I found myself part of The Verge’s article about SEO today, and I wanted to address some of the things that are specific to me.
For background, this is my personal blog. What I’m writing here in this post isn’t officially from Google. No one at Google has reviewed it. These are my personal thoughts.
NOTE: Since I originally wrote the paragraph, I’ve seen a few people find it odd I’d say this isn’t “officially” from Google. I’m just trying to be clear. I don’t mean that what I’m writing here doesn’t reflect upon me and my work as a Google employee, or Google itself. It certainly doesn’t mean people wouldn’t somehow be able to cite it in relation to search matters. It just isn’t something that Google itself hasn’t reviewed and somehow approved for publication. It’s possible (though I doubt it) that I could say something that Google officially would disagree with. That’s all — just trying to be clear.
(NOTE: Since I originally wrote this, I’ve added the outline below summarizing and jumping to key parts of this post. Because the TL in TL;DR was written with me in mind).
- Ecosystem relations involves more than one person
- How I came to be the Google Search Liaison
- No special support offered by the Google Search team
- Not even for The Verge, for example
- I didn’t think I was “angry”
- Google Search has grown more transparent over time
- I’m not quoted as saying I was “mad” at anyone, nor do I recall saying that, yet it’s stated that I am
- Why specific ranking signal details might not be helpful
- I’m not quoted as saying I was “pissed” at anyone, nor do I recall saying that, yet it is stated that I am
- The problem is Google’s, and I did not say it wasn’t
- My apologies to anyone I’ve made feel that I and Google are not humble about search
- Google’s fundamental ecosystem guidance has not changed
- SEO is not the same as spam
- The need for Google Search to improve
- Postscript: My guidance to Nilay Patel that his (or anyone’s) SEO team “should do whatever they think is best for your readers, and that’s the right path”
- Postscript 2: Explaining to Nilay Patel why SEOs (or anyone) might not “love” being stereotyped in extremes
- If “nearly everyone hates SEOs and the people who do it for a living,” as the article states, does Nilay Patel and/or nearly everyone at The Verge hate their own SEOs?
- The Verge’s ethics statement and its baseline to “avoid stereotyping”
Hey, I did say up-front that I go long!
Ecosystem relations involves more than one person
From the article:
After Cutts left, Google replaced him with a handful of people, none of whom could quite fill his shoes: “Those personalities sometimes were standoffish,” Forrester told me. “Some of them were superior. Some of them were a bit too wallflower.”
Make no mistake. Matt Cutts is a wonderful person. I count him as a friend; I believe he would view me the same. He was an incredibly great resource for Google in helping to communicate with the outside world about how search works. I was deeply sad when he left, though I also understood why he was ready for a change.
That shouldn’t take away from the people who didn’t actually replace Matt but instead grew alongside him. Matt was the head of search spam, not “ecosystem relations” or anything like that. His role as an unofficial SEO and search whisper wasn’t his primary responsibility.
Instead, an entire team that today is known as Search Relations grew up alongside him, a team designed to help foster good communications with the web ecosystem. That makes sense. You wouldn’t expect a single person to be able to handle both the tasks of dealing with search spam and also non-spam creator issues.
I work with many of those on Search Relations, as well as people beyond them that also work with the web ecosystem in other ways. They’re good people. They work hard to help guide creators as best they can. They bring feedback from creators back into Google and advocate in various ways on their behalf.
How I came to be the Google Search Liaison
Continuing from the article:
One of the people Google brought in was Danny Sullivan, a former journalist who started Search Engine Land, the industry publication where Schwartz works, back in the 1990s. In 2009, Sullivan was described as “the closest approximation to an umpire in the search world,” so when he published “A deep look at Google’s biggest-ever search quality crisis” in 2017 and then took a job as Google’s public liaison for Search only a few months later, it felt to some SEOs as though a congressperson working on gun safety legislation had quit to become an NRA lobbyist.
I started Search Engine Watch in the 1990s. I later started Search Engine Land about ten years later. They were, and are, different publication. But moving beyond that background….
NOTE: The Verge has since added a correction about this, though they still haven’t corrected saying that that Barry Schwartz has spent “the past two decades covering SEO for the trade rag Search Engine Land.” Search Engine Land hasn’t existed for two decades. Barry did write for Search Engine Watch before Search Engine Land. More important, he’s written for his own Search Engine Roundtable publication for longer than either of the other publications. Separately, for a “trade rag,” The Verge seems to have found Search Engine Land useful enough to reference in its own coverage well over 100 times, by my estimate.
NOTE: Business Insider decided to weigh in on the “spicy drama” and makes, ironically, its own error in mentioning the error: “Sullivan points out some minor errors (he had left Search Engine Land before he joined Google.” That wasn’t the error The Verge made. The error was that it said I started Search Engine Land in the 1990s, which wasn’t correct.
Matt had already left Google when I was hired. Maybe that’s a technical quibble over the idea that I was brought in to replace him. But fair enough, there was a gap with some of the things Matt had done for the company versus me coming in.
In particular, I don’t run the search spam team. My role is one that had never existed with Google Search, someone in a full-time position, part of the search quality team (not the Comms team), tasked with communicating with people outside of Google about Search and bringing feedback into the Search team directly. For those familiar with newspapers, it’s sort of an ombuds-type of position. Not quite, but that’s the closest approximation.
My role touches on some of the ecosystem work that Search Relations does. I often work with them to help communicate with the web ecosystem. But my remit is broader and covers issues with search generally.
I came into the role unexpectedly. Matt had noted that I’d retired from journalism and suggested to people at Google that they might talk to me about some type of position. I didn’t have a position lined up at Google before I left. I had no idea I’d even end up working there at all. I’ve seen some people suggest that this was my plan all along, to which I’ve sometimes joked (and others have) that it was quite the plan to start writing about search engines before Google existed and stick with it for two decades to make all this happen.
All I knew what that after 21 years writing about search, I was ready for a break and a change. That was my motivation to leave and I had no need to go anywhere else for a few years. I didn’t need the job. I quite seriously thought I’d maybe blog about science fiction stuff for fun (as I shared about before). Mostly, I thought I’d enjoy a long time-off for the first time in years.
But Google did get in touch. I spend some weeks thinking about it and decided yes, it was a fantastic opportunity because I love search. I’ll get back to that love in a bit. I’d chronicled how search engines had grown and evolved for two decades. The chance to understand from the inside? Yes, amazing opportunity. But more important, the chance to be part of and hopefully help improve something that’s so vital to so many people’s lives? Sign me up. I had a few more years in me to be involved in the search world, yes.
No special support offered by the Google Search team
Continuing on from the article:
“There is a thread across the industry of people who believe that Google just made Danny an offer he couldn’t say no to, and it was designed essentially to take his voice out of the conversation,” Forrester told me. “I don’t believe that’s the case,” he went on, but compared to Cutts, “I think that Danny specifically stays out of a lot of public conversations because he is in those private conversations with businesses.”
As I already covered, not only could I have said “no” to the offer, I almost did. As for the “public conversation” part, I’d already had left journalism, so my “voice” so to speak was already gone. If anything, joining Google brought it back in to the space.
I think the “conversation” reference also is about engaging at SEO conference and conversations with SEOs on the social network formerly known as Twitter. I don’t take part in some of those because it’s not my primary job. There’s an entire aforementioned Search Relations team that does this. But I do get involved when it’s helpful. I don’t, however, have a schedule full of private conversations with businesses. Google Search has an important policy we call “Honest Results” that means no one gets special support in Search. I don’t somehow have regular chats with private businesses to give advice. That wouldn’t be in the spirit of Honest Results.
Not even for The Verge, for example
For example, let’s take The Verge. The Verge employs SEOs. I assume multiple ones, because Nilay Patel, who runs The Verge as editor-in-chief, messaged me in 2022 saying his “SEO team” was recommending some things that he didn’t love about “new content types.”
(By the way, I feel comfortable sharing about this because the default mode for The Verge is that they treat everything when talking with people at companies to be on-the-record. Nilay, you’re totally free on my end to share this conversation if you want).
My response was that I couldn’t give out any specialized advice but I was curious what they were telling him, what these supposed “new content types” were. Maybe there was something we needed to be aware of that might help us generally communicate with people.
The Verge wanted to do short blog posts, as it turned out, and the Verge’s SEOs were afraid that these would somehow be seen as thin content. I said they might review our guidance about “thin content” that has nothing to do with word count.
Nilay pushed back that his SEO team had seen that advice but apparently still felt following the official guidance meant that “fundamentally we are gambling” on their success in search. I replied to say that, again, I can’t give specific advice, but that the page I pointed out wasn’t designed for people to have to “tea leaf read” and that ultimately, it was up to The Verge to do what it thought was best.
I didn’t think I was “angry”
When I finally manage to jump through the flaming rings necessary to be allowed to speak on the phone with Sullivan, albeit with a communications chaperone also on the line, I find him angry and defensive.
I operate the Search Liaison account on X. And Threads. And Mastodon. And Bluesky. No one has to jump to “flaming rings” to ask me questions about search. People do that all the time. I don’t respond to all of them, because sometimes I can’t for various reasons (it’s a statement, not a question; it’s not about search, etc). But I do answer a lot of things. Reporters are perfectly free to ask me things that way too, if they want. Sometimes they do, and sometimes I respond.
If reporters want to do a long interview, they go through our Comms team. That’s not unusual for any large company. It’s also not unusual for there to be someone from Comms involved in an interview. That’s a common practice. I suppose you could call that person a “chaperone” if you’re looking for a particularly charged word. But clearly if I’m coming across as “angry and defensive” there wasn’t a whole lot of chaperoning going on.
That’s not unusual. I don’t work for the Comms team. When I’m asked to do an interview, we might go over some common things we all agree are important to address. But I’m not following some formal script. I’m not constantly pausing and saying, “Wait, let me ask my chaperone if I can say something.” I just talk. I’m deeply fortunate to work for a company and with a Comms team that trusts me to do so.
Was I angry? I didn’t think so. I definitely made some jokes. I’ll get back to one of these. I was certainly animated. Anyone who knows me knows I can get passionate and animated about search (or Star Trek; Janeway is the best captain, Lower Decks might be the best series, fight me). But I would have characterize my attitude as one of more pushing back on some of what seemed to be preconceived statements I was being asked to disprove.
Google Search has grown more transparent over time
For example, as we continue on:
He’s annoyed that anyone would think his era at Google has been less transparent than Cutts’ was: “We have reams of help documents!” he told me. “We have more people assigned to work with SEOs than we did when Matt worked here!”
Maybe I was annoyed? Maybe I was speaking with exclamation points? Maybe. I recall it more as firmly pushing back here because it true. That’s no disrespect to Matt, either. It’s just true. We’ve worked diligently to build up more documentation and guidance.
For example, there’s an entire Google Search Status Dashboard that explains if we’re updating our systems. No relying on whether you see a tweet (er, post) or not – you can check the dashboard. We also have documented major ranking systems that get updated and what to consider if we make a change to them, if anything at all (core, helpful content, reviews, spam). We have a document explaining key things for people to consider in making helpful, people-first content. That’s part of a Google Search Essentials introduction. We have a guide to notable Google Search ranking systems.
None of these were mentioned in the article. An entire article about SEO; not one link to advice from Google itself. These are all “post-Matt” things. That doesn’t mean they are somehow “Danny things” – though I’ve been heavily involved with them and led the development of some of them. But more important, they speak to an overall team at Google that is dedicated to sharing more to the web ecosystem and anyone about how Google Search works.
I’m not quoted as saying I was “mad” at anyone, nor do I recall saying that, yet it’s stated that I am
Sullivan is mad that the public and the media don’t really understand what he considers to be basic precepts about how search works, leading him to adopt a rather scolding tone online.
Sad, not mad. But also, I don’t even recall the question like this. IE: I don’t recall being asked “How do you feel about the public and what they think about Google Search” and responding, “I’m mad!”
(I bolded that because, like a few points below — it’s important. It’s one person’s impression, I guess, of what they think I think, characterizing me in this way not based on an actual quote, or a paraphrase. If that’s their impression — and the Verge’s editors felt it was documented enough to be published — it is what it is. But I disagree with this characterization and feel it is inaccurate).
I do recall one question at the opening of the interview that I think was something along the lines of “So, what do you think about the idea that people can’t find things on Google Search,” to which I recall joking something like, “Yes, clearly no one finds things any more.” And then, I’m pretty sure, went into what I thought was a more serious and thoughtful discussion, at least from my perspective.
Lesson learned. Don’t make jokes, But the point – and my frustration with *reporters* who sometimes ask me this type of question – is that it’s clearly absurd. They themselves use Google all the time to find things. Millions of people each day clearly find information that’s useful. And yet, I’ve repeatedly seen notable tech journalists with a straight-face share how you can’t find anything on Google, that it is useless and so on. If I come across as defensive in this particular aspect, it’s more that as a former reporter — and one who covered search intensively — I’d hope for more perspective and care. That doesn’t mean you can’t say you think Google Search isn’t as useful. That it should improve, whatever.
I’ll come back to the question about search quality. The core part of that paragraph is that I’m somehow mad the public has misconceptions about search? No. And I wouldn’t think I said anything remotely like that. I’m definitely sad that people might think we generate results in some way or for some purpose that’s totally not intended. Sad, because I’d like to think of better ways we can communicate how we do work. That’s part of the reason we have the How Search Works site. And it’s part of what we keep discussing at Google. How can we communicate better on things like this? And beyond that, sad that if we’re disappointing people, I don’t want just to communicate better. I want for us to be better. And I’m not alone in the Google Search team thinking that, advocating for that and working towards that.
Why specific ranking signal details might not be helpful
He’s frustrated that people want to know every last detail about Google’s algorithm because even “if we listed all one thousand of the ranking signals” and how much each was worth, he said, that wouldn’t actually help SEOs do their jobs better, anyway.
I suppose I’m frustrated when supposedly knowledgeable people think that would somehow help. That if we said, “Well, content in an H1 tag is worth 3 times as much ranking power as an H1,” that this would somehow help anyone — Google, the ecosystem or searchers (and no, it doesn’t work like that).
If you talk about specific things, content creators over-obsess on doing specific things rather than the broad thing our systems seek to reward. That broad thing is creating quality content, content that’s meant for people, that leaves them satisfied. We use signals that align to this goal. Listing individual signals means people would do individual things rather than the broad thing they should be doing for success.
I’m not quoted as saying I was “pissed” at anyone, nor do I recall saying that, yet it is stated that I am
And most of all, Sullivan is pissed that people think Google results have gone downhill. Because they haven’t, he insisted. If anything, search results have gotten a lot better over time. Anyone who thought search quality was worse needed to take a hard look in the mirror.
“We have an entire generation that grew up expecting the search box to do the work for them,” he said. “We might do a better job of matching for a bulk of people, but for people who are super sensitive, when they have that fail moment, now it becomes, ‘All my searches aren’t good.’”
The problem was not Google. The problem was not SEOs. The problem was kids these days.
Saying someone is pissed is a pretty strong statement. If that’s how the reporter felt I came across, it’s upon me to do better. But I don’t recall being pissed on this point.
NOTE: After I originally wrote this, I had time to reflect more fully on The Verge deciding that it was apparently fine to publish that I was “pissed” if people think Google’s results aren’t good, even though I don’t recall saying that, nor am I quoted as saying it. I’ve done *many* interviews on this topic over the years. It’s simply not the way I talk about these issues. If the reporter felt that’s how I came across, I’d have appreciated (and thought it was fair) to qualify this as that this is the impression they got. Instead, it’s put forward as factual statement. I disagree with it and don’t feel it is accurate.
I certainly did talk about the idea that search has gotten better overall. We do search for things and find things in ways we’d have never imagined when I first started writing about search back in 1995, before Google existed. I can and have pointed my phone at objects, taken a picture, and figured out what they are without typing a word. That’s search. That’s a huge leap in how search operated from back in the early days. It’s a technological achievement that’s so good, we (all of us, including myself) can just dismiss not as magic but as expected.
But our expectations keep rising. I would have indeed spoken to that. I wrote a whole blog post about last years. There are also absolutely issues with quality that we recognize, that we’re working to better address, so that those “fail moments” are less. I bolded that so the point isn’t missed. I’m not saying search is perfect. I’m not saying we don’t have plenty of work to improve on.
But I didn’t say that the problem was “kids these days.” That’s not a direct quote, of course. But it’s also not a paraphrase of anything we said. It’s what the writer believes my view is; that’s their call, of course. But I disagree with that characterization.
The problem is Google’s, and I did not say it wasn’t
Nor did I say the problem wasn’t Google’s. I almost certainly said the opposite, that the fail moments are indeed Google’s. That the expectations are Google’s problems and, importantly, good problems for us to have. Because it means people care about Google Search. They care enough to complain, they want it to improve, and it’s on us to make it even better. This is similar to what I said in my aforementioned 2022 blog post.
My apologies to anyone I’ve made feel that I and Google are not humble about search
Of course Sullivan would say this, though. He works for Google. I felt like I began to understand why many SEOs had told me that Cutts’ departure had marked a major turning point in the history of the internet, emblematic of Google’s transition from idealistic startup to one of the most valuable and powerful companies to ever exist. Over the phone, Cutts came off as humble and thoughtful, acknowledging the nuances and challenges of the search engine business, while Sullivan sounded like an impatient corporate stooge, trying to gaslight me into believing the sky was red.
But here’s the part where I started to feel the way I’ve felt so often in recent years, like I was losing my grip on reality: Sullivan was not the only person who tried to tell me that search results have improved significantly. Out of the dozen-plus SEOs that I spoke with at length, nearly every single one insisted that search results are way better than they used to be. And except for Sullivan, these were not people with an incentive to praise Google. If anything, these were folks who lamented how much harder it had become for them to take advantage of Google. Today, they told me, search results are just objectively more accurate. More useful. More difficult to manipulate
Perhaps Matt was being asked different questions than I was? I don’t know. But clearly, I didn’t do well here. I apologize that I came off that way. Not just to the reporter, who clearly felt it. I apologize to anyone who thinks that I’m personally not humble about search or that Google Search itself isn’t nor somehow recognizes the important role we play. Some bold text again, because this is really important.
I spent over two decades writing about search, and my most important work to me was covering issues about search beyond just the search marketing aspect. Search is a miracle. I don’t care whose search engine it is, it’s a modern day miracle that we turn to search engines and find results that quickly help us in ways big and small in our lives.
I know this so well because I’m from a pre-search generation. Is that store open? I’d better find their phone number by making a voice call to a service (411, remember) that lists phone numbers, then call the store, then hope they’re open and if they’re not, hope they have some recording device to tell me their hours. And if I want to know if something is in stock, I’d better wait on hold assuming someone will go look. And what stores even sell what I want?
Google Search is privileged to have some many people trust in it to help them locate information. I’m privileged to be part of that. I fully recognize the importance, the challenge, the trust, and I hope to keep living up to those expectations, humbly so.
Google’s fundamental ecosystem guidance has not changed
Sullivan had tried to convince me that Google was not behaving differently and, in fact, had not changed its search criteria in any major way for the past 20 years. Google wanted you to make good websites, and that was that. Everyone who tried to rank higher by messing with the algorithm would be blocked.
This is true. The fundamental thing that Google has been telling people to do – the number one guidance – is to make content for people, not search engines. I tweeted an example of this recently.
I almost certainly would not have said that everyone “who tried to rank higher by messing with the algorithm would be blocked.” That’s not a direct quote, but it also doesn’t make sense as a paraphrase.
We have ranking systems that largely do not “block” content. They look to reward good content and show it highly in results; lower-quality content drops. Even with actual spam, it’s unusual that we’d literally “block” an entire site. It just isn’t likely to rank well for general queries that aren’t somehow very specific to it.
SEO is not the same as spam
Sullivan even insisted that what these rule-breakers did should not be called SEO: he deemed it all “spam.” What is spam? “Spam is stuff that search engines don’t like.”
This is entirely correct. SEO isn’t spam. If it was, then The Verge itself employs a team of spammers.
SEO, as Google defines it, is generally activities that are within our guidelines that can help us perhaps better locate and understand content. We have an entire Google SEO guide about it. We also surface plenty of helpful content that has no SEO work involved with it at all. SEO isn’t some magic elixir that causes content to rank well.
As for spam, let’s continue on:
But the line between strategies that violate Google’s terms of service and strategies that don’t has always been blurry and inconsistently enforced.
We don’t have “terms of service” that are generally applying to search ranking. While I don’t want to seem getting lost in details, for an entire article that’s explaining stuff about SEO, this is an important part. We have spam policies. If you violate our spam policies, you face potential spam actions in Google Search. I don’t think those policies are somehow “blurry” to understand, but anyone can read them and make their own evaluation.
Instead, the question is really not whether our spam polices are blurry. The question is whether our ranking system are doing a good job dealing with non-spam content from across the web. In many cases, yes. In many cases, people find helpful, reliable information on a regular dependable basis.
The need for Google Search to improve
That said, there’s room to improve. There always is. Search and content can move through cycles. You can have a rise in unhelpful content, and search systems evolve to deal with it. We’re in one of those cycles. I fully recognize people would like to see better search results on Google. I know how hard people within Google Search are working to do this. I’m fortunate to be a part of that. To the degree I can help — which includes better communicating, ensuring that I reflect the humbleness that we — and I feel — I’ll keep improving on myself.
Postscript: My guidance to Nilay Patel that his (or anyone’s) SEO team “should do whatever they think is best for your readers, and that’s the right path”
Nilay has commented over here on our conversation:
Danny calls out an email conversation we had a while ago about indexing quick posts in search while we were redesigning the site; the only thing I’ll say is that I found it very instructive that our ideas about how to make our site more useful ran headfirst into a discussion about what Google would want instead of what our audience would want. And ultimately Google’s guidance was so opaque that we excluded quick posts from the search index rather than accept the traffic risk. (We’re going to let them get indexed soon, though. Yolo.)
At no point did our conversation run headlong into me saying to do something for Google that’s different than what the readers would want. But maybe he means he and his SEOs were having that conversation At any rate, my exact response was the opposite:
Ultimately your team should do whatever they think is best for your readers, and that’s the right path.
That’s core to our basic advice. Do things for people first. Don’t do things for Google first. Anyone can go into some of the tweets/posts I’ve replied to recently through the Search Liaison account over the past week and hear this come up again and again. It’s also part of the documentation I noted above about helpful, people-first content.
I’d encourage Nilay and his team of SEOs to again review the supposed “opaque” guidelines about “thin content,” which are as follows:
Thin affiliate pages
Thin affiliate pages are pages with product affiliate links on which the product descriptions and reviews are copied directly from the original merchant without any original content or added value.
Affiliate pages can be considered thin if they are a part of a program that distributes its content across a network of affiliates without providing additional value. These sites often appear to be cookie-cutter sites or templates with the same or similar content replicated within the same site or across multiple domains or languages. If a Search results page returned several of these sites, all with the same content, thin affiliate pages would create a frustrating user experience.
Not every site that participates in an affiliate program is a thin affiliate. Good affiliate sites add value by offering meaningful content or features. Examples of good affiliate pages include offering additional information about price, original product reviews, rigorous testing and ratings, navigation of products or categories, and product comparisons.
The checklist I would encourage The Verge or any SEO team in pondering this would go something like this:
- Am I doing affiliate pages?
- Then this “thin pages” advice doesn’t apply
- Am I worried about a page being “thin” because it has relatively few words?
- This guidance doesn’t mention word count
- So no, that doesn’t seem to apply
- This guidance doesn’t mention word count
This seems straight-forward to me. That said, I’m very much considering how we can say even more strongly and help people understand that the best way to success with content creation when it comes to Google Search is not to be thinking what they should specifically do for Google Search. I acknowledge that’s a difficult concept to grasp, and I’d very much like to see how we can give better guidance here.
Postscript 2: Explaining to Nilay why SEOs (or anyone) might not “love” being stereotyped in extremes
Postscript 2: On Threads, Nilay Patel posted this:
SEO has a culture, and today I’m learning that SEOs do not love it when anyone talks about that culture.
I replied to that here, explaining:
Here’s my article from 2007 that might help you understand when there’s an actual profession filled with good people who aren’t at the extremes of what an article covers (like presumably your own SEOs), yes, they can feel attacked as much as journalists might if the same thing happened to them. It’s from the “trade rag” as described in your article that I used to run, but hopefully there are some nuggets of helpfulness.
This has been on my mind since then, so I wanted to share a few more thoughts. First, I’m surprised anyone involved in tech as long as Nilay — someone who runs a major tech site and employs his own SEOs — would be surprised that SEO has a culture. It’s a profession, one that’s over two decades old. Just like journalists and others have a “culture,” I suppose, so do SEOs.
Speaking as a former SEO, I would say that SEOs don’t mind at all if people talk about their culture, to the degree that one can be defined. What they they do mind is when people talk about SEOs as if all SEOs are exactly the same.
Let’s go back to the article that begins defining SEOs this way:
I wanted to understand: what kind of human spends their days exploiting our dumbest impulses for traffic and profit? Who the hell are these people making money off of everyone else’s misery?
It could be argued that the lines above are equally applicable to journalists and news publications. It’s not hard to find plenty of news coverage written to exploit some dumb thing someone did or some dumb thing someone thinks to make traffic and profit.
That would be unfair to journalists and news publications. You can find outliers. You can find extremes. But not all journalists or news publishers are exactly the same. Neither are SEOs. Yet, this article seemed to me happy to make anyone involved with SEO basically the scum of the earth.
If “nearly everyone hates SEOs and the people who do it for a living,” as the article states, does Nilay Patel and/or nearly everyone at The Verge hate their own SEOs?
Perhaps this is why nearly everyone hates SEO and the people who do it for a living
Nearly everyone? The article, of course, is fond in my opinion of making these broad declarative statements without a lot of proof. It apparently has truthiness to the writer. I don’t doubt many people reading this article nodded their head thinking “Yeah, I hate that SEO stuff” even though many people might not fully understand what SEO is — nor did the article, in my view, do any justice in trying to explain this.
But more directly — does Nilay Patel hate the SEOs he employs? Does nearly everyone at The Verge hate The Verge’s SEOs? Because if it’s not true at that level, is it perhaps more nuanced? Many news publications have SEOs. Do all the people at these news publications hate their SEOs? Many businesses large and small have SEOs. Do people at those businesses nearly all also hate their SEOs? Many government agencies, non-profits and other organizations with no profit motive at all also employ SEOs. Do all the people at these places nearly all hate the SEOs they employ?
No, I doubt nearly all these people hate SEO and the SEOs they employ to do it for a living. Or do they say, “I hate SEOs, but you know, you’re different.”
The disconnect here is that the article, I would submit, isn’t really about SEO. For example, the words “in house” don’t appear at all, that I can see. And yet, a huge part of the SEO industry are people who do work “in house” for companies doing nothing that involves all the extremes in that article. Plenty of people working for themselves directly don’t go to extremes, either.
I’d expend more words (of which I never seem to lack) explaining this all, except been there, done that: 2007, 2005. I can’t write all that stuff again. The history and background is pretty available to anyone who really wanted to understand SEO if the goal was to define it more than producing unhelpful content.
The Verge’s ethics statement and its baseline to “avoid stereotyping”
But that didn’t seem to be the goal. That also leads back to The Verge and its ethics statement, which says it uses the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics as a baseline. That code says this:
Avoid stereotyping. Journalists should examine the ways their values and experiences may shape their reporting.
I think it is self-evident this article not only stereotyped SEO and those within it but seemingly delighted in doing so. I think that’s unfortunate.