Last year at Pubcon in Las Vegas I was sitting with one of my favorite white hat SEO companies and they started talking about what people can do as an industry to help fix the reputation of SEO companies from being snake oil sales people and show that they are legit. It started out as a great conversation and eventually went into Affiliate Marketing when someone made a comment about Affiliates being "dirty bottom feeders". As a content Affiliate and a very strong supporter of both SEO and Affiliate Marketing, I jumped in to prove why Affiliate Marketing isn't a dirty channel, why we aren't bottom feeders and why they shouldn't bash a channel that they don't understand. Although there are well known people in Affiliate marketing that use things that I do not consider good or ethical like adware and toolbars, that doesn't mean the entire industry is bad, just like not all SEOs are fake companies that will rip you off.
The conversation got very interesting with the White Hat SEO firm talking about blocking out and forming a group to get rid of the fake SEOs. They also talked about how to put a best foot forward and show the positives from real SEOs. I liked what they had to say and decided to show a demo of adware and toolbars and how they work and give Affiliate Marketing a bad name and tried to show examples of companies that show how these adware Affiliates drive some of their sales. (Here is a video demo shot by Affiliate Fair Play if you'd like to see examples of Adware and Toolbars and how they effect other channels). Then I showed how it can negatively effect an SEOs results and performance as well as every other channel from PPC to CSEs, Email campaigns and even test purchases made by your own tech teams. The people at the table were shocked and asked how you can find this happening and if it was even legal.
What I did was pull open a few websites with toolbars (also known as BHOs (browser helper objects), reminderware, couponware, loyaltyware, etc...) and showed them things like browser icons and descriptions that say things similar to "never miss another coupon while surfing online", "be alterted when coupons are available no matter where you are", "download out browser extension or toolbar", etc... All of the sudden the CEO of the main White Hat SEO company that wants to clean up the name of the SEO industry pulled open their computer because their company was thinking about taking on a new coupon site as their client. When the CEO of the company opened their computer, this person looked up at me and let me know that the coupon site did have a toolbar and it did talk about never missing another deal online. At that point this person looked confused as to what they should do. Do they take on a client and know that they will be damaging another industry's name and hurting people, or do they make a few bucks when they have a full client list already.
I ran into that same CEO a while later, and had phone calls in between shows with this person and the CEO decided to take the coupon site on as a client. What I find interesting is that this CEO of a White Hat SEO firm (who will read this article as they read a lot of the things I write) always talks about cleaning up the SEO industry and also is a strong advocate of legit SEO. I asked this person why they would feel so strong about protecting their own industry and have no objections to doing something that could and will in my opinion cause damage to another, especially when the toolbars and adware can have an impact on their own work and the work of other legit SEOs.
What I am trying to get people to think about is that we all impact each other's industries and channels. Affiliates can add to SEO just like SEOs can help build up Affiliates' sites. Both industries have bad names with other industries just like both have good with people who understand the channel. The issue is that people who want to clean up one industry tend to not care about hurting another which is why I asked the people to think about why they think it is ok to do damage to another industry as long as they work at cleaning up their own. I asked them, "Do you work at fixing your own industry while hurting another because you are not a part of it and does that still make you a white hat firm knowing you are helping black hat players in another industry?" Do you turn a client down when you do not need the business because you now know that they are doing something that can hurt another industry and other companies, or do you take them on because you want to make a few extra dollars? My answer is no, you do not work with these types of clients if you know they will hurt other companies and damage or continue to create a bad name for another industry or channel, if one of your goals is to help end online marketing as being a fake, rip off channel. The point of this post is to try and get people to realize that every channel has a bad name and needs to work on damage control. One thing people also need to understand is that when you work with or help people who create the bad names in a channel, you are making it worse for everyone.
SEOs are thought of as Snake Oil Salespeople. Affiliates are thought of as Bottom Feeders and Thieves. Email Marketers are thought of as Spammers and everyone else has a negative reputation to another channel or at least one group of marketers. The truth is that not every channel is bad and almost every channel has its good points. Legit SEO can drive a ton of awesome traffic and sales as well as build your brand and drive loyalty. Affiliates that have their own user base and loyal following can drive tons of incremental sales and not only build your brand, but they keep people coming back to you who may not have remembered you. Email Marketers can help you increase delivery and get whitelisted if you have deliverability issues. What we actually need is for the advocates of one industry to understand that they should be more considerate of other industries and instead of only working on cleaning up their own. If they know they are hurting or damaging another channel's reputation, they should think before they take on the client and really decide if they are serious about cleaning up online marketing. By taking on the bad players of other channels as a client, they are still doing damage and making online marketing have a worse name overall. I love SEO and Affiliate Marketing is my passion and probably my favorite channel to work with. It would be great to see both have good names with everyone as they are awesome forms of online marketing. Unfortunately not everyone agrees with that, which is why I wanted to write this post. I encourage you all to come to shows like Pubcon, SMX Advanced and especially Affiliate Summit as there are both good and bad companies there and you can learn a lot about how both work. You'll get a chance to meet a ton of people from all aspects of online marketing like Adware and Toolbars or Black Hat SEO and Black Hat Tools to White Hat Affiliates and some of the best Link Builders and White Hat SEOs in the world. You'll also be able to start to learn how to find out who helps an industry's reputation and who causes damage and what you can do to help fix the name of each channel. These shows are also great places to go to learn how to grow your business using both Black and White hat methods.
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