Posted February 8, 2007 9:44 am by with 14 comments

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Ladies and gentleman, presenting the heavy-weight battle for the reputation of search engine optimizers.

In the red-corner, we have Jason Calacanis, who blogs a whole bunch of criticisms of SEOs, without backing up any facts or responding to reader’s comments and questions.

…the truth is that 90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman. These are guys in really bad suits trying to get really naive people to sign long-term contracts. These clients typically make horrible products and don’t deserve traffic–that’s why they’re not getting it organically so they hire the slimebuckets to game the system for them.

In the blue-corner, we have IAC’s Barry Diller, singing the praises of SEO.

He called his in-house SEO practitioners “resident geniuses,” and said SEO’s contribution to IAC’s traffic acquisition efforts can’t be understated. Diller claims that when an SEO expert transferred from Expedia to Citysearch, the site’s unique user count jumped from six million to over 20 million per month “without spending a nickel. That’s great value.”

Obviously, having practiced SEO for many years, I’m somewhat biased in this argument. There are many bad SEO firms out there, but then again, you could probably take any industry and make the case that 90% of those participating, really don’t know what they are doing. But, what really aggravates me most about Calacanis’ comments, is this…

There are some whitehat SEO firms out there I know, but frankly the whitehat SEO companies are simply doing solid web design so I don’t consider them SEO at all.

I’m glad we’re on the same page Jason. I don’t consider web design firms to be SEOs either. How about you stick to what you know – which is what exactly?

UPDATE: If you’re pissed at Jason’s comments and feel like retaliating, Danny Sullivan has saved you the job. He’s taken Calacanis to task in a big way. Bravo Danny!

  • Ethan

    I had a chance to speak with Jason at the iMedia Brand Summit this week and he just dosent get it. Sure there are black hat snake oil salesmen out there. But the days of hidden text on the page are over my friend.

    He thinks SEO is gaming the engines… I think the art of SEO is more like a usability exercise. You are figuring out the language of your potential users and then desiging a site with that in mind. Along the way you are removing any potenital technical issues that would cause the engines not to be able to see your site. Fixing many of those issues also too help your visitors.

    If you have ever spoken with him you will know that he is a putz with no personality that loves to get people up in arms. Its a shame we are even speaking his name.

  • One vote for Diller.

  • I think the “truth” is somewhere between both extremes.

    I’ve been doing SEO and some SEM work for the last 4-5 years and I don’t think it’s rocket science, but I would not like to think of it as a commodity either.

    Sure, the basics of SEO are fairly well established, but a lot of the rest of it is guessing what Google wants, what it cares about.

    And then, the “snake oil SEO’s” seems like an oversimplification – some people make promises about what they can do for your site they can’t deliver on.

    I’m feel SEO has become mainstream, it’s no longer that interesting – I like Web Analytics better – and hopefully, Web Analytics won’t end up a commodity (but I hear there are couple of “Dummies” books plus the Web Analytics One Hour a Day book) being published this year.

  • Oh my God …

    Well a big thanks for Andy and Danny for the time they put into their respective replies to this uneducated series of attacks.

    Why are we upset Jason? Let’s try this on for size, “People who work for VC firms are lazy and only want to make money off other people’s work.” This is an obviously false statement and many work very hard I’m sure but it applies to some – so should all be painted with the same brush?

    SEO, proper SEO, is a complicated and ever-growing aspect of Internet Marketing and anyone who wants to simplify it, belittle those who make a career of it, or lump it in with web design (a completely separate and highly skilled area) have no right past the first amendment to speak on the subject.

    But that’s just one SEO’s opinion – and obviously a biased one 😉

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  • I experiment with various things, but I have never created a link farm as big as Jason did.

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  • Jason Calacanis sounds like the people that rip on Wal-Mart, Disney World, and other big successful businessses. I imagine, without knowing much about the guy, that he’s got a hidden agenda of some sort. Is he trying to sell his own SEO services or design service? Because that’s usually what most of these types do – they criticize other businesses and then market their own indirectly! “Bold strategy – we’ll see how it works out for him.” Or possibly Jason has read other SEO blogs that talk about making posts that are controversial to get more traffic! I’m sure he’s achieving that goal. I’ve seen lots of SEO professionals – some I like, some I laugh at. But like what was mentioned before, every industry has the “slimy sort” and then there are the prime of the prime. Without good SEO, I wouldn’t have successful businesses. GO SEO!!

  • There is alot of slime buckets out there. Most of them do not want to do actual work. Once people put there trust in seo’s and nothing gets done to the site, they dont want to use an seo any longer. It’s hard to put trust in true seo.

  • Bravo Danny and Andy!

    Seriously though Jason needs to get it out of his mind. He is out of control and just basing around just because a handful of SEO’s are not able to deliver what they’re supposed to.

    And yeah, stick to what you know Jason.

  • Definitely geniuses! What else?

  • I agree steve. But it gets harder as long as “slimbuckets” as Jason puts it, continue to crawl the SEO world. I just hope that other SEO companies would be proactive in how they do work. Makes a better place for everyone.

  • You know, I think its ridiculous to sum up all SEO Specialists into one lump category. while there certainly are some specialists that give the rest of us a bad rap, there are also those of us who stick to the rules and guidelines and simply get the job done. If your are good enough at white hat SEO, you dont need to resort to unethical methods, and you have a much more solid base to stand on when all is said and done

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