When Google introduced page rank scores, the days of promoting anything because you simply liked it officially ended. Overnight, marketing became a case of “You rub my back and I’ll rub yours.” Is this working?

I don’t believe it is and I’ve never supported it because it immediately sets up conditions. Conditions segregate people. Conditions cause misunderstandings. Conditions may come with a price and then it becomes competitive, which may raise the price. By that time, marketing isn’t about what is worth promoting and talking about. It’s about who has the most money to spend on promotion.

Every year, without fail, newcomers to search engine marketing believe they need a heavy arsenal of tools to do their job. They buy into every myth about PR scores and search engine algorithms they come across. This is followed up with endless questions about what works “best” for ranking, be it owning a blog, submitting to directories or writing articles.

Rather than implementing any of these ideas for pleasure or to provide authenticity and proof of expertise in your field, the point seems to be to get in front of as many eyes as possible in the hope the Google Gods will find your site and send rains for the next year’s harvest.

The other day I saw someone ask for just links in a certain niche to reciprocate with. While there is credibility to this request and people do this all the time, those links you get were solicited. They didn’t come by naturally. Search engines have no way of knowing if a link was bartered for or offered because a site believes the site they chose to link out to is any good. When I put a site into my blog roll, this means I made that choice from my heart.

Which brings me to my other concern, which is blog rolls. If I linked to everyone I know and like, I’d have pages of links. For me, the value I can offer is to interview someone, or highlight a post or article they’ve written and link to it, refer work to them, and offer other various ways of support.

The emphasis on “friends” and “followers”, for me, is a sign of terrible self esteem. I could care less how many friends and followers I have. I do my work because it makes me happy and I like what I do. That’s it. Social networking has brought out the worst in people and did it quickly.

There is nothing social about competing for friends, being angry at not being in certain classes, and destroying friendships because someone didn’t want to be a friend with someone they don’t know. Everyone has their own personal set of standards for what friendship is, or for whom they want to support or join forces with. The moment social networking became competitive and removed choice; it became just another experiment in human behavior.

The Next Big Thrill

Advertising agencies look for clever ways to promote products. They’re paid to do this with skill and expertise, and follow a flimsy set of ethics and moral codes that shift as time goes by. It’s easier to create a campaign for TV and radio and buy up commercial time than it is to come up with some link bait type of story that has to be submitted to Digg, for example. Only a certain demographic of people use Digg or any other social media outlet.

I’ve noticed that some people who claim to dislike marketing do exactly what they claim to hate the most about marketers. It always comes down to who can cause the most commotion because the ruckus brings traffic and the traffic may bring links and those links may bring fame and that fame strokes the ego.

It bothers me that an entire industry, called “Reputation Management”, was formed to deal with the slush left over by poor Internet Marketing tactics. In the early days of SEO, the fun and challenge was getting sites and pages indexed and ranked. Competition for rank spawned “blackhat” techniques, necessary in some industries and understandable, but still, when it comes down to it, rank is no longer of value. It’s an extra hole in your ear or new piece of “bling” to show off. The head rush lasts a few minutes and then it’s time to dream up another quick thrill.

Sadly, that next big thrill sometimes comes at a price; when the entire point of performing any search marketing tactic, from blogging to linking, to video presentations and article writing, to submitting to social media sites, is to ruin reputations or to publicly humiliate companies and people. I don’t consider that behavior to be marketing and I don’t give any weight to persons who thrive on this practice. Consumer complaints should go directly to a company, not “bitch-blogs”.

Challenge for 2009

For me, as a web site usability consultant to the search engine marketing industry, I’m finding less and less to feel good about with the SEO/M industry. For my peers who have been around since the mid-1990′s, most of them are so busy they have little time for Facebook and Twitter. Their company reputations were built before social media became the Fad of the Moment.

For those entering the field, it must be terribly confusing to know what’s right and how best to do your job.

So let’s start with some simple things.

1. Don’t place conditions on anyone. Link to pages and sites you truly value, not because you have any beef to settle, conditions to meet, or arrangement that feels uncomfortable (and you’ll feel this and know when it does.)

2. Promote positive. Avoid marketing and promoting with the intent of causing pain, suffering, humiliation, or to purposely destroy businesses. This makes you appear to be vindictive and you’ll attract what you deserve.

3. Don’t put a price on your good will. When you believe in someone’s work, talk about them freely and without any desire for reward.

Unconditional marketing is powerful and memorable. It stands the test of time. Someday, maybe even search engines will figure this out.

But it has to start with good people like you.

Discussion onUnconditional Marketing has started in Cre8asiteforums.

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Kim Krause Berg’s long background in web design, SEO and usability includes software application functional and user interface testing, accessibility, information architecture and persuasive design. She shared her passion for Usability and SEO through her site and private consulting at Cre8pc for 17 years. Kim founded Cre8asiteforums in 1998. In the fall of 2012 she sold her forums to Internet Marketing Ninjas and retired from private consulting to join their Executive Management team where she continues her work in usability testing, customer experience and conversions design.

My Online Course: Web Site Usability 101


American Society for Information Science and Technology (ASIS&T)

Information Architecture Institute

Usability Professionals Association (UPA)