Bruce Clay Lets The SEM Industry Down

Feb 2, 2012 • 10:25 am | comments (29) by twitter Google+ | Filed Under Search Engine Industry News

Bruce ClayWhen you say the name Bruce Clay and you are someone who reads this blog, you know who I am talking about. Bruce Clay - that name - makes you think of an individual who provides outstanding SEO services, expensive SEO services, but all white hat, ethical, and someone who has a deep deep understanding of search that goes well beyond most others in the industry. You also look at him as one of the older, wiser and definitely more respected individuals in the industry.

So when the news came out that he and his company is somewhat behind a new "Local Paid Inclusion" program that is backed by Google, Yahoo and Bing - I was stunned, shocked and a bit worried for the industry and Bruce's name.

The program launched under, which now redirects to the official statement from Bruce Clay, Inc. on this topic. It initially read:

Local Paid Inclusion is a Google, Yahoo and Bing contracted service and is offered as an approved official program in cooperation with those search engines. Local Paid Inclusion promotes a local business’ profile page, like those found in Google Places, Yahoo Local and Bing Local, into a top position on the search result page for up to 30 keywords per profile page.

This is a NEW program offered by Google, Yahoo!, Bing and 18 other major directories and indexes that places a business profile into a premium area above all other local profiles. Combine this with all of your other optimization programs to maximize your traffic.

What this means is local businesses that participate can essentially pay for the top local ranking position!

Both Google and Bing denied having any deal with a paid inclusion program with Bruce or his companies or anything like this with any other company.

Bruce Clay apologized but said they were mislead, while the company that mislead them denied any of this completely.

You can read the whole timeline at Search Engine Land. I won't go through it all - I cover the industry and the industry doesn't feel the same way about Bruce as they did.

I am sad to say I feel Bruce's image has been hurt by this and I feel he has let down the industry with this program. In time, everything will heal but right now, this has to hurt.

Some are giving him credit, claiming this is just one big link bait tactic - but even Bruce wouldn't exchange links for a tarnished name.

Update: There is one more story you should read, one from Chris Silver Smith - a widely respected local SEO expert - who wrote about the view from UBL. See it over here - it is pretty detailed.

I asked my Twitter followers to let me know what they think about it and this is what they had to say:

Personally, this whole situation makes me very sad for Bruce and the industry.

Forum discussion - well, everywhere in the SEO community.

Previous story: February 2012 Google Webmaster Report



02/02/2012 04:12 pm

it's kinda like Pete Rose, he's part of baseball. at some point, you forgive the man who has been doing this for at least 15 years. He, like @DannySullivan is one of the pioneers of our industry. #forgive #givehimamulligan 

Michael Beckett

02/02/2012 04:25 pm

You are letting grammer down with that title. The "let's" should be "lets". As for Bruce, it sounds like someone let the cat out of the bag too early and left Bruce with egg on his face.

Barry Schwartz

02/02/2012 04:27 pm

Fixed it.

Barry Adams

02/02/2012 04:31 pm

There's a saying in Dutch: even the stable's finest horse stumbles sometimes. Don't think we'll ever know what exactly was promised to who by whom, with all this finger-pointing going on. I doubt it'll have a big impact on BCI's chances of winning clients though. This is just an industry-insider scandal, the wider world doesn't care.

Kevin Gallagher

02/02/2012 04:37 pm

Everyone is speculating  I believe in innocent until proven Guilty. So lets see what happens when the truth comes out. But I agree with Barry his credibility has been tarnished and no one should take any joy from that. 

Barry Schwartz

02/02/2012 04:38 pm

Yea, it is not about who is wrong, who is right, who was lied to. It is just sad to see this happen to an industry leader who was respected by almost everyone.


02/02/2012 04:41 pm

Meanwhile, man. It's spelled "grammar."

David Brown

02/02/2012 05:59 pm

I feel bad for Bruce, I don't think we'll probably ever know 'exactly' what happened. But when I saw hints on Twitter that there was going to be a paid inclusion... I thought, this is exactly what brought Yahoo! down a few years ago. #badidea. But, I will say people are already doing paid inclusions by paying for reviews in Google Local / Bing. It's dirty and no one wants to acknowledge it, but you all know it's happening.  .02


02/02/2012 06:20 pm

I was discussing this with a colleague and I admit that I was being more harsh than I should have been  - like Gallagher said in an earlier comment "innocent until proven guilty" but my colleague asked me, in an attempt to show me that I was being overly harsh, "Would you be like this if it were Danny Sullivan"?  There is a very easy answer... it wouldn't have been, so the question is moot.

Simon Heseltine

02/02/2012 07:07 pm

Barry, I think your "when the news came out" link is wrong, it should be pointing here - - the article that Danny linked to as the one that broke the story

Barry Schwartz

02/02/2012 07:08 pm

Danny's story has more history and details.

Jill Whalen

02/02/2012 07:31 pm

How soon people forget. This isn't the first (nor second)  time that the Bruce Clay company has potentially crossed the line. He'll be fine. He managed to erase all memory of the past indiscretions and I'm sure this one will be forgotten soon enough as well.

Simon Heseltine

02/02/2012 07:35 pm

Which was why you linked to the SEL article for the full timeline bit.  But, hey, your post, you link to who you want, SEW was where "the news came out" 

Barry Schwartz

02/02/2012 07:38 pm

I liked Danny's article better. It has nothing to do with linking to SEW or not. I link to them at least once a day.


02/02/2012 10:08 pm

Here's a pic of the site in question:

Doc Sheldon

02/02/2012 11:46 pm

Seems to me that everyone is being too quick to toss Bruce under the bus on this mess. He's no angel, I'll grant, but there are a lot of questions remaining that make me think he may have drawn the short straw.  He may have been gullible and allowed himself to be duped, he may have been flat lied to. I'd prefer the to see the liars exposed. UBL already destroyed their credibility, as far as I'm concerned.  I think a little critical thinking is called for, when reading various denials.

Barry Schwartz

02/03/2012 12:07 am

Chris Silver Smith has a very interesting perspective on all of this at Worth a read.

Tom Blue

02/03/2012 12:33 am

#1. I have used Bruce in the past and numerous other seos. I actually found him the most whitehat out of all them. I have met some extremely shady seos and it is frustrating to pay them to find out they suggest blackhat tactics which we refuse to use. Very annoying. I will say bruce's prices are ridiculous tho and he is sort of smug. #2. I doubt this will effect his business much. He is still the #1 consulting firm listed when searching for search engine optimization. Not the #1 ranking but the first consulting firm shown. That alone is why we hired him. We would get emails from other firms stating we can get you a top ten position in google for your top keyword while they weren't in the top 500 for their own keyword. What a joke.


02/03/2012 12:49 am

So many errors here, but I'll take "affect".

Tad Chef

02/03/2012 10:47 am

The statement does make sense. Bruce Clay reacted quickly. Move on. There is nothing to see here. It's sad though that some people are turning against this industry icon so fast.

Matt Kerper

02/03/2012 12:56 pm

His name was crap to me when I took a job where the company had just done some work. It was all crap I had to undo. Stop with this whole "seo industry" crap.

Danny Goodwin

02/03/2012 05:43 pm

Chris Silver Smith's "story" is not an interesting perspective or worth a read. It's total uninformed b.s. that even Chris has now been forced to apologize for. You should remove it from your story.

Barry Schwartz

02/03/2012 05:46 pm

Something is clearly going on behind the scenes that I am not aware of...

Miranda Miller

02/03/2012 05:50 pm

Barry & Danny both, meh, I'd leave it, for whatever that's worth lol.  The comments are worth a read anyway.  Chris gave his perspective on it, everyone has wanted to weigh in and he is close to it as an advisory board member.  Whatever goes on behind the scenes now should be between those parties who need to work it out.  Kind of hoping I never hear anything about it again, personally.  Hey you know what would be even more awesome?  If it never happened.  

Barry Schwartz

02/03/2012 05:53 pm



02/03/2012 06:58 pm

I agree, Jill.  I remember other times Bruce has said stuff that sounds crazy.  Most of the time people just sit back and say nothing.  This time it's a little more aggressive and much different.


02/04/2012 03:46 am

If Bruce Clay weren't Bruce Clay, and UBL weren't unknown UBL, can't help but think that no one would come to Clay's defense, and a lot more people would be really offended by Clay's throwing of UBL under the bus when (seems to me) they likely did little wrong here.  Clay overstepped big time, the amazing thing to me is that so many SEOs are coming to his defense.  How could Clay not know better??


02/04/2012 04:19 am

My hat goes off to you once again Barry for the great coverage. I’m fed up with this attitude of ‘we must forgive because Bruce Clay is such a respected SEO” the simple fact is Bruce Clay either a) lied to businesses to make a quick buck or b) was simply stupid to believe what was sold to him by UBL. How could an ‘industry expert’ believe such obvious lies? A good reputation does not give you immunity from being questioned for poor decisions/trying to rip off hard working businesses…I have a feeling they will play the stupidity card, unfortunately you can’t brush off stupidity as easily as you can with lies.


06/18/2012 04:47 pm

Interesting story. Although Bruce let SEM industry down but I know he really has a big plan of it. Otherwise I admire and enjoy reading your article.

blog comments powered by Disqus