I’ve been thinking about two popular discussions currently taking place in the search engine marketing industry about “Seo Rock Stars”. First was Lee Odden’s, The Fallacy of SEO Celebrity, which was followed up with Rand Fishkin’s take in The Desire for Fame in the SEO World. Both men flung the doors wide open.
I enjoy any discussion that offers up a chance to look at where we are as people, community or industry.
There are far less rock star personalities in the Human Factors and Usability/User Experience fields, but they do exist. In those industry circles, the so-called fame can be directly traced to their achievements, such as case studies, white papers, books, popular educational blogs, videos or podcasts or events such as hosting conferences. Only recently did My Catalyze quietly launch. It’s no Sphinn. The content at Catalyze tends to be more academic and not self-promotional.
Reading the comments in both Rand and Lee’s highly rated posts, I was reminded of my early days in the 1990′s, when I made the online acquaintance of Jill Whalen, Kalena Jordan, Ralph Tegtmeier (aka “Fantomaster”), and Ammon Johns (aka “Black Knight”). Danny Sullivan was the most authoritative guide for me, followed soon by Mike Grehan.
What struck me as the most positive role each of these people played back then was that they shared what they learned, while they were learning it. Brett Tabke did the same thing by launching Webmasterworld. In those first years, WMW was an online lab where Brett tested theories and practices and freely shared his findings. Members followed up with their testing and feedback. Eventually “best practices” could be flushed out from all this free flow. If you came into WMW believing you were a smarty pants with an attitude of being a guru, you didn’t survive long.
Flash forward to today. I founded Cre8asiteforums, Jill founded High Rankings Forums and many other forums came long before us, like Jim World and DigitalPoint. The one thing you can count on in forums is self promotion.
There are always exceptions. Some members of Cre8asiteforums contribute day in and day out, giving advice, helping figure out problem code, and offering moral support with no link drops or hints that they’re only being nice because they want your business. The moderating staff and I keep track of humble contributors. Some of them are eventually given opportunities to join the team or write in our blog. We look for self respect, hard workers, generosity, and expertise that have been proven.
Power plays are out. A constant presence that says “Look at me! Look at me! I’m over here!” doesn’t work either. I see this happening in Facebook. Everyone has a different use for it. I go there to have fun, but I’m a professional person, forums owner, business owner and tied to many companies who use my services. What I share in Facebook about my personal life is limited.
When people who have seen me online for years finally meet me at a conference, they meet the “real” Kim. I’m goofy. I’m terrible with names. I’m shy and uncomfortable in crowds until I get a sense of the place. I laugh. A lot. I swear after a few drinks if we’re on a hot topic and am more likely to say things that might surprise you. I rarely have the nerve to approach “SEO Rock Stars” I haven’t met yet or if I do, I’ve had to get the courage up for about 20 minutes first. I figure nobody knows me and will wonder who that strange woman is walking up to them.
I suppose being famous in an industry is a head trip at first. It doesn’t always last long in such a socially driven environment. I’ve seen some new people rise to the top by pushing uphill a boulder of content and involvement in all the “right” places, only to write something that’s in poor judgment online somewhere and they tumble back down the mountain. Some of them will align themselves with someone famous and toot that horn, in essence using the famous person to gain notice.
What’s kept Danny, Ralph, Aaron Wall, Jill, Christine Churchill, Mike Grehan and Ammon going strong over the past 12 years is their devotion to their craft, their interest in upholding the integrity and continued growth of the industry, their consistent ability to stay focused on their work and their personalities. Each of them is genuine. You know it the moment you meet them in person and when you see them anywhere online. They are interested in YOU and YOUR success.
True leaders gain loyalty because people can tell the difference between those who really want their peers to succeed and those who are in it for their own personal agenda.
There’s tremendous talent out there, with some exciting new voices and faces. There are also a lot of well known industry leaders, business owners and conference speakers. Eventually they’ll want to move on, retire, or try something else. The SEO/M industry would do well to nurture and guide the newcomers and support individuals who have impressed them.
It makes little sense to wave fingers at so called “rock stars” because time has a way of filtering out the frauds from the real deal.