FRUSTRATION happens many ways. The cartoon (click to enlarge) is just one. The Search Marketing Industry continues to have a bad reputation, even amidst recent growth of acceptance of accountable Internet search marketing by mainstream advertisers in the ANA, as well as traditional ad agencies in the AAAA. My opinion is that there is something to be learned from the most looked up words in the online Mirriam-Webster Dictionary for the year's 2003 ("democracy"), 2004 ("blog"), and especially 2005 ("integrity"). I'll leave the analogies to you, but just say that "blogging" has a lot to do with "reputations".
I must admit that I am mainly frustrated with the search engines for not joining together in developing a better set of standards that search marketers could follow, and not officially naming the search marketing companies and web sites that break their "standards" or "guidelines". But Danny Sullivan, who I first met at 6/9/05 Consumer Reports WebWatch Conference explained the reason for their reluctance well on 4/2/02 when he said (under "Involving Search Engines"): "Certainly all the major search engines have their own internal "blacklists" of companies and web sites that they consider to have spammed them. They've even discussed sharing such lists among themselves or with the public. However, the search engines also worry that someone might sue them for making such public statements."
Well, things have progressed a bit since then with these two recent Google related events:
First, Matt Cutts, who works for Google, said this in his 2/11/06 blog post on Confirming a penalty on the search marketer, Traffic Power: "For this post, I am speaking in my official capacity as head of the webspam group at Google, and I’ve had this post reviewed by Google’s lawyers." Since then Matt has posted "Traffic Power case dismissed", which is bad news for Traffic Power who tried to lash out at outspoken critics.
Second, on 2/4/05 "Google Blogoscoped" posted: "German BMW Banned From Google" which had a link to Matt Cutts's blog post "Ramping up on international webspam", which confirmed the temporarily banned BMW web site. Is this the start of a new, more specific communication policy on SPAM for Google?
"Define: SPAM" is a great 4/13/06 Threadwatch post where Danny Sullivan commented: "spam is whatever a search engine decides it to be. they'll give guidelines, and we can use them to a limited degree to avoid trouble, if that's what we want to do. but they can and do pull stuff for things not listed as spam, while they also allow some things that are technically spam to go through. in short, it's not spam until the fat search engine sings that it is by pulling you. That's also why different search engines may have different definitions of spam, while it's also why those of us outside search engines might entirely disagree that something is spam. But while we can argue, we don't get to be judge and jury as the search engines do." Clearly, Danny is understandably FRUSTRATED (in my opinion, anyway)!
I recently blogged on "The Ethics and Politics of Search Engines" Part II - Brokerblogger. The Santa Clara University's 2/27/06 Conference served good purposes, but didn't solve any problems.
On 4/8/06 Danny Sullivan was interviewed by "ukgimp" on his blog. He was asked: "The SEO is a considered to be a big dodgy, a bit of a scumbag. What can be done to help get that image changed, after all not every SEO/SEM is a cowboy (Noun. A person who is unscrupulous and unqualified in business. Often with regard to ‘cowboy’ builders.)?" Part of his great answer was: "Those who do aggressive SEO, who want to walk the spam line or go over it, there’s not much they can do to change things. I trust, hope, that those creating really crappy scraper site content simply get wiped out with future algorithm shifts."
My next point of FRUSTRATION in this Brokerblogger post is about what Danny said regarding "references" ("A person who is in a position to recommend another or to vouch for his or her fitness, as for a job."). Danny said: "Many clients with bad experiences don’t seem to have done basic things like ask for references." This is true, but WHY?
My opinion is that after interviewing many potential sales reps for my former business of 13 years, I came to the conclusion that the references supplied to me by the job seeker or his friends were only the "good" references. No job seeker or seller of any kind of service is going to give you the contact info of anyone who might say something negative about them! Yet, it is the job of the employer or service buyer to get past the "good only" references to find the negative aspects of a job seeker or service seller, and evaluate "how negative" they are to them.
Finding objective people or companies who are not under "undo influence" of any kind to be positive or negative in their reference giving, and only tell the truth (as they honestly see it), are hard to find. Then, the employer or service buyer has to find out the underlying reasons for their opinions. This can be very FRUSTRATING, indeed!
My next point of FRUSTRATION is with the portion of SEO consultants who SAY they want to "partner" with their clients, and then want the clients to take most, if not all, of the financial risks for SEO Return On Investment. Or, other SEO's who are so into their own "15 minutes of fame" that they act a little like the egotistical, clique embracing, "connected" youg guy portrayed on Riley Harmon's Google "current tv" video entitled "Generation: 60 Hz (2;35)".
Lastly, FRUSTRATION was expressed to me by an experienced owner of a search marketing firm about the industry organizations: SEMPO and SMA-NA. His basic take was that SEMPO wasn't good for much except promoting the businesses of the people who run it. On the other hand, while the SMA-NA was more for its members, it is underfunded (due to not taking "conflict of interest" money from the search engines as SEMPO does), and therefore not able to do much. I like the SMA-NA better, though, as their members voted to try to help do something about the bad reputation for the industry that Traffic Power (a notorious SEO firm) was causing. This 9/22/05 Threadwatch post says it all.
In general, people can be their own worst enemies born out of greed, short term thinking, apathy, and "the end justifies the means" mentality. But, if enough of the search marketing community are that way (INCLUDING CLIENTS, at times), it can affect the entire Search Marketing Industry being labeled (unfairly) as "unprofessional", or "used car salesman-like" at the very least. My opinion is that a lot of the perceived "negatives" stem from a lack of TRUE EMPATHY for the online seach users (and clients, at times), who sometimes are "controlled" vs. "conversed with" through "PR posturing".
I hope the Search Marketing Industry's reputation improves, as I feel all the people involved (especially the top management of search engines) can help make the consumer-user's online search experience improve, as more and more naive, newbie, consumer-users come online. This would help local, regional, national and world markets, while building TRUST vs. FEAR of using the Internet.