There are as many ways to be a jerk as there are jerks in the world, but there are just enough ways to be an SEO jerk to fill a blog post. In case you needed a clarification on behaviors that make others in the SEO industry think you’re a toolbag, here are examples (inspired by real-life recent events) of why your peers might get pissed at you:
Not Knowing When and Why to STFU
SEO bloggers desperate for material particularly like to reveal “tricks” such as, for example, a trusted domain that lets you add URLs that pass link juice. So they blog about it, promote their post all over the place, then newbies who don’t know any better thank them for showing them a new way to spam the crap out of their Cialis sites, it draws the attention of the spam cops who close that hole, and the trick immediately loses all value.
In all likelihood, if you were the one who blogged this no-longer-secret trick, your intent was never to make the technique/site/links/whatever worthless. You just thought you were sharing something cool, and maybe hoping to draw some attention to your mad SEO skillz.
Other SEOs who have been using that piece of intel for months (and knew enough just to keep their mouths shut), however, tend to get pissed off when you do that though. Since they’ve known about that particular resource long before you got around to blogging it, they don’t think you’re clever for discovering “a brand new trick”; they just think you’re a jerk who ruined it for other people.
[As it was said so succinctly on Shoemoney's blog: STFU Already]
If you’re genuinely trying to help people and provide interesting and new SEO info, then at least post about it in a way that adds value to the SEO discussion at a higher level. Rather than outing that one great authority domain that doesn’t use nofollow, try instead to set it up as a test demonstrating (or debunking) that trusted domains do indeed pass more link juice than other domains, all things held equal, for example.
Publicly Outing Other SEO’s Projects
Outting SEOs with evidence of black hat tactics is similar to revealing a particular SEO secret but focuses on naming names. Doing this is pretty much only ever a vanity project (or competitive sabotage?). This type of outing doesn’t even serve to help readers of your blog, other than to provide them an opportunity to revel in Schadenfreude.
But the industry is a lot like high school. While the cool kids might laugh along and enjoy the fact that you gave the school nerd a wedgie, they still don’t consider you their friend. They’ll forget about you as soon as the next thing comes along and you’re no closer to being part of the in-crowd, except now no one else wants to be friends with you either.
Outting other SEOs doesn’t add value to the discussion and doesn’t make you look like a better SEO. If your goal is to narc on someone else for competitive purposes, just go email Matt Cutts directly or something instead of stirring up a lot of public controversy. (But wouldn’t it make more sense to use your competitor’s techniques to your own advantage quietly?)
Acting Like an Arrogant Know-It-All
Face it, you don’t know it all. And whether you’re hanging out a SES or on Sphinn.com, odds are pretty good that you don’t even know more than the two guys on either side of you. The SEO industry is filled with smart, crafty and ambitious people — you’d be wise to gauge the competition before you barge in and declare yourself an SEO Rockstar and tell everyone how inferior they are to you.
This is especially true if you actually really, really suck at SEO (and basic social skills).
All things being equal, people tend to prefer the smart SEO who is also genuinely nice and appropriately humble. If being liked and participating as a constructive and respected member of the SEO community isn’t your goal, and you’re more interested in actual results and attracting clients instead, that’s cool too, but then think “ninja” instead of “loud, drunken frat boy” — go into stealth mode and get your satisfaction from outranking everyone … quietly.
Spamming SEO Forums
Seriously? Does this need further explanation?
All I want to add is that if you get called out for spamming on an SEO forum, don’t keep digging a bigger and bigger hole for yourself by arguing with everyone endlessly about how you’re not a spammer. And for God’s sake don’t stalk individuals and try to rescue your reputation by engaging in obvious and juvenile smear campaigns against those who disagree with you.
Calling Yourself an SEO When You’re Just a Spammer
If you submit everything you’ve ever published to Digg “to get it indexed faster” or you drop comment spam on blog posts about a death in the author’s family, for God’s sake don’t identify yourself as an “SEO” when you’re doing it. The industry has a hard enough time shaking the stereotype that search engine optimizationis nothing but spam; we don’t want to be associated with you.
Of course, if you’re actually comment spamming on blog posts about family deaths, you probably don’t give a crap how your behavior reflects on the SEO industry, so consider this instead: calling yourself an SEO while engaged in any sort of link building or social media marketing is ineffective. In fact, you can almost guarantee that it’ll backfire. So for your own sake, if not for the rest of us, leave “SEO” out of it.
Copying Someone Else’s Ideas (a.k.a. Plagiarism)
So when I told my buddy Streko that I was writing a blog post about different ways to be a jerk in SEO, and asked him what other kinds of things he found especially offensive, he said: dude, hasn’t that been done already?
Not being original is hardly an offense limited to our industry, but Streko’s comment underscores that SEO bloggers, probably more than other types of bloggers, value originality.
This brings me to a slight tangent of what constitutes plagiarism: plagiarism isn’t merely copying and pasting, word for word, someone else’s writing; it includes reworking someone else’s ideas, concepts or thoughts without attribution. So if you see a blog post, are inspired by the idea, and rewrite it, that’s plagiarism.
If you want to blog about SEO, don’t just rehash what someone else said, especially if you’re dealing with a technical subject; add new points to the discussion, come up with your own topics, and attribute ideas to their original authors.
If you are a blatant plagiarist and can’t be convinced to act otherwise, then please, at the very least, don’t pimp the hell out of your blog on a social voting site (where you most likely saw the post you copied in the first place) in order to raise your own profile.
As for whether this post too closely resembles to what’s been written previously … I’ll let you be the judge.
[Jill Whalen gently reminds me that she wrote a great article on SEO Plagiarism earlier this summer - one which I didn't credit adequately. Yes, that qualifies as irony.]
Yes, It’s Your Prerogative to be a Jerk, But…
Being a jerk rarely is a competitive advantage, and when you do search engine optimization, your behavior reflects both on you as a professional and on the industry as a whole. Even worse, the SEO community (as much as it loves to eat itself) will also turn on its own members on a dime. If a bunch of SEOs call you a BS-spewing jackass, they’ll do it in a way that will live on in the SERPs for a long time. Next time prospective clients or employers Google you and decide not to hire you because of your online reputation, will you still think it was worth it?
Note: As much as I wanted to point to to lots of specific examples, identifying links have been removed to protect the not-so-innocent…. because, you see, I don’t want to be that guy.
So, how about you? Who’s the worst in your opinion? And who did I leave off? The always-contrarian, the Google haterz, the Google fanboy, the white-hat absolutist … who else rises to the level of SEO jerk for you?