SEO should be Regulated.. So says Judith Lewis.


My good friend and occasional drinking buddy Judith Lewis writes at HuffPo and calls for regulation and standards within the SEO industry.

There are some, however, who in any industry would bring it into disrepute. They find easy prey in smaller businesses looking for help to increase visibility precisely because of that lack of industry body, lack of accreditation and obfuscation that is often present in SEO. They take tens of thousands of dollars or pounds off companies to do nothing at all for them, producing reports that merely reflect what has happened naturally, eventually disappearing with all cash.

While not disagreeing with Judith's opinion there are some very strong arguments against her view. Herding greased cats is probably easier to accomplish as many previous attempts have shown. That isn't to say it isn't possible in the future though.

  • What do you think?
  • Is Judith right?
  • Should you be licensed and regulated to provide SEO services?
  • Who should licence?
  • Who should regulate?
  • How should this be enforced?



Sadly we visited this year

Sadly we visited this year after year and I don't see how anything has changed.

1. Google (and SEO) is a black box. Beyond their 'guidelines' what do we really know that could be deemed any kind of 'best practices'? This really isn't a science and it makes any kind of standards and regulations more than a bit difficult.

2. Politics - is the next issue. How does one get a document that all the factions (SEObook, SEOmoz, SEMPO, Dojo, etc) will sign off on? If it isn't supported by the leaders of various clans, adoption won't happen. Just getting a panel to work on it, that everyone agrees with, is next to impossible.

At the end of the day I don't see how any form of regulation is even possible. Shit, we can't even agree on best practices or the value of a flippin TITLE element. How do we set standards and best practices? The obvious problem is consumer perception.... so maybe we need to work more at increasing the industry image. Maybe we need to work harder and destroying the crap hats. Maybe leading websites need better editorial control (can't tell ya how much CRAP I read each day, even from reputable sources).

I have to think that any type of regulation is a pipe dream without the involvement of the engines. And I am sure Google would just point to their webmaster guidelines and say, "there's your best practices"


Not likely in our lifetimes...

As Dave said, we can't seem to even arrive at a consensus on even the most elementary technical aspects - I think hoping for any sort of meaningful standards of performance is a pipe dream. The best we can hope for, IMO, is some sort of a pledge to voluntary adhere to a code of ethics. And even that would only be as effective as each one of us chooses for it to be.

Even if we could establish a set of minimum criteria for proficiency, how long would any "Certification" be valid? 'Til the next major change in G's Webmaster Guidelines? Hell, we'd end up spending more time re-certifying than serving our clients.

Simply publishing a set of regulations is meaningless, without an ability to enforce them. I seriously doubt that any of us will live long enough to see a viable regulation effort in the field.

There will always be someone

There will always be someone who will try to tie the shitty "ethics" talk to it all and that would always cause any regulation attempts to fail.

Ethics talk won't be the problem

I don't think "ethics" talk will have a thing to do with it, IW. It'll fail all on its own. The field changes so quickly, that by the time the ink is dry on any sort of a standard or certification, the thing's already obsolete.FTR, when I say "ethics" in an SEO context, it doesn't refer to techniques.... Google doesn't dictate that, as much as they might like to. I simply refer to general business ethics, such as how a consultant in any field should treat their clients.

That too, for sure

That too, for sure

Not a chance

Let's say there's some regulation as an industry that occurs (even though we'll never agree on it given the blackboxes we deal with). Now...what about hackers; do you really think they'll play along? Not in a million years.

If Google buried the PageRank measure, that would help

Like the others, I feel there is no way a consensus process on cleaning up SEO will work.  However the fact that Google has not buried the PageRank measure leaves a powerful signal visible that the spammers can use in their methodology and in their approach to gullible clients.

Everyone has bought the Google cool-aid and feels the more links the better.  The concept by now is basically flawed.  If Google very publicly abandoned the PageRank concept, this would have a salutary effect on the SEO 'industry'.

That would be nice

I agree, Barry - it would definitely help. I've suspected for a long time that they must be working toward some sort of gradual phase-out. If they do ever announce PR's demise, it should be some amusing entertainment.

Don't think it needs to be regulated, but ...

I've often wondered if lawsuits involving a site penalty and documented practices said SEO firm used that run afoul of 'Google Guidelines' could actually prevail en masse.  Also wonder if it would be factored in that said firms may have got them results for X months before they got said penalty.  This is because:

  1. Google now tells you stuff in WMT.
  2. They publish guidelines

If so, wouldn't it self-regulate?  Lawyers always look for stuff to do! =)

Not even close to possible

Sounds good until one thinks about it for more than a few minutes, as all the comments above prove. I love Judith, but I think she had too many chocolates that day. (Judith, share some with me, and it'll be all better!) ;)



Didn't prove her case

So, because a company or person who provides poor service had the freedom to provide services that suck, this is reason for regulation? 

There's so mamy things wrong in her arguments.  There are very good practioners and total rip offs in all kinds of service industries.  This doesn't automatically mean they must be regulated for some sort of unified conformity.  It means clients and customers should do their research and understand what they're getting.

In the SEO industry, the clients are not skilled enough in some cases to ask the right questions and these folks are easily taken advantage of.  Again, who is responsible here?  Smart consumers will research and ask around, get opinions and referrals and ask about money back guarantees.  

I'm having trouble understanding the logic of regulating online marketing techniques.  How would this affect good old fashioned competition?  The ethics question comes up too.  Whose ethics?  When an SEO strategy is begun and a search engine changes its algorithm and suddenly businesses are tossed out, how would regulating SEO help with this?



Comment viewing options

Select your preferred way to display the comments and click "Save settings" to activate your changes.