Dear SEOs, Please Shut Up

Ok, so this post will probably make me the odd man out. But honestly I am having a hard time staying quiet any longer.

I have noticed a recent trend with in the SEO community to push Google to take action in several areas that I believe have an adverse effect on SEO. In many cases I see very well respected SEOs pushing Google to in effect make their jobs (and everyone else’s) harder. Here are two examples:

Exact Match Domains So you are upset that some domain that has exact match, ranks higher than you. I get that. What I don’t get is pushing Google to do something about it. Buying exact match domains has to be one of the best ways to aggressively take over a niche. But guess what? If you keep complaining about it, they will do something about it! So shut up already and buy your own!

Content Farms This one completely boggles my mind. Content farms exist because they are highly lucrative. I know that you are tired of seeing them out rank you at every turn. But how about instead of complaining publicly about it, you build your own! I am not saying that you need to spam the results with low quality content. But you can learn a lot about content development, content monetization, and syndication by mimicking content farms. And the greatest thing is that they are cheap to get started, and maintain. Google will even help you monetize them!

There are a whole host of other things SEOs complain publicly about that I wish they would just shut up about. I understand the desire to hold Google to a higher standard, and make sure they deliver on what they promise. But why do that at the expense of making your job/income harder to achieve?? Just shut up already!


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66 thoughts on “Dear SEOs, Please Shut Up

  • Sorry Joe, going to disagree with you here. It’s not that exact match domains outranking is bad, it’s bad sites outranking good quality sites that is bad just because of their domain name. Same with content farms. If it was good content that helped users, awesome. Most of the time, it’s not.

    When these tactics are done with integrity, I’m all about it. But until then, I will keep fighting for what I call a “prettier” internet.

  • Joe, I couldn’t disagree with you more, as you may imagine.

    We all have to use the internet and the more that some SEOs and spammers ruin it, the worse it is for everyone.

    Sure, you can take advantage of loopholes and make yourself rich, but the issue is so much more important than that, IMO.

    It’s disheartening to see people like you want to turn the other cheek just to make some extra cash.

    • Jill I understand the need to raise the bar, and elevate the medium. But, where do you draw the line? Forgive me for questioning everyone’s blanket attitude that we shouldn’t do certain things in the hopes of making the internet a better place.

      No one in this industry can even agree what spam is, so as long as we sit around using terms like “content farm” and “spam” we aren’t doing any good for anyone other than that giant corporation that is really in control. I guess that’s where the “people like me” get angry.

      • Perhaps we can all agree that a content farm has 1. more ads than content 2. text ads that “begin” the content 3. content that is poorly written and/or scraped or barely changed from wikipedia.

        I agree that there are some of us that could possibly be affected by the sweeping generalization; however, I can’t agree that it’s not Google’s responsibility to feed the public good and safe search results.

        I think as SEOs we often forget what the average searcher is like. They don’t critically think; they inherently trust the Search Engine as they trust newspapers. Think of the Glen Beck fans who take his word as fact and not hyperbole. #ObamaIsNotAKenyan

  • Joe, while I understand your point completely, I don’t agree. If you’re a good SEO, practicing solid tactics (which give you a competitive advantage), you should be able to outperform someone who just bought an EMD name. We’ve all taken the shortcut of buying a domain to quickly rank, but it’s the easy way out and doesn’t prove you’re worth your salt as an SEO. I’d like to think that if I do a killer job building links for a client, that I will be able to be effective for them. Although I enjoy the shortcut at times, I would like to see the playing field leveled.

  • Great points, Joe. It can be frustrating as a searcher to have to deal with less relevant results, but as an SEO who knows the right search parameters, it’s something I can live with – especially if it means other things like EMDs give great returns right now. SEOs need to stop hating the system and work on milking it.

  • I’m pretty sure Google is not going to just throw out the exact match domain factor in their algorithm. As Katie said, the important thing is that they crack down on crap content and spam sites that use these techniques to boost their rankings.

    My guess is that they’ll figure out a way to keep the quality exact match domain sites around while ousting the spammers.

  • Hmmm, exact match domains are a real point of conflict for me. On one hand I get that a site shouldn’t rank based solely on what the domain happens to be. I’ve seen it before and have spoken out against it. On the other hand I’ve always been able to outrank them, though it’s likely required a lot more effort than it otherwise might have. Whether exact match is a good ranking signal is debatable. It really doesn’t speak to the quality of he site but on the other hand it’s generally the case that a site’s theme will match it’s domain. It makes it an “easy” ranking signal for the engines. I’d expect it to get slowly phased out as a signal, but not for quite a while. It is difficult, however, to remain objective on this as I do have access to a lot of great exact match domains…

    • I doubt that it will get “phased out”. Sorry, but the guy that really wants to rank for “Sweet Mary Apple Pie” should buy that domain name. Businesses buy domain names based on the business name or line of work. As a pest control guy I have no interest in buying “Bulwark Rocks My Socks” and trying to rank that for “Pest Control”. Not logical.

      Look at the flip side, IYPs, they have huge sites with a lot of ‘authority’ and they try to grab up all the local stuff they can. “Woodlands pest control, Mesa exterminator, Podunktown Vet” Is it fair for the little guy to have to compete with these monster sites jut to rank for their local term? I think it’s a smart move for the SERPs to give them a boost based on domain name.

      If your domain name is already taken, then you buy it. Discount Tires buying “”… smart move.

      Having said that, yes, I do believe that the SERPs will start lowering this quality signal or at least looking at it more heavily.

      • Thomas, I agree that EMD will decrease in strength as a ranking signal but that there is some value in it as a signal. Google won’t likely phase it out entirely as a signal unless they have a compelling reason to do so. I have however seen sites ranking for exact match keywords based almost entirely on the domain, which I don’t think makes sense. Matt Cutts has all but come out and stated that they’ll decrease the weight. He said they’d “look at it”. Usually if he tips his hand in public like that it’s a pretty strong hint something will likely change.

        It may come down to something similar to the perceived “brand” bump. If an average searcher is expecting to see big brands and EMDs when they search, Google will ensure that’s what people see. In our industry we don’t step outside and think about what makes sense to the “average” user. They are the users Google cares about, not SEOs. As long as they perceive the results as decent quality, Google won’t give a tinker’s damn what SEOs think of the results (nor should they).

  • Does Google really care what SEO’s think? I’m a big fan of the industry but a lot of the time I think SEO’s spin their wheels complaining about things just to have something to complain about. I’ve competed against exact match domains and I’ve won, it just takes a different approach.

  • Part of every SEO’s job is education – we have to educate our bosses/clients about the need and value for what we do. I guess the challenge of things like EMD, content farms, and other “seo shortcuts” is that they can devalue our efforts. Still, as an avowed capitalist I say you play in the sandbox you’re sitting in, not the sandbox you wished it would be.

  • Great post, Joe. Finally someone has the guts to post something like this.

    I have a question, though: Is a content farm lucrative because of the organic search traffic that such sites receive or is it because people love to read the content on content farm sites.

    If it’s because creating a content farm is lucrative because of organic search traffic, then I have to disagree with you. The search engines absolutely have to get rid of content farms: because they’re low-quality content that people just don’t like.

    • I think there are a lot of so called “content farms” out there that actually do provide good content. Now there are many that are most definitely total crap, but some really do have good value both contextual and in the rankings. Like all of these discussions about spam, the devil is in the details.

  • I agree Joe. If I heard someone complain about the topics you mentioned I would say the same thing. Those two issues are non-issues to me. EMDs provide a subtle edge, but nothing relevance and authority links can’t overcome.

    Google’s attempt to diminish content farm rankings in their new algorithm make me worried more for everything that’s NOT a content farm. When it goes live I’ll be analyzing my rankings carefully trying to see what exactly changed.

  • Demand Media has actually never made a profit. You can look it up. However, a good domainer with an exact match URL matching a good keyword can write some keyword targeted, but hollow content himself one time and can take his adsense checks to the bank in a wheel barrow.

    • Demand Media maybe hasn’t. But AOL seems to think they have a fighting chance at it, and I am willing to believe them. Also, with out going into to many details, when I look at my ad revenue versus content cost, I see $$. I have a hard time believing that others smarter, and larger aren’t either.

  • Joe,

    Good stuff. I am sure you have heard the saying “don’t wish it were easier, wish you were better.” Why not be the SEO that says, “can I outrank exact match domains… heck yeah.”

    With regard to content, a competitor recently asked me about my link building strategies. I said if you serve a niche market, you should own the authority sites in that niche rather that try to beg or buy links from them, so I agree on the content angle.

    Have a great day!


    • I don’t worry about outranking EMD’s I know i can do it. But, if I am starting a new site, an EMD seems the most logical, and I don’t want to be penalized later because of it.

  • I don’t have a problem with exact match domains by any means, I do have a problem with the weight they have. I don’t think Google should penalize exact matches, but definitely take a look at how they can determine relevance and authority for the term before giving significant weight to the EMD.

    In terms of content farms, the key to what you said is quality. I would have no problem with a giant content farm of strong content. The problem is that most of these are large scale networks of garbage and spun content developed solely to make some equally terrible site rank. If its quality content driving quality traffic, then more power to it.

    It sounds to me your beef is more with the blanketed statement of EMD’s and content farms, but I think what most webmasters and SEO’s want is Google to try and address these fairly with their algorithm. Nobody wants the SEO community to turn into a bunch of tattle tales running to Matt everytime they find some junk EMD at #1 or a large junk content farm. I’m sure there are folks out there that do that, but its not the best solution to solving the problem on a larger scale.

    Maybe not all content farms are bad, and maybe not all EMD sites are bad, but at the end of the day there needs to be some sort of medium from Google to try and filter out the bad ones and I think that is what the hype is all about.

  • Great post Joe.

    If you’re an SEO whining about not being able to outrank an EMD, you fail. Sure, there may be an advantage, but it’s not an impossible advantage to overcome. Those who claim that an EMD is a lazy way out are being lazy by not doing the work to outrank those. The people who complain that it’s a loophole or whatever need to grow a pair and just work around it. EMDs aren’t going to own every term out there. If you’re avoiding buying EMDs for whatever space you’re doing SEO in, you fail as an SEO. That’s part of the game. Quit trying to take the high road because by doing that, you’re half assing it and cheating yourself and/or your client.

    • Brian,

      Well said. I totally agree with Joe’s post and your comment is spot on!

      SEO is just like any board game. There are rules that you have to play by and if you don’t you’ll be ejected from the game. But there are also times that you have access to a shortcut across the board but if you don’t take it, you’re not taking the high road, you’re an idiot. Play within the rules of the game and play to the best of your ability. And if that means you get to shortcut across the playing surface, DO IT!

      EMDs are still well within the acceptable rules of the game and If you understand SEO, you should know that there are still TONS of long-tail domain names available. If you don’t use them, Brian, Joe, and I will.

  • The biggest issue I have so far is the quality of the SERPs are poor.

    Recently, I wanted to look up information about fruit juices and if it’s bad for weight loss. The results that came up were informational sites that were poorly written, blasted with adsense that it made the site hard to read, wanted to sell me an ebook, etc.

    The quality just isn’t there like it was a couple of years back.

    I do understand your point though about stop complaining and do something about it but if the ‘honest’ SEO’s were to mimic these tactics the web would be full of crap – even more so than now.

  • Hi Joe,

    I think it’s important for people to realize that if they’re being out-ranked by an EMD or a “content mill” then there’s something that needs to be done:

    Improve your copy.

    Insert cliche: The web is driven by content – content is king.

    Not to prop up Google or any specific search engine, but the algorithm is steadily improving over time. If you actually produce strong, quality content it’s extremely easy to push back against any site of the sites that are threatening rank.

    I’m not a big fan of the term “content mill” but I think the issue is that no one has developed a way to segregate the quality providers of info from those actual content mills – or at least no one has coined the right phrase.

    Another issue that goes along with this is people crying out over the abuse of keyword anchor text and its influence – I’ve actually read a bit online recently that people would love to see Google stop using this is a ranking factor as well because of spamming.

    There’s always going to be naysayers, and if they put half as much time into improving their own content marketing as they did into rallying against Google…


  • Right on, right on, right on brother! My buddy IM’d me this post – we were discussing this exact same thing the other day!!!

    Only SEO’s complaining about this probably only do SEO as a hobby and are earning no real money at it, if they were they wouldn’t be complaining and would be employing these techniques!!

    • Actually Loren there are some all-star SEO’s that make a pretty healthy living that are complaining about this. I don’t think they are complaining about being outranked, I think they just want to hold Google to a higher standard.

      • “I dont think they are complaining about being outranked” … yet…

        And that’s why this is all coming out, people are scared of potentially losing years of work/rankings to some black hat spammer using an automated link tool with an EMD who ranks within 2 weeks.

        Not going to lie, I have some projects where these types of crap sites dominate the SERPs recently, but you need to be able to re-optimize your site and stay your course, whether that be white hat for the long term, or gray hat for the short term.

  • I don’t have much of a problem with exact match domains, and it’s nice if you can get them. It’s not the end of the world if you don’t. I can and have outranked them. Big deal.

    Blekko has taken the step of banning the top 20 content farms, for what it’s worth. I’m not a big fan of the garbage content out there either, but I’m sure the content farmers will find a way around it. Perhaps they’ll start spreading their manure on new domains?

    As for Google, they are gaming their system for their own profit as much as spammers are trying to game things for theirs.

    It’s going to be a never-ending battle for search engines to keep spam out though.

    • As for Google, they are gaming their system for their own profit as much as spammers are trying to game things for theirs.

      Good quote!

  • Thank you Joe for actually saying what 90% of us think instead of trying to be what I like to call a “Google Starter Guide” SEO

    There are many hypocrites I have found that say one thing in public and then are doing the reverse behind the scenes.

    I still don’t get why someone would do research on someone that ranks really well for something in a niche they want to go after and instead of learning or giving kudos they rather waste energy whining and complaining about it.

    If they care so much they should go start a search engine company or get out of “SEO” all together. There is a ton of $ and opportunity I hear selling Twitter/Facebook page set ups and status updates.

  • While I do understand that SEO’s do find the sneaky tricks frustrating, what I do not understand is why moan when we SEOs are the ones that developed most of these theories. At the end of the day, Google is a business and has to keep their stakeholders happy. Google will do everything it can to monetize it’s business while it’s image clean. EMD and content farms are lucrative for Google.

    What I would say is this, if you do SEO, why not buy an EMD, get some content farming going and do the best practice white hat SEO magic like you would for a non EMD and non content farm site?

  • Exact Match Domains . love them … own them .. rank for them … on their own .. no

    Spam is Spam … the rest – well, maybe some better SEO and people wouldn’t be crying so much …

    Joe – I agree … great post brother!

  • It is most amazing, this beautifully crafted post! The way the author has fine-tuned his words is in a most amazing way relevant to my school of thought. Thank you for this beautiful selection, author!

    lol. j/k.

    The thing I like the most about this post is you challenging exactly the same thing I’ve been feeling the need to challenge: This “new SEOism” movement, as I’ll call it. I’m all for being ethical, fighting fair, and only contributing to clean search results, but there is a lot to be gleaned from things like content farms and exact match domains. Obviously, those of us really involved with SEO understand the ramifications of content farms and exact match domains, but I’m ever-increasingly finding myself getting caught up sometimes in echoing sentiments I’m not really sure I want to be at the end of the day, you know what I mean? Regardless, I’m happy to read these thoughts of yours on all of this, Joe. =)


  • Loved the post Joe.

    Do EMDs give an edge? Sure. Can you beat an EMD? Yup. Does it take more work/more creative work? Yup.

    If you have a brand name site that has a hard time ranking because of EMDs, why not set up a landing/referral site that has an EMD and compete?

    There really are a few people in the industry that I’m so tired of hearing the whining from.

    And with content farms, I think that some of them are crap sure. But some of them give good basic information about topics. I take it at that and then continue my research. Have we all just gotten lazy? Now we want Google to do everything for us.

    Great post man!

  • if we get a new client who has a young domain, it is much better to do our homework to get an EMD for the client.

    EMD + white hat SEO = Sweet Ranking

    But if the Domain is old, working hard with 100% white hat SEO you can Sweet Ranking too!

    A little Ego, Search for “SEO Miami”, is not showing anywhere.

  • I agree with you Joe,

    People are pissed off with exact match domains because they have just missed the boat and have not got them.

    Also I do not get the on going bitching about content farms you hear so many people crying about EHOW…ehow had bad content blah blah…The thing is if google blocks eHow then some other content farm will take its place.

    I agree with what you have said if you cant beat the content farm join them but do it better make a article website with a huge load of top quality articles with great content.

    The main thing is SEO’s need to quit complaining and posting crap on blogs and actually start doing SEO work. The people who are actually making money doing SEO are too busy making money to take the time to comment all day.

  • You all seem to act like EMD’s, money and time come easy. Sure, with enough time and money I can do anything, but most of my clients are looking for cost effective SEO. I personally don’t think a good company site should have to work hard to out rank a crappy EMD because it was purchased In 2001 and has hundreds of pages of crap content and outdated links. when possible, I wouldn’t mind fighting fire with fire, but the good .com EMDs are taken and getting creative with dashes and/or longer Urls is not effective.

  • I’ve come across may websites and blogs with poor quality contents and surprisingly rank highly in the SERP. Some of these sites has virtually no updated contents and it makes me wonder why they are still in the top first and 2nd pages of the SERP. I did some further investigation and realize that some of these spammy websites or even sites that has lots of bad reviews actually pay SEO service providers to boost their rankings!.
    I suspect that these sites are doing well in page ranking because some of the SEO service providers generates hundreds of backlinks from authoritative sites to these spammy sites!. Google need to do something about this trend though.

  • Joe,

    Great topic and I am glad that you’ve openly raised it. as many of you have already commented, a good SEO doesn’t not whine, just goes on and takes on the challenge. With creativity, we can compete against anything on the web.

    Also I have to thank all of you. Being fairly new to the SEO world, I am learning a lot following the posts here.

  • Some good points, but I disagree (in part) with your sentiment about content farms. First off, I do have to say that many so-called content farms aren’t completely horrible. I just don’t agree with the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” idea. I look at it more from a user perspective than a marketer or SEO professional. Google should be looking for ways to reward quality content providers for better user experience, not just sites that are capable of spewing out mass quantities of it. There’s an ethical element as well, in that when someone searches for something, Google should WANT the top results to be from sites that appear to actually know what they are talking about.

  • Yes we can outrank sites with exact match domains. The problem is if all the variables are exact same, the EMDs tend to get a higher rank. In my own opinions there are only few solutions about it:
    – Buy the EMD that has been taken. (Usually with a much higher price)
    – Use other name. (But it requires more work)
    – Use other methods to get traffic other than from SE (I still do not know exactly how to do it)
    I have used EMD with .info and .co extensions with no good results.

  • Joe, great post and well said. The point about exact match domains is interesting, Matt Cutts said in a recent Webmaster video that they are considering turning down the affect of these as people have complained. IMHO exact match domains are a great tool for SEO and a must for reputation management.

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