Could a 25-year old SEO expert by the name of Rhea Drysdale have started a revolution in our industry? Her successful fight to save the SEO trademark has renewed interest in others who stand accused of profiteering from the industry.

First of these was VerifiedSEO, who attempted to establish a system to verify SEO providers for a $99 fee. With a record 130 comments on Sphinn, the outrage from the community surprised many. It was hard not to draw the conclusion that Rhea’s activism had shamed many into action that day.

The campaign, led by Edward Lewis was successful, with the VerifiedSEO project closing it’s doors in the evening. The owner was shocked by the responses but admitted it had been a learning process.

Next against the wall has been TOPSEOs.com, who claim to be “The Independent Authority on Search Vendors”. I won’t go over the numerous complaints in this post but feel free to follow these links to understand the back story.

TopSEOs.com – A Review of the Top SEOs Paid Rating Service
TOPSEOs – Independent Authority on Search Vendors
Complaints and Discussion About TOPSEOSĀ®

Particularly worrying was the insight given by Arnie Kuenn, President of Vertical Measures in this post on TopSEOs by Alan Bleiweiss and Mark Jackson at VIZION Interactive. Both previous customers of TopSEOs.

It’s easy to understand why these schemes upset so many in the online marketing industry. Especially when these operators have little or no interaction with the community they claim to police.

Any long-term marketer knows that standards are a common discussion topic in this industry. We circle through the same arguments every couple of years. It would be great if this current wave of activism could be directed into moving this debate forward.

However much the community dislikes TopSEOs and other companies profiteering from the lack of standards, they are fueled by the poor, ineffective or downright shady online marketing companies out there. For years these companies, big or small, have been a blight on the industry and hammered the reputation of professional SEO/SEMs.

If 2010 is the year to clean up the industry, we can’t ignore this elephant in the room.

There is a demand from clients for honest reviews of potential SEO/SEM suppliers. If the allegations of “Pay to Play” are true then TopSEOs has now become part of the problem not the solution. It’s unlikely they will be the last to respond to this need, as Edward Lewis has pointed out, the business model seems too profitable.

For the next group to try, take note. Standards can only be introduced by a group respected within the community. Their motivation, practices and business model must be completely transparent. Anything less will quickly place the proponents up against the wall – to face the wrath of the SEO revolutionaries.

** Afterwards Tom and Eric weren’t exactly sure at which point during their discussion the elephant had entered the room by David Blackwell, one of the artists who release their work under a Creative Commons license at Flickr – thank you!

Digital strategist and consultant. Founder at E3 Business Incubator, a consultancy network helping enterprises and start-ups. Extensive experience across digital channels, with specialist knowledge of SEO, content marketing and paid distribution.

6 Responses to Industry In Revolt Now Turns On TopSEOs.com

  1. Ego driven as I am, I’d say that the kindling was set when I wrote my Cleaning up the SEO Cesspool article over at SEJ at the beginning of the year :-), and the founding of SEOBullshit.com ignited the kindling. However yes, I think Rhea’s achievement really got the fire going in bonfire proportions – at least it did for me. But without a doubt, we owe just as much gratitude to Edward Lewis for pouring fuel on the fire :-)

    In any case, I totally agree that we need to find our way toward what is truly an acceptable, workable solution to the mess. I only wonder how my upcoming article on SEMPO is going to play into all of this.

  2. @Alan

    The work you and Edward have done on this issue is impressive, you’re certainly played key roles in this revolution. On hindsight – I should have highlighted that more and linked to your Cleaning up the SEO Cesspool article.

    However I still feel that Rhea has been the fuel on this fire. Not deliberately beyond her work on the SEO trademark but it really shamed everyone that a 25yr had spent so much of her time and money ($17’000). On top of that, she’d done it silently until the win came through. She took the issue of defending the industry into the mainstream and by volunteering her time and money for our interests, left us all owing her a debt.

    As you know, I’ve been around a fair time myself, from SEW, Threadwatch to Sphinn. We’ve all seen this topic come up time and time again. The community reaction this time round was different. Even Danny was surprised.

    We’re marketers. We know that having the right material in place when key events unfold can start an explosion. I’ve seen 5k ppl per day hit this site when Doherty gets arrested (again).

    This was one of those times. You (SearchMarketingWisdom), Edward Lewis and SEOBullshit are all key players in this.

    Like you say though Alan, the big question is where does this go now? Does the activism fade out, to leave us recycling the same old arguments in 2012 – or do we build on it?

    I’ve often wondered why SEMPO doesn’t take up the torch on this issue. I look forward to reading your article there.

  3. It’s a tricky, tricky topic and something that won’t get an adequate solution for anytime soon in my opinion. There are 2 main issues – firstly, nearly everyone involved in the SEO industry has an interest and therefore can’t be deemed to be completely neutral. And secondly, most companies / organisations have little idea of what optimum SEO standards are and how to measure them. Because of this, clients aren’t in an educated position when it comes to judging which SEO company is best.

  4. Pingback: Why I don't display my numerous TopSEOs awards | Net Magellan

  5. I’ve been enjoying the Easter break too well to have missed this news.

    I have added my perspective at http://www.netmagellan.com/why-i-dont-display-my-numerous-topseos-awards-811.html and linked to this page.

  6. SEO needs tooooooooo Much Temperament…

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