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Why Can't The SEO Community Get Along?

Posted by Jesse Stoler on Nov 13, 2012 9:38:52 AM

Opinion--There's No Such Thing As Friendly Competition In SEO

Americans love competition. Competition is a part of our backbone. If you look at the Nielsen ratings, the Super Bowl is consistently the highest rated television program year after year. When the NFL Super Bowl isn’t on, most of the other top shows are no longer the kind of scripted shows that have reigned over the nightly programming since the advent of the tube. Instead, they are “reality” television programs, premised on finding the best karaoke singer, or the best backstabber/conniver living on an island.

The news media, which was meant by the founding fathers to act as the fourth estate and watchdog over the tyranny of the defined branches of government, has instead become a manic, 24-hour electoral prognosticator, obsessed with political races, not the issues that should define them.

Healthy Competition

Although America thrives on competition, a lot of it is friendly. Kevin Durant and Lebron James may slug it out with vigorous intensity on the basketball court, but off the court they are famous best friends. Some American business competitors have been accused of being so friendly that anti-trust lawsuits have been brought before them. That’s something the search engine optimization (SEO) industry will never have to worry about however: The competition there is anything but friendly.

Sure, in many industries you are going to find that the competitors don’t think well of each other, and for obvious reasons. But the SEO industry stands out even more so than the others. The vitriol that SEO firms will unleash about each other behind closed doors is vile, sometimes bordering on slanderous. When the firm iAcquire was banned from the Google index for allegedly buying links, the SEO community ripped iAcquire star employee Michael King to shreds, even though many of these firms have faced similar accusations. I read blogs in the aftermath that represented the maturity of a boy yelling “na-na-na-na-na” at the loner during recess. The term “black hat” gets thrown around so casually that the stigma is slowly being erased.

Where does the hatred come from?

Obviously, some of it can be attributed to the nature of competition: Firm A simply wants to be better than firm B. And because the industry is still in its formative stage (relatively so anyway), no company is eager to share the conjured strategies that are working for them. But there are other reasons why the SEO community is overloaded with antagonism.

Internet tycoon Barry Schwartz attributes some of the division to the evolution of the nofollow link. He claims that when nofollow links started to appear in 2005, the formerly tightly-knit SEO community slowly started to dissipate. Some SEOs stubbornly refused to add the nofollow to the paid links that they acquired at the behest of Google, whereas many others bowed to Google’s will.

Many SEO firms also hold resentment towards others simply because they frequently find themselves having to clean up the mess caused by another firm. Clients that get penalized by Google for poor SEO work tend to take their business across the street, which leads to more work for the new SEO.

Finally, there are those that would argue that the personality types that the SEO industry attracts leads to this petulance. Many people who go on to work in SEO have spent a large part of their lives scouring internet forums, being critical of others while using the mask of an avatar. There’s something to be said for the idea that this kind of behavior can carry over to the workplace. If the SEO industry ever wants to get taken seriously as legitimate businesses, the people in it might want to behave like professionals.

There’s nothing wrong with competition. Indeed, competition is the crux of our current capitalist economic system. But just because businesses are competing for profits doesn’t mean that any backdoor name calling is required.

The SEO community should be better than this.

[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://pageonepower.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/photo-1-11.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]
is an assistant editor, head writer, content developer and link builder at Page One Power, where his direction has provided dozens of employees with the insight and skills needed to make their clients rank. In addition to online marketing, Stoler is a thoughtful leader and he provides guidance to his team of fellow writers while also finding new, innovative ways to link build.
Outside of work, his hobbies include stand-up comedy, acting and rooting hopelessly for the New York Knicks. You can connect with him on Google+.
[/author_info] [/author]