Evolving in SEO Town – Search Engine Marketing Reputation Management Problem Part II

In my last post, I outlined what I see as a definite problem for those of us involved in search engine optimization. Namely, snake oil salesmen, lack of transparency and overall shady-ness has caused SEO to become a bad word. I also outlined that I think one solution to this reputation management problem that the search engine marketing world finds itself in is through accountability. Specifically, a better business bureau type program for search engine marketing.  Now, I’m going to outline how that might work.
But first, let’s talk about what WON’T work. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that one of the easiest things to do is criticize another SEO’s work. In fact, I’ve made quite a name for myself by picking apart the on-page attributes of various unsuspecting sites at the Dallas-Fort Worth Search Engine Marketing Association (DFWSEM). Client response time, overall marketing strategy and other items beyond an SEOs control have massive impacts on how effective (or non-effective) an SEO campaign is. If you give the best recommendations in the world, and the client doesn’t implement them, or let you implement them, then your campaign will fail. Bottom line. I don’t want a team of independent SEOs critiquing my work. Neither does any other SEO. Also, some practices that might be risky for one client might be perfectly  necessary for another client. Buying links is taboo in Google’s eyes, but try to compete on a daily basis in some of the more competitive spaces without fudging on this at least a little bit. You probably wont’ succeed (did I really just say that out loud?).

Where the problem lies is in what is communicated to the client. If an SEO firm, an in-house SEO or anyone else, for that matter, is buying links or engaging in any behavior that may create a penalty with a major search engine, that agency or individual has an obligation to warn of the possible implications of said behavior. In other words, you really need to warn your clients if they could get in trouble for anything you are doing. That doesn’t mean you can’t do it,but you darn sure better make sure client knows what’s at risk. If you don’t, I consider you a snake oil salesman and a shady business person.

The issue is transperancy. Google, albeit in a draconian fashion, has done a much better job of defining the rules in the last few years. Very rarely do I run across an item that I consider in a gray area of whether or not I will be violating Google’s terms of service. But clients hire SEO experts to know the rules. They have to trust them that will do what is best – and if they take a risk (which most good SEOs do every day), the client needs to be aware of said risk.

In part 3, I’ll finally outline who should implement this SEO bureau (hint, its the only national SEO organization with any clout, or Klout) and exactly how it will work. And hopefully, I won’t be so long between posts this time.

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