Dear Diggers,

Actually, I guess I should say, Dear Fellow Diggers,

SEO the Scarlet LettersI have to admit it, you’ve hooked me. I now get most of my news and online entertainment from your stories. I even learn things every now and then. Did you know there are now tracking devices the size of a grain of dust? I didn’t. At least until you told me. Anyway I have, as they say, become “adiggted” (pun completely intended). I’ve even begun to climb the ranks of Digg, submitting 300+ stories and getting 35 of them promoted to the front page. I’m not trying to brag or boast, I’m simply trying to say, I am one of you.

However… I think we need to talk.

You see, I’m also an SEO. That’s right. I optimize websites to improve their rankings in Search Engines (Google, Yahoo, MSN, etc). I realize I probably lost quite a few of you right there, but I’ll continue none the less. I’m not sure when it happened, but the letters SEO in succession have practically become a swear word on Digg. Having SEO in the URL of my site make me feel like I’m walking around a Hawthorne novel with a scarlet A on my chest. In fact, many of you probably think “spam” is spelled S-E-O.

Don’t get me wrong, unlike in some of my past relationships, I actually DO know how we got to this point. In fact, it’s almost understandable. A bunch of people calling themselves SEOs have submitted absolute rubbish over and over to Digg in hopes of getting a little bit of attention and maybe a few links. Here’s the thing though, those people aren’t SEOs. They’re spammers. Sure people discuss the differences between white-hat and black-hat SEO, but I’m not talking about breaking Google’s terms of service or exchanging links. I’m talking about people who spam guest books, blog comments, forums, and most importantly in this conversation, our beloved Digg.

I understand your feelings, I really do. But here’s the thing… Those people aren’t practicing SEO! They are, quite simply, spammers and believe it or not, SEOs hate them just as much as you do. Not only do they target our sites, compete with our legitimate sites for rankings, and fill our in-boxes with complete drivel, but they also tarnish our profession by calling themselves SEOs. You see Diggers, spammers have come between us.

Thanks to spammers nearly every story submitted from this site has at least one comment about how SEOs should “die in a train wreck” or that the story is just “SEO blog spam crap“. Thanks to spammers’ actions on Digg, this very article will likely not be judged by the quality of the content, but by the first three letters of the URL. And that, my fellow Diggers is wrong.

In an attempt to remedy this situation I’d like to give you an exaggeratedly simplistic overview of what a true SEO does. I know, I know… you think you already know, but just hear me out. You see, a “real” SEO first focuses on the website itself. We’ll make sure the site has a nice clear title and a quality description. Basically, we do to the website what Diggers do every day when submitting a story.

Next, we make sure the site can be read properly by Google, Yahoo, and the rest of the search engines. This is pretty much self explanatory. I mean you wouldn’t submit a story to Digg in Chinese and expect it to make it to the front page would you?

Lastly, we make sure people and search engines alike can find the site. This is where the links come in and also where, from what I gather, the growing SEO hatred emerges. The fact is, getting links to a website helps that site rank better in Google. As with any profession, there are different ways to go about doing this.

However, contrary to what you may believe, SEOs (including myself) don’t spam for links. Spammers spam for links. SEOs submit our clients’ sites to directories, we send out press releases, we create useful tools and articles that people will want to link to. We buy advertisements and pay-per-click ads. Basically, we market the hell out of our sites. Spammers spam. See the distinction?

Admittedly, there’s much more to SEO than that, but you get my point. You can’t simply judge an entire industry based upon the actions of a few. Surely you don’t view journalists from the Wall Street Journal in the same light as those that write for the National Enquirer. I doubt you view Supreme Court Justices the same way you look at sleazy ambulance chasers. The examples go on and on but you get my point.

So please, dear Diggers, the next time you see an article on Digg talking about Search Engine Optimization, before burying it on sight, take just a moment to actually read the story and decide whether it was in fact written by an SEO or a Spammer, and remember, the two are NOT the same thing.

Sincerely yours,

Skitzzo (an SEO)

Update: This article did briefly make it to Digg’s front page. The argument it presented obviously fell on deaf ears though as it was buried just minutes later. I can’t say that I’m entirely surprised though, especially considering some of the comments left by Digg members.

“Please,
SEO is nothing more then deceptive traffic manipulation. You haven’t earned the traffic, you hijacked it.

If a link on digg doesn’t go straight to the content source rather then some weak-ass blog server it’s worthless to the digg audience and is completely self-serving to whatever asshat SEO, Astroturfer, Scubber, idiot posted it in the first place. Your blog has nothing meaningful to add to the subject at hand and more often then not misconstrues the facts beyond belief.

SEO itself is a term, but it’s a lot easier to refer to people then saying Search Engine Upper. “

I’ve not yet figured out how getting traffic from search engines such as Google constitutes a “hijacking.” Nevertheless the point remains that this individual believes that no blog post has any value to the Digg community. Unfortunately, the ignorance didn’t stop there.

“Why do people who refer to themselves as SEOs always think they’re such big shit? Is it because it the acronym looks similar to Executive Officer acronyms? How are they any different than the rest of us that work with the internet? I always get this air of retarded confidence when I see them post anywhere, like they think they’re some secret cult of internet puppeteers. Put your tiny back in your pants.”

I think I’ll let that one speak for itself. Then of course we have our Mr. Fish who at least was man (or I suppose possibly woman) enough to comment on our site. His comment on Digg also mentioned Matt Cutt’s blog as well as SEOmoz as SEO sites that “really add something to the community and don’t WHINE!!!” I believe Pops’ response was pretty much the only way to go with that one but I will say that thanks to Mr Fish, the next time I’m a Google engineer I’ll be SURE to leverage my power to create a valuable blog.

However, despite the incredible ignorance and idiocy displayed by these comments, there were some positive comments left on Digg as well. As in any good relationship there need to be some mixed signals right?

“Good article, Skittzo.

I wish more people in the Digg comunity took note of the differences and treated SEO as a bit less of a swear word.”

And that wasn’t the only one! I’m pretty sure this one was a compliment, although I must say, I’m a bit disturbed by the imagery.

“Well Skittzo, it looks like this attempt to educate our fellow diggers has back-fired, I feel for you. People like miked123 up there will cling to their vision of you as a small penis-ed Satan dancing around their otherwise pure intarwebs. I honestly respect the job you’re doing because I know that without good SEO’s my websites and my company have but a snowballs chance.”

All in all, I’d say the letter went largely undelivered… The post only lasted a few minutes on the front page (the true test of a Digg submission) but it was dugg by well over 100 people. I suppose every little bit helps but I’m afraid Digg and I are just growing apart. I mean I’ve made some friends on Digg and do not by any means think these idiots represent all of digg. Sadly though, at this rate I don’t think it will be long before one of us is telling the other that “It’s not you… it’s me.” If that IS the case, I just hope there are fewer Mr Fish’s in the sea.