Once again, SEO is in the news. Once again, the media (along with an elected official or two — shocker!) clearly doesn’t understand how the industry works. While it seems New York’s elected (and appointed) officials could give a rodent’s posterior about protecting the interests of anyone except Big Corporate, “so called SEO companies” are the new babies being sent out with the bath water.
Enter, Operation Cleaner Turf; a yogurt shop sting with a sensational press release sub-headline on the official website of the office of New York’s attorney general:
I have some questions.
First, how is it in this day and age the entire industry isn’t outraged by this irresponsible at best, malicious at worst, portrayal of SEO and reputation management?
Here’s a start to an open letter, if you like:
Dear Attorney General Schneiderman’s office:
While we applaud your efforts to clean up the search listings, we at <insert industry organization name here> oppose your perhaps inadvertent positioning of “so called SEO” companies as law-breaking, bottom-feeding slugs.
Most companies practicing SEO are in fact interested in moving the industry, and the notion of connecting people with accurate information, forward. Additionally, “reputation management” is not synonymous with writing fake reviews, and labeling them as such is akin to labeling all attorneys ambulance chasers. Perhaps you can relate to that.
Second, is this the latest way to turn the judicial branch into corporate shills through back channel marcom by search sites that are having a hard time regulating their own content? I don’t want to be an alarmist conspiracy theorist here, but for the love of all things, people, is the general public that unaware of how this stuff really works?
Isn’t anyone else wondering how this is on the political radar? Given the obvious connection and public asskissery going on with New York’s Chuck Schumer and Google via his embarrassing performance at the monopoly hearings in which his only question was, how do we get more Google tax revenue and turn the Hudson Valley into the Silicon Valley?
You see kids; there are lots of ways to get things moving in government. One of them is using your internal marketing communications “lobbyists” as handy dandy devices to call attention to your problems. Often industry “experts” on the payroll are deployed to help move things along and add credibility.
The Yelp quote in the Attorney General’s press release in no way supports my suspicious nature and actual life experience:
“More than 100 million visitors come to Yelp each month, making it critical that Yelp protect the integrity of its content,” said Aaron Schur, Yelp’s Senior Litigation Counsel. “We take many steps to do this, including the use of automated filtering software, leveraging our vast user community for tips about suspicious content, undercover sting operations, legal action, and cooperation with law enforcement. We applaud NY Attorney General Schneiderman for his willingness to tackle the issue of illegal fake reviews head on, and for his success in shutting down these operators. We look forward to continuing to cooperate with the New York Attorney General’s office and any other interested law enforcement office or regulator to protect consumers and business owners from efforts to mislead.”
Uh, did you just put an ad for Yelp in a public service announcement? I think that’s just super.
Can I get this one in the next release?
“For longer than he’d like to admit, Motivity Marketing CEO Kevin Ryan has led brands and agencies in their efforts to responsibly position and communicate with the general public through accountable and ethical online marketing disciplines. Oh, and that thing about cracking down on lowlife bottom feeders is cool, too.”
Moreover, are these the same search sites afraid of being categorized as monopolies, smugly rebutting additional government oversight while enjoying the benefits of aggressive assistance in the form of clean up jobs from the judicial branch? Are these the same sites (without naming names) that show preferential treatment to advertisers seeking ways of cleaning up their listings?
I’m not suggesting politicians and ill-informed over-worked journalists actually set out to smear the industry, but they don’t go out of their way to help it move forward. Sex, lies and sensation sell, and I’m not just slinging yogurt here.
And I’m not saying the entire effort is bad, but it’s important to ask how this sort of thing happens. The positioning of SEO and rep management firms as bad smacks of single-source, informed political maneuvering.
Clearly, there is some additional cleanup work needed here, and we can start by not smearing an entire group of honest, hard working taxpaying industry folks.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land.