Just last week I was sitting in the audience in the Westin in Seattle where I heard Wil Reynolds give a talk that was basically titled “Do Real Company Stuff“. Intriguingly, a few days before I had a brief exchange on Twitter with Branko, who I greatly respect and greatly enjoy his insights. He had just published this post on SEObook about small businesses and Google’s recent algorithm updates.
I wrote another post as a response to what he and others have said about outing, but I’m publishing this one instead after hearing Wil’s talk.
Do Real Industry Sh*t
Every industry that sticks around has its scandals. Every industry that sticks around has its whistleblowers and regulators. Every industry but SEO has a set of ethics by which it abides. Sure, there are always outliers, but there are more regulations that outliers, and the outliers often get slapped down pretty quickly.
SEO as an industry needs to grow up. We all want to make more money, right? We all want more respect from our clients, right? We all want to be proud of what we do each day, leaving the office knowing that we have made the world a better place, right?
This is much harder in an industry without regulations or rules. We are never going to get higher up in organizations to get the buy-in we need to get the sign-off on the budgets we deserve if the only news that ever comes out of the SEO industry is about huge corporations gaming the system and gewtting slapped down by Google, or some agency breaking the rules and getting banned from Google’s index for a while.
That sort of one-sided press is not what will get us the sort of accounts that we all know we deserve. Marketers already have a bad reputation, because a lot of the public does not understand what we are doing. Heck, I did not understand what marketers really do until I ended up in this industry and career that I have grown to love and given up a lot for.
We manipulate for the greater good.
Require A Better Standard
This next statement is going to cause a lot of turmoil amongst the community.
We need to make ourselves official by acting official.
SEOs have long been the dark wizards of the Internet, mainipulating the search engines and spinning our articles on our way to unearned rankings. But guess what? Google has turned our world updside down in the past 18 months with Panda, Penguin, and untold other updates that they never told us about.
But now we have an opportunity to show that we are not dark wizards, but rather that we help businesses doing RCS to succeed online. We need to have higher levels of transparency and show what is working, because we have put so much work into what we have done that the barrier to entry for our competitors is high, and they are already way behind. We need to quit the stupid tactics that have made many of us feel dirty at the end of the day, and instead celebrate the wins that we are getting for our clients. Our tactics are still going to be reverse-engineered by our competitors, so why are we so loathe to control the conversation around it and shout about our successes? And why do we let clients smother us with NDAs and other agreements that prevent us from doing so?
We Need Real Marketers
You know what? Sometimes I wish I had a marketing degree so that I could put together better official marketing strategies for my big clients. I wish I knew how to pitch things from a business point of view, because that would help me connect better with the higher-ups in companies thst I am sure to be put in front of now.
Anyone can learn to do SEO. Sure, it helps to have web dev skills, writing skills, and data skills, but most of these can be taught. And guess what? Unfortunately, a lot of people in the business world still care where you went to university and what your background is.
We need real marketers.
We grow up for the greater good.
We Need Whistleblowers
We need people in the community who are willing to be bold and stand up for what they believe. Parts of the SEO community can be like the bullies in high school who come along and throw you into a locker or out the freshmen into a trash can.
But guess what? Eventually the freshmen grow up. And sometimes they grow up to be stronger than those who used to pick on them. And oftentimes they become more successful than those who bullied them in high school.
We need people who are willing to out bad and spammy tactics, because our industry deserves a better name. And we need people who will do so with as little self-serving motivation as possible. Interestingly, those who are willing to stand up are probably the ones who deserve to win because they are opening themselves up to scrutiny. If they have skeletons in the closet, they will be found out. So it takes real guts to stand up to the bullies and tell them to stop.
I’ve always cheered for that kid. Go get em, kid.
We stand up for the greater good.
We Need Accountability
Fnally, we need accountability, not vigilante justice. Vigilante justice will turn us into the Wild West when we are trying to become Madison Avenue.
Every industry with a public profile has industry associations. What do we have? Freakin TopSEOs, which we all know is paid placement (I hope Google is discounting those links). What do we need? We need an organization like SEMPO to step up and say “These are the trusted agencies that exist online, and these are who we endorse.”
The best we have right now is SEOmoz’s Recommended Agencies, which is a good list but not official. It is out together by a company, not an organization.
So please SEMPO, step up and be what our industry needs you to be.
Let’s quit hiding in the shadows. Let’s do what real industries do. And let’s get the respect we deserve.