Embracing Change – Evolving in SEO Town

It was almost 8 years ago when I decided to move out of the cocoon of my big agency background and work at becoming a specialist in SEO. I feel that succeeded – but the cost, I realize now, may not have been worth the prize. I spend most of my days lately trying to disassociate myself from many of so-called SEOs who peddle snake oil. These snake-oil peddlers have been in SEO since the beginning – but lately they have really taken their toll on our industry. Business owners don’t know who to trust. SEO sales cycles are the longest I’ve ever seen. In fact, I’ve found if I mention all of the things we do for a Website and just refrain from using the word SEO – we close more business.

SEO has become a bad word. And that is a shame.

I’ve spent many nights lying awake trying to figure out how to fix our industry’s reputation. After all, I fix company’s and individual’s reputations every day. As much as I try to run away from the reputation management side of the business (the skittish clients, the late hours, the constant worry) my experience and skill in this arena keep the clients coming back. And I’m sucker for a sob story and an even bigger sucker when it comes to proving myself in a challenging situation.

While there are many ways to tackle the reputation of SEO, one scenario keeps coming to the forefront of my mind. Let’s set the scene:

Two years ago I attended the SEOmoz Mozzfest in Seattle. It was an amazing event, and even this old dog learned some new tricks. But it was Danny Sullivan, the godfather of search, that planted an idea in my head. I had been struggling with the industry’s reputation quite a bit that year. I had just lost a bid for a client because they just couldn’t get over their past experience with a non-reputable SEO, and instead of moving forward with our plan, decided to put their money into traditional advertising. I was frustrated. During the Q & A portion of the session, I asked Danny what he thought about certification for SEOs. At that time, my mind went straight to regulation of the industry. If we could keep the slimeball snake-oil peddlers out, we could start to regain our good name and help everyone involved.

Danny’s response was spot-on. He said Certification in our industry will never work. There are too many “right” ways to do SEO, and sometimes even the correct tactics don’t garner optimal tactics. There are sites where riskier tactics are necessary. There are those who would never reveal their tactics to others in the industry. Certification wouldn’t work – but accountability might. Picture a better business bureau for SEOs. That might work.

Danny’s off-the-cuff comment planted a seed in my brain, and ever since then, I’ve been trying figure out a plan that would work to help restore the reputation of SEOs everywhere. The big question is, who would administer an SEO accountability program, and what would it look like? We’ll take a look out how an accountability plan could work in the next post.



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