SEO Tabloid OK Magazine

This article is not intended as a criticism of the SEO industry, rather a somewhat humorous observation of the celebrity culture within it. We’ve collectively taken a job title and created countless of, both online and offline, communities surrounding it. I can’t speak for other non-SEO industries, but they can’t all be secretly like this, can they? So obsessively passionate about their field of work, it’s gone beyond even being a hobby and they’ve even developed their own industry celebrities!

We have come to idolise those likable SEO personalities, both for their knowledge and their overall online attitude and personality, putting some people high up on glittering pedestals whilst becoming stuck in a love/hate relationship with others (*aherm* Matt Cutts….). Every other article I read contains namedrops of at least one authority on the subject that you should be aware of. If you don’t, then who are you? What are you doing here? You don’t belong here!

Let’s talk about Matt Cutts. He’s the man we love to hate. We adore him for his quirks and he has us all charmed into listening to every syllable that passes his lips, but then we are so quick to lash out at him whenever there’s a headline-hitting scandal we can blame him for. Because he’s an easy target. We know it, and we love it. We’ve dehumanised him in a way, labeling him as the sheriff of the internet. He’s the poster boy of Google. He’s the public face we curse when our traffic suffers due to an updated algorithm. We share Matt Cutts’ Tweets and furiously analyse the deeper meaning so we can make him look like the bad guy. But then we feel like a One Direction fangirl when he actually replies to our own Tweet, telling everyone about it, structuring an entire blog post around it just so you can embed the Tweet for all to see. Maybe you even take a screenshot in case he decides to delete the Tweet, and then print it off so you can keep a hard copy…

Not to mention the young Charles Floate, God of Whatever-He Decidedly-Wants, who some perceive as an adorable puppy that yaps a little too loud at times, but he’s only young so whatever. What a clever puppy. He has almost become like the Miley Cyrus of the SEO world. I’ll read every blog post he releases, I’ll even read his comments, but I know for a fact that, before I’ve even started reading, I’m going to get a little annoyed. Not based on his knowledge on the subject, but just… I don’t know what it is. And Rand Fishkin’s moustache is a bit like Britney Spears’ belly. One day we love it, the next it’s too big, then the next it’s too small, before we come around full circle and we love it again. This isn’t the stuff that matters. But it’s entertaining all the same. As long as these types of “celebrity news” entertain us, they’re going to stick around and we’ll keep seeing blog comments expressing our preferences of facial hair rather than valuable, insightful comments.

And with the ever-increasing popularity of clickbait headlines, that we commonly associate with Buzzfeed, every online article about recent developments in the community comes across more and more like tabloid journalism. Junk news that’s been curated for the sake of something to publish on our blogs. Cheap to produce and easy to consume. And at times, I feel I’ve fallen victim to writing these sorts of articles myself.

Articles turn into the sort of “He Said / She Said” journalism we expect from Hello and OK magazine. I personally tend to stay away from gossip magazines about which celebrity is dating who but, like a guilty pleasure that we in public may scoff at the thought of, we’ve recreated our own tabloid celebrity news and twisted SEO experts and personalities in a similar way. Instead of “OMG! Guess who got photographed without makeup on this morning”, it’s “OMG! Guess who got penalised this morning!”.

There are those whom we idolise, and those whom we would personally like nothing better than to see their rankings drop just to see the smile disappear from their Gravatar’s face. I thankfully haven’t received a penalty from Google in about four years, and I would like to think that I haven’t given Google a reason to penalise me since, so I know from personal experience that the effects of a Google penalty can be emotionally crippling. So why would I wish that on anybody else? Schadenfreude. It sucks, but that’s brutal honesty for you :/

We’re all so friendly and diplomatic trying to promote ourselves to various audiences, but then someone breaks down and the whole thing gets documented and goes viral within days. Big names sell articles. So you better get cracking on increasing your Google+ follower count, because it’s all about how many friends you can make in the industry. If you can make a name for yourself, that’s your gateway in. It’s all about who you know, where you’re published, and how you’re marketing yourself. You are your biggest portfolio. It’s especially important now with Google Authorship. If you’ve published articles on major SEO blogs, you’ll quickly get seen as an authority. Then you too can be loved and loathed, not just on the basis of your expertise but also on how likable you are as a person.

But in all honesty, this has become part of the reason why I love the SEO community. It keeps things interesting and brings the community closer together with each irrational attachment that we hold toward each SEO rock star. An attachment that goes beyond just their knowledge and prowess in the industry.

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Ria

Search Engine Marketing at Silkstream
SEO & Internet Marketing addict, and aspiring crazy cat lady.
  • Ed

    Fair comment Ria, #livinginabubble

  • Michael Korolishin

    “Junk news that’s been curated for the sake of something to publish on our blogs. Cheap to produce and easy to consume.”\n\nActually starting to see this on MAJOR SEO/IM blogs now too – not just the ones that curate news.\n\nI mean, how the **** do you even write about SEO for 5+ years? There simply isn’t that much to talk about if you’re not willing to start delving into the ‘dark side’ or run black hat case studies. \n\nGuess that’s what happens when you making a living ‘teaching’ and not doing, though.

    • Ria

      I agree that there ISN’T that much to talk about, without having to constantly recycle existing knowledge in fresh or unique ways. And that might be through new case studies (even, as you said, exploring black hat strategies), or discussing old news in a currently relevant situation, which does extend to public figures within the industry.

      As I said, it’s not a negative criticism, it’s just an observation. I don’t feel as if, unless the article is of extremely poor quality, it is something that we should feel guilty about.

  • I love this. It really sums up how SEO is developing over time, and it reminds me how lucky we are to work in such a dynamic and fun environment.

    • Ria

      The real question here is…. IS Matt getting fat? ;)

  • Tom

    I guess you get this level of bitchiness or whatever in any culture/sub-culture, but at least there’s never a dull moment. It’d be nice if there were a few more heroes/villains added to the mix though – the Matt Cutts hate is just too much.

    • Ria

      You are totally spot on, Tom.
      What I wouldn’t give for an SEO-themed comic book… In the style of Batman or something.

      Also can I ask how you came across this blog? I just find it odd, since I was reading a few posts on Internet Folks only yesterday.