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From the Editor’s Desk: Why we publish articles you may not agree with
In this month's column, Editor-In-Chief Matt McGee talks about two recent columns that readers didn't agree with, and why we handled each situation differently.
I’ve been thinking a lot about opinions this month. My Twitter stream is filled with them. Opinions on #brexit, on Trump and Clinton, on sports and entertainment — you name it. And, more for the point of this column, opinions on digital marketing and the material we publish on Marketing Land and Search Engine Land.
As I type this, in fact, I’m engaging on Twitter with a well-respected, veteran marketer (and longtime reader) who voiced an opinion about David Rodnitzky’s recent column, Why ad blockers are not a threat to the online ad industry. In that column, Rodnitzky offers his opinion that — despite some recent statistics — “paranoia about the death of advertising as a result of ad blockers is greatly exaggerated.” It’s an interesting column — some parts of which I agree with, and some parts of which I don’t. And that’s fine, because not every opinion piece or analysis article that we publish should conform to my opinions, or the opinions of any other individual that works for Third Door Media.
Two other columns that we published this month led to similar discussions, but those discussions played out in very different ways and led us to remove one of them from our website. So I’d like to use this month’s Editor’s Desk column to talk about why we publish articles you may not always agree with, and what circumstances might lead us to take the drastic step of removing a column.
Technical SEO as “makeup”
Clayburn Griffin caused a stir with his Search Engine Land column, The role technical SEO should play: It’s makeup. We heard from very passionate, very smart SEOs who felt that the column was … well … any number of four-letter words that I won’t repeat here. The debate was loud on Twitter and Facebook, and it prompted a healthy internal discussion on how to proceed.
Personally, my past SEO experience tells me that technical SEO is much more than “makeup,” but I’m also aware that perhaps I’ve worked on different types of sites and projects, or in different industries than Griffin has. If his SEO experience suggests that technical SEO isn’t a “game changer” (his words), so be it. It’s an opinion I don’t agree with, and many of our editorial team felt the same way as me — but in this situation, we didn’t believe that the original column was “wrong” in the strictest sense of the word. It was an unpopular opinion, but I believe strongly in the right of individuals to have unpopular opinions.
The day the column published, we quickly saw reaction to it on Twitter. That prompted us to have an internal conversation about getting a second column offering a contrasting opinion. Within hours, Patrick Hathaway — one of the readers who was vocal about the original column — agreed to write one. His response, The role of technical SEO is “makeup”? Really? ran later the same week. So now we have both sides of the topic available, and I think that’s a Good Thing for our readers.
There was another column published this month that also led to a lot of debate, but this one led us to make the rare decision to remove it from the site.
Local SEO for service area businesses
One of our Local SEO columnists caused a similar stir with an article offering two tactics to help local “service area” businesses — i.e., businesses that serve more than the city where they’re located — improve visibility in Google’s local search results. This is a common challenge that is almost always asked about when I host local search sessions at our SMX conferences, so it’s a worthy topic for our columnists to tackle.
The issue in this case wasn’t the author’s opinion; it was that the author went too far and offered a questionable tactic. Some trusted and respected local search marketers pointed this out to us after the column was published, prompting a healthy internal discussion like the one I described above. We decided that, although the tactic in question isn’t specifically called out in Google’s local business guidelines, it did go against the spirit of those guidelines.
To be clear, we messed up here. We reviewed and edited the column before publishing (as we do with all columns) and researched Google’s guidelines, but the tactic didn’t raise a red flag like it should have. During our internal discussion, we decided the right thing to do was to remove the column entirely and replace it with an explanation and apology about what happened.
One of our responsibilities is to present all sides to a story, and multiple opinions and viewpoints in the analyses that we and our contributing columnists publish. We won’t always get every article right; no publication does. When we get it wrong, we’ll always do our best to correct and make right what was wrong. We also won’t always publish opinions that you agree with … but we’re okay with that. And we ask you to be okay with it, too.
This is the fourth edition of From the Editor’s Desk. It’s a monthly column where we’re going to talk directly with our readers about the work we do (and why we do it) on both Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. If you have a question or topic you’d like us to write about, I’d love to hear from you. Feel free to tweet to me (@mattmcgee) or send me an email through this website. Use the contact page and choose my name from the dropdown menu.
Thanks again for reading!