SEO Gets Dissed by CBS TV Series “The Good Wife”

Finally! SEO gets its first mainstream exposure since 2005, when search marketer David Karandish briefly appeared the Martha Stewart edition of NBC’s The Apprentice (yes, I really did pull that reference out). But this time, the lights of Hollywood didn’t shine so brightly on search engine optimization – SEO was mentioned in a negative clip.

In the most recent episode of CBS’s hit drama The Good Wife (air date 1/18/11, episode title “Two Courts”) - the courtroom case of the week featured a defendant accused of killing his father, who fears a jury will be biased against him based on what he does – search engine optimization.

Now, really, how could anyone think that face is an evil spammer?

(I would normally embed the video, except CBS’s function for that is not working at all, you can watch the full episode here.)

“SPAM” according to the man’s attorneys, in the first two minutes of the episode as brought to our attention by Niall Madden in the Good Wife & the Evil SEO, the transcript goes something like this:

  • Lawyer 1:”It’s prejudicial”
  • Tall, Red Headed Client: “So you think the prosecution won’t try to admit it?”
  • Lawyer 1 “I know they will – but the judge will see your job as irrelevant to the crime”
  • Tall, Red Headed Client: “It’s just… people hate what I do”
  • Lawyer 1: “Spam”
  • Tall, Red Headed Client: (interrupts) “Search engine optimization”
  • Lawyer 2: “Don’t worry prosecution will be too busy….”


Enter the lovely Julianna Margulies around 12 minutes in, to argue that the accused’s profession wasn’t relevant to the crime, and would be prejudicial, therefore the judge ruled all references to his profession would not be admissible in the trial. I will not bore you with the details of the alcoholic, Nazi re-enacting red head who allegedly pushed his father out a window or something like that – watch the episode if you’re so so inclined.

Search Engine Optimization & SPAM

These two terms have a long history of going together interchangeably, which is not necessarily accurate. Search SPAM is not the same as email spam.

Yet this negative view of SEO continues to be perpetuated in mainstream media – now in this TV show and in print, such as the recent NY Times coverage, leaving consumers (and prospective SEO clients) further confused.

Perhaps the ‘reality TV’ video episodes from our Search Marketing Expo show may clarify “What Search Engine Spam” really is.

Let the court record show, for the education of  The Good Wife writers, and good citizens everywhere – when “SEO” or search engine optimization is performed according to the best practices and guidelines set forth by major search engines, then SEO is considered to be a useful, effective and legal technique for driving visitors to a website.

When best practices and guidelines are blatantly disregarded in an attempt to fool search engines or users, it is considered to be SPAM, and in some cases / depending on the circumstance,  it could be considered illegal.

When SEO is implemented improperly, it can be labeled SPAM, but it may not always be SPAM. It should not leave you at the mercy of a judge nor a jury of your peers (well, it might at a search industry conference), but not in a murder trial. In a legal proceeding related to Internet search engines and bogus business tactics, perhaps.

/disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, and in no way qualified to give out any legal advice, on TV, the Internet, or otherwise. And thanks to both Shari Thurow and Niall Madden for passing along this tip!

Postscript From Danny Sullivan: You have to appreciate the irony, also, in that the official page for The Good Wife has been spammed — er — SEOed. Consider the meta data, wrapped with comment tags <!–SEO Begin –> and <! –SEO End –>:

The title tag:

Watch The Good Wife on Full Episodes, Clips and Behind the Scenes footage.

That title didn’t just happen magically. Someone — probably an SEO working for CBS — considered the terms the network wanted the show to be found for and ensured that they were all in the title. The goal is for the page to rank well for searches like:

  • the good wife
  • the good wife full episodes
  • good wife clips
  • watch the good wife

In addition, the page has a meta description tag which is only added for SEO purposes, to provide a description to search engines like Google that might get used.

The meta keywords tag is chock full of terms the page hopes to be found for, though that tag is no longer valid. Neither Bing or Google support it. Having it doesn’t hurt anything, however, and plenty of pages across the web will still contain this tag from the days of it still being supported by Yahoo.

Related Topics: Channel: SEO | Search & Society: General | Search Headlines | SEO - Search Engine Optimization | SEO: Spamming | Top News


About The Author: is Director of Audience Development for Search Engine Land and Marketing Land. She is responsible for increasing readership through owned, earned and paid media channels. In addition, she assists in programming sessions at Third Door Media's Search Marketing Expo conference series and manages speaking engagements for editorial staff. Follow her on Twitter @elisabethos.

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  • MirandaN

    Even though I’m a fan of the show, I’m glad you picked on this mention and explained the background. The Good Wife incorporates the Internet a lot in its storylines and so I’m glad it’s getting some notice in this community. Small quibble though, the actresses name is Julianna Margulies with 2 ns, not Juliana.

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