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May 06, 2005

Phillip Lenssen Is Spartacus! Or Cory Doctorow Is Spartacus! Or I Am Spartacus! Or Something!

Cory Doctorow decides that it's time to give Phillip Lenssen his "I am Spartacus!" moment as Phillip comes under attack from Search Engine Optimization, Inc. Please join in:

Boing Boing: Bullying Search Engine Optimization, Inc uses legal threats to silence critics: Phillip Lenssen blogged some material about a 'Search Engine Optimizer' (a company that helps web-developers inflate their rankings with search-engines) called Search Engine Optimization, Inc. The service had all but vanished from Google's database, and Phillip, a commentator on this industry, noted that this boded poorly for the company, indicating that they'd probably done something wrong to incur the wrath of Google (the 'Google Death Penalty'), which meant that they ended up looking totally incompentent: not only couldn't they improve your site's PageRank, they couldn't get themselves ranked on Google.

The company responded with a threatening, bogus Cease-and-Desist letter telling Phillip that he had to take his page down or face legal action. Never mind that Phillip's post contained nothing actionable, he couldn't afford a lawsuit and poof, these bullies were able to censor their critics off the Internet. Here's the stuff that they believe gives them grounds to sue Phillip. I think you'll agree that this is about as bogus a claim as we can imagine:

It's kind of ironic that SEOInc.com, a search engine optimization company which for a while was on the Google number 1 spot for the highly competitive query 'search engine optimization', is now nowhere to be found in the Google results. This is likely due to the recent PageRank update and even more algorithm tweaks implemented by Google. Enter 'SEOinc' into Google.com, and SEOInc.com is nowhere in the top 10; and the SEOInc.com PageRank has dropped to 'none'. Only by entering 'site:seoinc.com' into Google will you see the site is still indexed in some way. And while a low or non-existent Google ranking is bad enough for sites outside the SEO industry, it hits everyone in the SEO business twice as hard: not only are SEOInc not being found with search engines anymore, they've also lost their biggest proof their services are worth paying for.

Of course, the fact this site has seen the Google death penalty hints that they've overoptimized using 'black hat' search engine optimization (such as linkfarms, for example). In either case, these days it pays out more than ever to optimize your content and to deliver valid, accessible HTML, without spending a second thought on what search engines may like. They're just too flaky to be trusted.

The best response to this kind of bullying is shining a light on it. Looking for SEO, Inc in Google won't bring you to their website, but I'm pretty sure it will get you to this blog-post, where you can read all about what kind of censorious activity this company gets up to when someone points out their failings.

Link to Google cache of Phillip's post, Link to PDF of C&D letter

Posted by DeLong at May 6, 2005 12:12 PM