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Calling All Wannabe SEO Rockstars! Leave It To The Pros

James Perrin

by James Perrin on 9th August 2012

RockstarDuring my relatively short time working in SEO (or Digital Marketing to be precise) I’ve become slightly perplexed with wannabe ‘SEO rockstars’. What’s the point in them? And why are some SEOers hell-bent on becoming the next big thing? Here’s what I’ve discovered.


(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?

Despite what you’re currently thinking, this is not a whinge or a moan. I’m not annoyed that I haven’t been invited to the SEO party with all the popular SEO kids. I wouldn’t know half of what I now know had it not been for the real ‘SEO rockstars’ I first followed (and still follow) when I started out as an SEO Content Marketer. Rather, I’m simply trying to make sense of what has become a fascination within the industry – a fascination that has now turned into an obsession for some to become well-known and obtain that notoriety within the industry.

So You Want To Be A Rock & Roll Star

In effect, an SEO rockstar is a well-known figure within the industry; someone that holds an authoritative voice, and has a number of followers on social media to back it up. They talk at conferences, webinars, and are generally the go-to guys and girls for industry insights and tips. Without them, many within the SEO industry would not know half the stuff they know today.

However, those who I regard as SEO rockstars, Danny Sullivan, Rand Fishkin, Barry Schwartz to name a few, are not necessarily the same names that other people regard as the main voices within the industry. Yet, for me, this isn’t the issue. Rather, it’s the way in which people within the industry believe they can become overnight success stories without putting in the hard graft to become good at their jobs and become real SEO rockstars.

You’re so Vain

In an industry where opinion and insights are incredibly important, it’s actually networking and influence that will get you noticed. Okay, so this is nothing new. After all, we all know that even if you’re the most prolific writer on a specific subject, just because you have a blog, it won’t get you noticed. That’s where we as Digital Marketers help people and their website’s achieve that all important exposure. So are wannabe SEO rockstars just victims of their own knowledge? They know how the system works, so they want to use it to their advantage. Whilst there’s nothing wrong with building up your profile within the industry, you need to do it for the right reasons – not for the notoriety.

Smells Like Teen Spirit

Not everyone can be an expert. When I see blog posts telling you how to become an SEO rockstar, making out it’s as simple as rocking up to a few conferences and tweeting, it makes me feel as though the title of being an SEO rockstar has been cheapened. Whilst having young, smart, passionate and innovative Digital Marketers is fundamental to the industry’s growth and evolution, if they’re good at what they do, I’ll be more than happy to read and hear their views. If however they profess to be a rockstar, I’ll switch-off.

(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party)

There’s a fantastic post by James Carson, taking a humorous swipe at the ways in which you can become an SEO Rockstar. The reality is that you can actually find serious posts like this. It’s fairly easy to come across these types of blogs, all you have to do is search for SEO rockstar and they’ll be some ‘expert’ telling you how it’s done. However, doesn’t it all seem a little fake and pretentious that someone we’ve not heard of is telling us how to gain such status? Surely you should achieve this position by merit? Those whose opinions I take seriously are those that have been in the industry for years, not those that have turned up late for the party – like me :-)

Money For Nothing

This may be indicative of the industry as a whole. There are those out there that are more obsessed with being influential, without actually having anything influential to say. In many ways, this is like an SEO agency or consultant that is more obsessed with just making money by offering a poor service, or worse, a scam. We’ve all heard of such scams, those that besmirch the good guys in SEO. We even uncovered one such SEO scam ourselves here at Koozai last year. But whilst this particular example is a little off-topic, it does highlight that within the wider SEO world there are those who do not seem to be in it for the right reasons.

Fools Gold

Getting back-on-track, I’m not implying for one second that an unheard of SEO know-it-all has the same bad intentions as an unscrupulous ‘agency’ trying to sell ‘SEO’ to any sort of business. However, it does make me think that in an industry where being the most Tweeted, mentioned and liked is more important that what’s actually being said, we should all be pretty vigilant of who is saying what – not only ourselves, but our clients too. Everyone knows someone who knows a bit about SEO, in fact this is something Andy Williams has covered before [See: Why That Mystery Mate Can’t Do SEO].

Come Together

There are so many people within the SEO industry that are from a variety of different backgrounds. Some are fantastic at technical aspects, whilst others are brilliant link builders. Then there are those who are awesome writers and those that think of innovative content marketing strategies. In this sense, I guess it’s clear why influential people are needed in an industry that is one big melting-pot of various Digital Marketing skills. Rishi Lakhani makes a really good case in his blog post We Can’t All Be SEO Rockstars, effectively concluding that we just need to concentrate on what we’re good at.

Come Back To What You Know

Ultimately, there are some really influential people within the industry who can tell you all you need to know, whether it’s SEO, PPC, Content Marketing, Social Media, or Branding. These are the guys and girls that create good stuff; so good that it gets shared amongst the industry by merit. And that’s the point. Those that strive to be an SEO rockstar are not in the industry for the right reasons. Stick to what you’re good at, share it with the community and then people will notice you.

Let me know what you think. Are you fed up of hearing about the latest and greatest industry expert? Or am I completely off the mark? Additionally, for a bit of fun, can anyone tell me all of the artists’ songs that are featured in the post? (You’re not allowed to Google them either!)

Image Source

Rockstar Guitar Player via BigStock

James Perrin

James Perrin

Content Marketing Manager, James Perrin is a regular contributor to the Koozai blog. Well experienced in sales and marketing, James also has a passion for journalism and media, especially new media. From the latest industry related new stories to copywriting advice, James will provide you with plenty of digital marketing information.

26 Comments

  • Mike Essex

    Mike Essex 9th August 2012

    Cracking post James, and I think a view that is shared by many in the community. Becoming a rockstar should ultimately be the light at the peak of someone’s career, not a quick win that will happen overnight.

    When you have amazing results, clients that love you, and have earned your place in the community, that’s the time to think about becoming an SEO rockstar.

    However that’s not to say you can’t take steps to build up to that. For the SEO rockstar equivalent of band practice you can write blog posts, film videos, help people out on social media, talk at smaller conferences and develop yourself until you get to the right level.

    Or you could be like our very own @Koozai_John and do SEO content marketing in your day job and be a rockstar by night. That still counts.

    Reply to this comment

  • David Sottimano 9th August 2012

    Just a correction, Rishil is his twitter handle, his name is Rishi Lakhani

    Reply to this comment

  • Barry Adams 9th August 2012

    I think you’re missing a bigger issue here, James, and that is that being well-known and influential in the SEO industry and being very good at SEO are two entirely different things. In fact, I’d dare say they are entirely unrelated (though there is probably a healthy measure of overlap).

    Being a well-known public speaker about SEO is a hallmark of being a good public speaker first and foremost. It doesn’t mean the quality of your SEO work is superior.

    Being a superb and famous journalist about search & SEO doesn’t mean you’re a great SEO practicioner. In fact, I’d say that the time & effort that goes in to good reporting on search precludes the person being good at actually delivering good SEO services.

    That’s part of the problem in this industry: fame and quality are confused. But, like in nearly any other industry, being famous doesn’t mean you’re actually good at something. (Justin Bieber is a living example of this.)

    I think the very best SEO practitioners out there are people we’ve never heard of. Because they spend all their energies at being awesome SEOs instead on trying to make people believe they are awesome.

    (Having said that, I don’t think fame and skill are mutually exclusive either. You need a certain level of proficiency and understanding of the craft to be a good speaker & blogger about it. But you see too many blogs nowadays that are all about style & hype and lack substance, which I think is a symptom of a SEO practitioner that wants to be famous first, and good at SEO second. And that is not a good career path, imho.)

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 9th August 2012

      Thanks Barry. You’re spot on, that is the bigger issue. I think that’s where I’m slightly perplexed at why someone would rather want the notoriety and fame of being brilliant before they can actually prove their brilliance.

      It’s the posts that I see telling you how to become an SEO rockstar? What’s that all about? Shouldn’t it be, how to become really good at SEO, share your thoughts with the community, build up a natural following and grow influence this way. But as you say, that’s the problem with the industry I guess.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply to this comment

    • Aidan Beanland 10th August 2012

      I couldn’t agree more Barry.

      Some of the best in-house SEOs never get the opportunity to be recognised for what they do, whereas agency SEOs or consultants have way more to gain from self-promotion.

      Personally I’ve never gone looking for public recognition (just not that kind of guy) but having been in the industry for 15 years I’m proud of the modest acceptance I’ve earned – and earned through getting genuine results, mentoring, being invited to present at conferences and talk about what we do to the media.

      I still get a kick out of introducing people to the power of SEO and watching the ‘lightbulb moment’ happen when they ‘get it’ and start generating qualified traffic. For me that’s worth way more than another 500 twitter followers, but hey, each to their own.

      Reply to this comment

  • Iain 9th August 2012

    Surely it’s up to the community to decide who is and is not a ‘rockstar’? I’d have imagined it’s a title received by popular assent, rather than personal declaration. That being the case, those who are trying to be ‘rockstars’ without the foundation of a solid career to stand on will find their efforts going unrewarded.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 9th August 2012

      Thanks Iain. Self proclaimed SEO rockstars do exist. I agree though, it should be a title that is received through merit, because what you have said or shared is worthwhile, meaningful or influential. As you say, it’s flawed logic thinking that you can become well-known without putting in the foundation work.

      Reply to this comment

  • Tom Andrews 9th August 2012

    Rock stars become stars largely to do with quality of their music, the same should also apply to SEO, although personality + networking also a factor…

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 10th August 2012

      Thanks Tom. It should apply, but just like the music industry, it doesn’t always. The Justin Beibers of this world are a prime example of that.

      Reply to this comment

  • Kyle 9th August 2012

    Oasis, Nirvana, Beastie Boys, Neil Young(??), The Beatles, and the rest I’m gonna wing it :) I wanna say You’re So Vain is Linda Carlyle…but I think I’m way off on that one.

    That’s all I got on the bands. Great post, James. I’m in the camp who just loves to network just for the simple fact that I love research and hearing the experts tell it better than I ever will. Awesome point about sticking to what you know best and eventually, all that knowledge you gain from the industry will be there to cultivate your strengths.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 10th August 2012

      Ha, good effort Kyle. You got four names right there (I’ll reveal the full list at a later date). Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Networking and listening to the experts is an amazing part of what we do, I love it too. But it’s a case of separating the wheat from the chaff.

      Reply to this comment

  • Chris M 9th August 2012

    Thank you for the post James.

    I come from South Africa, Cape Town specifically, and down here we have a term called “circle jerk”, which implies a group of people that have grouped together so as to appear as an authoritative source and it’s caused a great deal of tension over the years because of this whole rockstar approach.

    Being a South African often hinders us from being able to become known in the International circles, we are for some reason not easily accepted and we can’t attend all the incredible conferences and such overseas, at least not unless we have lots of cash, our Rand (currency) vs your Pound is quite scary. At least this is my experience.

    That being said, and the point I’m drumming at is that when you say, “Stick to what you’re good at, share it with the community and then people will notice you.”.. you couldn’t be more right!

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 10th August 2012

      Thank you Chris. I think that’s definitely the moral of the story. You build your reputation organically and not artificially through ‘circle jerks’. It many ways, this mirrors what we do in SEO. Those that artificially ‘game the system’ will get caught out anyway.

      Whilst I can only empathise with your situation of not being able to network and attend international conferences, I hear that the Content Strategy Forum 2012 is on its way down to Cape Town in October. I went to this last year in London. It’s awesome and well worth going to. Lots of real industry rock stars!

      Reply to this comment

      • Chris M 10th August 2012

        Cheers for the response James and thank you for letting me know about the Content Strategy Forum 2012, I’ll definitely be going to that!

        Thanks again for the great article :)

  • Keli 10th August 2012

    LOVED the music references in your headers… I’ll never be an *SEO Rockstar* but I sure admire the “Jimmy Plants” of my industry.

    K

    Reply to this comment

    • Keli 10th August 2012

      and the *Robert Pages* too… see? I got so excited with just the thought of “rock stars” that I bumbled it up :P

      I see a Carly Simon there…

      I actually saw Page & Plant 1995. I’m still not over it as you can see :)

      It’s about the “fans” thinking and treating you like a rock star. You earn it.

      K

      Reply to this comment

      • James Perrin

        James Perrin 10th August 2012

        Ha, glad you enjoyed the references. Carly Simon was one of them, although I’m not sure how much of a rockstar she really is :-). Spot on. Any adulation should be as a result of hard work and industry leading thought.

  • Dan Perry 10th August 2012

    Quick comment on the note “and has a number of followers on social media to back it up”. Specifically, Twitter followers can, and have been faked, and it’s been going on for a long time. I posted about it years ago (sorry for the link drop, but…)
    http://www.danperry.com/blog/quality-vs-quantity/
    I watched this “rockstar” use a script and go from a few hundred followers to >10k in less than a week.

    In addition, now you can buy followers on Ebay, among other places. Barracuda Labs produced a solid, data-driven post about it last week: http://www.barracudalabs.com/wordpress/index.php/2012/08/03/the-twitter-underground-economy-a-blooming-business/

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 10th August 2012

      Thanks Dan. This is true and is another part of the problem. Whilst I mentioned ‘having the number of followers on Social Media to back it up’ I was alluding to those who have naturally built up their number of followers.

      Just like with my comment for Chris, in many ways this mirrors what goes on in SEO, people just trying to ‘game the system’. In short, there are those that are organic and ethical and those that want artificial gains.

      Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Reply to this comment

  • Mike Roncone 12th August 2012

    Excellent post, the ridiculous score of people trying to push themselves as the “Average Joe Now Turned Millionaire SEO” is a joke, really.

    In fact, I always find that the best information usually comes from the guy that has no desire to be the next “rockstar”. He/she just wants to share knowledge for the sake of sharing knowledge. (this is excepting the ACTUAL rockstars, of course. Huge fan of Rand Fishkin myself)

    As for the songs, I got as far as Aerosmith before I lost :C hahah.

    Best,
    -Mike

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 13th August 2012

      Hi Mike. That’s the key, and probably the best way to differentiate from those wanting to be an SEO rockstar and those wanting to share good quality SEO knowledge. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

      Oh, not sure if I even put an Aerosmith song in there :-)

      Reply to this comment

  • Shane Parkins 15th August 2012

    Linkedin Post “You must have seen the blog posts telling you how to become one, or someone professing they are an SEO rockstar” First line of the blog post ” During my relatively short time working in SEO”……..

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 15th August 2012

      Hi Shane. I’ve worked as an SEO Copywriter since January 2010, hence my opening line, “During my relatively short time working in SEO”. In that time I have seen blog posts telling me how to become an SEO rockstar as well as people professing to be SEO rockstars. This is what I disagree with and where my argument is aimed.

      I’m not sure how it has anything to do with the length of time I have worked in the industry, which I’m assuming is the crux of your comment. If you would like to clarify, I’d be more than happy to elaborate my point (in case it was not clear enough in the post).

      Reply to this comment

  • Shahrul Ezani 18th August 2012

    I saw Nirvana in there..lol..Awesome post. Yeah, lots of wannabes in this industry buts that will be always the case if an industry is currently “hot”. In years to come, SEO will just be a fad that used to work.

    Reply to this comment

    • James Perrin

      James Perrin 21st August 2012

      Thanks Shahrul, good spot! Whilst I agree with you about the popularity of SEO contributing to the rise of wannabe SEO Rockstars, I do not necessarily think that SEO will become a fad. I always see SEO as evolving. It may not be called SEO in future, but there will always be a need to optimise and market websites and businesses, whether it’s through search engines, social media or social search.

      Reply to this comment

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