Posted February 25, 2008 8:18 am by with 22 comments

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I like Steve Rubel. He’s a great PR professional and a thought-leader in social media, but he’s way off the mark with his new blog post: “SEO Shenanigans Pose a Clear and Present Danger to Social Media

If you go and read it, you’ll see hypocritical statements like this:

Search engine optimization (SEO) professionals of late seem poised to take over blogs, digg, StumbleUpon and other sites with a range of tactics, some legit, others more questionable with the intent of building Google Juice and nothing more….

…What does get me hot and bothered is when consultants and bloggers propose launching such an initiatives solely for influencing search. SEO, like word of mouth, should be a byproduct outcome, not a primary objective. Any brand that plays in this space should be aiming to create value. Do that and the other stuff will follow.

Oh come off it Steve. What about the multitude of PR firms that flood social media with company profiles of their clients–all with the sole intent of building their brand recognition. They want to “appear” as if they’re engaging their customers, but really they’re just jumping in so they can figure out how to push their brand on users.

Listen, don’t get me wrong. I’m sure their are some SEOs that go too far with their efforts–we colloquially call them “black hats”–but if you’re going to call out misuse of social media, then the PR industry needs to take a look in the mirror. Or at least read Matthew 7:3 first. 😉

  • WOW….. damn Steve, where do you come off with this? Especially when the PR company you work for misuses social media continually (remember that Microsoft issue and that Walmart flogging issue???)

    Good call Andy — definitely the pot calling the kettle black! And I use to think Steve “got it”…. apparently I was mistaken!


  • I guess it all comes down to defining what we mean by SEO, Blogging, and social media in general – no one sees the world as it, we simply see it as we see it.

    I don’t really think Steve meant that the way it came off although I doubt he will back down much.

  • @John – I find it interesting that Steve thinks we should try to guard social media from marketers. I hate to see any kind of “best practices” for the internet.

    Just let everyone use it for what THEY need it for, and let the community decide what they’ll tolerate.

  • Steve’s issue seems to be “taking over” rather than “affecting” – or inundating rather than “optimizing”, which would eventually consign SEO to the white noise of pop-up ads.

    Somebody has to watch this process, though I’m not sure who it should be. Calling them “black hats” hasn’t been enough so far, any more than terming it “spam” has decreased the volume of worthless email.

  • @Andy – I think the real issue is that anyone who believes an SEO, black hat or not, launches anything online purely for the “Google Juice” just doesn’t get it.

    I don’t know one savy SEO who doesn’t get three or four benefits out of every page of content or blog post that they put out there.

    I think it is a matter of perspective and sometimes a person cannot see the entire picture because he doesn’t have all the facts. Appearences can often be deceiving until you can review the master plan.

  • @Roderick – very true. Case in point, when I run a contest here, people assume I ask them to blog about it because I want the links. I couldn’t care less about the links. What I really want is bloggers to spread word of the contest. Still, to everyone else, it looks like I just care about links. 🙁

  • So wait… social media ISN’T about SEO?

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  • “Just let everyone use it for what THEY need it for, and let the community decide what they’ll tolerate.”

    Andy your quote sums up nicely what I wish people would understand about social media. It’s all about the community. I see so many people worrying about others manipulating social sites. The communities generally do a good job of policing themselves.

    If you see a social site that seems to be overrun by what you think is spam, maybe it’s simply a matter of that community having a different view of what is and isn’t acceptable than what you think.

  • jonson roth

    Steve Rubel, like several other “top bloggers” of his ilk, twist the truth to their advantage. He’s half-knowledgeable about some things, as he so often proves in his blogging.

  • There’s another verse of scripture that is appropriate for this situation, Prov. 27:17. “As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.”

    I’d like to believe that a higher purpose (not necessarily spiritual mind you) will be achieved as a result of this spirited debate. Considering the character of the two men involved, Steve and Andy, I have no doubt that will occur and we will all be beneficiaries.

    I’m saying my peace on the matter over at my blog.

  • Hmm, social media spam as an SEO tactic? I dunna think so!

    Digg (and clones) doesn’t give direct links – no SEO value there. Plus, Digg is good at spotting spam content, you’re not going to go anywhere promoting your own company or website there.

    Blog comments – nofollow’ed unless the blog uses a dofollow-type plug-in or a platform that doesn’t nofollow. If you’re using anchor text in your comment name you’ll likely get hand-moderated by the blog owner. So no SEO benefit there.

    Forum comments – ditto.

    Social bookmark spam – most don’t pass link juice. Some do, but is it worth the time?

    Guest blogging – adding value to a relevant community. Deserves link juice it gets.

    Getting involved in Facebook and other social networks – walled gardens pass no SEO value. Not an SEO technique.

    From what I gather from Steve’s post, I agree with him, he’s against Spam for SEO gaming. I also agree with you, Andy, PR’s do the same thing – maybe worse.

    What is the perceived threat from SEO’s, exactly? Spamming social media for SEO benefits is simply a waste of time.

    Anyone who successfully link baits through Digg or Sphinn uses the channel to gain attention, the SEO value of any links coming from people who actually like the content are credible, deserved links. I see no problem with viral/link bait campaigns.

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  • Perhaps this is a firm call to re-think gray hat techniques.

    Steve Rubel as a PR person is in a gray area…I think its something people across all internet marketing & traditional marketing should think about.

  • I think most people fail to realize that professional SEOs are actually Internet Marketers. This means they cover all the bases, not just use social media for link juice in their organic efforts.

  • I think Steve’s post is actually pretty good. Social Networking is for connecting with people. Other tools are best suited for connecting with Search Engines.

    Writing some funky search engine optimized profile and content in a Social Network probably won’t get you as much impact, and you’ll only be viewed as noise by the rest of the folks there, turning away the very people you had the opportunity to connect with.

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  • Steve Rubel will be assimilated. Resistance is futile.

  • We get flooded each day with badly written and boring press releases from PR firms. Is that black hat PR? If so, what is white-hat PR?