“There are two kinds of people in the world,” goes the old cliché spouted by gruff men in old movies, “them and us.” Of course, the world is not neatly divided into two types of people right down some imaginary line, nor is the world of SEO. However, I will say that there are two broad categories of SEO people in business and it’s worth noting, for clients or people who are naively looking into increasing website traffic.
The two types of SEO people are “accidental SEO’s” or those who kind of fell into it, and “SEO Opportunists” or those who chose SEO as a business model. Why should this matter to clients? We, the former, are far more likely to care about your website and your business and to think holistically about what we are doing. “They,” the latter group, are much more likely to focus on slick tactics and their own business operations over anything else. They are more likely to use quick hit tactics that can hurt you in the long run, long after they have flown in the night. And by the way, they are more likely to contact you out of the blue.
What does it mean to be an accidental SEO?
Accidental SEO’s are people who learned SEO first before realizing that it was a skill in demand. I stand as an example of this. There are at least two other great examples in the business who also share a similar back story, Rae Hoffman and Rand Fishkin. I’m sure there are many other examples.
I worked with Rae several years back and her backstory is well known in the industry: she had a son with a rare disease and she wanted to create a website for herself and others dealing with this disease. In order to get traffic to her site she went out and learned SEO.
Rand started in usability and slowly built a business blog advising companies about how to get found by search engines, a blog that itself was getting found by search engines. Eventually he built this into seomoz.org.
Rand and other accidental SEO’s will tell you that the best way to learn SEO is to start a blog and learn how to optimize it. Of course, if you are in business, you are unlikely to have the time to do that. But that really is the right way to learn, notby seeing all the money and continuing hype and growth of the SEO industry and seeing dollar signs only.
Here’s my own unique variation on the accidental SEO story. I was a writer first, having finagled my way into a web publishing company in 2003. There, I learned a ton about SEO, as we sought to get publications optimally visible in search results. We developed content-rich sites and built backlinks and gained lots of traction with Google et al. SEO isn’t rocket science as they say. In looking for work at a later date, I casually pitched some old friends with web design companies, asking if they ever get asked about SEO. Eventually I got so many requests I had to quit the job I had found in the meantime.
I didn’t want to be an SEO for a living and I don’t particularly like being an SEO, in large part because I hate being lumped in with “them.” Don’t get me wrong. SEO has been an interesting ride and will be for the foreseeable future. But there are some factors I share with other accidental SEO’s and things you should look for if you care about who you work with.
Accidental SEOs are:
Likely to be leery of the SEO industry in general: by that, I mean the kind of skepticism that I’m exhibiting in this post, in fact.
Likely to consider SEO as a far too reductionist way of thinkingabout your website: Accidental SEO’s probably view SEO as an important base for the broad strategy of creating a useful website or destination. While they can advise about site structure, links, content marketing and other aspects, their first concern will likely always come back to helping you create a great website first.
More likely to focus on and your long term business goals.SEO’s who start their pitch by talking about link packages should have gone the way of the dodo by now but they have not. Accidental SEO’s are more likely to be concerned with return on investment and your long term business goals. Why? Because we’ve been there with you or (worst of all) have had to help save businesses, cleaning up messes made by “them.” We can vouch for the horrible expense, pain and trauma of having a website that has been whacked by Google. We don’t want to do that to you. “They” are much less likely to give a crap because they are spamming noobs on a daily basis.
So, for clients looking at Internet marketing help or SEO, it can be a good idea to casually ask SEO consultants and companies “How did you get started in this?” While we are supposed to say “because I love search engine optimization” or some BS like that, you can feel a lot of assurance if your SEO begins with something like “Well, actually, I started out as a….”