A vote for Dave is a vote for relevance

If you’ve been following this column, you know that I’ve ruffled the feathers of a large contingent of SEO bloggers in the last few months. The most ideologically extreme members of this group argue that “SEO is rocket science”: an arcane and ever-changing skill, an impossible to learn discipline beyond the power of ordinary mortals.

I understand why they’re sticking to their guns: The more organic optimization methods are demystified, the less demand there is for high-priced, self-styled “SEO gurus” claiming to have mastered the obscure and mystical principles of search engine visibility.

Many SEOs promise to use their power over the search results to propel your site to the top of Google’s results. Most don’t even bother to ask if you belong there.

Now the SEO bloggers have issued me a challenge in the form of a contest. Threadwatch.org has put a $1,000 bounty on my own name. Whoever gets top ranking for the term “Dave Pasternack” in Google by March 1, 2007, will get the G-note, and that may or may not be me (or the famous chef, David Pasternack, who currently has the top-ranking position).

Consequently, in the past few days, scores of phony sites purporting to belong to “Dave Pasternack” have cropped up. I’m sure there will be a ton more of them in the next four weeks.

I’m sure a lot of the SEO bloggers would like to think that I’m bothered by their attention. After all, it is sort of crummy when a bunch of people you don’t know conspire to hijack your name for their own purposes. Some folks might even regard the placement of irrelevant pages above one’s proper place in the Google SERP results as the equivalent of identity theft.

But when you think about it, it’s actually more funny than crummy, because this SEO contest is predicated on the same tired bag of irrelevancy-producing tricks these guys have practiced as their stock in trade (and cash cow) for years: Google-bombing, phony pages, irrelevant links, link farms and other spanners in the works.

The SEO bloggers might call this kind of thing rocket science. I call it vandalism from a bunch of tee’d off young men with thin skins who might still grow up some day.

Still, I embrace the SEO bloggers’ challenge, and have done some modest work on my site to beef up its relevancy because the site used “David” instead of “Dave” in most locations. Not because I have any financial interest in winning the $1,000 (if Did-it wins we’ll give this money to charity), but because I think that search engines should produce relevant, not irrelevant results.

(Note to the SEO bloggers: I’m not using any “rocket science” techniques to do this because, frankly, there aren’t any; just the tactics available to every in-house SEO team which takes the time to learn the SEO fundamentals you can get from a book, several online resources, attending the Search Engine Strategies conference or Danny Sullivan’s new show.)

I would also like to invite you, the DM News reader, to help keep Google’s results relevant by voting for either the other Dave Pasternack, or me in this contest, because while irrelevancy might have a short term profit potential for those who make a living from it, it’s bad for all of us in the long term.

Frankly, the Web needs more, not less relevancy, and so if you’d like to make a citation to Dave Pasternack on your Web site or blog, please choose one of the sites below to link to:

The original DM News article: Troubled times for SEO firms

Dave Pasternack (the president of Did-it: that’s me)

David Pasternack, the award-winning chef of the Esca Restaurant

I may or may not win the battle with the SEO bloggers for my own name. After all, I’m just one guy taking on a shadowy, well-organized group well versed in bending search results toward irrelevancy for profit.

But however this contest winds up in March, in the long term, Google will “learn” that either the other Dave Pasternack or I belong at the top and relevance will be restored.

I am glad that the wider world is waking up to the fact that SEO best practice fundamentals are, in fact, just that. While tricks, bully tactics and brute force may in fact result in a change in ranking, in the end Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and the others have billions to spend over the years maintaining relevance and learning how to index the sites you build in a search-engine-friendly way. It’s not rocket science, and will never be so.

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