An Open Letter to the Editors of Search Engine Journal

NOTE: SEJ has since responded to criticisms with what I think is a very fair and mature reply: You can read it here. I never intended this to be a personal attack, nor do I harbour ill will toward the publication. I merely wanted to point out what others and I had noticed: that quality was suffering. Many of you seemed to echo that sentiment, and I’ve gotten many messages from people who agree that the point needed to be made.

Still, I do not want to build my reputation on the back of jabbing others’. I believe SEJ is serious about trying to improve, and so I’ve chosen to take this post down at this time. I appreciate everyone who has commented and all of the upvotes on Inbound (we went to #2 overall, even above Rand’s interview – which is crazy – but also, not somewhere I think the post needs to be in the long-term as SEJ cleans up their act).

Thanks for reading.


Joel Klettke is a writer-for-hire who most certainly does NOT double as a cleaning lady.

When he’s not busy kick hornets’ nests and not-leaving-well-enough-alone, he’s writing bios in the third-person and shamelessly promoting his Zombie 404 Page, because, well, it’s pretty dang cool and he paid a developer to create the friggin’ thing.

49 Responses to “An Open Letter to the Editors of Search Engine Journal”

  1. Saul says:

    As you probably did I had a look around for this Rose Finchley character and it appears (probably quite suited to the under the sea design of this site) that she is a massive Catfish!

  2. if ‘Rose Finchley’ doesnt turn herself in within the next hour, i’m going to blow up a balloon.

  3. Zach says:

    Yeah SEJ has really dropped off for the last year or so I’d say. No longer a reader-base approach, but rather a “we gotta publish something & cheap!” approach.

  4. Joel says:

    I agree with Zach, the latest editing team appears to just through anything up on the site that comes in. There is no editorial control and the site is truly an embarrassment.

    Plus all the ads all over the place. The only time I hear about SEJ is when someone emails to complain about the horrible crap that is published. I refuse to visit the site because I know all they care about is ad revenue. Really sad.

  5. Dan says:

    Some are not even close to being on topic of anything I come to SEJ to read –

  6. Jim says:

    Could this article have been sent in as a test to see how hard it is to get published? That bio is insane!

  7. Joel says:

    OK, I bent the rules and looked at the article and the readers think the advice is solid and great. WTF? This is how bad information spreads.

  8. Agreed! It’s annoying because I love some of the content on SEJ and I post on there myself. Some of the crap going on there of late has taken it to the next level though.

    Here’s another example –

    • Joel says:

      Top-shelf. I hope they can deliver on taking this stuff seriously.

      • Doc Sheldon says:

        Sadly, this post was both spot on and needed, Joel. SEJ has become a bit of a joke, even though some of their content is good. If I was writing here, I think I’d have bailed some time ago, rather than have my byline associated with some of the crap that gets through here.

  9. Max Minzer says:

    My question would be: does their “audience deserve so much better?” I want to say “no” just looking at their blog comments (when I rarely read something on SEJ). There’s no critical thinking in that community – all posts are GREAT!

  10. AJ Ghergich says:

    Well this needed to be said.

  11. Jason says:

    That is so funny because this same issue was raised awhile ago and the readers were assured a review panel was put in place to prevent rubbish like this from being posted and approved. Stopped reading what they are currently posting when they decided to go off on a political rant about gun control. Yes Gun Control on an SEO website. I am going to go publish an article on birth control on a recipe site now. That piece you are referencing is the scariest thing I have seen today. I agree, nonsense like this needs to stop. There is too much bad advice from novice people and too many people take it heart and make it gospel and then they wonder why their site was nuked by the big bad G. I saw another craptastic example of link baiting today with somebody mentioning 1 complainer constituted a controversy. I fell for the nonsense and clicked away and am upset with myself for doing so. Not sure which is worse, but that is for a different day and debate.

  12. Jason says:

    @max have you seen some of the comments on most sites? They border on pure rubbish. I know some well respected sites that get hammered by idiots. Most folks read a piece and don’t comment. I rarely comment. Had a friend take bad seo advice and nuked his rankings. I took along time to decipher if it was a Google update or something he did. Once I figured it out, I was able to fix it. This is what we battle in our field.

  13. Jason says:

    Here is a prime example from an excellent piece written today: “Excellent, thought provoking post. I had never really spent much time thinking about these sorts of things from Google’s perspective. Bravo.” I am sorry but this comment says nothing and brings nothing to the table. Should comments like this, mean we should pass substandard rubbish or write more fluff pieces?

  14. Jon Cooper says:

    Wait… people still read SEJ?

  15. It’s scary there are people on the internet who actually left comments on that article like it was actually good info :/ scary to think they actually might have clients.

  16. Jon gregoire says:

    Joel, I really respect you writing this post. It calls out a major publication that’s clearly let its standards drop. BUT my only thing is that you probably unintentionally trolled yourself!

    You’ve driven a lot of traffic to a post that should have died a slow but quiet death. And I think it’s all the same to SEJ, traffic is traffic. They seriously don’t care what kind it is, so they’ve already won.

    If this call out tells them anything, it’s that they need more terrible posts that gain traction like this! But still, I respect your call out.

  17. Keri Morgret says:

    My comment is being held for moderation at SEJ, and I don’t know if it will be approved (could be that pesky external link to Flickr), so I’ll post it here as well.

    Wow. So many issues with this post.

    First, the image isn’t properly attributed. It’s from with a Creative Commons license that requires attribution.

    Can we get any authoritative links backing up statements? Such as Google applying something to a website for a certain period?

    What about the definition of banned? It’d be helpful to have a brief discussed of a site being banned versus having rankings drop.

    If you can understand the single-sentence overview in most of these steps, you probably don’t need this guide. “Check if there are any hacker attacks to the server.” That could be a whole post in itself. How about a couple of helpful links in here about how you could go about that?

    “Check for any Malware (usually there has been inserted a malicious code through a script or iframe).” Again, could the author elaborate just a touch here?

    “Check the file robots.txt in the main directory of your website. If you don’t have such a file, we recommend you to create it.” What are we supposed to be checking for? How can creating a robots.txt file help you if you have been banned? What are you supposed to put in one?

    “Check the amount of backlinks to your website, consider whether an increase or decrease in number seems unusual. If it looks like it’s been manipulated or paid for…fix the problem.”
    If you’ve never checked the backlinks before, how do you know if there’s an increase or a decrease, and if the number if unusual? What does a manipulated backlink profile look like? What does a paid one look like? How do you fix the problem?

    “Check the HTML code and the CSS files for any hidden text or hyperlinks.” How does one know if the text is hidden? A link is hidden? If you want to be stingy about linking to anything but another SEJ post, you could even put in text the helpful hint to use ctrl-f to search for words like viagra, how to search for code that would hide a link or text, etc.

    “Check the external hyperlinks of your website.” Would mentioning something like Xenu kill you here?

    “Check if all webpages have a response for a header status.” If this makes sense to you without any other context, you already know more than the author of this post and don’t need to be reading this post in the first place.

    “Analyze all the changes you have made during the last SEO or re-design or your website.” And what if I’m a small business owner and have hired someone to make my website? What am I supposed to analyze? What if I haven’t made any changes to my website in four years?

    “Check the content users of your website have generated for any SPAM hyperlinks or unwanted content.” If you’ve already checked the external hyperlinks of your website, then you’ve taken care of checking for spam hyperlinks. What do you do if you find the unwanted content? If that’s the cause of the ban (and this whole post is what to do after your website has been banned), what should you do about it?

    “View your website using Googlebot for user agent (User-agent switcher).” What are you looking for here?

    Why is the topic of this post what to do after your website has been banned, and the conclusion asking if you have been penalized by Google? Penalized and banning are not identical, and this also ignores other search engines.

    What about looking in your analytics to see if traffic from all search engines has stopped? Any thought about duplicate content? Seasonality affecting traffic?

    Again, if you know enough to know how to do what the author is saying, you know more than the author and don’t need this post. I’m not really sure who is well served by this post.

    • Joel says:

      Keri, you beautifully expressed far more than my sarcasm could capture. Thank you for this – more SEOS would be wise to apply the same lines of thinking to their own content.

    • Yogendra says:

      That was a really nice example Keri Morgret.

      Thanks to Joel and you both for putting IN the recent issues with the quality of SEJ. I myself open all the posts but just after reading few lines i move on to next post or another blog.
      I hope SEJ editors will take note of this and will start the basic reviewing process now!

    • Keri Morgret says:

      As a side note, this comment was not published on SEJ, and is no longer sitting there awaiting moderation.

  18. hyderali says:

    “If they’re not responding, call 9-1-1 immediately.” ROFL..

  19. Iain says:

    Obviously you are correct. I genuinely don’t get it though. Why would this even come close to getting published? Is there nobody at any stage of the editorial process who knows anything at all about the subject matter?

    I jest, of course. Clearly there is no editorial process.

  20. Rohan Ayyar says:

    Is SEJ going the DMoz way?

  21. John S C says:

    Well said Joel. I’d actually stopped reading SEJ some time ago, due to the quality of content coming through.

  22. HilarityEnsues says:

    While I agree with the general sentiment and lack of quality at SEJ, this post really could have cut half of the pedantic, hyperbolic rejoinders.

  23. Rohit Palit says:

    I tweeted a screenshot a few weeks back. A post at SEJ had the title, “* Conversion Testing Not Included”. Random crap, seriously. And they PRETEND having a solid system, which sucks the most. The last time their copywriters done some work on my post, it was re-writing a few sentences while reducing the amount of presented information.

  24. Luke says:

    Could care less? I think you mean ‘couldn’t’ – try that for attention to detail.

  25. Luke Chapman says:

    Wow. What a quick way to lose readers and flush your website down the toilet, SEJ. I wonder if there has been some sort of staffing change at SEJ that resulted in this lack of QA. Or perhaps they started subscribing to Hubspot’s insightful reports that say “more blog posts = more traffic”.

    Quality over Quantity ALWAYS.

  26. gudipudi says:

    I think SEJ is no longer considered as go to site for Search engine news. They lost their glory a while ago.

  27. Nick says:

    I forced myself to read the full SEJ article in question. It was painful. And the info provided in the article was awful and very misleading. What scares me is that there were over 200 tweets, hopefully from fake Twitter scraper accounts.

    And I thought I was the only one wondering why shit articles like this are being posted on an authority site like SEJ, but I guess I’m not the only one.

    Thanks for calling them out. SEJ is getting closer to being a simple article directory. BUT OMG FRESH CONTENT!!!11

    FYI: Looks like Rose Finchley’s amazing high quality article has been removed. She must be cleaning carpets.

  28. Kiri says:

    “If they’re not responding, call 9-1-1 immediately.” Man, I can’t stop laughing.

    But seriously that piece of content feels like it was outsourced to Fiverr.

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