• http://copyblogger.com Brian Clark

    Wow… what an incredible post. Much more than Jason deserves, but exceptional nonetheless.

  • http://blogs.commerce360.com Craig Danuloff

    Jason’s attempt at an insult primarily displayed his ignorance. He was lucky enough to do well in terms of SEO at his blogs because many of their core attributes (lots of copy, frequent changes, lots of links) are valued by search engines. But if he would have optimized for search engines he would have done a lot better.

    I do think he makes a good point about ‘deserving to rank’ and wrote a long blog post about it last night.

    But he’s dead wrong is thinking and saying that good site content and quality alone eliminates the need for optimization. Websites need to first focus on being best, so they deserve the high rankings they aspire to – but then they have to systematically attain those high rankings by intentionally structuring their site, targeting their keywords, and otherwise optimizing based on the attributes the search engines measure. It isn’t enough to be the best, you also have to be perceived as the best. That requires knowing what is measured and acting accordingly.

  • Nick Wilson

    I agree. Jason doesn’t deserve the attention. His comments are thouhtless, whereas this probably took hours.

    I follow what Jason does ‘cos he’s a very interesting fella, but he speaks without thought, and it clearly doesnt even occur to him that he might be being an idiot occasionally.

    >>SEO Is Not A Synonym For Spamming Or Gaming

    Danny, as awesome as your post was, you’re wrong there. SEO absolutely IS a synonym for Spamming. It shouldn’t be, but it is.

  • http://www.searchmarketpro.com/ evilgreenmonkey

    Can you offer this post as an audiobook for me? ;)

  • http://www.photoshopsupport.com/photoshop-blog/index.html Jennifer Apple

    Wow, he really hit a nerve. I think Jason’s talent is in being a provocateur. And he’s pretty good at it. But that doesn’t make him an authority on SEO.

  • bood guy

    I think that (like many others) even Greg Boser is using an unfortunate terminology and doing a disservice to the industry, when he speaks of the Viagra-guys as “SEO spammers”. When people talk about charlatans, they do not say “bad doctor” or “unethical healer”. They say “charlatan”.

    The guy, who auto-spams 50.000 blogs is a spammer, a cheater, a manipulator. These are all correct descriptions for him. The acronym “SEO” simply should not be used in this context if you want to promote it as the name of a legitimate industry.

    Anyway, SEO will probably continue to have a hard time image-wise for a long time, because good SEO is basically invisible to the average user who searches Google. When he enters his query and the #1 site has a proper title, a logical structure, good copywriting and useful information, he will not for a second think “Oh man, this is truly great SEO!”

    On the other hand, when the #1 site is a spammy piece of crap, that will stand out as an ugly manipulation even for the average user. So when next time he hears about SEO and “getting to the top in the search engines”, he will not think of the decent site he found at #1 the other day. It will be the spammy one that will come to his mind.

  • Chris

    This post in long overdue. Danny, I applaud you. Very well put.

  • Steve Amundsen

    Great post, Danny.

    Anyone who has been in the trenches and has achieved success in search engine optimization for their clients knows you are right. SEO has nothing to do with spamming or any other unethical activity. It is about helping a company get out its message truthfully so that those who are seeking it can find it.

    This may sound like missionary zeal, but the fact is, SEOs cannot “game

  • http://sethf.com/ Seth Finkelstein

    Well, the problem is basically that SEO is an industry where it’s very hard for an outsider to tell the black hats from the white hats, and there’s a lot of superstition all around. Moreover, the black hats have an incentive to cover up their lack of real knowledge with sleazy spammy actions, and it may go undetected by the client until it blows up in their face. Then the client has a tendency to think that all SEO’s are slime, not that they got taken by a black hat.

    I think the stereotypes would be like:

    All public-relations flacks are liars

    All politicians are insincere

    All VC’s are exploitative greedheads

    All A-list bloggers thrive on being inflammatory :-)

  • http://www.seomoz.org Rebecca Kelley

    Very well-written post, Danny. I get so frustrated with how ignorant people are about our industry, and about how they make these inaccurate generalizations. Jason Calacanis is a pompous tool who likes to make outrageous comments and then seem surprised and confused when he’s offended an entire industry.

  • http://sarasotapodcast.wordpress.com personalchef

    Wow Danny
    Excellent Post. Most of them dont understand the importance and they are not willing to know the importance, Like I was listening to CNet Podcast Buzz out loud, the guy was explaining SEO and the gals in the podcast dont even know anything about SEO, They assume that somehow they want their website to show up but not follow anything the search engine says.
    I was talking to a customer the other day and wrote this article about Guidelines and why search engines say so.
    Thank you Danny,. Keep up the Good work

  • http://www.cameronolthuis.com Cameron Olthuis

    Well done Danny! He’s now asking for SEOs to come on his podcast next week. I left a comment nominating you as I don’t think there’s anyone in the industry that could set this guy straight as well as you can.

  • http://uberbin.net mariano

    hats off… you wrote one of the most insightful posts on SEO/SEM in a long time :)

    As Cameron pointed out, you should be on the podcast :)

  • Phil

    Maybe this is just Jason’s way of showing the SEO community how to do the perfect link bait.

  • http://blog.outer-court.com Philipp Lenssen

    As they say, 80% of everything is bad, right — this goes for TV shows, movies, websites, SEOs, bloggers, advertising, dictators…

  • http://www.para-diddledesign.com tblotsky

    I am anxious to hear the podcast. Shoot, I’d even forgive Jason personally in exchange for a link ;) …so I’m easy….

  • http://sebastianx.blogspot.com/ Sebastian

    Awesome post Danny, thanks.

  • http://www.aimClear.com aimclear

    I was at SES Chicago. It was my first SES experience…I was wondering “why would I want to listen to a keynote speaker who talked about how stupid my business is.”

    Jason, it does not matter how smart or acomplished you are if you don’t respect anyone.

  • http://shortdrop.com/ Sherwin

    Danny, you need to get the C-level people at large companies like NYTimes to speak at the industry conferences on how SEO has impacted their bottom line. Then the naysayers might think again about the rubbish they spew when they see that large, respectable companies get results from employing SEO tactics.

  • http://www.ebeautydaily.com Christina

    I can honestly say I didn’t think Jason’s post was that bad when I read it, but as I read your response I realized that I had been sucked in by all of the black hat and shadowy SEO talk. You made an excellent rebuttal to Jason, and an excellent lesson for those of us who don’t know any better.

  • http://searchengineland.com Danny Sullivan

    Sherwin, I do. We have plenty of people in large and well known companies (IBM, Cisco) that talk about the value of SEO :)

  • shor

    “when we last had an SEO reputation crisis as we do every two years (and somehow, it keeps rolling along)”

    No news is good news.

    When SEO is done right, no one notices. Great ranking, beautiful copy, converts a searcher in a heartbeat. No fanfare, no fuss. Just how it should be.

    When SEO is done wrong, everyone notices. BMW.de doorway pages, useless MFA websites, idiots bribing Diggers, deleting comment spam in our blogs, these are the memorable SEO incidents.

    I confess that I’m not one to vigorously fight the status quo perception, which is why I heartily applaud this awesome response (you even managed to squeeze in another Marshall Simmonds reference).

    For the most part, we at Fairfax Digital also run our SEO in-house (we’re probably the largest news publisher in Australia) and the evidence is we’re not alone as more blue chip companies hire professionals to ensure their websites are search friendly.

  • http://www.cumbrowski.com Carsten Cumbrowski

    Nice post.

    If you are cutting out the stuff about Digg and Jason Calacanis and you will have a nice SEO 101 article left.

    Btw. during your break down of search engine marketing did you mention SEO and Paid Search (PPC) but forgot the 3rd one: Paid Inclusion.

    A minor oversight. Paid Inclusion is not making up much compared to the other two, but is still part of the whole mix. It’s not part of Search Advertising.

    Nothing else to add. Everything else was being said. Cheers!

  • http://andybeard.eu/ AndyBeard

    A highly constructive post and a great rebuttal

    In some ways I think you let Jason of lightly. Maybe you should remind him what a “link farm” is, and compare it to his previous enterprise.
    Here is an interesting link

    Of course that isn’t the only way massive networks of blogs could be looked on as gaming search results.
    As an example a while back I wrote a discussion piece about WordPress.com and their tag system which has a significant effect on search. (url was longer and didn’t want to risk breaking the theme by not including link text)

    Im many ways adwords specialists with experience in different kinds of landing page design might make better SMOs than SEO experts. There is lots of work that needs to be done in ways to convert social media traffic.

  • http://www.comstockfilms.com/blog/tony Tony Comstock

    The Interplay of Opera, Candles, and the Court


  • http://www.weboptimist.com WebOptimist

    I love it! What a fantastic post! Tell us how you really feel, Danny!

    And, I love the comment comparing the use of the word “gay” with “SEO” as well. As someone who is both, I say RIGHT ON!


  • http://www.ninetyseventhfloor.com/blog 97th Floor

    It’s all just a bad case of “Knowledge Gap” whether you are talking about a car salsemen, lawyer, mechanic, seo or smo it is all just a big fat case of “knowledge gap.”

  • LookingC

    What a great reply as only the enimitable Danny Sullivan knows how to ….. I read down to the following and was then prompted to make this contact, in reply:

    What Is SEO?

    Let’s get our definitions straight, as part of the education process:

    * Search marketing is the umbrella term that encompasses any act of generating traffic from search engines. The two main areas under search marketing are search advertising and search engine optimization.

    * Search advertising — or paid search — is the act of buying listings on the search engines. You know, Google AdWords, Yahoo Search Marketing, Microsoft
    AdCenter, Ask Sponsored Listings. No snake oil or black hats there! Let’s not talk about misleading ads, arbitrage, clickfraud, blackbox pricing systems or other concerns some have, of course.

    AdCenter caught my eye (standing out there on it’s own, starting the line) but I had failed to not recognise that no comma had followed the underlined Microsoft, ending the previous line.

    I quickly clicked on a link to the underlined AdCenter hoping to find information relating to Looksmart’s AdCenter only to be somewhat dissapointed to find it was for Microsofts ‘own’ adCenter.

    Looksmart has made mention of it’s Advertiser Center in a press release on Apr 13, 2005 and it’s clearly obvious it had been in operation well before this period.


    Looksmart then makes a referral to it’s AdCenter in another release made on Feb 28, 2006 and has clearly ‘branded’ the AdCenter (abreviation), as is shown here in it’s article headline.


    Microsoft introduced it’s own adCenter at a much later date and a ‘pilot’ of it’s offering was discussed (at length), within this blog, here …


    I feel strongly that the SEO/SEM Industry (& others) should take more care when making mention of either Co’s AdCenter or, adCenter and I guess the solution is to precede each Co’s offering (as you have done so in your post) with the respective Co’s Name (& of course) a ‘proper’ branding of each Co’s respective advertising center.

    It CAN be confusing, but it is to be hoped (coming from a Looksmart shareholder), NOT to be confusing enough to the (apparent) many, many small, medium and large publishing/advertising businesses that are either taking up on or, already do operate with the Looksmart AdCenter, as it has ‘tricked’ me, as described.

    Whilst on the subject, a recent announcement made by a Scandanavian Search Co introducing it’s own version of an adcenter, but has (thankfully) chosen to call it a more origional type name by dubbing it, “AdMomentum”.


    There is no doubt (I feel) that ethical SEO/SEM will/should continue to grow it’s own type involvement, along/in-line with the total (overall) industry’s known advertising related, growth predictions.


  • http://www.seo-writer.com amabaie

    Good post Danny. I agree with your sentiments, and quite frankly his comments in Chicago (I was there) should have gotten him booed out of the room (I didn’t, sadly). That being said, he is probably right about the snake oil and possibly even about the 90%. Most of the people reading this blog might not see it, but there are thousands of self-professed SEOs out there who are exactly what Jason says they are. They don’t read blogs like this. They don’t go to SES. They don’t know diddly about what they are talking about. And they give the rest of us a bad name (and plenty of amunition for hotheads who also don’t know what they are talking about.)

  • http://blog.danskeen.com Dan Skeen

    Danny, thanks for taking the time and energy for this post. I had a great time participating with you and Todd in the organic listings forum at SES Toronto, and I’m glad to see you standing up for a profession that, despite the good work of some great people, is in serious need of reputation management.

    Like Todd, I can point to case studies where our SEO work resulted in some jaw-dropping ROI figures. And guess what, no blog spamming! Picture a Fortune 500 client with a 100% Flash site in an industry where pre-purchase research is essential and the sticker price is $1 million per sale. It’s amazing what some template modifications and a little keyword research can do. There is tremendous potential business value in SEO.

    Yes, snake-oil salesmen exist. A smart buyer will see through their claims very quickly. This makes it important to continue to educate, build consensus on best practices, and act ethically in our clients’ interest.


  • wrecker69

    Great post and comments. I also just finished the post and comments that this post refers to. I am definitely bookmarking this site.

    First, Danny, I do not know why you even waste your obviously valuable time with people like Jason. I am not going to slam him as I do not know him at all. But from the two posts that I have read, it sounds like his view of people who optimize websites for a living, independently, has been tarnished to say the least.

    He must have been wronged somehow, someway, by someone in the SEO industry to have such a negativity towards the whole industry. For that I am truly sorry.

    You find the same type of people when you talk about almost every area in society. One bad cop or a ticket you feel is undeserved and all cops are bad. A bad car salesman and they all are trying to burn you.

    Jason says something about all the thousands of bad seo’rs. He is probably correct in this estimation, but when you consider how many seo;rs populate the industry that comment does not hold much water.

    It seems that by some of his comments he must do some of his own “Web Page Optimization” (WPO’rs ?) for getting rankings. Either that or he must spend an awful lot on advertising, because he wouldn’t spam. ( we hope )

    Until everyone HAS to pay ( shh ) to get a page in the search engines and with the search engines tweaking their algorithms to give their users the best possible search results and giving website developers tips on how to get higher search results for their sites then a web developer would be foolish not to optimize.

    With millions and soon to be billions of competing websites on the horizon, I for one will use any (legal) tips and tricks to help me rank higher in the search engines.

    Like I said at the beginning of my post, I am glad I found this site and intend to return often as I see it being a wealth of knowledge that will help me optimize my sites. With Danny at the helm and his worthy crew of SEO shipmates any website building entrepreneur is sure to become a “True WEB MASTER”.

    Keep up the good work, and in the ultimate words of Arnold Swartzeneger “I’ll Be Back”.


  • http://www.i-advertising.com/ Adam Boettiger

    Hi Danny, hope you’re well!

    I think what we’re seeing here is that bad apples within your sector are blurring the lines in the eyes of consumers and potential SEO customers so much so that from a buying standpoint it’s becoming extremely difficult to tell who is real, who is good and who is just a wannabe.

    While it was definitely inappropriate for Jason to make those comments publicly in the company of an SEO audience, you shouldn’t blame the man for having an opinion and the balls to state his opinion publicly.

    He’s not the only one who shares the frustration when shopping for an SEO vendor. He just happens to be one who voices his frustration and (unfortunately) makes generalized statements in doing so that wrongly link individuals to an entire industry.

    Bottom line is that there are a lot of sheisters out there. There are also a lot of well-meaning folks who have read a few books and who are just trying to make a living and put food on the table by labeling themselves as SEO experts.

    The proof is in the pudding. Don’t look at this as an opportunity to bash Jason. Look at it as an opportunity to put some standards in place for what folks should look for when hiring an SEO consultant/vendor/firm/agency. Get a PDF buying guide out that talks in laymans terms about WHY long-term commitments are necessary. You and I both know that it takes 3-6 months to see good results from SEO, however the average consumer hiring and SEO firm may perceive a proposed long-term agreement as a way to just take their money regardless of performance. Talk about what type of performance one might be able to expect.

    If you’ve already done this, great. Send me a link and I’ll pass the PDF around. I’m not speaking of simply sending laypeople to a site with a ton of content. They don’t have the time to read that. I’m speaking of a 10 to 20 page PDF that is double-spaced for easy reading and addresses the snake oil issue.

    Truth is that most folks who control the dollars are finding it very hard to tell the snakes from the good folk. That’s not Jason’s fault. Don’t shoot the messenger. He didn’t deliver the message very well, admittedly, but hey – that’s Jason. Address the issue, not the person. The issue is: How does a firm with money locate a good SEO firm who can get page one (not slot 1, page one) results in a cluttered sector where there are so many “Me Too’s”?

    Adam Boettiger