How to Handle the Declining Status of SEO?

As an SEO community we are the scum of the internet, the quacks, the crooks and the swindlers. We have been accused of manipulating the web, destroying the independence of search engines and basically being a virus within the world wide web. To some, we’re like door-to-door salesmen trying to sell stuff to people who don’t want it or need it. We’re manipulating the web so we can lead people to websites where we can lure them into buying all kinds of things they would never have thought of buying if it wasn’t for us.

Of course that’s not how we see ourselves, that’s not how everyone sees us, but some people do. And that’s not just because there’s ‘crooks’ actually trying to make money by manipulating either search engines or ignorant companies wanting to profit from this magical business called SEO.

It’s also because we as a community have a hard time explaining what we actually do. It’s not without reason an important part of being an SEO is about knowing how to convince others, knowing how to persuade. That’s because it’s a difficult business. Heck, not even everyone calling themselves an SEO understands it to the fullest.

In The Netherlands, where I’m performing my SEO practices, we’re currently coping with a difficult situation where leading blogs about marketing are producing a articles about, or related to SEO which do not reflect the level of SEO they should reflect. While the quality of those articles is very varying, the quality is also slowly and steadily declining.

Some of these articles just contain wrong interpretations or useless advice. But sometimes it’s just clear nonsense. This shouldn’t be a major problem, but over the years these blogs have created an image to be of high quality. Therefore a lot of readers assume everything published there to be the truth. Those readers include our clients, but also marketers and even some (so called) SEO specialists.

I’ll give an example. Take the “over-optimization penalty” mentioned by Matt Cutts during SXSW. In a few days posts popped up like “Google fines over optimized sites”, “Google punishes optimized sites” or “Google penalizes SEO”. Luckily these posts just popped up on tech sites, but marketing sites have been caught publishing posts containing quotes like this:

“If a website with high quality content needs four SEO consultants to rank in Google, there’s something fundamentally wrong with Google”

My question to you all is how to respond to this? Should we ignore this completely and just tell our clients over and over that what they’ve read is nonsense? Or should we respond to every post which is incorrect in our eyes and try to reach out to the readers within the comments? Or should we respond on our own blogs and accept we can´t reach everybody?

We need our business to become more mature to shake off the image of a bunch of snake oil salesmen and becoming a business people want to use. But for this we need quality information, we need people to stop spreading nonsense.

About Jeroen van Eck

Jeroen van Eck is a consultant search engine marketing at the online marketing company E-Focus in the Netherlands.