• http://foxadv.blogspot.com personalchef

    Wow Danny
    Well Said, You are really good when someone writes posts like this, I remember when Jason started, You explained to Jason and others about SEO. I dont know why people think, SEO’s are some kind of Spammers. Come on People SEO is just like any other form of Marketing, We all need SEO.
    There are hundreds of people who dont know anything about Social Networking or Web 2.0 All they know is that Search Box in Google. I am mad too Danny when people dont understand the value of SEO
    Thank you

  • http://www.bessed.com AdamJusko

    Wow. I think you got it right straight up front—Robert Scoble’s looking for attention, and he got it.

    Being the founder of a human-powered search engine, Bessed, I would take exception to some of what you say. We are not trying to build a hierarchical directory like Yahoo did, but actually are creating results for actual searches, and ranking them accordingly. Yahoo’s directory was/is mainly an alphabetized list of sites that fit into directory headings like “Golf Shoes” when what people actually search for is more likely to be “Dexter golf shoes” or “women’s golf shoes”, etc. The past history of how Yahoo or DMOZ did directories should not be used as shorthand for what’s being done today—it’s not the same, even if it’s convenient to act as if it is in order to dismiss it.

    Otherwise, though, I agree with your points about SEO. Even for those of us in the human-powered search game, we need the spider-based engines as a starting point to find which sites are best. If a publisher does a good job of making it clear what their site or page is about, it’s good for the search engine but also good for the searcher. That should be rewarded, as the main goal of a search engine should be to find the best sites, not to punish a Hawaiian hotel for saying “Hawaii” and “hotel” too many times on its home page.

    But human-powered engines CAN sift out the SEO who overoptimizes to the point of spamming, thus forcing searchers to sift through a lot of junk to find what they want. I used the example the other day of searching for specific products—Google and Yahoo often seem to spit out shopping comparison sites like Nextag and Shopzilla, even if those “trusted” sites have created ghost pages with no actual content, but with the right title tag. That’s akin to spamming and it does nothing for the searcher. It’s where the “trusted site” ranking algorithm falls down.

    I believe over time we’ll all understand we need each other—SEOs need search engines and search engines need SEOs to help them offer better results. Spider-based engines need human-based engines to help improve results, and human-based engines need spiders to give us a place to start from. And all of us agree that the spam is something we’d like to get rid of—SEOs included.

  • Milos Mileusnic

    Scoble is so boring with his glorification of Facebook and some other things. While I have been subscribed to his blog (one week was enough for me), I felt like I’m following the post of some teenager impressed with his new iPhone and new “friends” on Facebook. So I have unsubscribed and I can’t believe that he suppose to be some kind of expert & IT professional.

  • http://www.seo.hr/blog/ Bruno Šarić

    Sorry for bad day, but this is just great to read!

  • RustyS

    I wonder what color the sky is in Scoble’s world?

    If perception is reality, then judging by his posts he apparently lives in a land of Facebook rainbows and iPhone lollipops. I still subscribe to his feed, but it’s more as a reminder of how far out of touch with reality you can become if you buy into this stuff too much.

  • oldschoolseo

    uh… wow… did Danny just use the F-Word in an official SEL posting?

  • http://www.aboutmattlaw.com Matt Law

    Wow, that was a fun read. Great points on the Times story. Why not just correct it?

  • http://spinn3r.com/ Kevin Burton

    What I find that most people fail to grasp is that the social graph can be overlaid on top of the web graph.

    Our customers for Spinn3r use both. We index both LiveJournal and the larger web for example.

    Right now most social networks aren’t sharing their data but I don’t expect this trend to last forever.

  • http://www.ericward.com/ eric_ward

    This kind of insight, intelligence, and passion is exactly why you, SEL, and for that matter anything you touch, is golden. Never stop.


  • http://kickstand.typepad.com Jordan Mitchell

    Great post. I think the F-bomb should be used more often in blog posts.

    As you pointed out “people don’t want to build search results — they just want to search”. This is why I believe social search can’t be derived from explicit votes/gestures, and I don’t think it will be limited to people within your social network.

    There’s a new graph coming, called the “implicit graph”. No effort involved to contribute, and social groups (formed implicitly) filter the web graph for us.

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Great read!

    But I think you let your justified ripping of the inane Scoble post bleed into pedantry overkill regarding the New York Times article. When they wrote “search engine optimization pushes Times content to or near the top of search results, regardless of its importance or accuracy.”, they really meant something like “The New York Times’ domain-wide extremely high trust ranking pushes a very large number of Times pages to or near the top of search results, regardless of their importance or accuracy”. And if there’s a person a day complaining, that means there are many more who are affected but don’t try to get the Times to do something about it.

  • http://500hats.typepad.com/ Dave

    great post danny.

    while i’m certainly no stranger to the F-bomb in my blogging, i can appreciate why Robert’s posts & videos shitting all over SEO might get you all hot & bothered (justifiably so). i think he’s oversimplifying some of the issues, and Search isn’t disappearing from the web horizon anytime soon.

    i do share Robert’s enthusiasm for Facebook, however i don’t believe i agree with either he or Jason on SEO. i still think it’s a huge driver for relevance, visibility, and — from an internet marketing standpoint — overall customer acquisition.

    that said, i do think there is a notable shift going on in how people discover new content & information, and that there’s no question that social networks in general (& facebook in particular) are gaining an increasing market share of user attention.

    what remains to be seen is whether Google (& Yahoo & Microsoft) can co-opt social networking & the Social Graph and implement it internally via their existing services in a relevant & functional way, or whether Facebook (& MySpace & others) present them with a challenge they have to consider a YouTube-style acquisition in order to stay at the forefront of user mindshare.

    personally i don’t know the answer to that one, but i will say that Facebook & Google are the 2 companies i spend most of my time watching & thinking about these days… and i bet i’m not alone ;)

    – dave mcclure

  • http://blog.exclusiveconcepts.com Scott Smigler

    Danny this is a great post for a few reasons – but what I like most about it is that3 you’re obviously passionate about search and you’re a stalwart for our industry. Thank you.

    As for your points I agree with most everything you’ve said. The only thing I really disagree with is one of the premises of your argument that because it didn’t work before it probably won’t work now. User’s evolve – situations evolve. How many great business plans formulated in the 90’s never took off that are taking off now? I would speculate many. People just weren’t ready then. Timing is everything. There is no such thing as creative brilliance, the most powerful ideas are those whose time has come.

    Again – I agree with your conclusions – but I do think the idea of social search, if it is implemented right, good be a force that we all (including Google and Yahoo!) have to face. Competition is good. Google is great at search but they have never REALLY been tested. Yahoo! has been tested often and they have survived, and I think Google will to, as long as they don’t forget where their real money comes from.

    Oh yea – and if anyone thinks they are going to put SEOs out of business, they are fooling themselves. As long as businesses demand exposure SEOs will find a way to give them what they want, and the same goes for independent SEOs. We’re a resourceful bunch:)


  • Danny Sullivan

    @seth: That New York Times piece deserved better attention, but I was pretty tired after Scoble. But if I had time, I would have ripped it to shreds even more. I came away with the distinct impression the ombudsman really didn’t understand SEO that well — what he “meant” to say to me is exactly what he wrote. He’s a journalist, and an ombudsman especially knows he’s going to be closely watched. In addition, when I did the search, I got to an archive page that listed both the original article and the follow-up — a good result. Did he see the same? Overall, the concerns people have about content showing up that might harm their reputation is real. But that’s not a new issue — and it’s an issue that I think the NYT can totally handle.

    @Scott & Dave: social has huge promise. I thought so when I originally wrote about it as part of my pieces on Eurekster and My Yahoo, and it’s still out there. I’m mainly saying that will be part of the puzzle going forward rather than the revolution alone, which Robert seemed to suggest.

  • http://sethf.com/infothought/blog/ Seth Finkelstein

    Danny, my standards for journalism have gotten remarkably low. These days, if nobody gets hurt, I ignore the rest. You are absolutely right, the guy did not understand the intricacies of a complicated topic. But, for me, there’s little point in complaining about it, at best I’d be ignored and dismissed, at worst it’d be taken as evidence of unreasonableness. You are arguably in a different position. And I understand “SEO”, like “hacker” (and for me, “censorware”) is a linguistic battleground. However, I still tend to believe that inveighing against their garbled explanation of the problem is distracting from the problem itself.

    The NYT can indeed totally handle the issue technically, but don’t underestimate the difficulties culturally. That’s what the article really is about. That’s what missed if it’s regarded as “That ignoramus said “SEO” instead of “high trust ranking”, and why can’t they just update the pages?” – the article is in fact about, culturally, why just updating the pages isn’t a no-brainer.

    Don’t assume these people are just plain stupid. Grant them a presumption of knowing their own domain of expertise, maintaining a “paper of record”.

    On the specifics, check out Jon Garfunkel’s post:


  • http://facebump.com PaulReilly

    Great post.. I do like an explosive rant :)

    Personally I didn’t see Mahalo as any kind of search engine.

    On the surface it doesn’t seem scalable, but then.. neither did wikipedia back in the day…

    …and who would have thought that facebook would have grown into what it is today.

    One thing I can be sure of… is that things change!

    Every now and then a paradigm shift occurs.

    Paul Reilly

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    Seth, I totally agree, they have a culture issue as well. And they need to deal with that, if they’re going to be doing online journalism in the 2000s :)

  • http://www.ericlander.com Eric Lander

    Danny, this is an incredible post and one that I will certainly reference in the immediate future.

    With that said, I’d like to officially join your army if there’s a war on the horizon. I’ve had it out with Calacanis in the past on my blog — to which he (tried) to counter. The end result though was nothing more than his continual plug for Mahalo, exposing more holes in his clearly skewed logic.

    Great post, great information — and I’m happy you represent the industry as you do.

  • http://www.searchenginecollege.com/blog.htm Kalena

    Don’t mind me. I just dropped by to see if the rumors were true you had used the F word. They are and I’m strangely proud.

  • http://blog.agrawals.org/ Rocky Agrawal


    Great analysis on both topics.

    As a former online newspaper guy, I see some big issues here. In the news business, the archives are called “the morgue”. Now that the Times is bringing stories back to life by surfacing them for crawling, I think there’s a greater responsibility to ensure that corrections are prominent and viewable.

    In the current set up, it’s quite likely that you would see a (free) headline that says “Justin Smith accused of molesting a child”. But you’d have to pay $4.99 to see the correction that says, oops, “The Times incorrectly reported the name. John Smith is accused of molesting a child. The Times regrets the error.”

    I went back and looked at two egregious cases of Times errors – Jayson Blair and Judith Miller. Even on stories where the Times KNOWS it seriously screwed up, the corrections are either not applied or are buried.

    More detail on what I found:

  • http://www.traffick.com AndrewGoodman

    Danny, I’m worried about my next SEL column. The profanity bar has been raised! :)

    But seriously, thanks for covering alll of the many relevant points here, especially the key bit about “FBO” :)

  • http://www.searchingdot.com searchingDOT

    Danny – I agree with you. We don’t have to run out and find real jobs just yet :)

    What a post – and the language!
    I am just joking – its great to make this a conversation vs. just “Clash of the Titans”

    I added my 2 cents on my blog:

  • http://aicoder.blogspot.com/ Neal Richter

    I just posted on this topic here: http://aicoder.blogspot.com/

    Prediction: Mahalo and ChaCha will suffer from the same fate as Expert Systems.