Dumbass of the Week: Derek Powazek

DuhIt’s been a long time since we’ve had a candidate sitting on the Dumbass throne. But this month, we’ve had two. I couldn’t decide which to blog first, so I decided to go with the one who made me the angriest. That, my friends, was Derek Powazek who has decided that Search Engine Optimization ( SEO ) is worthless.

Let me start by saying that I’m familiar with Derek’s many years in the industry. I know he’s worked at Blogger and Technorati and has been on the web a year longer than me. I know he works with Internet start ups and big names like Hewlett Packard.  I also know that Derek was named one of the top 40 “Industry Influencers” of 2007.

I’ve even heard Derek speak at Webstock about community driven websites and live-blogged his crowd-sourcing wisdom so others could learn from it.

All this just makes his anti SEO rant this week all the more frightening in its ignorance. Derek claims:

“Search Engine Optimization is not a legitimate form of marketing. It should not be undertaken by people with brains or souls. If someone charges you for SEO, you have been conned.

In fact, Derek has some pretty strong opinions about those of us who practice SEO. Apart from calling us brainless, soul-less con-artists, he says:

  • we’re spammers
  • we’re evildoers
  • we’re opportunists
  • we’re scammers
  • we’re not to be trusted
  • we’re poisoning the web
  • what we do can result in a lifetime ban in Google (which doesn’t even exist BTW)
  • we’re cockroaches
  • we employ botnets, third-world labor, and zombie computers
  • we’re bastards
  • we’re hackers planting worm viruses
  • we create programs to grab expired domain names
  • we create web pages filled with content stolen from RSS feeds
  • we’re jerkwads with disreputable clients
  • we encourage people to dumb down their content for Google instead of for their readers

I’m not paraphrasing here, his post actually says this stuff.

When his rant was pointed out to me and I first read it, I was sure it was just link bait and I ignored it. But after a day or two of seeing his responses to industry commentators and his replies via comments, it became obvious he meant every single word.

The vitriol even spilled over into his Twitter feed:

“There is no such thing as honest SEO. There’s only making good websites.”

“The term “SEO” sounds inoffensive but it covers a spectrum of practices that are ineffective at best, and destructive at worst.”

“So I guess SEO creeps exist because bad web designers exist. Crap begets crap.”

“What a great rallying cry for an industry: SEO! We fix other people’s crap! Every ecosystem needs bottom-feeders, I guess.”

A few people have responded directly to Derek’s outburst, including Danny Sullivan, who wrote a restrained, intelligent response to the original post and a detailed deconstruction of Derek’s own follow up post.

Derek apparently thought Danny’s post was a personal attack and tweeted as such:

“I may have stirred up a hornets nest, but I didn’t attack anyone personally. too bad @dannysullivan can’t pay me the same respect.”

At this point my bullshit radar couldn’t take any more and I tweeted in response. Here’s the exchange that followed:

Me: @fraying I would say that calling SEOs bottom feeders qualifies as an attack.

Derek: @kalena I attacked an industry, not a person. There’s a difference.

Me: @fraying No, you attacked people who work in an industry. So a whole slew of people.

I’m not going to attempt my own deconstruction of Derek’s anti SEO rant, because Danny has done a great job of this already and Derek still doesn’t get it.  But I’m not going to stand by and let Derek’s ignorance go unchecked.

Yes, the SEO industry has a dodgy reputation. Yes, some SEO firms are trying to push silly ideas on clients. Yes, the industry has some scam artists. But I bet you’ll find many more SEO firms that are providing an honest, valuable service. Even Google agrees:

“If you’re thinking about hiring an SEO, the earlier the better. A great time to hire is when you’re considering a site redesign, or planning to launch a new site. That way, you and your SEO can ensure that your site is designed to be search engine-friendly from the bottom up. However, a good SEO can also help improve an existing site.”

What really yanks my chain is that unenlightened posts from someone as influential as Derek do even more damage to an already unfairly scorned industry. Making sweeping statements about all SEO’s being “snake oil salesmen” and “bottom feeders” just prove that you don’t understand SEO.

Search Engine College was born out of questions I was constantly bombarded with about SEO. Webmasters would write to me with the idea that SEO was black magic and beyond their ability. This is CRAP. Anyone can SEO a web site. I know some in this industry scorn us for providing non-technical courses in a subject that can be highly technical. But to me, that’s the God.Damn.Point. Taking what can be a highly complex subject and de-jargonizing it for the masses. Taking SEO back to basics and making it accessible.

In my experience, the only people claiming SEO is smoke and mirrors are the media or those who are trying to hide something from clients. I get the sense that Derek (and others) think that all SEOs are pretending to perform rocket science or trick clients into thinking as much. That’s ignorant. Any professional SEO will educate their client along the way and provide a fully transparent and quantifiable service. And there are plenty of them out there.

SEOs aren’t scam artists and SEO isn’t rocket science. Anyone telling clients what they do is magic is not an SEO. Just an asshole. And guess what Derek? Assholes aren’t limited to the SEO industry.

Update 1: Oh and Derek, you might like to know that your employer HP doesn’t think SEOs are scammers. At least they didn’t when they hired me to perform search engine optimization on their Asia Pacific sites some years back.

Update 2: Before I published this post, Derek had approved a comment I left on his follow up post but has since decided to remove it and many others that criticize his stance. Yet he claims SEOs are defensive? Pot, meet kettle.

For what it’s worth, here’s my comment:

Derek,  I heard you speak at Webstock earlier this year about the power of crowd sourcing and was inspired by your passion for building community driven websites. I’m bewildered that you would choose to isolate an entire community by attacking them with an ignorant and uninformed rant. Disappointed.

Update 3: In his original post, Derek boasted about ranking for his own name on Google. Now I can boast about the same thing. Still think SEO is ineffective?

Update 4: It seems Derek has had second thoughts about his rant and has posted an apology of sorts on his blog. This is to be commended and I’m pleased he finally seems to understand why he was wrong to isolate an industry. BUT, he kind of negates the apology by accusing us of being too defensive. I’ve submitted a comment to the thread, hopefully it will be published rather than deleted this time. The comment was rather long, so I’ve turned it into a blog post.

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Nominated for a SEMMY

I’m feeling pretty chuffed today. I logged into WordPress this morning to learn that one of my posts on this blog has been nominated by my peers for a SEMMY. What the heck’s that you ask? The SEMMYS are annual awards honoring great content produced across the search and online marketing industry.

Yep, it seems enough of the judges liked my rant about MSNBC columnist Gene Marks to nominate it in the *rants* category. Sure, I wish some of my posts had made it to the more serious categories like SEO, PPC and stuff, but as Matt states on the About the SEMMYs page, they are really just for fun.

Anyway, if you like my rant and think it deserves to win the category, please vote for it when they open the voting next week. I’ll give you a heads up how and when you can do that. In the meantime, make sure you browse all the categories – it truly is a fantastic collection of the best blog posts in Search Engine Marketing from the past 12 months. And it’s an awesome resource for Search Engine College students so thanks Matt and team for putting it together.

Congrats to all my fellow SEMMY nominees!

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10 Ways to Piss Off an SEO

Duh!Thank you Alhan Keser for your hilarious blog post 10 Ways to Piss Off an SEO.

I come across Number 4 a LOT and it still makes my eyes water.  Reminds me of the Top 10 Dumbest Web Site Decisions article I wrote for SiteProNews last year.

The moral of this story? Beware the angry SEO!

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Dumbass of the Week: The guy who wants the answer to everything

DuhLoyal readers of my blog will know that I don’t give out the Dumbass of the Week crown lightly. I’ve never given it to a question submitter before but felt compelled this week when I received the following question:

Hello Madam,

I am SEO and working more than 55 sites last one year, i want to know the Online Marketing Strateges like google adsence (sic) and adwards (sic) etc. I also how can i get one way links, is free one way links are good or not? like gotlinks.com, backlinkspider.com etc, Till how many keywords i use in title tag, description tag and how can i use h1, h2 in our pages. Pls give me all the information as soon as possilbe (sic).


Hi iliyas

First up, my name is Kalena. I would’ve thought that was pretty obvious from the site name, but perhaps not. I don’t expect to be called madam until I’m 96 and using a walking frame. Or being schmoozed by a door greeter in Walmart. Either way I don’t like it and never will.

Next, if you can’t even spell them correctly, I doubt you will be able to grasp the complexities of Google AdWords and Google AdSense. It takes our students up to 6 months to do it.

And as for “Pls give me all the information as soon as possilbe” – what’s up with that? Not even a triple grande white chocolate mocha donation could compensate for that crap. You didn’t even offer me a short black.

Lastly, if you’ve SEO’d over 50 sites and you still don’t know how to obtain one way links, how to use heading tags or how many keywords should go in your title and meta tags, your clients are in real trouble.

Perhaps you should start from scratch and take our Search Engine Optimization Starter Course?

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Dumbass of the Week: Site Scrapers

DuhSitting in the big chair marked Dumbass this week is an annoying little SEO outfit from Manchester called Web Propeller.

I ranted yesterday about how they were evil site scraping bastards because they basically steal the content from this blog within an hour of me posting it. I’m not the only one they steal from. They scrape Marty’s content too, as well as Niall Kennedy’s blog and others, listing us all as “contributors” on their blog home page. What’s up with that? As someone commented on my post yesterday, perhaps they should change that title to “unwilling, unwitting contributors”.

Well as luck would have it, they scraped my post from yesterday. So now they are proudly announcing on their own site what evil site scraping bastards they really are. And the kicker? They’ve tagged the post under the category seo problems. Bwa ha haaaaa!

Web Propeller evil site scraping bastards

And just in case somebody from Web Propeller notices their stupidity and deletes the post from their site (perhaps while on a break from stealing other people’s content), I’ve posted a screen shot:

Some days, I really love my job. Wouldn’t it be a hoot if they scraped this post too?


dumbass web propeller


I think it’s time they changed their catch phrase from “making you rank better” to “making you rank better for your own stupidity”.

UPDATE 3: The penny has dropped. According to a public apology by the scraper himself, Web Propeller is a fictional company and the domain is owned by a company called Creative Suit.

The site scraping was apparently nothing more than an unauthorized experiment by a naughty junior staff member. His boss is plenty mad about it and is asking for suitable punishment suggestions. I was going to suggest they make him use this picture as his screen saver, but figured that was too cruel.

Apology accepted! Maybe site scrapers will think twice now before doing this to anyone else.

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