The Have’s and Have-Not’s Fight in the SEO Industry

Recently I received an email by a company pitching their new product. I get these nearly every day. Sometimes they arrive specifically to me and address me by name. The one that came the other day was quite different.

The email came addressed to 51 people in the SEO industry, each one of them assigned a number. The email began, “Dear SEO Consultants”. I recognized most of the names on the list by their email addresses. The content regarded an RFP on how they could advertise their “concept” software on our web site properties. One of the ways I know that nobody researched me before emailing something like this is they don’t specify which web site they’re referring to. I own several, plus a global forum and don’t put ads on most of them. I determined my personal value to the company was of no importance. I wasn’t interested in their offer and stuck the email in the trash.

I receive “can you look at” and “would you consider” emails nearly every day. I’m more likely to respond if they are presented professionally, in much the same way job seekers are expected to present their resume and letter of introduction. There are expectations by those of us who receive inquiries, especially unsolicited ones, that require our taking time out of the day to review and respond to.

One of the recipients on the list was shocked at how unprofessional it was to send out an email that included patent information, password access to their company’s application and seeking capitol investors. The company claimed to have 10 years experience with the Internet and technology. We each should have been given the respect of being contacted on an individual basis. Since this did not occur, someone replied with an angry message to the company and CC’d everyone on it.

What ensued after that was a rollicking back and forth of some hilarious banter between 50% of the recipients of the original email. The writer of the email that contacted everyone WAS NOT COPIED IN ON THOSE EMAILS. They had no idea what was going on. There was no ganging up on the company. What transpired was a funny dialog by folks who got a kick out of being assigned a number and joking about their “rank” on the email list.

The company did respond to the first angry response with another email. This time it was in the form of an apology, and again, carbon copied to 51 SEO’s rather than blind copied. The fault was that “my assistant did it”. Then, the request for a proposal was presented again. A CEO that passes the buck and blame on an employee rather than accepting full responsibility for the goof up was not accepted by everyone. Others on the list didn’t care and never participated in any dialog.

Enter SEOMoz

A blog post was written about what happened. The purpose was to illustrate how NOT to approach any company with a business proposal. Two things went wrong with that post. First, despite disguising the names of the company and sites involved, the original email was published. Secondly, the way it was written up made it sound like all the folks who joked around between each other about the mass email had copied in the company sender. This was interpreted by SEOMoz readers as the A-List ganging up on someone who made a mistake.

Again. The company that made the mistake was not copied into the messages sent between the recipients.

The SEOMoz post, called How Not to Request an SEO Proposal: An Epic Email Fail to 51 Top SEOs turned into a disasterous case of the Have’s in the SEO industry vs. the Have-Nots. It’s ugly and shows, once again, the divide between those who have been in the business since the 90’s and those just starting out.

Jumping to Conclusions

If you read the posts, clearly there are new people who have no idea the history of the SEO industry and who the major contributors are. There are many people besides myself who have supported the SEO industry and never asked for a dime or reward. My forums, Cre8asiteforums, has sponsored conferences, paid for courses for those who couldn’t afford them, purchased books, and volunteered untold thousands of hours teaching from 1998 to the present day at Cre8asiteforums. I personally have given away my services for free or deep discounts.  I gave away the revenue generated at Cre8asiteoforums and put it right back into the SEO industry.  I should not have to bring this up. I should not have to defend myself.

In the SEOMoz thread, when someone stuck up for those who had earned their way to the top, she was shot down. Many people thought the company who approached top SEO’s should have been taken under their wing and taught how to make a professional, business contact. The fact of the matter is, many of us do just that and have been for years. Sometimes we grow tired of being taken advantage of.

I did think about that suggestion but did not address it in that thread because the overall majority of the posters would have rather shot me in the forehead for being one of what they consider “hot shots”. I know they would not do their research into my contributions and hard work in the industry before crunching me up and tossing me into the trashcan.

Take My Shoes

I thought perhaps I might share what it’s like to be well known in the industry, for those who care to listen.  This is what my experience has been like, supporting the SEO industry. I’m more than willing to turn my role over to any “Have-Not” who wishes to take my place.

1. Death threats in the 1990’s for exposing scams. All locks changed on the house and police protection needed for my kids. Schools notified.
2. Lawsuit threats in the 1990’s for exposing scams.
3. Stalking and cyber bullying targeting me.  Documents prepared for attorney and information gathering for police should anything ever happen to me.
4. Reputation attacks by people who have never met me or done business with me.
5. Constant emails from companies and people who want me to check their web sites – for free.
6. Regular email requests to accept ads on my web site properties, but they never specify which one and do not seem to notice I don’t accept ads on my blogs. They want my stats and how much money I can earn them, regardless.
7. Regular requests asking me to try their latest “concept”, software, invention, etc. for free. They do not offer to pay me for my time.
8. Weekly phone calls from prospective clients who are actually trying to get free help rather than pay me for services.
9. I loved this tactic – if I let them put ads on my website, they’ll “submit my site to search engines” for me.

I am known for being very open minded. For example, I was invited to do usability testing for an escort site. The email contacting me was very professionally written and respectful. I replied to it because of the way I was addressed and approached.

It is wrong to believe that the SEO Have’s are unapproachable stuck up snobs. They never have been. I discovered this ages ago when I was working my way up the ladder and trying to make contacts. I was scared to death to email Jill Whalen and as far as I was concerned, Danny Sullivan was like the President of the USA and had bodyguards. I was intimidated by absolutely everyone until I went to SEO conferences and saw firsthand how ridiculously wrong I was.

I don’t buy into the A list vs. D list comparisons. Most of the membership at Cre8asiteforums is everyday folks working in the web development fields. They bring skills from marketing to programming, at all levels of experience. I learn from them as they share their experiences, no matter who they are.

So it is disappointing when that same regard is not afforded to me.