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June 2020

The search engine marketing leadership vacuum

By Search engine marketing No Comments

All politics are personal.

Whether you lean left or right, at the end of the day, the policies that affect your life are the ones you should care about the most.

I have long been an advocate for our industry to become more involved in the work to shape the laws that govern the ecosystem that provides us with our livelihoods.

As an industry, despite some valiant efforts, we have failed to create a united front that protects us from laws passed by bureaucrats who think the Internet is a ‘pipe series’.

Laws are constantly being proposed by politicians who do not understand the ramifications they will have on our industry, our businesses and our customers.

Facebook, Google, Twitter, and other social media platforms literally spend millions of dollars each year lobbying lawmakers, trying to influence legislation that could potentially upend all of their business models.

In the research industry, we lament our lawmakers’ lack of basic understanding of how the internet works – all the while sitting around and watching the companies that help feed our families react to potential legislation in sometimes action. draconian policies that have decimated specific industries.

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Executive orders

Before we talk about some of the steps Google and others have taken that have hurt legitimate industries, let’s look at the latest blow through the arc to our livelihoods.

On May 28, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to redefine a section of the old Communications Decency Act (CDA) passed in 1996.

Section 230 of the LOC protects social media and other providers of user-generated content from any liability resulting from what is posted by their users.

Without these protections, it’s safe to assume that Twitter, Facebook, and even Google wouldn’t exist as they do today.

In fact, Article 230 of the LOC has been repeatedly referred to as “the 26 words that created the Internet”

Trump’s executive order doesn’t appear to have a bite, however, his public feuds with the social media giants are far from over.

Article 230

I have been an expert witness on several occasions on issues related to article 230 of the LOC.

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I will be the first to admit that I think the law needs to be reconsidered.

Protecting UGC publishers from litigation creates a nightmare for many small businesses that have been vilified by competitors, disgruntled employees, and even ordinary trolls.

There is a thin line between a UGC editor creating an environment where comments and reviews are perceived to be tacitly endorsed by an authoritative source such as Google, although as search marketers be aware that this editorialization is much more algorithmic. than editorial.

But, by dismantling Article 230, we risk decimating the Internet landscape as we know it – including and especially Google.

There are no easy answers to this subject.

But I think people who understand how Google works – and don’t have a vested interest in Google’s financials – should give advice to our lawmakers.

Our industry does not do that.

Wasteland of the online advertising industry

Many legitimate industries are not allowed to advertise on Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other online platforms.

Google Advertising Policy Page lists many categories of businesses that are banned or banned from advertising on the Google Ads platform.

Twitter and Facebook both have similar listings.

Everything from healthcare to financial services has pockets of their industries that are affected.

These companies find themselves with SEO being one of their only options.

Anyone who has SEO into any of these “forbidden” categories knows that they are quickly becoming the “wild west”, where Google’s rules and terms of service don’t matter much, no matter what. or the way in which the algorithm tries to improve.

To my knowledge, none of the major search engines or social media platforms have ever contacted the search and social media industry to ask which companies should be able to advertise and which companies should not.

A vivid example of what I see as Google overstepping is the advertising restrictions on drug and alcohol rehab centers.

You can find these restrictions here.

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I don’t know of anyone who would say there is no societal need for these facilities.

But I also understand why Google has taken this position.

Frankly, Google couldn’t distinguish legitimate offers from scammers.

So they outsourced the verification function to a company called Legitscript – but most of the facilities involved are not even eligible for Legitscript’s services.

This leaves many small, sober homes and rehabilitation centers without many options.

They are forced to participate in very competitive and in many cases very risky SEO programs, which may or may not pay off.

Leadership void

Our industry has experienced a leadership vacuum for some time.

The recent demise of the Search Engine Marketing Professionals Organization (SEMPO), which became part of the Digital Analytics Association, was the last breath of our leadership in the industry.

SEOs can’t agree on who should lead us, let alone which path we need to take to move forward.

In our current state, the SEO industry is at the whim of other people who may not have our best interests at heart.

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Google will continue to dictate what it thinks is best for the industry, which in many cases is not best for those who practice search engine marketing.

Where are the leaders?

Where are the ones who are going to step up, take the hard knocks it takes to unify the industry, and get us a seat at the big boys table where the discussions that really matter take place?

I don’t believe the leaders are not there.

Our industry is full of tribes.

Tribes are tight-knit groups that help each other, care for each other, and freely share their knowledge – in most cases, regardless of competition issues.

But when it comes to making meaningful strides in influencing policy or improving the industry, we argue like the Hatfields and the McCoys.

I see ordinary people in our industry with opposing political views helping each other with technical SEO issues.

I know the industry can work together to create a better experience for both practitioners and consumers.

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But we need a unifier.

We need a person or a group who can make us all row in the same direction.

Once we have that, I believe there is no limit to what we can do.

So who wants to ramp up?

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Image credits

Featured Image: Created By Author, Jun 2020

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