Jason Calacanis – SEO Has No Future


“I’ll be back.” – Terminator

I heard Jason Calacanis speak at SES New York in 2008 and I honestly didn’t know who he was, so I listened to his presentation without bias or preconceived notions. By the end of his speech I had seen several people get up and leave and the crowd was full of rumblings. I was perplexed as to why he was speaking at a conference for people who were interested in SEO, when he was obviously not a big fan. It did become clear when he started pushing Mahalo.

Jason did his best to explain that he thought SEO was fine when done correctly, but he certainly was more vocal about what he didn’t like about the SEO community. Most of his presentation was about Mahalo, which I had also never heard of at the time. While listening to him talk about Mahalo it sounded like he was using a lot of SEO tactics to get Mahalo ranked. Of course he has the budget to do all the “right” things that will acquire links through passive methods (load and loads of content, although not sure of the quality) whereas the little guy needs to be more aggressive with his link building efforts. So I felt a lot of his speech came from a very high tower made of ivory.

Mr. Calacanis has since become well-known to me and many other SEO companies and his constant declarations that SEO will not be long for this world are also famous. He said,

“SEO is a wasted industry. You’re wasting your time fighting off ranking problems instead of creating great content. You’re just spinning your wheels hoping the Google gods won’t kick you out. It’s a bad way to live your life. Using a human service is a better way to go about it.” From BruceClay.com

SEO will certainly change as it has over the last few years, but I believe it will be around as long as there are search engines. I think Jason Calacanis is a very good marketer, and he says things he knows will help his company’s profile. What better community to get riled up than the SEO community? The best online marketers in the world are constantly talking about you – brilliant! Look, we even did a comic about him. I will give Jason credit for his honest answers though. He didn’t shy away from any questions and gave answers he knew would be unpopular with the crowd. So while I don’t believe in his “SEO is B.S.” mantra, I can respect the way he doesn’t pull punches.

Here’s to a long and healthy life for Jason Calacanis and SEO. To tell you the truth, it’s Yahoo I’m really worried about.

24 Responses to “Jason Calacanis – SEO Has No Future”

  1. Kyle Wegner says:

    As SEO evolves, I think Jason’s comments will become more and more true…in a sense. Once a semantic web is created, SEO in its current incantation will essentially be “dead.” No more keyword sniping, no more link farms, no more paid links, etc. What he is wrong about, though, is that people will never, ever stop trying to game search engines.

    Search engines will drive traffic to websites for the foreseeable future, and because of this, people will need to rank in the search engines. Yes, SEO will be different, and the current version will be dead, but increasing your search engine rankings will never stop being a priority and the world will always need experts that understand how to do just that.

    On a completely different topic, my biased opinion about Jason is that he is just saying these things to drum up business for Mahalo. I don’t even know if he believes what he is saying, but I guess saying controversial statements to people in the internet world will increase the attention to your internet business. My guess is that in Jason’s mind, there is no such thing as bad press.

  2. Shell Harris says:

    Kyle, Thank you for writing a comment that is both well-written and thoughtful. I agree with all of your points, especially that Jason doesn’t believe in bad press. I will go even further and say he desires it and yes it is all a marketing machine for Mahalo, in my opinion. I don’t see a lot of value in Mahalo but more power to those that do.

  3. Katie says:

    This is like the guy who said: “The web page is dead.” Don’t remember his name, but he created a website of feelings. It pulled every time someone mentioned a specific feeling online, and I guess the feelings just floated around his site. Granted, a lot of websites are getting more interactive, so a truly static page is becoming harder to stick to b/c of the desire to add function to the page, but unless all people everywhere in the world rely only on word of mouth, and abandon search engines, then truly organic SEO will still happen, whether you intentionally do it or not. And while people still don’t know what a browser is vs a search engine (always kills me), I don’t think that search engines are going away any time soon.

  4. Evan W. says:

    Lol thats a funny cartoon. SEO is dead! Ya right.

  5. TheMadHat says:

    2001 SEO is dead.
    2003 SEO is dead.
    2005 SEO is dead.
    2008 SEO is still kicking ass.
    2010 SEO is still kicking ass while 2008 just SEO died.
    2015 SEO is still kicking ass while 2010 jsut SEO died.

  6. John Sjölander says:

    Ok, so I think you’ve missed a point. Or two.

    First, comparatively Wikipedia has more qualitative information than Google. Google goes for quantity. Jason and Mahalo pushes for quality over quantity. And if his predictions are correct, quality will eventually beat quantity. I for one hope he’s right. Because there’s often a lot of crap shown on the top when you search for more obscure things on Google. This is something that woudln’t happen with a community driven search engine.

    So. You’re not only a person with bad humor, lack of good taste, but you’re also a person who seriously missed the point. Afraid of someone with a fresh idea? That seems mature and cool. Go web1.0! Whee!

  7. jyoseph says:

    I’d probably agree with Shell. I never really got into Mahalo but do find the buzz around Jason pretty fun to watch. I’ll probably get around to checking out Mahalo but first I have to find out how, in what (specific) way, would it benefit me to use it over another search provider.

    Very funny article and yes you’re right, Jason doesn’t seem to mind if it’s good coverage or bad coverage. Coverage is coverage!

  8. Shell Harris says:

    John, Thanks for your comment, sarcasm noted.

    But I think you may have missed a point or two as well. This is a comic. This is supposed to be funny, not an editorial on Mahalo. I never said there wasn’t a place for Mahalo or Wikipedia. I use Wikipedia and if Mahalo was had information I needed, I’d use it. In fact, having the best of both worlds is sometimes the best way to find what you want. Mahalo and Wikipedia are showing what they feel are the best results and maybe for you those results are the best. For others, maybe not. Maybe other people like to find their own way and use the search engines. And some people, most people, probably use both techniques to come up with their own best results.

    I pray that Google never becomes the one defining source for our information on the Internet and I also pray that we always have choices and there is always competition for our search. In the end, everything is subjective and you may assume that the quality results gathered at Mahalo and Wikipedia are the best for you, but they may not be the best for everyone. Wouldn’t you rather have choices?

    I hope Mahalo does become a force to be reckoned with because I know that will only make Google and other search tools better.

  9. Robert says:

    I can’t believe anyone listens to Calacanis anymore. He’s totally anti SEO and spam and yet that’s exactly what he is doing to promote Mahalo which really is little more than spam. In fact I believe his constant anti SEO statements are little more than linkbait for his Mahalo engine (although it’s not really an engine is it).

    While I agree that quality should always win over quantity it is the definition of quality that is the problem… after all what is one mans treasure is another mans junk and all that. While many forget that Wikipedia is indeed a resource but not a definite collection of facts (it is neither complete nor totally accurate) it is definitely a better model than Mahalo.

    10/10 for the cartoon.

  10. Tim Flint says:

    This is the thing with Calacanis and “Quality”. I looked at how his editors create their listings for specific search terms. The first thing they tell you to do is do a Google search to begin finding information about the topic. Let me repeat that, the first thing they tell their Mahalo editors to do is to do a Google search to find links to include in their page.

    Unless you can be found in the search engines, you will not even have a chance to be in Mahalo. So everything he says about SEO being dead because of his wonderful search engine, has a glaring whole. You would still need to be found in a real search engine.

  11. Robert Barr says:

    I think the basis to Jason’s argument ( that good content wins out) is how you should start your campaigns. Then you can do some minor things to improve. But overall, if the content is there then the traffic will follow.

  12. Gabriella says:

    I got to tell you all this buzz of SEO dying and your cartoon had me laughing pretty hard. I checked out the Mahalo.com site doesn’t that mean thanks? I wonder how long they will be thankful before they change their definition of “quality content” umm sounds like a politician to me. thanks for sharing your thoughts though!

  13. feel reality says:

    He got his break by publishing a rag during the dot com boom called the “Silicon Alley Reporter”. He then hit bottom and came back by creating a blog ring. I read an article about him in Wired a couple of years ago, just after he sold the ring to Time Warner. He came off as very arrogant. If he really believed SEO was dead, he wouldn’t have ever created the trash that is Mahalo. That site is definitely MFA.

  14. Judd Exley says:

    I’ve known about Jason for a long, long time, but your among the first I’ve come across who really nailed him. Nice work on not focusing on how he can be a real arrogant prat, and instead pointing out the subtleties of what he does.

    Quite simply, he gets people talking about him. There’s a difference between me thinking that the buses in Perth could be a bit more prompt and how this upsets people, and me starting a blog about how “the entire system is mired in corruption and doomed to fail”. Both echo similar sentiments, but one is highly inflammatory, the other is more subtle. Jason’s a master at this, in that he never goes so far as to sound irrational (like my latter statemtent about the bus system), and you’ve got him pegged.

    Nice article, and cool comic, found you through the seochat article and I’m so bookmarking this site.

  15. Shell Harris says:

    Judd – Thanks for dropping by and thanks for the thoughtful comments. In a way, Jason is good for the SEO community. He sheds light on it and gets people talking about, for both good and bad. The only real proof is can we help our customers and most of the time we can. I admit he can make getting clients harder, but as long as we prove ourselves a viable lead generator or sales tool, how can the industry ever die?

  16. Joker on Jack says:

    Very funny comic. You’ve bit into the whole Calacanis/SEO situation well, methinks.

  17. Gabriella says:

    I was hoping you would have a new cartoon for the new year… I will check back again.
    PS I still get a kick out of this one though!

  18. Catfish SEO says:

    I have said on many occasions that I still to this day don’t understand why anyone cares what this person has to say. SEO continues to be a growing industry and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This guy could care less about the SEO community or search in general. All he cares about is making more money by bringing attention to his brand through controversial statements and disparaging comments. I never use Mahalo, have never needed to and wouldn’t anyway, because I won’t support anything this person does. I would encourage other SEO professionals to do the same.

  19. Eric Pender says:

    I think over time we are going to see off-site ranking factors become more and more important in the search engines, in the same way that the aggregate link profile has become more important in today’s ranking system. A big part of that is probably going to come from the social web, as platforms such as Facebook and Twitter allow anyone and everyone to become a republisher (unless all of the major platforms continue to use nofollow, or the search engines start to consider these links despite the nofollow tag). SEO is a subcomponent of web marketing and, as Kyle Wegner said, SEO will be around as long as search engines are around. Even if the emphasis trends toward off-site factors, SEOs will just have to adapt to focus on those factors, just as they have with linking.

  20. Valentine Ambrose says:

    I never heard of this guy, but I really don’t like what and how he stated. He’s blaming us for S.E.O. strategies and SE manipulation and on the other hand he tries to draw attention on a product. Shame on you Jason. As “bad” or without future S.E.O. might seem for you, look over here, your name was advertised because of S.E.O. , after all this is a 1st page Google website.

  21. Seo says:

    SEO has future but it is a very competitive field and have to be latest up to date. We can’t hope for online business without SEO of website. But it depends on the company or person how much and what knows about all the SEO techniques that google change every day. . This is the thing. To get online business a website needs dedicated work .

  22. Why people think SEO is only onpage optimizations ??? Look at the whole range of techniques (linkbait, clean linkbuilding and buzz in social media, also known SMO) and this will guide you to the point : Content is SEO.
    Overoptimising, mass directory indexation, page centric solutions are dead, but everithing else is born !