Jason Calacanis is back stirring the pot and bad-mouthing the SEO industry. As he did during his SES Chicago keynote, Calacanis is once again sharing his belief that "SEO is bull$#!t," and that all that is necessary to rank in search engines is to "make a clean page, good content—that should be enough."
This time, on his blog, Calacanis took offense to a video of a social media optimization firm, which Muhammed Saleem highlighted on his Pronet Advertising blog as the reason why social media sites hate SEOs, or at least their perception of SEOs.
Danny Sullivan has already made an attempt to explain things to Calacanis in his post, "Why The SEO Folks Were Mad At You, Jason," but I wanted to add our voice to the mix as well.
SEO, like any other industry, is going to have people enter it with the specific goal of taking advantage of client ignorance and making a quick buck. It happens everywhere. To say that that type of shady character is typical of the vast majority of ethical, hard-working practitioners is irresponsible for a person in Jason's position.
Jason took umbrage to the video, which is not surprising, since that was the point of Saleem's post. He pointed it out as an example of the shady side of the business, which encourages worst practices, and gives everyone else a bad name. "The Digg community doesn't have an irrational vendetta against SEO-related sites, it's just that people like the gentleman in the video above, cause the community to generalize about SEOs and thus label all of them has having the same mentality and using the same tactics," Saleem writes.
Aside from the differences between SEO and SMO (social media optimization), which is another discussion altogether, Jason is misguided when he writes, "There are some whitehat SEO firms out there I know, but frankly the whitehat SEO companies are simply doing solid web design so I don't consider them SEO at all. SEO is a tainted term and it means 'gaming the system' to 90% of us. Now, if you make great content, keep your page design clean, and stick with it you're gonna do just fine in the rankings."
The fundamental problem here is the definition of SEO. Calacanis extols the value of clean page design, great content, and solid Web design. Guess what? So does every reputable SEO firm. Those are all elements of a successful SEO strategy. There are many Web design firms out there without a clue about designing a page in a way that makes the quality content on the site most easily indexable to search engines. That's SEO. There are, of course, many designers out there who have those skills, and I'd bet that they themselves define those skills as SEO skills, and market them to their clients in that way.
The same fundamentally flawed definition is at least partially at the root of the whole "Rocket Science" debate. Interestingly, Mr. Pasternack weighs in at Calacanis' site, to give support to a kindred soul, but also to question the statistics behind his comment that "90% of the SEO market is made up of snake oil salesman."