Big Brands Are What’s Wrong With America


scoble (v): To cry, whine, or bitch about not receiving something you didn’t deserve in the first place. As in, “He totally Robert Scoble’d about it” or “I stopped caring once he scobled”.

It’s Monday, I’m about to hop on a train to liveblog SES NY and big brands are scobling. Shoot me in the face.

I don’t want this to sound like a knee jerk reaction to “the story of the day” but frankly, I’m tired of the whiners. They’re annoying me. They need to stop. And you need to understand why so you don’t follow their path.

As you’ve likely read, the media giants of the world are scobling that they don’t get more attention in the SERPs and are appealing to Google’s Publisher’s Advisory Council (!) for help. They’re of the opinion that they should automatically rank higher than the “parasite” bloggers who they feel benefit disproportionately from Google’s algorithm. Basically, they’re upset that their male privilege doesn’t work quite as well as they had hoped. They’d like a Disney Fast Pass to the top three organic positions. And maybe some water while you’re up.

You know what? STFU, Big Brands. Because no one cares.

As far as I can tell, big brands already have the preferential treatment they’re crying for.

  • They already rank better due to trust.
  • They link to their own, breeding more misplaced trust.
  • We had that whole Vince update thing.
  • Hell, they knew that a Publisher’s Advisory Council even existed. Did you know?

I’m tired of bailing people out. As the proverb goes, a failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine. It’s not my fault that you don’t exert the tenth of the energy I would need in order to see equal results. It’s not my fault you sat back and watched those parasite bloggers outrank you. It’s not my fault I rank higher because I’m smarter and offer more. This isn’t a new discussion. You just haven’t learned. Again, your issue; not mine.

You want to rank? You want to be successful? You need to put in the work. You get a trophy when you succeed, not for simply showing up.

Whatever you do, don’t strive to be a big brand. The big brands are fat and lazy. They don’t have the hustle the smaller fish do, the people who are out there doing stuff and ranking and making money. The media giants know what they need to do in order to rank well in Google. So why not just do that? Why not create a better Web site? Why not make it more accessible? Why not put in the effort and follow the rules and the steps to successful SEO? That’d be a far better use of their resources than simply trying to get a special note from the principal and calling out bloggers. But it takes work. And you have to do that work.

If you want to rank, put in the time. If you can’t do it yourself, hire someone who can. We’d love to chat with you. The big brands have no excuse for the situation they’ve put themselves in. Instead of crying to be bailed out, they could be taking steps to remedy their situation. They choose not to.

What’s frustrating is that this is 2009. We’ve been having the same conversation with brands for years now. I don’t know if they’re not listening or if they’re just not hearing. Either way, I don’t think their selective deafness is my problem.

Let’s get one thing clear: No one owes you anything. I don’t care how Paris Hilton-famous you think you are.

Instead of appealing for special treatment on a playing field that has never been level in the first place, why not  just get in the game?

And with that, I have work to do and a train to catch. Lates.

Your Comments

  • Jeremy Rivera

    Stick it to em Lisa!

    I like the fact that the digital landscape is far more “merit based” *most of the time*. Do the work, get the results.

  • Jeff


    I think they’re listening AND they’re hearing, but for the time being, I assume it’s still cheaper and easier to intimidate or call for a favor from their friends at the country club than to invest time and money in the future.

  • tommyofroguestar

    The problem is, even though they are selectively deaf it kind of is our problem, because if they do get to whine and stamp their feet to the Advisory board, and it works, than that may put some people out of a job.
    Granted that is worst case scenario and highly unlikely but their whining may have some effect on an algo shift. (hope not)
    Really what it boils down to is there are a bunch of old suits getting pissy that their traditional advertising isn’t the way go anymore and they just want to cause a ruckus because they just don’t “get it”


  • Jeremy

    Bravo. Having fought tooth and nail for SERPs (and won more than lost) against mega brands, I have to say their injuries are entirely self-inflicted…

    In 1999-2000, how many big brands relegated their website to their IT department? In 2001, how many brands created brochureware and didn’t change it for 5 years? In 2006, how many brochureware sites spent a year in committee undergoing “an upgrade” by an agency who turned them into giant piles of Flash?

    The bottom line is that big brands have to treat their website as more than after-thought marketing collateral. Nobody visits a brand’s website (and Google doesn’t rank them) for the same reason people buy 1/4″ holes (not 1/4″ drill bits)– users care about solving a problem, not the tool (or brand) that solves it.

  • Josh Katinger

    The media giants know what they need to do in order to rank well in Google.

    Do they? Really?

    Why not create a better Web site? Why not make it more accessible? Why not put in the effort and follow the rules and the steps to successful SEO?

    Because that takes effort, time, and money…something suits don’t want to deal with. They are, however, good at taking meetings and bitching. :)

  • Krista Neher

    Hi Lisa

    First – Great post :) I agree that brands need to put in the same work as smaller organizations and shouldn’t be complaining…

    One thought that I had while reading… most of these companies are spending millions of dollars on search firms yet are not seeing the results they want. Some of the big brands that I work with spend a ton of $$ on search yet fail to integrate it into their overall strategic planning. They execute PPC or optimize individual sites but are not integrating it with their overall marketing efforts.

    It is treated like an add-on; a black box that they put some money into that is separate from their overall marketing strategy.

    I think that both brands and search firms need to do a better job of providing strategic integration of search through all digital properties and marketing strategies.

    Just my two cents….
    – Krista

  • George Bounacos

    This goes hand-in-hand with CNN interviewing Steve Kroft about *his* interview with President Obama. During the interview, both referenced the “concern” [paraphrasing – that may not have been the word] that Obama’s media outreach would be more populist and embrace new media. Then they ticked off a list of mainstream media outlets for whom the WH had given interviews. Kroft got 90 minutes. I’m still trying to figure out why the WH thought a single network interview was worth 90 minutes of the new President’s time.

    But brands – whether they sell tangible stuff or information – do have a cakewalk with the engines. I surf all day every day with no-followed links highlighted and constantly traditional media outlets selling fully-followed links, but sculpting their link juice by no-following a lot of their footer and template links. It’s bad when you don’t know. It’s really bad when you know and do it anyway.

    Queued up this week on our site is a blog about how the constituency most concerned with mainstream media moving to online outlets is…. yeah, the mainstream media. I’m all for double-sourcing and good editing. I’m just not all for two sets of rules.

    I know Google wants to tap the display world more and more (not to mention effectively monetizing YouTube and Voice), but a reason for the web’s growth was the democratizing effect of cheap distribution.

  • Lisa Barone

    Jeff: I don’t think they’re listening. I think they hear the noise but they’re too far up from the rest of us to take note or think it actually affects them. I really have to think that it’s far more cost effective to actually *fix* the problem than to keep running around bitching about it and making appeals to some mythical, top secret Google Council. But that’s me. I like to find answers to problems, not put band aids on them that come off with a little bit of pressure.

    Tommy: It may work now, but it’s still not a long term strategy. And now that this Advisory Board has been outed, my guess is that there’s going to be quite a few people looking into it and trying to figure out what’s going on and how much back scratching is going on. Mainstream media may have cried too loudly this time.

    Jeremy 2: Amen. ;)

  • Aleyda

    Excellent post Lisa! Haha, I love your writing style XD

    If big brands spend millions of dollars in traditional advertising that they sometimes cannot even measure … they should put real effort in their Online presence instead of complaining about their situation.

  • Mark Settle

    Lisa, honestly. Why all the bluster? I mean, I get it. You’re emphatic and all that. And you’re pissed and you’re not going to take it anymore. But you must have more to offer than your volume and your vulgarity. And your acute sense for personal slight. Right?

  • Alan Blewieiss

    WGT Lisa!

    As far as I am concerned, we don’t need to worry about the big brands being able to stomp their feet loudly. While they shouldn’t in an ideal world (read that ideal according to the millennial generation, a member of which I am not (will be 50 this year) yet nonetheless, an ideal world I am in complete agreement about), the fact is that for now we still live in a big corporate giants get lots of leverage to force their way on others.

    The saving grace though is exactly as you state Lisa – the bigger they are, the less they can shift direction on a dime, and the less they get social media and even true comprehensive SEO and Internet marketing. They are stuck in their old school ways which no longer work because that’s the pitiful reality of big corporations.

    As long as I’ve been around (all the gray hairs intermingled in my used-to-be jet black haired head to prove it) big corporations have never been as flexible, adaptive or open-minded to changing their ways. This was true decades ago and it’s true today.

    That’s the main reason the vast majority of the really break-out success stories in our digital world come from start-ups and from the millennial generation. People who aren’t stuck in the mud of what has become ritualistic business practices.

    So I say to those big corporations – scream all you want. Stomp your feet as loud as you want. If, by some stupid life-sucks miracle they actually can leverage their over-bloated with indignation weight and get Google to reverse it’s path of trying to be at least reasonably fair to the little people (I love being one of those!) then I guarantee you it will be the same entrepreneurial base that finds a way to yet once more overcome that challenge.

  • Alan Blewieiss

    LOL Instead of WGT I uh meant WTG duh. hahaha

  • Herndon Hasty

    The funny thing is that there are media companies that are accomplishing what this cadre of whiners can’t seem to pull off despite their web savvy and site popularity.

    It’s ridiculous that these folks would expect to rank for ‘Gaza’ because they’d written stories about it. Now, if they had written stories about it and structured their site well enough to make proper use of it, they would.

    Impossible? A search for ‘Gaza’ on Google (at least where I am) has the Guardian Online as #2 and the Chicago Tribune as #5 because they took the time to leverage their content into bundles of authority on topics. By all rights Wikipedia, aid groups and more straight informational sources should own this spot, but these two little engines that could (even though ESPN said they couldn’t) managed to carve a niche that probably brought them a fair bit of traffic.

    Further screenshots, discussion and screed on the topic here .

  • Scott Allen

    Bravo! I could not have worded it better myself. I had the same exact reaction when I read about this earlier today.

    I’m amazed at how big brands insist on remaining clueless about SEO, and then bitch about why they don’t rank. This “entitlement mentality” really does get old quick.

    BTW, love the quote “a failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on mine” – I use that one a lot.

    In short, thanks for writing this! DEAD ON.

  • @cliquekaila

    You get em Lisa. I always love reading your posts or seeing your tweets. You have such a great way of putting it out there with wit, knowledge, and simplicity. ;)

  • Winooski

    The big brands are fat and lazy. They don’t have the hustle the smaller fish do, the people who are out there doing stuff and ranking and making money.

    I’m going to risk public humiliation and excoriation here by reminding everyone that, indeed, it takes a lot of time, energy, artful execution, and even money to build a brand. Fat? Maybe, as a result of continued success. But lazy? C’mon.

    Yes, I’m as dismayed as the next SEM at the Google Publisher’s Advisory Council stunt, and yes, big firms need to be as smart about SEO as all of you here are. But please. Successful branding is what all good business builders should be working on; otherwise, the business is just generic, unrecognizable, and undifferentiated.

    So yes, by all means, do rip these big brand businesses a new one for trying to do an end-run around good, hard SEO work. Just please don’t start dissing a big brand because, well, it’s big. It usually got that way by the kind of hard, smart work we all are trying to do. And while you’re at it, please don’t confuse the reckless actions of our under-policed financial industry with the actions of these big firms. I know it’s tempting to try to lump ’em all together (bailout indeed), but it’s just intellectual laziness to conflate them.

  • cnc

    your an idiot. this is not what the big brand shift is about. another ignorant lazy useless seo coasting on her fame.

  • ian

    YEAH. WHAT HE SAID. Stupid lazy SEOs. Only thing that’s worse? People who can’t use the right “your”. Or capitalize. Oh, and people who spam comments to build links back to their stupid SEO spam WordPress blogs.

  • Florida SEO

    Lisa …

    Nice Post … A little aggressive a must say ;-) … as far as …

    You want to rank? You want to be successful? You need to put in the work. You get a trophy when you succeed, not for simply showing up.

    Nice … and very true … SEO isn’t rocket science … it’s WORK … Wow … who’d a thunk it … A lot of people ask me why I don’t guarantee rankings … and it’s simple … anyone that guarantees a ranking is offering a false promise … I guarantee that I’ll do the work … cause that’s what SEO is …. work.

    But, I’m do my share of it … ;-)

    BTW Lisa … You’re Now Aggregated on
    SEO Master List

    Have a nice day …


    Florida SEO – Edward Beckett

  • Tim Staines

    Totally agree, especially with the concept of “selective deafness” . . . big brands beat the little guy down when they think no one is going to find out about it, and then don’t even show up to the fight when the little guy wants to make a public record of it. What else can the little guy do, except vent his frustration publicly so that he might provide some sort of record that documents the selective deafness? And why doesn’t the big brand engage and fix the issue? The answer is that the big brand cares about profit, and profit alone, no matter how much PR they use to promote themselves as a “customer focused” organization.

  • Anthony Verre

    Agreed. Big Brands can go take a flying leap and actually work. And @cnc I’m pretty Lisa isn’t exactly an SEO, but rather a SMO or SMM. Moreover, she’s one of the hardest working people in the industry.

    I hate to link drop, but since it’s going to be nofollowed, I’m going to do it. I’m definitely not coasting on fame @cnc and I definitely work my butt off for everything. So, your on the topic sucks, frankly.