The Great SEO Chat Debate

As many of you in the SEO industry may know by now, one of the most popular SEO forums in the country recently made the controversial move of preventing search engine spiders from following signature links. On Friday, November 18, 2005, Developer Shed Inc. released a new version of their SEO Chat forums. While no announcement was made, it was quickly discovered that they had inserted code in their pages to block spiders from following poster’s links.
To the average Joe, this might not be a big deal, and in fact would have probably gone unnoticed. But to a professional search engine marketer, hyperlinks are a staple crop. So much so that when this change was discovered, many long-time contributors voiced their disagreement most vehemently. What followed was, in my opinion, nothing short of ludicrous.
Thread after thread was posted expressing discontent with the new policy. As fast as they were opened, the moderators closed them in an effort to quell the growing riot. When closing them didn’t prevent the users from starting new threads to voice their concerns, the threads mysteriously disappeared. Within minutes, many long-time members of the forum were banned with no explanations given. It was the online equivalent of fire hoses and police dogs. In the span of an hour, virtually all traces of unrest had disappeared.
I was one of those protestors. I have been a member of SEO Chat since March of 2003, and over the years I have enjoyed many helpful tips that have contributed to my success. But as of today I am renouncing my membership and moving to Digital Point Forums (, an up-and-coming SEO forum started by another SEO Chat expatriate. Other long time SEO Chat members have assured me that they will follow.
Was it folly on the part of Developer Shed to alienate their user base in such an onerous and underhanded manner? The matter has been swept under the rug so neatly that newer users might never even notice. But in the long run, I believe that it was the strong guiding hand of many talented individuals that made SEO Chat such an interesting destination. That valuable resource is now gone, scorched from the earth like so much old-growth forest.
I use this article as an outlet, both to voice my frustration and to warn other SEOs of what happened today at SEO Chat. I have left, as have most of the most respected contributors on that forum. We left because it is we the users, the contributors, the SEO professionals of many years experience who are the real value to any online community, not the URL we post to. When the owners of such a community take clandestine measures to silence us, it is clear that we don’t belong. There is no secret police force on the web to stop us from leaving, and for that I am thankful.
SEO Chat may thrive well into the future, or it may whither and die on the vine. I, for one, do not care. As long as I have done my best let my fellow SEO professionals know what happened on SEO Chat today, I am satisfied. I wish you all the best of luck in your endeavors.