Want to know why SEO and “content marketing” pros on the whole get a bad rep, even though it is oftentimes not deserved?

1. Spam. The preponderance of it. Email spam, comment spam, tweetspam, linkbait, and #2 below.

2. Crap keyword-optimized content and content automation. Yep, that’s spam too.

3. Daily breaches of trust. With readers. With clients. With potential customers. With everyone.

4. A complete absence of respect for the audience.

5. The inveterate shadiness of about 80% of the profession, and the laissez-faire attitude of a good 15% out of the remaining 20.

It wouldn’t be so bad if spam still only came from shady companies trying to sell you fake luxury watches or Mexican Viagra, but major brands now do it too now. Even legitimate news sites. With the race to attract traffic to blogs, news stories, Facebook pages, even Pinterest boards; driven by the fragmentation of digital channels and the increasing velocity of information and messaging; and lastly, helped along by the unfortunate rise of incompetent digital marketing managers (thanks, social media and “personal branding”), the problem has become epidemic.

Quick question: what’s the point of pulling all that traffic (or trying to) if you have no chance of converting first time visitors into regular visitors (loyalty)? How about converting visitors into customers? And recommendations? Remember them?

How do you think people feel when your first handshake with them is both an insult to their intelligence and an obvious ploy to trick them into accessing your so-called “content?” How do you think it makes them feel about you? What do you think the impact is on their trust? On their intent to ever do business with you?

Quick note to brand managers and/or digital agencies outsourcing their SEO: don’t just write a check and wait for a daily, weekly or monthly report. Ask to see everything your SEO “agent” is doing for you. Find out if they are using black hat (unethical) techniques or just plain annoying ones. Why? Because both will stain your brand and drag down your good name, and no amount of crap linkbait traffic is worth that.

Want to see an example of what I am talking about? Here you go. Here is the kind of automated comment I get pretty much daily on this blog. Someone paid for that. More to the point, someone selling SEO and content marketing is passing this off as a legitimate traffic-building tactic to unsuspecting clients.

Yes, this whole block of nonsense. All 4,808 words of it:

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Allow me to interject a slight #WTF. Why? Why do this? Why?!

You know what will make spam stop? Simple: clients refusing to pay for shit like this.

“But Olivier… we didn’t know that we were paying for that! We had no visibility…”

I know. I believe you. But here’s the thing: even if you didn’t produce it yourself, even if you didn’t know that’s what you were buying, you paid for it. And if you paid for it, it’s yours. Demand visibility. And if that isn’t enough, do a little digging. It isn’t that hard.

Here’s the catch: companies who don’t know that this is the sort of thing that goes on, that this is what they are really paying for can’t put an end to it. It’s a problem.

A few questions:

Does your company have a digital & marketing code of ethics?

Does it have a section devoted to SEO, content marketing and spam?

Is it being applied?

Is there an ethics review body anywhere in your organization responsible for looking into campaign tactics, particularly when it comes to (avoiding) spam?

No? Well that might be your first problem right there.

Your second problem might also be this: any jackass with a director or manager title can write a check to a digital agency or SEO shop, then browse through Google Analytics reports every couple of weeks to see if the numbers look good. I can literally train a monkey to do that. But actually managing the out-of-the-way potato fields hidden way behind the digital farm takes a little more diligence; a little more sense of responsibility too. And here, boys and girls, many of us are failing when it comes to hiring, promoting and developing the right kinds of people.

Tip: bad marketing doesn’t just happen. Someone is responsible for it. Always. And it isn’t enough to point an accusing finger at that particular person. You also have to take responsibility for having put them there in the first place.

Good management in instances of breakdowns isn’t about blame. It’s about responsibility. All the way up to the very top.

So please be aware. Be vigilant. Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you should be, and show some initiative. Take some responsibility. Police your own channels. Fix what needs fixing and move on. Eventually, when the money dries up, crap like this will stop. But as long as it flows freely, my inbox and yours will be crawling with these turds.

And nobody likes turds. Especially not from you. (Or me, for that matter.)


*          *          *

Social Media ROI – Managing and Measuring Social Media Efforts in your Organizationisn’t a social media book. It’s a business management book, and it focuses on social media program strategy, management, measurement and reporting. If your boss doesn’t yet have a copy, time to fix that. If everyone on your team doesn’t yet have their own copy, what are you waiting for? (Now available in several languages including German, Korean, Japanese and Spanish.)

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