Internet Advancement Busted: SEO Standards Still Don't Make Sense

Ian Lurie

Yes, a bad SEO got busted. No, that is not an intelligent argument for SEO standards.
Kevin at Search Engine Watch immediately pounced on the ruling against Internet Advancement as an argument for SEO standards.
They’re wrong.
The fact that there are fraudsters and con artists out there doesn’t argue for SEO standards. It argues for enforcement of the law. And that’s what happened here.
If you want to argue for SEO standards, you need to tell me:

  • Who will create them, and why I should trust them;
  • How these standards will be fairly and consistently enforced;
  • Why I, after years of working my tail off as an ethical internet marketer and SEO pro, should have to now follow someone else’s standards;
  • Why the hell I should believe that the existence of standards would’ve prevented Internet Advancement from ripping people off.

And that last one’s the real kicker. How would the existence of SEO standards keep Internet Advancement from screwing hundreds of clients?
Internet Advancement would’ve just walked around telling folks they’re ‘standards compliant’ or some such. They would have pursued naive customers who didn’t know much about SEO, and wouldn’t know much about standards. And those are most customers.
Standards require enforcement. Unless you have police or bouncers, enforcement requires voluntary compliance. Compliance requires some level of good behavior on the part of participants. What makes you think Internet Advancement or other crooks would comply?
So Kevin, nuthin but love for ya, but how exactly would you have used SEO standards to stop Internet Advancement?
I sit at my computer, gazing out at the squirrels as they raft gently down the Green River on small boats they’ve made from grass, waiting for your answer…



Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Ian, you’re right – standards wouldn’t keep jerkies like IA from screwing people around. People get messed over when they don’t know any better but buy in to someone who professes to.
    And as far as those standards go, would there be likewise standards for Google, Yahoo! and all search companies to meet those standards half-way with their own? If not, you’d have search companies still tweaking algorithms and making updates and ethical SEO’s having to follow some older standard until a new one comes out (if they wished to remain “ethical”). No more keeping your ear to the ground, watching for trends and adjusting accordingly!

  2. Agreed, in any market there will be people that rip others off, even with standards.
    The people that do that crap obviously don’t give a rip about the “rules”, “Standards”, or the Law. Standards themselves would not have saved any customer from IA’s behavior.
    So trying to extrapolate, my new fav word of the month, reasoning/excuses for standards in SEO just from this particular case isn’t a reasonable conclusion to come to.

  3. I agree with Ian, Rex, and Matt here. Maybe standards are a good idea in general. But realistically with the Search Engines changing constantly, SEOs testing and belieiving what they see, and the best SEOs that will not want to push their techniques as standards thus giving them to everyone the whole idea is a joke.
    Why does the SEO industry still feel the need to prove themselves? We sell advertsing. The phone book companies do it, billboard companies do it, Magazines and newspapers too.
    They don’t go begging for standards when someone does something unethical or heaven forbid, doesn’t return ROI. Get over it we sell stuff. I think it is the best ROI for most companies and think it is the most interesting (and trackable) way to advertise. That is why I work in this industry.

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