Teaching, Promoting, Cheering UX and SEO Since 2002

Going for SEO Celebrity Fame? Prove You’re The Real Deal

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.


  1. February 23, 2008    

    What an insightful and worthy post, Kim!

    When I first joined Cre8asite, all of you were ‘famous’ as far as I was concerned, and it was the attitude of generosity I encountered there that removed that onus of a barrier.

    Like you, I felt very shy approaching these men and women who seemed so smart and confident. I was worried they might sneer at my questions, or simply be too ‘cool’ to talk to me.

    Not so. Not so.

    You and Bill, Ammon, John, all the folks at Cre8 act as gracious mentors, and the spirit of sharing was an invaluable introduction to the heart of the SEM industry, for me. In fact, it has spoiled me so that when I witness pettiness or selfishness elsewhere, I am shocked.

    I guess, really, what the good teachers (the famous people) have helped me to realize is that the concept of fame is an obstacle, and that the truly good people in the industry can be seen as friends, not remote icons.

    This was a wonderful post. I just added my sphinn to it!

  2. February 24, 2008    

    Thanks, Kim, I am humbled by your post.

    You can certainly put yourself amongst the truly “famous” in this industry as well. (As much as you like to say you’re not actually in this industry!)

  3. February 26, 2008    

    Really nice post, Kim:) I agree with you that people who really want to help and share their experience for everyone’s good are those who become famous in the SEO industry and stay that way for a long time. The other “stars” just fade into obscurity in no time:)

  4. February 26, 2008    

    Thank you Miriam, Jill and seo pixy. Welcome to my blog seo pixy!

  5. February 26, 2008    

    This is a great post! very insightful and true..^^

  6. February 26, 2008    

    This is true of any industry. You see people move to Hollywood to become famous – not to pursue the craft of acting. Conversely, there’s tons of overweight and “unattractive” people who are phenomenal actors who will never stand a chance in Hollywood.

    It’s the same in politics, advertising and pretty much any industry. It’s a societal problem in general.

  7. February 26, 2008    

    Thanks for the wonderful, inspiring post. It is especially true what you say about people who are willing to teach what they learn, even as they are learning it — that really is the attitude that will expand the industry as a whole and making each person in it smarter and better!

  8. Lee's Gravatar Lee
    February 29, 2008    

    I do beleive I had a rant not so long ago on cre8 about this such subject..

    To be honest I have seen that the amount of ‘wannabe’ SEO rock stars has decreased – and your right, the usual suspects are still there because they are really interested industry, and not ‘just’ becoming famous in our small circle

1 Trackback

  1. Search Engine Land: News About Search Engines & Search Marketing on February 25, 2008 at 3:04 pm

Subscribe to Receive New Blog Posts

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner