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Improving The Image Of Search Engine Marketing

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What can be done to improve the image and reputation of SEM? With the recent Traffic-Power/black-hat SEO debacle, the article that detailed various ad agency SEM complaints, and numerous other articles that have questioned the need for SEO/SEM has helped give the industry a proverbial black eye.

How can the image of the SEM industry be improved. Discuss this and other topics at WebProWorld.

Focusing on Image Search...
Focusing on Image Search…

With this in mind, Danny Sullivan of SearchEngineWatch posted an in depth look at what can be done to improve the reputation of search engine marketing and optimization on the SEW forums. The answers are few and far between. However, Danny is staunch in defending the SEM/SEO industry and its positive effects on search engines as a whole:

“I’m tired of the entire industry being beaten up. This is, after all, the industry that almost certainly has generated a significant part of the income that search engines like Yahoo and Google are earning — in turn making those companies able to offer search for free.”

Sullivan also indicates that setting a list of industry standards to govern the actions of SEO/SEM companies would be difficult because each search engine has its own rules for determining spam. With that in mind, organizations like SEMPO aren’t able to enact a list of rules and regulations that cover the industry.

But, that doesn’t change the fact that people are in support of industry standards. Regardless of the logistics, many posters on many forums believe that a set of guidelines and industry standards is a must. The reason for SEM/SEO’s negative reputation revolves around the spamming of search engines and the following repercussions once a site that uses these tactics, knowingly or ignorantly, are caught.

Jill Whalen of HighRankings.com is adamant about the enacting of standards that would help govern the SEO/SEM industry. She believes that the “seedier” side of SEO gives everyone in the industry a bad name. Much like one bad apple spoiling the bunch. These perceptions are what led her to developing SEO standards. In a post that answers questions about knowing the difference between spamming and honest work, Jill says:

“And that’s exactly why we need an organization to spell it out. You don’t have to agree with it and you don’t have to even work within (its) parameters, but at least there will be something out there. I’ve resisted this whole thing forever too, just like Danny has, but enough is enough.”

Another member of the SEW forums agrees with Jill’s thoughts on improving the reputation of SEM and SEO. “Wail” believes that a level of professional accountability should be brought to the profession.

Others believe that a consensus between search engines and the SEO/SEM field should be reached to determine which guidelines would be adhered to. However, this thought was quickly countered by Bernard, who stated, “I doubt any search engine will support an organization that does not prohibit violations of their guidelines (or allows violations within the standards being promoted).”

The biggest problem with improving one’s image, in the case of optimization and marketing for search engines, would be the separation of search engine spammers from those who actually offer legitimate SEM services. And one of the only ways to accomplish this separation would be to identify those companies and people who actually use spam, or “black hat” tactics. That, in and of itself, can be a litigious matter.

If a company is identified wrongfully has a search engine spammer, there would be no end to the amount of lawsuits that would be filed against the identifying/guilty party.

This is where, despite Bernard’s reasonable misgivings, the search engines should be apart of the equation. In the Cre8asite forums, Danny discusses his idea for cleaning up the SEM reputation:

“I see any solution as involving the search engines themselves, as I (wrote) about recently:

http://searchenginewatch.com/searchday/article.php/3344581

They need to be part of the process, and I think they’ve got a big stake in doing it.”

As you can see, there is no easy answer to this quandary. As long as there are bad apples spoiling the bunch (or getting the majority of the press), the perception will be largely negative. One thing’s for sure, this topic isn’t going away anytime soon. At the upcoming SES in San Jose, California, Danny will make this subject part of his keynote speech. Expect more updates on the perception of SEO/SEM soon.

Until then, share your views at WebProWorld, the WebProNews forum.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.

Improving The Image Of Search Engine Marketing
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