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Is the SEM Industry Headed Toward Hostility?

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Some time last year I realized my association with the search engine optimization and marketing industry might change because the atmosphere was getting partisan. Bad feelings between leaders were festering and it didn’t take much of a nudge to start a rumble.

The situation isn’t improving and I wonder why. Case in point is a recent bit of flap over an article that went out by someone well respected, which in hindsight was an error in judgment. Apologies have been made but it won’t end there because something has drastically shifted in the industry.

More and more people are unforgiving. There’s no room whatsoever for any slip ups.

I remember a friendlier time.

A few years back someone didn’t make it home from an SEO conference. A website called Threadwatch lit up with members putting out a global hunt for him and offering support for his family. He wasn’t even widely well known, but that made no difference. It ended well and showed that when one of their own is in trouble, the industry rallies.

However, if someone in the industry has an unpopular opinion, or defends something, or otherwise causes negative publicity to their company or self, they may as well be walking around with a scarlet letter branded to them for life.

Hypocrisy abounds. How is it that Rand Fishkin was slaughtered last year and taken to task for writings in his company blog and possible business practices, and yet the industry voted him the “Most Giving SEO”?

Today, I read a comment that he and his company are a “cult”.

Is it really possible to be the most generous person in an industry and be the most despised at the same time? What does this say about the people in the industry? What messages about the search engine marketing industry does this send to companies looking to hire SEO’s?

Marketers must market. This, too, I’ve come to see. You simply will not be noticed for your good deeds unless you talk about them, show them off and bombard everyone with your humble greatness because by tomorrow, no one will remember what you did.

Or is it that nobody really cares? I’ve been trying to figure that one out.

If you make personal sacrifices for the industry, or support it in ways that have nothing to do with promoting your business, this will not be recognized as a valuable contribution. If you provide a living example of ethical, smart problem solving in the face of a threat to your livelihood, this too isn’t acknowledged. Personally, when someone can show proof of their marketing skills in action, this speaks louder than how popular they are.

I can probably get away with writing and sharing my thoughts because I straddle two industries. I originate from the SEO industry however. It’s been far more friendlier and open than the usability industry. But as the months of getting unsolicited “advice” from people about who I should associate with or not went by, I began to suspect that true divisions exist and now recent events show that battle lines are drawn.

I don’t wish to take sides. There are those who leave comments in heated discussions who admit to loving the entertainment value. I don’t. I dislike the hostility.  I’m having trouble understanding its purpose and value to the search engine marketing industry as a whole.

Is this where the future of search engine marketing is heading?

And if so, why is that?

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Is the SEM Industry Headed Toward Hostility?
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