Search Engine Marketing (& Search Engine Land) Not Notable For Wikipedia?

Earlier this year, Wikipedia pondered whether Matt Cutts was notable enough to continue having a Wikipedia entry. Good sense prevailed, and his entry remained. Now debate has shifted to whether the entry about search engine marketing should go. Oh, and apparently Search Engine Land has an entry that might also get deleted, since we might not be notable enough. Time for the SEM villagers to grab torches and storm the Wikipedia castle!

Well, perhaps we can be calm and rational about all this. Let’s start with search engine marketing. The entry is here, and the debate over killing it can be found here. You’d think that Wikipedia having the top listing on Google for search engine marketing would be reason enough to keep that article going — and plenty of search engine marketing sites and companies would be happy to see Wikipedia bail out. But let’s address the concerns Wikipedians are raising:

Propose Deletion. This article is not Noteworthy. It is an overlapping topic….It is an overlapping (subset of Search Engine Optimazation). Search Engine Marketing belongs as a subtopic of Search Engine Optimazition, as it is currently written.

Search engine marketing does NOT overlap with search engine optimization. SEO is a subset of SEM. I know this, because I helped popularize and define the term "search engine marketing" back at the end of 2001. As I wrote then:

As the nature of search engine promotion has expanded and matured, the label "search engine optimization" hasn’t seemed to cover what some companies and individuals feel they do. But what should come to replace it, if anything?

The venerable phrase "search engine optimization" originally emerged to cover the optimization that was done for crawler-based search engines. Now directories are a big part of the search engine mix, as are paid listing services. In many cases, you aren’t really "optimizing" for these other venues, but you certainly are doing work that can influence how people are listed.

Personally, my preferred successor term is "search engine marketing." I’ve been using that since the middle of last year in some cases, especially when describing what’s taught at the Search Engine Strategies conferences.

I’ve like the term because I feel it encompasses many things: optimizing for crawlers, managing paid listings, submitting to directories — you name it. All of these activities are marketing on search engines.

Of course, what do I know? Wait a minute! According to Wikipedia, I’m a notable technologist on the subject. So Wikipedians, if you are debating, SEM is an umbrella term as I’ve outlined above that encompasses a range of activities (paid and free) designed to gain search behavior traffic and visits. Apparently, according to Wikipedia, I’m an expert in the area. So as an expert, consider me a third party source telling you that SEM deserves its own page.

Meanwhile, the entry for Search Engine Land has a debate going that it should get deleted:

Propose Delete, since this article is not noteworthy as is basically an ad for a website that sells ads, why should it be in Wiki? Look at the cites, one or two words in a cite and some do not mention this site at all. This is just a website that gets paid for advertising.

Ouch. Nearly 2,000 articles written in our short history, read by thousands of people each day, and we’re just some scum-sucking site with ads. Dang. Who gets yanked next, the New York Times because of all their pesky ads?

Wikipedia doesn’t yet rank highly at Google for our site name, so I guess the entire "don’t you want to suck down someone else’s traffic" argument won’t work. Heh.

But seriously, the consensus so far seems to be that Search Engine Land should be a subset of my personal page. By that argument, I look forward to the Search Engine Watch page being removed and shifted over to being a subset of me, as well.

The reality is that both sites stand independent of the individuals that created them or that were prime movers for them. The are collective and noteworthy works, just as much as Wikipedia is noteworthy and shouldn’t be considered a subset of Jimmy Wales or Larry Sanger.

Honestly, some of the other arguments for deletion are laughable:

There are no third-party sources about the subject. If you could improve the article with some industry news from reliable sources that discuss the set-up or the work of the company then it would be more acceptable. As is said above, a few minor citations in other news articles is not sufficient, and the Finance Visor article is basically a redistributed press release from the Company. If this site was important enough then someone would have written about it independently.

How about this? If Wikipedia founder (or cofounder, depending on who you want to please) Jimmy Wales can make the time to sit down way back in December and talk to Search Engine Land about his Search Wikia project, maybe he considers Search Engine Land notable? Would that work? Wait! I’m notable! Can’t I say as a notable expert in the search space that I think Search Engine Land deserves its own entry?

I liked this:

not particularly noteworthy, smacks of advertising

Yeah, let’s judge a site based on carrying ads. Anyone doing even a small amount of research into the site (which those in the debate should be doing) would quickly find it is cited from sources across the web. But that’s work, and it’s much easier to simply scan the site, see some ads and declare it to be bad because of advertising. It’s that type of attitude that weakens Wikipedia as the leading research resource it sees itself as being.

Or this:

Reuters cited it as ‘search engine land blog’ so….for now the best place for it would be on Danny Sullivan’s page.

That just makes no sense. They cited the cite itself, to help define who I was — so the site belongs as part of my entry?

OK, JE Hochman was already on me earlier this year for not doing up a page listing all the places that cite Search Engine Land. As I explained, I used to do that back at Search Engine Watch but stopped maintaining it because I (and thus the site I run) got cited so much. It also feels a bit too self-referential, but clearly I need to do it if only for Wikipedians who remain oddly (for a site that is not mainstream) in love with third party references from mainstream media. Here’s a short list of some recent cites for now:

Related Topics: Channel: Consumer | Search Engines: Wikipedia


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.

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  • JEHochman

    So much confusion, so little time…

    1. The Wikipedians are confused about SEM. Thanks, Danny, for helping clear up the confusion with this article. SEMs are partly to blame because aside from Carsten and Bill, I haven’t seen anyone helping us maintain the articles within the Internet marketing space. The SEM article was crap until yesterday, when I deleted most of it and added a few tidbits. It needs much more work to become a good article. If progress doesn’t begin within a short time, the article may be temporarily merged into Internet Marketing until we have time to fix it.

    2. Search Engine Land needs to be written about, either online or offline, not just mentioned or used as a source. With the search engine optimization article, we established a precedent that online sources can be considered reliable. If a few of you would write an article about Search Engine Land, that would help immensely.

    3. Just for fun, take a look at the article to see what the Search Engine Land article needs to become. This article was listed in the “Did you know?” section of the Wikipedia home page for about 12 hours today. That probably got him some traffic, buzz and links. Maybe we need to listen to Jason Calacanis a little bit, because he’s obviously doing something right.

    4. Wikipedia functions by consensus. Sometimes a short term compromise is necessary to achieve a long term goal.

    5. Remember that Wikipedia covers 1.4 million topics and is read by people worldwide. Probably 99% of the world population has no clue about SEM. If we patiently explain things, we can probably reduce that ratio to 98%.

  • Danny Sullivan

    Yeah, I just don’t get the entire “there’s gotta be an article about it” to prove something is notable. So many people cite our articles and the site itself as a must read resource for the industry, as you and others in the search marketing space know. Having to get a third party article to prove this to doubtful Wikipedians to me just reflects poorly on Wikipedia. But hey, if I have time, maybe I’ll dig some up in addition to these:

    Those were mostly about the launch, rather than the active site that exists now, of course.

  • Philipp Lenssen

    A proposal to delete an entry on search engine marketing is weird and kinda scary — as it looks like the people who debate this don’t know what this actually is, i.e. outsiders to a specific subject discuss deleting a subject.

  • personalchef

    People who are in SE Industry know the Value and resource of Search Engine Land. We all recommend Search Engine Land’s Articles and site to our clients and to anyone who wants to know more about search and search related news.
    This is unbelievable!!!!

  • JEHochman

    Danny said:

    I just don’t get the entire “there’s gotta be an article about it” to prove something is notable.

    People of many different cultures, levels of education and experience read these articles. How can an encyclopedia demonstrate the notability of a subject to all these people who don’t share a common understanding of the world? We could use trial by ordeal, divination, or tea leave readings, but probably the most logical and civilized way is to consider the number and quality of references to the subject. If something is referenced a lot by reliable sources (hat tip to Sergei and Larry), then it’s probably notable.

  • Lucky Lester

    Wikipedia is too full of itself and perhaps some other substance as well!

  • ::Between Stations::

    One of my overall issues with Wikipedia is really summed up in this debate: Something is only ‘noteworthy’ or ‘worthy of an article’ if that particular community agrees with the existence of the topic.

    The comments at Wikipedia relative to how “well, marketing is about weaseliness” and the insistence that “it should be called search engine ADVERTISING” even though it’s not are a clear demonstration of this.

  • Danny Sullivan

    > If something is referenced a lot by reliable sources (hat tip to Sergei and Larry), then it’s probably notable.

    Search Engine Land is referenced by plenty of reliable sources. Just take blog roll links. Is Google reliable? Yahoo? Microsoft? Ask? Then go to some of the other search marketing sites that are reliable — we have plenty of links from them.

    I guess my issue is that Wikipedia tends to act like mainstream publication mentions are more important than non-mainstream — which is odd when sometimes, online niche publications are far more reliable sources of first hand, immediate info. Plenty of mainstream articles I read are flat-out wrong.

    The other issue is that Wikipedia demonstrates that is is often not compiled by subject experts when these things happen. Is Matt Cutts notable to the search industry? Of course he is — and any search expert knows that. It is self-evident. But non-search experts compiling material at Wikipedia start to question it, which makes you wonder why they are involved in those pages at Wikipedia at all? If we have to come along and educate them, perhaps they shouldn’t be messing with those pages.

    Alternatively, they should be doing basic research themselves. That’s what encyclopedia editors do. They perform research to write entries. They don’t cruise in, see ads on pages and make wide-ranging pronouncements as was the case with Wikipedia here. That just worrisome, frankly.

  • JEHochman

    I agree that SEL is referenced a lot, but what we lack are two or three meaty articles all about SEL, not just passing references. If an expert who doesn’t write for SEL, such as Matt Cutts, makes a blog post discussing the pros and cons of SEL, that would be excellent.

    The USA Today article about you was great. Can you get the WSJ to write a column about SEL? Maybe an irreverent column three piece?

  •,,2044595,00.html Seth Finkelstein

    Regarding: “Apparently, according to Wikipedia, I’m an expert in the area. So as an expert, consider me a third party source telling you that SEM deserves its own page.”

    You’re thinking like a regular pundit, and fail to grasp the Wikipedia Way – the fact that you are an expert makes you suspect :-)

    Yeah, yeah, someone’s going to pipe up and say formally, no, it’s not considered a bad thing to be an expert, it just doesn’t carry any additional weight beyond the guy who writes the Pokemon character bios. But in practice, due to the populist sensibility, and conflict-of-interest issues, it does seem to work out negative.

  • Jason Murphy

    It appears there is a bigger issue and an alternate motive on behalf of the user who submitted both for deletion: Akc9000.

    It’s possible that Akc9000 is wanting retaliation because the two pages they created recently were deleted.

    But looking deeper, the user runs a company called Dynamic Software (Google it to find their PPC ad) which he taglines as “INTERNET MARKETING SOFTWARE & WEB SITE PROMOTION SOLUTIONS”. One of the user’s deleted pages was a page about their company “Dynamic Software” because it wasn’t notable. Not only was it deleted, but it was deleted several times after he/she resubmitted.

    Did the user put Danny in their sights because Danny is such an influencer of the industry? Or is the user hoping that by going after such prolific entries that he might get some attention back to the Dynamic Software entry and or website. After all, any traffic is good traffic, right?

  • Danny Sullivan

    Well, the USA Today article was about me in particular, and the SEW and SES conferences in general. Over the years, there were a few articles about SEW itself, as a site people might want to watch.

    SEL is young, so there haven’t been as many articles like that yet. I’ll have to dig around for them. But I still find it odd that you have to get articles about site or person to somehow “prove” their notability rather than other measures (say blogroll links or subscribers) that effectively prove the same point. It’s just really odd, old-school thinking for Wikipedia to have.

    Was LonelyGirl15 only worth a Wikipedia entry after the mainstream media started writing about her? No:

    Well, I gather that’s what prompted someone at Wikipedia to finally (and belatedly) consider an entry and use it to prevent a deletion:

    But people online knew she was important before the mainstream media started writing about her, and Wikipedia ought to keep ahead of stuff like that.

    Plus, what’s the big deal with having entries period? Did we run out of hard disk space or something? Why can’t Wikipedia have as many entries as people want to maintain?

  • JEHochman

    Yes, Wikipedia isn’t paper so there’s no limit on the number of entries. A non-spammy article stub with a few references, like SEL or SEM, should be kept and expanded. Vanityspamcruft should be blasted on sight.

  •,,1882027,00.html Seth Finkelstein

    To be fair, Wikipedia does have a problem with people who view it as a nice high-ranking target for spam pages. By which I mean also PR fluff.

    And as a group, they desperately crave academic prestige, with all the insecurity and standards-hypersensitivity of those who know they don’t have such social standing – that was the lesson of the Essjay scandal.

  • Halfdeck

    Danny, I agree SEL is one of the best sources of SEO news out there. Having said that, if Aaron Wall’s, Bill Slawski’s SEO by the sea, or Andy Beal’s Marketing Pilgrim don’t have their own Wikipedia entries, why should SEL get special treatment?

    SEW stub page should go.

    You’re also the wrong person to be defending SEM and SEL entries since your views are biased. You should have gotten other people in the SEO community to defend your positions instead.

  • Neuro

    It amzes me that a lot of articles are deleted by people who know nothing about the subject area.

    I have been trying to create a page for 18 Plus its a UK organisation similar to rotaract (youth wing of rotary) or young framers.

    And the page keeps geting deleted first time by a yank second time by a german user.

    FFS they compained becaus I used the history from the main organisation page – what else was i suposed to use?

    Oh I am still a life member and I used to run one of the big 3 national scale events in theuk for 18 plus so uf ime not qualifed to write the article who is!

    how does one complain to Wales about an admin (i have a litle list)

  • JEHochman

    Recognize that Wikipedia doesn’t allow original research, which is what you are posting. If you fail to cite reliable, published sources that talk about the subject, your article should be deleted.

  • Michael Martinez

    “Recognize that Wikipedia doesn’t allow original research…”

    That is the biggest lie about Wikipedia. It is almost nothing BUT original research and not very good research in most cases. Nor is it an encyclopedia (Cf.

    Wikipedia is a Web site built from original research that is not peer-reviewed or subjected to any standardized fact-checking. It is not deemed acceptable as a citation source by many educators (Cf.*.edu).

    Frankly, no one should really care what Wikipedia does regardless of where it places in the SERPs. It would be better to continue to educate the people who obsess about Wikipedia over just how much it lacks credibility (Cf.*.edu).

  • Neuro

    JEHochman “Recognize that Wikipedia doesn’t allow original research”

    Where you reponding to my comment?

    The origional source for my orgaisation was a pre ww2 report by the carniege foundation thats not going to be online is it.

  • SEO Woman

    “SEMs are partly to blame because aside from Carsten and Bill, I haven’t seen anyone helping us maintain the articles within the Internet marketing space.”

    You have got to be kidding me. It’s abundantly clear that Wikipedians think we’re one step up from pond scum, but we’re supposed to help out? And while I’m helping, perhaps I could flog myself while they call me a reprehensible weasel. Then when I’m done, they can revert all my edits and ban me for life.

    Yeah, I’ll get right on that.

  • JEHochman

    @Neuro: You can cite offline sources. Maybe you can convince somebody to put that report online for the sake of future generations who may want to study the topic.

    @SEO Woman: Oh c’mon, don’t exaggerate. I haven’t been banned for life, yet. ;-)

  • Kimber Cook

    i know i’m late to the party, but…
    “Maybe we need to listen to Jason Calacanis a little bit, because he’s obviously doing something right.”

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