I love search engine optimization (and really all digital marketing, but for some reason I write on SEO all the time) and the SEO community that comes with it. But man oh man, say something a little the wrong way, forget a technical point, or make any mistake then you are most likely going to be called out very quickly. I am certainly not the biggest blogger in SEO (far from it), but most of the things I write get read hundreds or thousands of times each month. And nothing feels worse than getting ripped to shreds by someone who is a reader, usually in the comments section or on social media. In some cases, it is warranted, in others it is a little out of line, and in many cases, it is just straight off the mark and mean. In this post, I cover my best guesses at why there are so many haters in the SEO world.
It’s a competitive space
SEO is one of the most competitive industries I know of. The main reason, there is no barrier to entry. So basically anyone can say they are an SEO expert. This creates a wide rage of service providers. Some that really know their stuff and others who are very dangerous, because they don’t know what they don’t know. Also, some know enterprise, some know local, some know international and others know how to get one keyword ranked. With so many people doing SEO, it makes it very competitive. When you are in a competitive space, things get hostile.
It is a knowledge-based industry
In order to be a top SEO company you need to really study your stuff. Every day I constantly comb the web for the latest information. I have all of the most important information sources feeding right into my inbox, I watch hours and hours of webmaster videos and on top of that, I am always studying the competition, (in our industry and that of our clients) but also looking for ways to innovate beyond what people are doing online. To really excel in SEO you need in-depth knowledge. This comes from studying every day, experience, innovating, competitive analysis and learning from peers.
There is a big divide between newbie’s and hardcore
I touched on this one a little, but I think this makes people the angriest. I’ll give you an example. The other day, I wrote what I thought was a pretty good piece on “How to Get .Gov Links for SEO.” Now, the piece didn’t have anything ground breaking in it. It was just 1,000 words or so on the ways I thought were best to go about doing it. What happened? It got 3 or 4 negative comments by self-proclaimed advanced SEO professionals (mostly on social media). But honestly, I still feel it was a good piece. I just feel like they expected something more. So I told them, I’ll look into writing a follow-up that focuses on advanced tactics for .gov links (and I do have some strategies on this by using advanced backlink analysis). Long story short, “You can please some of the people all of the time, you can please all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time.” The more people who read your articles, the bigger the chance someone is not going to like something you said. We all just have to live with that. The hardcore people will not like the intro content and the beginners will tell you to “slow down, you are talking over their head.” I see this most in my UCSD class. We get a wide range of students so its important to speak to all levels.
Online can be as anonymous as you like
Many of the haters in the SEO world hide behind some alias or even post as anonymous. Not all of them, but some. This makes it easy to get away with certain statements you usually wouldn’t say to someone’s face.
People like to stir things up
SEO experts like to stir things up. And hey, nothing better than some healthy debate, but there is always a line. I think most people know what that is. I know I always feel better if I keep it classy online. But of course, sometimes that is hard if someone really rubs you in the wrong way in a comment. But sometimes, that is what they want. It is like a little game to see if they can get a rise out of you.
There is significant frustration over misinformation
Now, this is one that is really unique to SEO and a totally valid reason for anger that comes out in comments. Not only are there a lot of people in the industry, but there are a lot of people working off of misinformation. Google, Bing, Yandex, etc., do not tell you their entire system for ranking websites and serving information online. In most cases, they give you basic principles, but the rest of the information is vague and leaves webmasters guessing. This leads to a lot of speculations, studies that lack qualified data and complete misinformation. There are hour long videos in this industry where experts rant about secret Google leaks and things that work, but most likely do not. Misinformation is a major issue, so it makes everyone in the industry pretty upset. It you publish speculation, guesses, or unfounded information and it gets exposure, be prepared to deal with some comments.
Lot’s of people are trying to become thought leaders
Becoming a thought leader in an industry is not easy. But you have to start somewhere right? So when you are first getting started and really as you progress a long the way, you are going to learn some lessons. You might be a SEO professional with 2 or 3 years experience under your belt, trying to make a name for yourself and starting by writing a few blogs. However, when you slip up, one of those older veterans will let you know. With so many people trying to get noticed its only natural there will be some friction.
With good headlines, posts get much less attention
Headline writing is so important. According to SEO-hacker.com, a good article title can increase your CTR by 730%. I wrote an article on this here you can check out, but the issue is, people often over promise in their article titles. I have been guilty of this. In some cases, you develop a great title that you know will get excellent click through when people read it. But then you have to make sure the content backs it up. The more I have written and evolved as a marketer and blogger, the less time I have spent cutting corners, writing quick and unsubstantial blogs and trying to produce content that I feel is really cutting edge. It’s really hard to do this all the time. However, if you are going to have an amazing title, it’s better to take the time to have some amazing content to go along with it. In fact, I’ve recently been thinking more and more, why even put something out if it is not going to blow people away? I guess when you have what can be a rough crowd you want to put your best foot forward.
There will always be haters
Adidas has a marketing campaign going right now in the MLS and the English Premier League (probably other places too, but those are where I have seen it) and all it is says is: “There will be Haters.”
At first I thought, that is a really weird marketing campaign. But the more I thought about it, I grew to love it. In soccer, of course if you are a great player people will try to cut you down. But this same concept translates into business and personal life as well. The better you do for yourself, the greater the chance someone is going to want what you have. There are only so many resources out there in the world, right? If you got the Director of Marketing role, people will automatically hate you. It might have nothing to do with you, they just want your job. If you score all the goals in soccer, people might want your talent. If you are gaining exposure in your niche and getting acclaimed for your work, people might leave a negative comment online about you from time to time. Really, the bigger you get the more of this you can expect.
Summing it up
I hope this article helps those who are new to SEO understand the dynamics of the online space. Also, I hope it prepares them. You will get a negative comment, you will feel terrible as some point because you messed up. It will happen. However, it’s not about how many times you get knocked down, its about how many times you get back up. For me, I really try to take a step back and learn each time someone says something negative. In most cases, those comments will help you improve in more ways than a simple, “Amazing article, man!”