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Asshats ““ Opportunity or Quicksand?

We’ve all come across Asshat SEOs in our business. Maybe we’ve found ourselves trying to salvage a client’s site that suffered severe ranking losses because of what the last guy did. Or maybe someone just said something incredibly stupid in a chatroom or forum, that novices might believe and get themselves into trouble with.

For instance, yesterday I heard about a guy on a forum that had stated as fact that the competitiveness of a SERP had nothing to do with the number of people trying to rank for a phrase, but rather, how much money was in that niche. Undoubtedly, the swift and decisive responses to that by more knowledgeable SEOs saved some readers from believing it. Here’s your hat, bud!


I know that some of my colleagues feel that such asshattery just presents them with new opportunities to shine. And I know of others whose rage at seeing such crap gives them homicidal thoughts (personally, I’m in THAT camp). A few say they just ignore it, figuring that anyone dumb enough to believe everything they read on the “˜net deserves what they get. The vast majority, though, will respond, pointing out the fallacy, and explaining why it’s nonsense. The level of snarkiness may vary, according to the stupidity of what was said and how laid-back they are, by nature.

Nearly universal in the SEO community, is the feeling that asshats make doing business more difficult for the rest. How many of us have had a prospective client tell us that some “other guy” said, <insert idiotic statement here>, making us explain why the other guy’s opinion was inaccurate, dangerous or patently false? I hate being put in that position, as it puts me in the position of having to defend myself. If the client persists in buying into every bit of drivel that comes his way, I’ll just walk, and let him find out for himself.

I am not an SEO janitor!

Often, of course, being able to convince the prospect that what he was told will just cause him problems, and proposing a safer or more effective method, will get us the job. That’s a good thing, right? Maybe. At least in the short term.

But I’m still left with the thought that there’s still that asshat out there, misleading someone else, and it irks me. The odds of me having to clean up his mess again are slim, I know. And I certainly have no desire to cast myself as the Internet Police. But if I ignore it, he’s just going to do more damage“¦ possibly to some other unwitting client and most certainly to the reputation of SEO, as a profession.


I look at it like this: if I turn my head when some vandal is defacing my neighbor’s property, because it’s not my wall he’s tagging, then I fully deserve it when he gets around to my wall, and my neighbor turns his head.

Responding to idiocy

Obviously, there are degrees of response, and since I’m as human as the next guy (contrary opinions notwithstanding), I may be very constructive one day, and overbearingly snarky the next. It depends upon my mood, the asshat’s response and the depth of his asshattery.

The point is, the credibility of my response and the manner in which I deliver it will have a lot to do with how it’s received, both by the offending asshat and by others. In other words, whether it’s an opportunity or a pool of quicksand is pretty much up to me. Trust me”¦ I’ve turned a couple of opportunities into quicksand over the years, so I know whereof I speak.

Now, if I present it as an opportunity, and the asshat in question chooses to transform it into his own pool of quicksand“¦ well, that’s his funeral. I have no problem with helping him along. The trick is to be able to do so without destroying my own credibility.

Maybe there’s a better way to handle asshats and the damage they do. If you think there is, then feel free to share it below. I’m open to new ideas, as long as they don’t translate into ignoring these clowns. Sorry, I just don’t have it in me.



  1. Ammon Johns November 14, 2011

    I know exactly where you are coming from. 5 years as an Admin at Cre8asite felt like a personal introduction to about 50% of the entire world supply of Asshat SEO, though thankfully almost never as forum posters.

    But, (and like the Asshats in question, it is a big butt), there is no shortage of good information out there. There is no shortage of folks like you, and I, and every decent SEO in the world, thousands of them, having posted copiously about good, long-term practices and what differentiates the real SEO from the asshattery.

    People buy the crud because they want to buy cheap and risky. Because they want to avoid paying the rates for good SEO and actively want to convince themselves that SEO at a quarter the market price is not going to be only a quarter as good.

    The old saw “Buy cheap, buy twice” is not a new saying for the Internet. This is common knowledge. Nor is it new that the easiest mark for any con is the guy trying to get one over on others – by gaming the system, or avoiding costs.

  2. Doc November 14, 2011

    Hi, Ammon. Good to see you here.

    I agree, completely, there are a LOT of fine SEOs around, whose ethics and techniques are above reproach. I meet more of them every time I turn around. I have to admit, it’s encouraging… a guy could get jaded pretty quickly, if he was so inclined.

    As for the folks trying to buy cut-rate services, I have a hard time feeling sorry for them, when they pass up cost-conscious in favor of cheap.

  3. mikewilton November 14, 2011

    It’s a slippery slope Doc. I deal with asshats like this daily. Where it gets tough is when someone is doing something ridiculous and they are ranking with it. I battle this with our sales team on a regular basis. Unfortunately these guys are too naive to know any better and fall for the snake oil pitch constantly and want us to take a similar approach. I then have to talk them down, but they always come back with “but it’s working for them”. It’s ugly all around. Unlike yourself I try to ignore it, mostly because I am sick of the fight. For every asshat you try and correct there are 5 more right behind him.

  4. Reg Charie - NBS-SEO November 15, 2011

    Oh I Hear ya Doc.
    A couple of years ago I started up – nbs standing for no bullshit> I have been working online since ’94 and have pretty much seen it all.

    Now I make it a point to comment if the offer or information is not in line with Google’s standards (TOS), is a scam, is spam, black hat, or just ignorance of the changes in the SEO process.

    I have clients that have swallowed the snake oil and have suffered.

    A lot of my clients started out wanting “something different” and when they got it, it did not draw, rank, or convert.

    The argument that “it works for them” is unprovable.
    We do not know how much actual traffic a site gets from search and how the site converts.
    I have seen “beautiful” websites not make a sale in a year.

    There are 2 aspects to site design.
    Layout and presentation of content.

    Layout and presentation follows eye tracking studies, Google’s rules for the importance of text decoration and supporting code, and depends on the Relevance Theory.

    I use click tracking ( and know that graphic heavy – sliding – twirling – cycling- blinking pages do not WORK.

    Plain works.
    Images should accent text.
    Search is driven by text.

    Scroll to page 20 and see what Google says is important.

    Visual cues as to the importance of text. Position also counts.


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