Commentary

Don't Underestimate the SEO Community

They're not really vigilantes, but they police the SEM industry and watch each other's backs, taking matters into their own hands when outsiders do a disservice to the industry. One might consider these white-hat marketing professionals the unsung heroes of the Web's Wild West.

"Disservice," that's the way PageOneResults.com's Edward Lewis describes the latest debacle created by SEO experts paying close attention to Charles Preston, an SEO with more than 10 years experience in Austin, Texas. Preston, along with other SEO industry veterans, wanted to start a service called Verified SEO where SEOs would pay Verified $99 per month. In exchange SEOs would receive a badge for their Web site to show certification, among other benefits. Lewis first brought the issue to light in a Sphinn post.

twitter/CharlesPreston/AlanBleiweiss

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Lewis explains that "we're currently dealing with BIGGER fish who managed to get past the Charles Preston stage." Following Lewis' lead, Alan Bleiweiss tweeted: "Let's see how long @CharlesPreston keeps the Verified SEO site up altogether. We're Watching Charles."

But did Lewis and others jump the gun in thinking Preston had been running a scam on the community and potential clients? Some think the industry seemed a little rough on Preston, but at the end of the day made their point that each looks after the other. It may have been that Preston simply lacked the business skills to present the idea, or there was a misunderstanding on the part of those who read the description of the service.

In an email to MediaPost, Preston explains this was an attempt to start a service aimed at helping businesses find qualified SEO consultants. "The premise behind the business model was to offer a third-party vetting service to SEM consultants with which their previous track records of success could be verified," he wrote. "Many consumers find it difficult to discern what to look for when hiring an SEM provider, especially in the SMB market. The service was designed to address that issue."

Verified SEO caught the attention of several SEM providers who Preston says falsely accused him of perpetrating a scam. Largely due to the misunderstanding, hundreds of articles, tweets and blog posts appeared online decrying Preston. No clients have been lost as a result of the fiasco, he says.

Jokingly, Reliable-SEO founder David Harry tells me that it seems as though every so often the industry needs a little drama and sums it up in a post.

Those who belong to the SEM community, which supports companies through paid search and search engine optimization, continue to pull together and fight for what they believe in.

In January there was Clinton Cimring, who tried to trademark the acronym SEO for himself. And even before Cimring, a couple of years earlier Jason Gambert tried to trademark the acronym, too. With help from the community, it took about two years for Outspoken Media's Rhea Drysdale to bring Gambert to his knees. Drysdale filed a notice of opposition on April 24, 2008, with help from folks like trademark attorney Cheryl Meide, and Michael VanDeMar .

Two years and $17,004.33 later on March 11, 2010, she won. Google's Matt Cutts also called attention to her good deed. Harry says he donated $100 to the fund to stop Gambert from trademarking SEO. Others did, too.

In honor of all these hardworking professionals, I'm proclaiming March 30, 2010, SEM Professionals Appreciation Day. No, it's not an April Fools' joke. That comes Thursday.

2 comments about "Don't Underestimate the SEO Community".
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  1. Michael Martinez from SEO Theory, March 30, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.

    I'm not sure it's accurate to say the community pulls together and fights the good fight. The latest brouhaha brings the whole community into critical view because many of the most outraged players in the drama also oppose the adoption of industry-wide standards.

    A standards body would provide a level playing ground for everyone to contribute to the discussion of what is minimally acceptable in terms of delivering search engine optimization service (either as an employee or as a vendor).

    As long as the SEO industry continues to play by a multitude of rules, there cannot be any real "self-policing". All we're seeing in these trademark and certification gaffes is a collective reaction to potential threats to revenue streams.

    Real standards would undermine these attempts to derive value from the chaotic practices of the industry.

  2. Scot Small, March 31, 2010 at 10:52 a.m.

    I agree with Michael. The industry is amuck with fraud and a lack of standards. It is just too easy to not be held accountable in our online world.

    I admit, I have not been engaged with the "community" but I have been watching from afar and from what I see the word "standards" is a very far off concept. Too many people would have to put their old ways aside. The worst are the flat out lies that some of the big companies with lots of investor money behind them are spewing to small and mid sized business of what is and what is not possible online. I will not mention names.

    It is very frustrating for those of us who are trying to have any sort of ethics, play in this online world, not that many of you do not have ethics - it is just that those who do not seem too, have the loudest voices.

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