Discussion: Bettering the Reputation of the SEO Industry

The SEO industry is one that is often prone to attack. Whether it's misunderstanding, ignorance, or bad past experiences, people love to hate SEO. What can the SEO industry do to better its reputation?

When it comes to SEO (Search Engine Optimization), there are an invariable number of opinions of the industry ranging from people who love it to people who loathe it with every ounce of their being. From many of the people I have heard from via emails preempted by content on my blog, most of the people who seem to carry a genuine passion for hating SEO are those who have previously been burned by an agency or freelancer who either underperformed or pulled rank via black hat SEO methods (which equals fast results that don't last too long and/or get you in trouble with Google).

Well, on the popular Internet marketing site Sphinn, a "discussion of the week" is currently taking place regarding the reputation of the SEO industry. To quote Matt McGee, here is the basis of the discussion:


Like clockwork, every few months a mainstream publication or a prominent online website/writer throws SEO and the entire SEO industry underneath a bus. SEO is all about "tricking" search engines and the SEO industry is nothing but unethical shysters out to make a quick buck while polluting Google's search results. And yet, for an industry that's filled with reputation management consultants, we don't seem to do much to make things better. So this week's Sphinn "Discussion of the Week" asks: What, if anything, can/should we do as an industry to improve our reputation?


In addition to the feedback happening within the post itself, industry heavyweights like Lisa Barone from Outspoken Media have chimed in with some well thought-out feedback as to things we SEOs can do to improve the perception of our industry. Others, though, think it's a waste of time and effort to worry about educating the masses when plenty of SEOs are doing quite well for themselves. As it was put by one individual, "I'm not in the business of blindly trying to educate the ignorant just to make a point."

And I agree. I'm not in the business of educating anyone to make a point, either... but I am, however, in the hobby of educating people! And as I also commented there, I'm interested in fostering industry health and promoting prospective client awareness/education -- whether that's for myself or for my colleagues. In my mind, this means fleshing out the bad from the good (or "black hat" from "white hat") and setting forth clear-cut standards of actions that should and *shouldn't* be utilized or tolerated.

And while I agree that separating SEO into areas of "white hat," "gray hat," and "black hat" can create fuzzy space for those interested in learning about SEO, I still think those lines of separation need to exist to help discern the good methods from the bad methods. Sure, SEO is SEO, but only insofar as what it achieves. There exists ways to play by the rules or to cheat the system, and whether we discern those methods by grouping them into "white hat," "gray hat," and "black hat" or some other type of synonymous symbolism, I do think it's beneficial to partition and detail the methods and psychology behind all of SEO.

Now, what I'm truly interested in finding out about is how many of you out there are even aware of what SEO is, who of you have had bad personal experiences with SEO if so, and why you think SEO is such a bad thing if you're one who thinks as such about it. Additionally, if you do SEO for a living and/or feel like you have some insight or helpful advice to provide, I would certainly love to hear from you, so please chime in below in the comments section!

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