‘Industry Experts stuck in the dark ages’ – An Open letter to Steve Rubel – Edelman

by Peter Young on September 9, 2010 · 11 comments

I was disappointed to see a well respected marketing expert sink to the levels of the ‘SEO is dead’ tirade, however Steve Rubel – Head of Insights for Edelman Digital did just that during a post on the impacts of Google Insights. In his awful post Steve wrote as follows:

Google today launched an ambitious effort to speed up searching. But what they really did is kill SEO.

And went on to say

Google Instant means no one will see the same web anymore, making optimizing it virtually impossible. Real-time feedback will change and personalize people’s search behaviors.

In such a position of responsibility its disappointing to see someone with that level of respect go down that particular avenue. Are we really that short of a hook that we need to resort to that level – with little more than a personal fancy and no substance.

I would suggest Mr Rubel take a long hard look. Good SEO’s are not single keyword morons. Nor are the search engines that domain of content only results. The modern search result takes into account a multitude of channels, Video, Feeds and PR. Further to that I would suggest Instant is not a channel changer – it is a behavioural changer – something that is going to impact paid search as much as it is organic search. So I would ask you Mr Rubel – Is Paid Search dead as well?

No I thought not. If I am looking for cheap car insurance, I am not going to go and buy a cheap holiday (suggest you play with Google Instants here – it’s the first result that comes back when I start to type cheap) as that is not my intent – and as such I would suggest there is a lot of doom and scare mongering taking place as to what will happen.

There is no doubting this will have an impact on impressions, on click through, on costs-per-click and yes on search behaviour. However lets be honest Steve Are you really that naïve to think that this is that much of a game changer – or were you merely just short of something decent to write???

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{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

Brett Pringle September 9, 2010 at 8:30 pm

Well said Pete!

“He who holds power, holds great responsibility”

It was definitely a rush post, without ample time to look at function or final implementation. And now ol Steve, you’ve just dragged your name through the mud.

Those that are seen as industry “experts” or veterans have a lot more responsibility when it comes to their insight and opinions. It effects newbies as well as clients. Perhaps it’s a lesson that linkbait is not always the win…

side thought: wouldn’t mind all his links though, good or bad mentions. Heck, the guardian link ; )

Simon Wharton September 9, 2010 at 8:44 pm

Is Rubel an authoratative marketer or a media whore? I suggest that the post was ill informed simply because Rubel doesnt do marketing anymore. He’s a little too far away from the coal face to actually make any valid judgements. Maybe this was link bait. Is it worth sacrificing your credibility so cheaply?

Peter Young September 9, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Completely agree. Can’t help thinking you wouldnt see the likes of Seth Godin or Danny Sullivan stoop to such a desperate attempt at link bait.

If this is really the best Edelman can provide – well really I think the rest of us need not worry at all

If you don’t have anything good to say – sometimes saying nothing is better ….

Paul Maddock September 10, 2010 at 8:08 am

Zing Pete, zing.

James Dunn September 10, 2010 at 10:03 am

Why does his post seem like an indirect calling for users to switch to Bing?

I know what some may be thinking but I did a little research (good ol’ Linkedin) and he is a senior strategic advisor to Microsoft, amongst others. So when you read his post back it does make sense….well, to his client at least.

Which means that it’s a classic FUD (Fear, Uncertainty & Doubt) post!

Mat Morrison September 10, 2010 at 10:27 am

It’s a shame, really; in the PR world, there are endless debates around the ownership of SEO — the UK’s trade bodies are engaged (the CIPR and the PRCA) and there’s even some merit in their arguments.

Strikes me that Rubel just made a snap judgement, and the wrong judgement at that. Shows how far the PR industry has to travel.

Pete G September 10, 2010 at 10:43 am

Well said Pete,

Even if (& I don’t think so) his comments were correct, how the hell can you write soemthing as damming with less than 48hrs analysis.

Of course there is going to be an impact to this change but to say it has killed SEO is ridiculous, if anything it will affect paid activity more. Having said that, its still far too early to be 100% about this.

Jon Clements September 10, 2010 at 1:29 pm

One of the useful comments made by John Cass when I asked him the question last night about the social media turf war between SEO and PR, etc, was that each discipline needs the other if the overall benefit for the client is going to be maximised.


Allow me to steal from Mark Twain in saying I imagine the death of SEO has been greatly exaggerated.

Peter Young September 10, 2010 at 1:36 pm

Completely agree Jon – its not the first time I have come to loggerheads with Edelman, strangely enough last time was on the exact subject you mentioned above.


steveplunkett September 13, 2010 at 3:36 pm


I work at a PR Firm.. so let’s please not bash the PR industry, just because of lame “sky is falling” linkbait attempts by @steverubel.

(p.s. google “@ssteverubel is dead” – you will see it’s his crutch.. and even tho the leg has healed he still uses it.. )

from me.. an SEO of 15 years at a 23 year old Pr firm.

Peter Young September 13, 2010 at 3:49 pm

Hi Steve

Apologies there – should possibly caveat that comment. I would however still suggest that whilst PR agencies are improving there is still a real lack of knowledge/integration between PR agencies and digital (or more particularly SEO).

There are obviously a number of agencies out there who do understand SEO and the role it plays within PR – and those organisations are obviously the ones that are probably riding this economic storm better than others.

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