I was strolling through Sphinn the other day, poking my head in on a few posts and discussions. The quality (mostly) and variety of content there is tremendous and helpful. Well, eventually I landed on an article about “little known high value links.” My interest was piqued as link building is one area where I am constantly seeking new ideas to grow my skill set. The article is unpretentious, and brief – but holy crap – you would’ve thought the author called down the wrath of the SEO gods. The comment string is in a word – ridiculous.
After reading through the comments, I must admit I was shocked, embarrassed and more than a little disheartened. While I may be a relative new-comer to the SEO community specifically, I’ve been active in the search marketing community as a whole for a while (my other personality). My experience has been that the community is strong, full of smart, resourceful and interesting people who like to collaborate and share ideas.
That being said, I’m not a naïve, disillusioned little boy who thinks the world is a perfect place. I know that people disagree – especially the smart ones. Heck, I’ve written my fair-share of “disagreement-posts.” But what I read in that comment string went way beyond simple disagreement. It was full of nasty mud-slinging, and was the epitome of unprofessionalism. SEOs as a sub-set of working professionals are typically small businesses that participate in the community to build their personal brand (be that through blogging or participating in communities like Sphinn). Knowing that to be the case, how can anyone present themselves so negatively in an open forum like Sphinn and think that it’s OK?
I’ve held positions with businesses well outside of the SEO bubble, and this kind of behavior would NEVER fly. If I had represented myself (and therefore the businesses I worked for) in that manner, I would’ve lost my job faster than you can say, “doh!” So, I’ll go back to that “SEO bubble” thought for a moment. Is this industry in such a closed-loop environment, that everyone has become desensitized to common, professional business practices? And for a bunch of people who preach, practice and sell reputation management, if I were a prospective customer of some of those people – I would run away as fast as I could. Talk about a reputation management faux pas.
This isn’t the first time (nor sadly the last) that this type of disagreement has turned ugly. I suppose that some of my fellow SEOs would argue that the fact that the discussion gets so “animated” is due to the fact that SEOs truly care about their work. They’re involved, and want to carry the torch for their opinion. I don’t disagree with standing up for your opinion. If done in a tasteful manner, there will always be room for disagreeing and stating opinions (which I should point out – a few commenters did, thankfully).
All of this is to say, if I want to read commentary that sounds like drivel written by an angry 14 year old – I’ll go to MySpace. When I go to Sphinn, I expect a certain level of professionalism (if not comradeship) whether we all agree or not. I expect the comments to add to the discussion, not detract and repulse (harsh, I know). I suppose that’s all I have to say on that.