Early this week, a good chunk of the SEO community went on a virtual lynching of Joe “Blow” we’ll call him, an SEO from Columbus, Ohio. A blog post by Mike Halvorsen—a reputable SEO from the same city—quickly became a good example of how not to react to public outrage when your misdeeds are being scrutinized in an online social space.
For those of you who missed it, Mike Halvorsen’s popular post includes several of the emails he received from Joe Blow requesting that he stop using certain variations of the terms ‘Columbus SEO’ on his website. It seems Joe felt he could threaten Mike with legal action for using a name he claimed to own the trademark for.
Aside from the fact that you can’t trademark the combination of a city name and an occupation, I think what really hit a nerve within the SEO community about Joe was his sickeningly manipulative dialog, his condescending tone, transparent lies, switching from falsely threatening legal action to playing the role of victim, and his chiming into the thread with sarcastic and patronizing remarks. He should start a PR company.
Professional misdeeds can put a real dent in your online reputation. You can either carefully try to hammer out that dent with honesty, or carelessly blowtorch it into a gaping, irreparable hole that sinks your ship. Unfortunately for Joe, he was overzealous with the butane.
Two long, agonizing days of reality-checkitude for Joe finally resulted in his version of an apology to the SEO community.
The apology is a faint glimpse of a step in the right direction, but still misses the mark by a wide margin, and I doubt it’ll get him any respect from the SEO community. </understatement>
Tough love from Dan: An online reputation management crash course
In a comment on Mike’s blog, Dan Cristo expertly summed up what’s wrong with Joe’s ridiculous version of an apology. What’s cool about Dan’s comment is that he seems to genuinely want Joe to learn something and grow from the experience.
I just read your, “Apology to the SEO Community” featured on your websites homepage. Buddy… That is the worst apology ever. You spend all 6 paragraphs defending your actions and making excuses.
First you make the excuse that the keyword doesn’t bring much traffic. You then attack Mike by implying that his motives didn’t match his words. Aka. calling him a liar.
Paragraph 3 you defend yourself some more. Paragraph 4 you blame your attorney. Paragraph 5, you blame your humanity – as if you yourself are not responsible, rather it’s your humanity that made you “goof up”. Paragraph 6, you apologize to the people who have, “Taken this personally” and “Who are upset” with you defending your company name (which really isn’t your company name).
Joe… You didn’t “goof up”. You were being a bully and you were angry. You made a choice to act like you did. It wasn’t an accident. It was a decision. You’re not sorry at all for being a jerk. You’re not sorry for bullying people. You’re not sorry for making SEO’s look bad. You’re not sorry for tarnishing SMX’s reputation.
You are sorry for not registering your own company name, and you are sorry people are calling you out for what you did. That’s what you apologize for, and that is why the apology comes across fake and insulting.
Look. I don’t think you’re a bad guy. SEO is hard, and reputation in this business is priceless. I’d hate to see your entire career crash and burn because of one (rather major) mistake. So, I am going to help you out here with your personal brand reputation. “Take my hand… If you want to live!”
- Take down that BS apology letter and rewrite it. Stop defending and passing blame. Acknowledge that you wanted to defend your rankings, and your dealings with Mike were wrongly executed. period.
- Track down every single person who has commented in this thread and apologize to them personally. You’re an SEO – you know how to search, find them on twitter, facebook or via email.
- Delete your comments on this post. They make you look like a fool.
- Perform an act of kindness – Donate time, money or services to a charity in Columbus.
Why do I care enough to help you help yourself? Because you’re an SEO, and it’s not easy. Especially when the community has targeted you (Don’t for a second think you’re a victim, or you didn’t deserve it). So accept the beating and turn this into a positive thing. Heck, maybe SMX will have you speak about brand reputation management next year, but first, you’ve got a lot of cleaning up to do.
How cool is Dan Cristo for that constructive comment.
Ryan Frishkorn also made a great point in his comment on Mike’s blog:
…if he was so worried about distinguishing himself from other businesses, he would have chosen a truly unique name that didn’t include the industry name he was trying to monopolize. It’s like naming a web development company “Internet Web Development, Inc.” and then trying to bludgeon everyone you can find via search engine results.
Just another reason I think exact match domains are overrated.
Joe, a lot of us have been dragged through the mud for our mistakes in the past, and those of us fortunate enough to grow from these hard knocks (brought on by ourselves) look back in retrospect and might even be glad we were given a chance to grow.