.com/blog/ Halfdeck

      “Actually, there were some creative responses, such as Wikipedia perhaps coming up with trusted resources.”

      Danny, don’t you see that we are contributing to our own problems? Do you honestly believe people just wake up mistrusting SEOs for no reason?

      If SEOs are marketers, we suck at marketing ourselves.

      People need to get that we are here to help THEM, not ourselves. And by “them”, I’m not just talking about clients that have enough money to pay us, but everyone, including people in the Digg/Wikipedia community.

      I know you spent time helping Tony Comstock when his site tanked. When I was less busy, I used to spend time at Google Groups Webmasters Help helping out webmasters for free. But not everyone has the luxury to do that. Niel offering to SEO Jason’s site I saw as a big step forward. But that’s more an exception than the rule.

    • http://www.readermeetauthor.com Derick

      I just wonder if this is an argument that’s even worth having any more. Some folks have their minds made up already and no amount of defending or arguing is going to change that.

      I think it’s important to remember that some fights are worth fighting and some aren’t. Sometimes it’s better to acknowledge your disagreement on a subject and move on.

    • http://www.mattcutts.com/blog/ Matt Cutts

      Hey Danny, interesting article! I figured maybe I should clarify my quote from yesterday to prevent any misunderstandings. I said “It’s not a manual change; it’s just a fresh push of our Googlebomb data. The algorithm doesn’t run every day.”

      That comment meant that the change for [greatest living american] was due to a data push, not a new algorithm. (I believe) all we did was re-run the existing algorithm and push the resulting data. We don’t run the Googlebomb algorithm as part of our daily indexing, and the Colbert phenomenon was detected the first time the algorithm ran again. We didn’t do anything manual for Colbert just like we didn’t for any other link bombs.

      Okay, now I’ll let everyone resume discussing whether SEO is/isn’t rocket science, whether we should/shouldn’t sweat the small stuff, and whether SEO will/won’t die. :)

    • http://www.kevinlee.net diditcom

      I continue to be perplexed. No one on the Did-it team ever said (to my knowledge) that SEO is dead or useless, that SEO is BS or that SEO isn’t worth doing. All Dave said is that it isn’t rocket science. I’ve weighed in as well in print, and my position continues to be that SEO should get the site the ranking it deserves, and assuming the site’s competitors are doing a poor job with SEO, perhaps even a ranking higher than it deserves. Anything more than that and a site owner risks the sustainability of their rankings as Matt Cutts and his contemporaries at all the engines do their best to maintain relevance.

      At Did-it.com, we aren’t in the SEO business with the exception of audit reports we do occasionally on special request. We refer SEO work out to those in the industry who we thing charge a fair, price, do a good job and know their stuff.

      Since we weren’t asked to be on any SMX panels relating to our core business, we didn’t feel like going out to participate on a panel that has is designed to create an artificial debate. To me the debate is should you expect to get undeserved rankings after hiring an SEO or could you get the majority of ranking for your content by following the basics covered in most books, conferences and the Google Webmaster site. It’s not a debate about whether SEO is bull.

      WRT site clinics, site clinics are useful when they are cooperative. I’ve done them in about 5 or 6 DMA conferences with Heather Lloyd-Martin, Detlev Johnson, Lee Odden, Andrew Wetzler, Chris Copeland, and others. I’m not sure an adversarial site clinic imparts more wisdom, but I can see an event producer thinking it will be more entertaining.

      SEO is an important part of an online marketing plan, no one disputes that, as a blogger Jason Calcanis would likely agree.

      If we had been offered a spot to impart wisdom to the SMX audience regarding our business of paid search and auction media (even is bid management dead), we would have considered also doing a panel on how SEO fundamentals are critical to a site’s success.

    • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

      If Did-It wanted to speak at SMX, you should have pitched to speak. I had plenty of openings on several paid search panels. Did-It made no outreach at all, that I can recall. Apologies if I somehow missed that. Other good, qualified paid seach companies did.

      In contrast, I reached out to Dave personally to see if he wanted to be on the debate panel. His response was that he wasn’t attending the show, period. It wasn’t “maybe he would, if he could to a paid search panel.” I can understand that position and would have considered it strongly. But instead, I was left with the impression that Did-It wasn’t going to be attending at all.

      Dave has argued that, and I quote: “most marketers can achieve significant organic rankings without resorting to anything more mysterious than applying the basic optimization principles outlined in Google’s Webmaster Guidelines.”

      It won’t go into more depth again arguing this other than to say it is not that easy. Nor was I suggesting an adversarial site clinic. I was offering a chance to easily demonstrate whether that basic knowledge Dave (and Jason) assert can be gained from published guidelines is enough for most people. I know from experience, from having answered hundreds of questions, that it is not. It is simply not the case that you just build it, and the traffic comes. It is not the case that you read some help pages and somehow that magically solved a signficant crawling error you didn’t realize you had.

      In the end, I was pretty much done with the entire debate with Dave. He’s made his points; I’ve made mine, and I tried twice (now three times) to involve him in a further discussion. Apparently, Did-It wasn’t up for that for SES NY when you were on paid search panels. Now, the excuse is you weren’t up for it at SMX because it’s my fault for not offering you a spot on paid search panels that you never pitched for.

      If your marketing manager can watch my agenda enough to know when a session has been dropped, and then take a swing that I’m somehow hiding something, I assume he can watch it enough to see when I’m asking for pitches. At the very least, he can at least acknowledge that rather than me trying to do something one-sided, I asked your own company from the very beginning to be involved.

    • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

      To add further, Kevin, since I was sort of dashing out the door when I posted above — I’ve written that there are indeed plenty of people who can rank well without any particular efforts or from using general information out there, including the Google information. But there are plenty of people who end up having problems especially from a search friendliness point of view.

      I’ve especially long described search engines as a “third browser” that you need to consider, because so many people come to your web site via them — and how they see your site can have an impact on your “natural” or “deserved” ranking, as you like to call it. Of course, when Google’s results themselves seem to change from day to day — not to mention are now getting personalized — the idea of a “deserved” ranking makes no sense. In fact, we actually had a court case that ruled there is no deserved ranking a page can expect.

      But the main point is this. Things can and do go wrong, and oftentimes what seems like easy, simple changes for those who are aware of SEO can fix them. An SEO professional is someone who sees these things and knows what to do, in the way a design professional can built a great web site.

      Dave’s various posts have frankly suggested that there’s no need for SEO professional at all. I don’t disagree that there are some firms that will try to make SEO seem more a mystery that it needs to be. But then again, it really can be a mystery for people.

      My intention with either a site clinic or a debate was to better illustrate this. Both Dave and Jason, I feel, have demonstrated an deep ignorance of just how perplexing many people find SEO. I’m not talking black hat. I’m talking even the “easy” stuff. Having them on a site clinic — heck, having them sit in the audience of one — is the best way to illustrate for them that most of the SEO issues many of us hear are how to spam blogs but everyday, ordinary site friendliness issues.

      As for the actual debate, whether is was SEO Is Bull or some other exploration of the topic, I didn’t particularly care. I simply wanted to get two sides exploring the general issue and would have altered things more from the original debate idea, if I thought it would have been a more constructive way (Jeffrey Rohrs, however, had assembled a very constructive debate format, I felt).

      The SEO reputation issue isn’t going to go away, but neither is the demand for those same services. In addition, like it or not, SEO is an equal half of the search marketing house with paid search. It’s not as nice and neat as paid search, but neither is PR compared to advertising. I’m all for cleaning up the reputation or extending the education. And that brings me back to the original point of this entire post. Jason’s about to embark on a new search-oriented product, it seems, and is latching on to it being anti-SEO as some selling point.

      Well, I’m tired of SEO being his whipping boy for attention. If it’s a good search product, it can stand on its own without yet another frenzy happening over SEO.

    • egain

      “The SEO reputation issue isn’t going to go away, but neither is the demand for those same services. In addition, like it or not, SEO is an equal half of the search marketing house with paid search. It’s not as nice and neat as paid search, but neither is PR compared to advertising. I’m all for cleaning up the reputation or extending the education. And that brings me back to the original point of this entire post. Jason’s about to embark on a new search-oriented product, it seems, and is latching on to it being anti-SEO as some selling point.”

      Yet again Danny think you hit the nail on the head.

      That said I do have to agree with some of halfdecks comments, in particular his reference to the ‘Wikipedia issues’ and his comment ‘If SEOs are marketers, we suck at marketing ourselves.’. We do as an industry seem to have a ‘herd mentality’, (with obvious notable exceptions), however apart from key speakers in the industry, there are many ‘SEO’ers’ out there, who just follow the majority, and don’t as Halfdeck put it don’t ‘look at issues from multiple viewpoints’.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1022902039 Delton Childs

      For the love of all that’s good!  Why do you blow my mind like this!!!! :) Great Article! Found it on SEOmoz.

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