Internet publishing veteran flays SEO industry


angry_small.jpgADOTAS – What did search engine optimizers ever do to Derek Powazek? Enough for him to pull out a virtual flame thrower and lay waste to the SEO forest.

In a blog so incendiary it may set your monitor on fire, the 14-year veteran of the Internet publishing industry — with stints at Blogger and Hotwired — rails against the search engine optimization industry, calling its purveyors “con men.” Going even further, he argues that they are poisoning the Internet by blanketing blog sites and the like with spam comments to increase planted links. Of course, he says this using far more ad hominem attacks.

The good advice the companies give, such as keywords in the headlines and summarized content, are mind-numbingly obvious, Powazek argues. While an SEO may be able to temporarily exploit a loophole in Google’s algorithm and increase traffic, the results will be short-lived and could warrant a lifetime ban.

Ultimately, Powazek says, the problem is that journalists and site creators are trying to appease Google’s search engine rather than attract readers with solid content. Using SEOs, however, has the adverse effect of maligning the actual product.

“It dumbs-down the content, which turns off your real audience, which ultimately makes you less valuable to advertisers,” Powazek writes. “If you want to know why there’s so much remnant advertising on online news sites, it’s because you’re treating the stories like remnants already.”

Powazek was named one of Folio’s top 40 “Industry Influencers” in 2007 and is the author of the book “Design for Community: The Art of Connecting Real People in Virtual Places” as well as “Chief of Awesome” for Hewlett-Packard’s Magcloud and an adviser for numerous startups. His bile has basis; although we doubt we’ll see it, a retaliation to this brutal attack from the SEO industry would be quite interesting.


  1. I agree with Powazek, SEO optimizers have become the pond scum of the Internet. I operate a small motorcycle related content site that gets about 10,000 viewers a month. If you check it out you will see that we have very little seo optimezers on the site, but that is because we have removed nearly 2500 of them in the past two months alone. We have had to put a person on staff just to get rid of them. That is because every time you let an seo spammer use your site, the links they post one-way away from your site, actually hurt your own rankings in the Google algorithm. These paid professional spammers have also become very clever. Most of them are from Russia, China, and India, but they have become very clever and now mask their ip addresses to appear they are all in the USA.

  2. Well, I can understand the point he makes about SEO and the truth he expresses about site optimization’s simplicity are “self-evident”.

    But, there is a market for beginners and people who are unfamiliar with site and traffic creation. You mileage may vary as to how good an SEO service can optimize your site.

    There are people in the SEO business who will take advantage of a beginner’s naivety, and possibly overcharge them for advice that they can probably find doing an online search.

    But what business or industry does not have it’s share of snake oil salesmen? And not every SEO firm or consultant is a spammer.

    It just seems that Mr. Powazek’s observations are pretty pedestrian and he is just repackaging a old argument. Build a quality site, and they will come. Seem’s “mind-numbingly” obvious to me!


  3. Interesting article and I would agree that the black hat SEO stuff he’s referring to is pretty bad.

    Not sure that being obvious means it’s easy, good design and clear usability are also ‘obvious’ but they still get missed or done badly.

  4. I have been doing SEO for 14 years, as long as Mr Powazek has been in the web. SEO conmen make my work difficult, but it’s not all rubbish. If the techniques were obvious, why do so many designers build sites which can’t even be read by search engines, never mind ranked! All my clients are #1 in Google for their targetted search terms. I do this without tricks, without any link building at all.
    It is easy to spot the conmen, they can’t stay in business for more than 2 years. You don’t keep the same clients for 10 years without doing something right.

  5. Pathetic. I’m sure this echoes the pointless rants from decades past against highway billboards marring the view, commercials interrupting television shows, etc. Advertising in general is a fight for people’s attention. You don’t just sit around on a good product and “tell people about it”; not if you want to build a real market for your products. SEO is just part of this fight. That you would voluntarily disarm in an arms race to rank on Google is beyond foolish. It reminds me of this article from the Onion: .

  6. Hi your post is amazing, It’s incredible, I learned a lot about SEO and Man, this thing’s getting better and better as I learn more about internet marketing. Also as part of my ongoing mission to find the absolute best tools to make money, this is without a doubt at the top of my list. Everything happened so fast!


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