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.