When 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.
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:
@rustybrick Those who tout ethics all over their website and marketing are often the ones people need to worry about.— Jill Whalen (@jillwhalen) February 2, 2012
@rustybrick Bruce Clay is why Google updated privacy policies, he has an EXCLUSIVE agreement to sell your information-stalker paid inclusion— Phil Britton (@localsearchguy) February 2, 2012
@rustybrick "You keep saying Local Paid Inclusion but I don't think you know what it means!" ;-)— Matt Keough (@MattKeough) February 2, 2012
@rustybrick When NJ SEO's heard about Clay's play they cried "Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce!" confusing Springsteen fans everywhere.— Frank Reed (@frankreed) February 2, 2012
@rustybrick There used to be a TVC in Australia. The theme song: "one day, one day, one day you're gunna get caught with your pants down"— Chris Dimmock (@Cogentis) February 2, 2012
Search fraud LOL RT @rustybrick I might do a post on the BruceClay thing --- Give me a one liner tweet you want me to include in the post.— Ezhil Raja (@ezhil) February 2, 2012
Personally, this whole situation makes me very sad for Bruce and the industry.
Forum discussion - well, everywhere in the SEO community.