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Beginners Guide To The Rockstar SEO

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seo rockstarI’ve worked in SEO for 13 years.  I had a successful consulting business.  I ran the SEO department for a company owned by eBay.  I led SEO for brands like Calvin Klein, GNC, Levi’s, and Sports Authority.  I’ve been asked to speak at search conferences.  Have you heard of me?  No – I’m not a rockstar.  Well, not any more. **

Despite this I am really proud of what I’ve accomplished.  I have some room to brag, and I have a lot of experience to share.  I have even more to learn.

But so does the SEO rockstar.  This industry caters to the popular (just like scientology), and thanks to the medium we’re in, we all get direct interaction with the spotlight.

That spotlight can make you crazy.  

What Are SEO Rockstars

Our industry is like a music scene.  We have the anti-hero Kurt Cobains, the technical wizards (Jimi Hendrix?), the thoughtful Bob Dylans, and a fair share of Kid Rocks (style, no substance).  There’s also a sea of indie acts who want to be on MTV.  Then, there’s the others who happily sit on the outside, happily playing music in their basement.

I hesitate to call that last group “outsiders” because I think that gives “the other side” too much weight. At the end of the day we’re all sharing.  Unlike the music biz, where I can’t interact with Justin Bieber (no matter how many letters I write that little bastard), I have a shot at really communicating with some experts in this industry.  For every Rand Fishkin or Danny Sullivan who won’t tweet back to you, there are hundreds of equally – if not more – qualified SEOs who will.  Again, it’s the beauty of the medium we’re in.  Go ask Justin Briggs, Jonathan Coleman, Ian Howells, Eppie Vojt, Nick EubanksDan Shure, AJ Kohn, Dr Pete Meyers (the list goes on); these guys are happy to help you.

I can’t think of any industry where the genesis was the blogosphere.  Our birth was through anonymous forum boards. We had flame wars on Jill Whalen’s or Search Engine Watch forum boards.  We were maniacs.  I got to learn my craft and play on the internet all day.  If you were lucky enough to have a boss who understood the SEO thing, you had a great job.  But from these humble beginnings it’s clear to me why we continue to have flame wars, outings, and complete silliness.  We’re still maniacs.  But, we also get brilliance and inspiration from an even larger, massive community of thousands of different personality types.

If you were expecting to learn how to be an SEO rockstar from this post, I can’t help you. I have no idea.  But I can tell you that at the end of the day, if being good at what you do and supporting your family is your main concern, use the gift of the whole SEO community and establish yourself in your own networks.  I’m most proud of the fact that each week I get calls from clients and recruiters asking for what time I have available.  

That’s the kind of security every SEO can have.  In that, we’re all in this together.

** And to prove that years ago I was a rock star, c’mon… look at this picture!
Rock Star 

Update:  There was a good comment from Ross Hudgens that I thought I should add here: 

Ross Hudgens FROM ROSS HUDGENS | POSTED ON MAY 23, 2012

Rand or Danny frequently won’t tweet back (which can be interpreted as them being dicks) because when you get that big and have that many responsibilities, they would get absolutely nothing done if they did that all day. I know for one that Rand is one of the helpful if not the most helpful SEOs in the industry, and to give him a “rockstar” monkier as if that makes him smug would be a huge, not justified descriptor. There definitely are people who probably are dicks who won’t respond purely because they ARE thinking they’re too cool, but the reality is that it’s frequently the randomness of trying to contact someone who simply doesn’t have the time to address every single @ mention.

Bill Sebald FROM BILL SEBALD | POSTED ON MAY 24, 2012

One of my (small) points in this article was to not care if you get a tweet back from Danny or Rand, because (big point) there’s others – like you, Ross – who are equally skilled and might just have more bandwidth to help more people individually. We should be thankful to this industry for being one that shares and collaborates, and not think so much about labels.

There probably are people who get butt hurt when someone won’t respond to them, but that’s another issue that I don’t have an opinion on. If anyone read into this and thought I was trying to make anyone look smug, they misinterpreted my intent (not that I thought you were accusing me of that); I think you make a good point, and I’ll add this chat to my post.


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    Comments

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    1. Matt
      May 23, 2012

      Is that really you? You look like Jerry Cantrell.

      Reply


    2. Matt
      May 23, 2012

      Is that really you? You look like Jerry Cantrell.

      Reply


    3. Gaz Copeland
      May 23, 2012

      Great post man. I really enjoy being part of the SEO community and have learnt from and interacted with many of the guys you mention above.

      The future of SEO isn’t rockstars though, that’s been done to death! SEO Boy Bands is the future :)

      Reply


    4. Gaz Copeland
      May 23, 2012

      Great post man. I really enjoy being part of the SEO community and have learnt from and interacted with many of the guys you mention above.

      The future of SEO isn’t rockstars though, that’s been done to death! SEO Boy Bands is the future :)

      Reply


    5. Jason Nelson
      May 24, 2012

      Good post Bill. I have found Rand to be much more responsive than some other “rockstar” SEOs. I recently did a post on how to lose your status as a rockstar – http://www.ascentinternet.com/blog/content/top-5-ways-to-lose-your-status-as-a-superstar-blogger/

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 24, 2012

        Met him once years ago doing some SEO stuff, seems like a good guy. In the end I definitely appreciate those who create platforms for SEOs to get together and share real content and actionable tips.

        Reply


    6. Jason Nelson
      May 24, 2012

      Good post Bill. I have found Rand to be much more responsive than some other “rockstar” SEOs. I recently did a post on how to lose your status as a rockstar – http://www.ascentinternet.com/blog/content/top-5-ways-to-lose-your-status-as-a-superstar-blogger/

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 24, 2012

        Met him once years ago doing some SEO stuff, seems like a good guy. In the end I definitely appreciate those who create platforms for SEOs to get together and share real content and actionable tips.

        Reply


    7. Brandon Katz
      May 24, 2012

      I’m not so sure some of the readers are getting that you’re being tongue in cheek.

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 24, 2012

        I think most got the main point, all I could hope for.

        Reply


    8. Brandon Katz
      May 24, 2012

      I’m not so sure some of the readers are getting that you’re being tongue in cheek.

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 24, 2012

        I think most got the main point, all I could hope for.

        Reply


    9. Rand Fishkin
      May 28, 2012

      Hey Bill – sorry it took me a while to get to this post! I totally agree with you that there are tons of amazing, responsive, helpful, genuinely awesome people in our industry. It’s one of my favorite parts of being in this professional sphere.

      Re: not replying to tweets. I’m really sorry if I missed yours. I keep track moderately well of tweets that have direct questions and I try to answer all the ones I see. I know my “on Twitter” time has been compromised somewhat of late, but I’ll re-double efforts. I really do want to answer everyone, and I try damned hard. Will keep working to get better – thanks for the push.

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 29, 2012

        Not to cause any confusion – you never ignored a tweet to me b/c I never tweeted to you. I must have given the wrong impression in this post, since some others read it that way as well.

        I ran SEO for a top digital agency, its parent company (the largest commercial ecomm platform), and had a stable of SEO clients. My inbox was at least 400 emails a day, so I totally get the volume that you guys probably get in terms of not just tweets, but everything. It’s impossible to respond to everyone and have a life outside of work, so in your defense, people should understand that if they’re actually upset by not getting a response from a high profile SEO.

        The real point I wanted to make in this post was a response to the classes I’m starting to see again in SEO. I see popularity at play, and want to remind everyone of the other super-experienced SEOs that do publish, but just don’t have the spotlight.

        YouMoz, and your events (like the one here in Philly) give voice to a lot of really great, otherwise lesser-known experts. I love that.

        Reply


        • Rand Fishkin
          May 29, 2012

          Thanks Bill! I agree – really want to help give visibility to the many great minds that inhabit the marketing world.

          Reply


    10. Rand Fishkin
      May 28, 2012

      Hey Bill – sorry it took me a while to get to this post! I totally agree with you that there are tons of amazing, responsive, helpful, genuinely awesome people in our industry. It’s one of my favorite parts of being in this professional sphere.

      Re: not replying to tweets. I’m really sorry if I missed yours. I keep track moderately well of tweets that have direct questions and I try to answer all the ones I see. I know my “on Twitter” time has been compromised somewhat of late, but I’ll re-double efforts. I really do want to answer everyone, and I try damned hard. Will keep working to get better – thanks for the push.

      Reply


      • @billsebald
        May 29, 2012

        Not to cause any confusion – you never ignored a tweet to me b/c I never tweeted to you. I must have given the wrong impression in this post, since some others read it that way as well.

        I ran SEO for a top digital agency, its parent company (the largest commercial ecomm platform), and had a stable of SEO clients. My inbox was at least 400 emails a day, so I totally get the volume that you guys probably get in terms of not just tweets, but everything. It’s impossible to respond to everyone and have a life outside of work, so in your defense, people should understand that if they’re actually upset by not getting a response from a high profile SEO.

        The real point I wanted to make in this post was a response to the classes I’m starting to see again in SEO. I see popularity at play, and want to remind everyone of the other super-experienced SEOs that do publish, but just don’t have the spotlight.

        YouMoz, and your events (like the one here in Philly) give voice to a lot of really great, otherwise lesser-known experts. I love that.

        Reply


        • Rand Fishkin
          May 29, 2012

          Thanks Bill! I agree – really want to help give visibility to the many great minds that inhabit the marketing world.

          Reply


    11. rock star pictures
      May 29, 2012

      Wonderful comparison of SEO with music.

      Reply


    12. rock star pictures
      May 29, 2012

      Wonderful comparison of SEO with music.

      Reply


    13. Stuart McHenry
      May 29, 2012

      I agree there are some very helpful people in our industry. The ones that take the time out to interact and whatnot are the true rockstars.

      Reply


    14. Stuart McHenry
      May 29, 2012

      I agree there are some very helpful people in our industry. The ones that take the time out to interact and whatnot are the true rockstars.

      Reply