Lee Odden

The Fallacy of SEO Celebrity

Lee Odden     Rant, SEO

I am curious if anyone else has noticed a trend over the past year or so where people (I have nobody specific in mind) in the search marketing business seem to increasingly gravitate towards becoming a “SEO celebrity”. It’s a bit like like moths to a flame, really.

A while back, I had a search marketing job candidate answer the, “Where would you like to be in 2-3 years?” question with, “I want to be a famous SEO”. “Why?” I would ask. “Because that’s my goal”. Fair enough, but it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous.

An amazing number of people seem to think becoming well known in the search marketing business is an end in and of itself. Not seeing the forest for the trees, these folks put vast amounts of time into link bait ridden blogs, networking up and getting addicted to the rush of ego that comes from being recognized. Is it because they misunderstand reputation marketing or are they really thinking being a “SEO celebrity” is a bankable goal?

The reality is, the benefit of getting a brand out there, whether it’s a personal brand or a company brand, is to establish credibility and confidence in abilities to the target market. Becoming known is a stepping stone to achieving other goals like new clients, speaking gigs (especially paid speaking gigs), connections with marketing partners, talented employees and other activities that generate business.

Earning that business, delivering and being successful because of providing value is what earns a reputation. Establishing a well known brand and reputation in an industry is only worthwhile if there’s something to back it up. Otherwise, all that is achieved is a hollow online existence requiring the constant feeding of “notoriety crack”.

I personally network enthusiastically and our blogging team has been known to write a few compelling blog posts from time to time. But there is a reason for it, a goal. It’s not to be well known, it is to open doors for potential clients, employees or marketing partners to do business.

Writing blog posts for the benefit of the industry and getting links from other SEO blogs is fine, but being able to write blog posts that consider the needs and pain points of your target audience and giving enough information to demonstrate your expertise while not completely giving the goods away to competitors is a skill worth developing.

Make no mistake, if a potential SEO client has heard of a SEO consultant or agency from several credible source(s), then it can shorten the sales cycle to next to nothing. It can attract more desirable clients at better market rates. But there is a difference between being “that” guy or gal everybody knows but with little to back up the notoriety – ie clients/income and being the well known person/company that got there by consistently doing great work and attracting a premium client roster.

Maybe it’s really an issue of the “chicken or the egg” coming first. How is a new person/agency going to get clients if no one knows about them? Alternatively, how will anyone know about them unless they have some impressive clients to brag about? If that’s the case, then I say blog on, network like crazy and get some business going.

I’m curious if any readers have noticed the “need to be SEO famous” thing lately? Is it an issue or is it a good thing that gets more good content published and networking going on than otherwise would happen?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Should I be insulted that one of our staff forwarded this to me first thing this morning?

    And for the record… I don’t want to be SEO famous. I want to be Lee Odden famous!

  2. It’s an interesting phenomenon. The problem is that the SEO business is a relatively small community, and the people you’re trying to impress don’t keep up with the community. I don’t think very many of my contacts outside the industry have even heard of Rand. And that includes people involved in more general marketing, ecommerce, Fortune 50 companies, etc. It probably helps when a potential client googles his name or company name, but I don’t think that being a famous SEO will feed the bulldog by itself. (BTW, I’m not saying anything about Rand, just using him as an example of someone everyone in our industry knows.)

    On the other hand, if your business model involves selling things to people trying to do SEO, then being a famous SEO is a good goal. But that market is much smaller than that of providing SEO services to others.

  3. Great post,

    I admit, when I first started down the SEO road, I THOUGHT my goal was to be Danny Sullivan – but he’s way too busy and in demand – that would drive me nuts.

    Now my goal is to be really good at what I do, provide information to people who need it and make some good money along the way – I think retirement at 50 sounds good!

    I do think when you’re a “noob” to the industry – being a hot-shot is what you THINK is important – but that fades I think.

  4. I agree with the presence of an “SEO celebrity.” I’m relatively new to the SEO and SM industry (about a year in) and I’ve noticed quickly that certain names get thrown around repeatedly across SM blogs and sites.

    Lee, you made a point in your post to separate celebrity from credibility and I don’t think you can do this, especially in the Search industry. Because, it seems to me, that to become SEO famous, you need to do SEO, or a version of SEO, very well. Thats what gives you the to name, the aura, the celebrity. And, therefore, celebrity presupposes competence in SEO. So, celebrity must equal credibility. (Hope that makes sense. Needed to dust the cobwebs off symbolic logic [philosophy] for that one.) Additionally, if someone can do this for themself or their name, then it is assumed that they can do this for a business or a brand. That’s where SEO celebrity’s value comes in, no matter what SEO business you’re in. And although some may see this logic as flawed, it’s hard to argue that this is not how people outside the Search industry see a famous name.

    Lee, thanks for the post! This is a topic not many people have talked about and it’s nice to hear from someone else that has noticed this trend.

  5. Less time spent trying to “become known,” and more time spent becoming useful, will lead you to the same place. It’s hard to remain unknown when you write useful posts.

    I’d rather be as smart as Hamlet and Sebastian, and have nobody know my name, than to be the face on the SEO float in the Thanksgiving Day parade.

  6. Thanks for the comments everyone. Is jetleg a legitimate excuse for my tardy reply?

    Mike, you have it switched – you mean Mike McDonald famous!

    Don, I’m not so sure about your assessment of Rand’s reach. If there’s one person who’s mastered the art of being a famous SEO, it’s him (I mean that as a compliment). The superbowl proposal and recent Oprah appearance certainly didn’t make him lesser known, even if those events were not SEO related. Plus he’s had as much or more mainstream press coverage than any other SEO in the biz including Chris Winfield. I know for a fact he’s on the radar of the Fortune 50 because we have a Fortune 20 client that first called Rand and then called us.

    Carrie, I agree. I think a marketing person matures in their realization of what kind of visibility gets traction and what doesn’t. Then they adjust perspective accordingly. This isn’t true of everyone, but many.

    Thanks Andrea, I’m glad it was a post of interest.

    Dan, I agree totally that becoming an effective marketer will bring the attention. As mentioned in the post, it’s really meaningless unless there’s something to back it up. For some starting out, I still thing the reverse can work – ie making an effort to get noticed in order to attract the kinds of clients you can serve well and brag about later – therefore attracting more clients.

  7. There is definitely some value in being known, but Dan is right, if you are useful the known will come. But being a SEO celebrity doesn’t get the clients. Being a good SEO does.

  8. Lee you’re definitely right. Some SEO ‘personalities’ are behaving like starlets. I find it off-putting. But then again, there are still plenty of ‘people of substance’ within the industry, including yourself, lol. So we can still stand to network without getting completely creeped out.

  9. Right on Stoney. I think one effective way of becoming “known” in the SEO biz is not only producing great results for clients, but also doing a great job of your own marketing. That means ranking well in the search engines and popping up in print/online pubs from time to time.

    BTW all there’s a great thread on this topic happening on Twitter, feel free to follow to check it out.

  10. This was a relatively needed post. I have celebrity status sort of automatically since I’m a noted ‘first gen’ SEO. I get employees all the time that say they want to follow my footsteps or ride my coattails. I’ve experienced them just using me in the end. When this happens, they squander their opportunity and end up unknown, the very thing they wanted to escape from in the first place.

    It’s amazingly consistent so I groom folks differently these days. It’s worked well for me and and they get to succeed personally as a consequence. Some will even become new SEO celebrities… !

    I must say for myself, it took some time to shed a lot of my fame for more network notoriety. Sure, I moderate gadds of panels and I love every minute of it. I originally think I suffered a bit from some people assuming I was famous just because I was there in the beginning.

    Sometimes, in conversation, it was as it I didn’t have a brain. It took a little work and I now can thankfully say no one (including the newest contacts and developers) will ever treat me like an air head.

    It’s all about decision making, in my opinion. Choose the best option at every turn. Service your clients instead of chasing fame and it will return success to you. People can rise up in fame so easily by adding value. You have to start with that value which has to be intrinsic before you get noticed. Then you can turn fame down in favor of success and wouldn’t that be a nice option to have?

  11. I’m glad you stopped by Detlev, because as an “OG SEO” your experience with such matters is unique and tenured at the same time.

    “You have to start with that value which has to be intrinsic before you get noticed. Then you can turn fame down in favor of success and wouldn’t that be a nice option to have?”

    Well said!

  12. I can’t remember when I first heard of Lee Odden but the reason I did and the reason why I added his blog to my feedreader is the quality of ideas and information that he publishes. I think many folks did the same…that’s why Lee is a well-known guy.

    This same route to “SEO Celebrity” is readily available to any who chose to take it…of course, there is a lot of hard work involved. Some believe they can shortcut the process instead of earn it and that’s why you hear grumblings about “Celebrities” and “A List” people.

  13. I think it’s better to be anonymous and make money from one’s own projects than to be famous and have clients (with a few exceptions). It probably takes about the same amount of time to achieve either goal.

  14. “it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous” is my quote of the year so far.

  15. Its a great read Lee and it touches on many things I have myself been thinking about recently. I recently published a post about the “7 Stages of Search“, I don’t know if you’ll have time to read it but I try to understand the differing periods as a person develops within the community.

    I also agree that “it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous” is a great quote as well 🙂

  16. “A wallet full of famous, thats about £2.35 in this economical climate isn’t it?”

    Great post Lee.. 🙂

  17. For some, fame is an end in itself. Though fame that can’t be leveraged seems like a waste of time for me. Let the famewhores continue their gamesmanship – the rest of us can write targeted content for our specific audiences and be famous (and useful) to the right people.

  18. I’ve seen several of my friends try and do the SEO celebrity gig. I was never a fan of making it “big” within the SEO community where everyone knows my name because I’d rather focus on building my personal wealth, integrity and client roster then generating great articles (which take time) and researching SEO myths to contribute to the community. Now, I’ve done that before – but it’s not my goal to become a celebrity. I’d rather have a nice bank roll with my large network of sites. If people don’t know my name, that’s ok, I’m fine with all the woman I meet at least do. 🙂

  19. Everybody knows that SEO celebs get all the hot chicks!

  20. Don, hot *links*, surely…?

  21. Avatar Brian Freire says

    “it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous” is a great line! I think it’s better to be less known and spend more of you’re time making money by providing good quality results for you’re clients. After awhile, word of mouth referrals will come.

  22. Lee

    I have gained some level of celebrity status, warranted or not over the last year, and I would be the first to tell anyone (and have done in the past)

    1. I don’t make a huge amount of money online though I do make a living and have done for a number of years – I also have offline interests.
    2. I have mentioned a number of times I am not looking for consulting work and I have no intention of being a problogger – that being said I will be increasing my monetization short term.

    Whilst 15 months ago I saw a benefit in reawakening a blog to gain a little credibility in SEO among various realms of internet marketing, I was primarily looking to bounce ideas off people, and potentially get some of the grey area around compensated links cleared up.

    I do still hold some things back, but becoming an SEO rockstar or consultant isn’t part of my business plan either short or long-term.


    Sebastian and Hamlet are great – I have been quite happy to refer people to Sebastian for technical SEO, and am looking forward to using the tools Hamlet is developing.

  23. I have noticed the increasing trend of “seo famous” and it does get irritating after a while, i’m not talking about the guys that have the knowledge and really know what they’re doing but the millions that flock and try to imitate without having a clue what they’re doing is extremely irritating.

  24. Love the post… it can be reposted every year.

    There will always be a payoff for being famous, and as long as it pays better than McDonalds there will be people aiming to “be famous”. That’s an inalienable right, isn’t it?

    Truth is every word you publish is a potential liability, carrying risk. Publishing just for fame is a folly. But reward often follows risk, so there are reasons to seek fame.

  25. Avatar Kim Krause Berg (cre8pc) says

    Obviously you hit a nerve Lee. Many people have noticed what you describe. I think Sphinn contributed to the “get your face and name out there” craze. I like meeting new people but suddenly there seemed to be all these new “experts”.

    There’s a difference, in my mind, between sudden industry stars and those who have been working in an industry for 10 or so years. They survive because they gained respect and kept working hard. It’s a shame that the new rock star status doesn’t always draw from the “working hard” group.

  26. Bravo…

  27. I think SEO is now famous everywhere.

  28. Avatar Business Process Outsourcing says

    it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous.
    nice article. this should be read by others that have the perception of being a famous SEO

    [Lee: Or by comment spammers]

  29. I’ve had this post in my head for some time, but never got round to writting it and now i don’t need to.

    If most seo bloggers took a few moments before they hit publish and ask themselves, why?

    Why am I posting thing, why am I blogging? What is the specific goal?

    I think we would see a huge drop in seo blogging.

    The respect of peers and brand recognition for quality are worthy goals and nothing wrong with that. But for me, a healthy bank balance is far more interesting than being recognised in Sainsbury’s as the SEO guy.

  30. I do so agree with you Lyndon. Brilliantly put.

  31. @Andy yes you have and it’s a sort of equity that will leak away unless you do something with it. What are your plans?

    @Amy if overzealous efforts to gain notoriety get in the way of the good stuff, ie great SEO advice, insights and news, then I agree it can be annoying. A good point Jon brought up today here at SES London is that giving away certain SEO tactics or methods to gain notoriety costs us all.

    Thanks John. All it takes is a few errant posts and the flames that ensure to learn one’s lessong about online publishing is forever. You can’t take it back. So make the words count.

    Kim, I am glad you contributed to this thread because it’s important to hear from people like yourself that have been in this game fo so long. When I first ran into you on a forum years and years ago, your comment set the tone for my current perspective on the idea that furthering the success of the industry as a whole is a proxy for achieving our own success. The quick fix SEO celebritydom and the technology that facilitates it is really just a distraction. I’m optimistic in thinking that people can tell sooner or later what’s good advice and what’s tabloid SEO.

  32. Welcome to visitors from SEOmoz blog – thanks for posting that Rand and especially for your insight.

  33. Lee – excellent post. I know many SEOs who spend 50-75% of their time or more doing things to “be famous” in the community – writing blog posts, commenting (ummm…), creating articles, etc. As you have suggested, the expectation is that by doing those activities they will get new clients and make money.

    But what about if you already have alot of clients? If you don’t need new business than it doesn’t make sense to spend 75% of your time on business generation activities (getting famous). Instead, how about spend time differently…


    Yes that’s the key to making money. The key is doing work that you are paid to do. The more paid work (for agencies) or more work spent doing your own projects (affiliates, others) the more you will make.

    But what about the “being famous helps you get bigger clients and raise your rates” argument?

    Perhaps. But so too does “doing a good job for your current clients” and then getting solid referrals that produce bigger projects.

    I think there is a ton of waste with all these newbies spending time blogging and writing articles. There’s too much to read, and not enough time to read it… or much less actually GO DO SOME WORK PEOPLE!

    With that, I’m off to start doing some actual work 🙂

  34. Avatar Wil Reynolds says

    Lee, you really touched on something here, and I think the comments about sum up everything I think too.

    I find that being genuine (like Rand says) goes a long way. Karma is something I think effects SEO a lot, the more you give out there to honestly help people (TRULY with NO GAIN) the more the celebrity status is likely to be bestowed on you.

    Having the results to back it up ALWAYS helps a ton, that is a given.

    The problem with celebrity status is how easily it is achieved (especially in local markets) people throw around guru status to just about any tom dick or harry with a blog that mentions SEO – yuck.

  35. Avatar David Saunders says

    Fame – SEO? I don’t know about fame or famous in a small circle of people…..

    There are deep thinkers and provokers that I respect and admire

    Aaron Wall, Rand Fishkin and Andrew Shotland all get my hat tip as does Danny Sullivan who sort of herded us all together.

    Most of the self claimed “famous SEOs” are just smoke blowers.


  36. Great post, Lee – it is definitely something that I have observed for a while. It struck me how small the SEO industry is in when I saw that the largest SES industry event averages around 5,000-6,000 attendees and vendors. Conversely, the last Star Trek Convention in Vegas drew over 70,000. We are small fish in a very small pond.

    As far as goals, I subscribe to the principle of Firsts. If you focus on the most important thing: improving your skills and your results, notoriety will naturally follow. However, if popularity is the primary goal, it will net you neither.

  37. I agree with the masses, tremendous post Lee.

    There is a lot of ego and self-proclaimed SEO celebrities in the SEO World. I am happy to say that my goal was and never will be to be an SEO-celebrity. I am more concerned with providing remarkable value to my clients.

    I started a blog because I wanted to learn about blogging not because I wanted to become an SEO celebrity. I also wanted to provide a place where people could go to find information that wasn’t readily available. Then I found that people appreciated what I was writing about… Fame is in the eye of the beholder.

    As long as I can continue to improve my skills and provide sound strategic direction for my clients, I’m right where I need to be.

    “it’ll be tough to pay the bills with a wallet full of famous” – classic quote.

  38. Very nice Lee. A wallet full of famous gets you nothing, and yet we seem to have droves of seo douchebags trying to fill their neverending pits of ego & self.

    I’ve found tremendous value in the comments – Kim, Wil, Jon, and everyone have great points. Pat’s post over at SEOMoz was fantastic.

    Meaningful Recognition can’t really be manufactured. It must be earned. Some of the people who have had the most impact on me were those who did something noteworthy, got me to spend some time on their site(s) and had me genuinely impressed at thought leadership.

    But then I read TheMadHat’s post and have to buy him a beer for sheer vulgarity, so what do I know? 🙂

  39. You only noticed branding in the industry just recently? Does the name Jill Whalen mean nothing to you?


  40. Excellent post, and thanks to Rand for linking it though I come here daily anyway.

    Lee buddy, you’re famous in my eyes, and there’s something to that. People that I read and respect will always maintain a certain standing with me, and even if (Dog Forbid) I get “famous” too, I’ll still regard these other folks as The Big Ones regardless of where they’re at in their lives or careers.

    You’ve nailed it though, and it all ties in with marketing your own self as your own brand.

    Be a good person, do good things, and leave the world a better place. Good people will gravitate to you along the way and Good Things will follow.

  41. I think everyone appreciates the wealth of comments, insights and opinions here as well as those Rand has initiated on his own blog regarding this topic.

    “Be a good person, do good things, and leave the world a better place. Good people will gravitate to you along the way and Good Things will follow.”
    Judd, that is fantastic advice and there are many, but perhaps not enough, SEOs who have follwed it.

    Bill, yes I am very much aware of branding and since Jill Whalen has been a client of my PR firm, know she understands the value of it as well. It’s always been present in our industry but the increase has been sharp as of late.

    I remain biased towards the goals of building a business and furthering an industry over improving self esteem as a rationale for branding investments. Becoming well known is best a function of delivering high value service to clients and contributing to the forward progress of the industry – that’s my opinion.

  42. Avatar Tari Akpodiete says

    It’s not just in SEO, but also the blogging coaches, the net marking coaches, the podcasting coaches, and so on and so on… Enough already with all the so-called ‘coaching’.

    If someone is saying they are an expert on something like SEO, and their business is not ranked on the first page of Google as such, they’re full of it.

    In the pursuit of success, their potential customers let their common sense fall by the wayside. Just because someone says they are an expert, or pays someone else to say so, doesn’t mean that they are. And all their self-published books and ebooks won’t change that.

  43. Are you seriously suggesting that only ten people can be considered experts in SEO?

  44. An excellent article and one I have noticed for some time also. Two in particular have become too tiresome to read; which is a shame as they have a lot to offer.

    The expression “Empty vessels make the most noise” is becoming more apparent.

  45. Great post Lee! I think that some of the wants / desire to be SEO Famous stems from the sales cycle… As you said it’s definitely shortened! Having a few famous clients / famous SEO buddies is a great way to springboard a small firm to a larger more profitable firm. So in a way I think there needs to be some level of ‘SEO fame’ –

    To those of us in the industry, I don’t see anyone or any group as major ‘ROCK STAR fame’ status (although Ken Jurina dresses like one) Personally I see the SEO industry as an all around famous industry… and everyone I’ve met to date is level headed, doesn’t believe that they’re famous, and genuinely nice folk 😉 (that goes double for you Lee, your modest as all get out!)

    Oh yeah and who’s that Mike McDonald guy?

    db / NeO

  46. I wanted to be famous once or twice and all it got me was like 4 links and a few shots at conferences. It didn’t affect my wallet one bit. Putting myself back into my work did.

    On a related note, I wish I still blogged a lot so I was still more famous. My frail ego loves the fact that like 8 people know me and ACTUALLY THINK I AM SMART!

    But seriously, this post is refreshing Lee. Thanks for injecting some level-headedness. Most of us marketers (and not just web marketers) are born to seek the spotlight, and it’s still as funny to watch as it always was, especially now that us nerds are the ones doing it!

  47. @David I agree on the Ken Jurina comment – I think it’s the groovy glasses and the soul patch mostly.

    @Chris, “Most of us marketers (and not just web marketers) are born to seek the spotlight” makes a lot of sense. Of course marketers are going to seek some spotlight – they’re marketers after all and that’s what marketers do. Good point.

  48. Hi Lee:

    First of all great post. There is definitely a fine line between sharing useful SEO information and giving the farm away. Somewhere in between all of those idioms and cliches is tons of research, thousands of hours of experimentation and the desire to gain recognition on some level for acquiring a degree of personal and financial success. It’s just a matter of keeping your motives for publishing such content in the right place. I personally use blogging as a positioning tactic for our brand and services and naturally to offer value to those interested in SEO, but each person has their reasons.

  49. Avatar Mark Alan Effinger says

    You know Lee, This falls into the Cult of Personality trough.

    As Jim Collins stated in Built to Last, very few big celebrity CEO’s build sustainable companies (past their tenure).

    Ask any rock star. It’s tough to build a business behind a star (save for Andy Warhol, Marc Kosabi and Steve Jobs).

    The deal with SEO and Rock Star Status is it’s multiple moving targets. You could be a star one day in getting clients to #3 on Google SERPs… then watch the Google Dance kick your butt.

    Danny built a brand WAY before anyone suspected it would be a real trend (I was using NorthernLight when Danny started… a clue as to how far search has come).

    Lee, you, Brandi, Danny, and a couple of dozen names come to mind in this space as “decision leaders”. Marketing Experiments, Grok.com and Ralph Wilson…

    Those of us leading the fray are constantly playing with and managing search, while still coloring inside the integrity lines.

    Peer respect (what David McInnis achieved with PRWeb as a solid platform for enhancing search results) is a better goal. it means you’re doing the right thing, the right way.

    Great post, BTW. Always thought provoking…
    Mark Alan Effinger

  50. Thanks for the article. It’s thought-provoking and echoed what I’ve been noticing. Like a few of the responders, I’m not a search professional. My background is in direct response marketing, and I learned my trade working for a company that was ruthlessly ROI-driven. You could either sell more stuff, to more people, more efficiently, for more money, or you were out.

    In reading this post and doing some research on the SEO industry, I’ve been stuck by how much emphasis is placed on celebrity to the exclusion or diminution of ROI. The only thing my clients think about is “what’s the ROI on hiring me?” And if they’re not worrying about that, I tell them it’s the only thing that matters. Forget how famous I am (I’m not at all). I make them money and they have me do more or I’m gone. Fair deal for all involved.

    Fame is fine, but once the industry matures–and it will–the only thing that will matter is how much ROI you can deliver to the client.

  51. I agree. I am tired of people who have basic knowledge they got from a book coming off like they know everything about SEO. Just because you can talk a good game does not mean you can call yourself an “expert”. I have been in this industry for 10 years have very few real search experts I look up to. Most people, whether they speak at SES, have a blog, talk it up on SEO sites or write articles talk a good game but in the end do not know jack about anything Perfect example, a person (I wont name) writes a column for a major marketing website – yet when you look at their companies website it is HORRIBLE in terms of basic SEO best practices.

    You know who impresses me? The in-house or agency SEO experts at major corporations doing real work and getting real results. Stop talking to me about what you think – SHOW me.

  52. I agree with you Kieran. I’ve just been noticing this myself today. So many SEO websites in disarray.

  53. When I first started in online marketing a few years ago – there seemed to be a lot of excuse making for SEOs having poor (or old) opti practices on their own sites – “Too busy working on clients’ sites” etc. My own company was guilty of that – and I always thought it was sort of a cop-out.

    Now I wont say our website is perfect, but we’re trying and making strides – and WOW is it better than it was 🙂

    This has been one of the most enjoyable threads I’ve read in a long time – great content & great comments!

  54. I understand what you are saying about “Too busy working on clients’ sites” however I would never work with an agency that didn’t have their house in order. To me it says they either don’t really understand SEO, dont care about SEO or are understaffed.

  55. @kieran
    Which was my exact argument when I started tackling our site!

  56. This has certainly turned into a tasty discussion, Lee.

    You seemed to have struck a nerve with many commentators thinking along the same lines.

    I’m all for each-to-their-own attitude (I had a great life teacher in my Grandma) and those that wish to seek fame without anything behind them will be found out.

    Those that are gifted and clever with it shall rise under their own steam and admiration from their peers shall naturally ascend them to, what I like to term, the “Brand Status”.

    My question to you is, and I also asked this on Rand’s post as well, do you feel it’ll ever really quell?

    There are many young aspiring wannabes joining the industry each month (never mind each year) who want a slice of the pie. How do you stop the tide? What does it take to de-peg the so-called “seo experts”?

    In the far reaches of this post I can hear a quiet cry for regulation. A standard to drive the phony fame-seekers away.

  57. Who are to be the regulators? I thought SEMPO was a joke when it started, all you needed to get in it was $200, not much of a qualification. There’s some kind of loose British association but I looked at it a while back and it just seems to be a boys’ club. Like in the playground, you can be in our gang if we like you. I mean, who cares?


  58. I also am not a fan of any sort of regulation or whatever you want to call it. I have seen groups that try to start that are started by the exact people we are talking about here!

    Bottom line is you should do your research and take most of the SEO talk with a grain of salt. If you are a business looking for SEO work then find an agency or consultant who has real world experience working for or with well known companies and has proven ROI.

    Just because someone has a blog and talks about SEO, that does not mean they know what they are talking about.

    Ok, I am going to get off my soap box now.

  59. Bill, I am not the person to answer that question.

    I’m trying to dig out from Lee why would a question be asked in the first place. Is it a question of guard what you have or is it a question of those making the assumptions [the wannabes] are growing.

    If the latter is the case then is that not a knock-on effect of the industry growing. If so, how do you curtail those that proclaim from those that provide?

  60. Great thread this turned out to be and somewhat challenging to follow ala Blackberry.

    Paul-S the impetus for posting and asking the question came from a concern over real or perceived priorities of potential employees. For most agency seo consultants fame in our industry is not a practical goal and certainly not one that will get you hired.

    Looking at the large amount of seo generated content that’s out there, you can see pretty quickly that many people are trying very hard to be well known will no practical business reason behind it.

  61. Greetings all, just to add my two sense it is a question of passion. If you talk to almost any hugely successful person a common response will be heard. I have never done it for fame or money it has been my passion to excel. Here lies one of the greatest secrets or tools to succeed be passionate.

    If you are doing it for fame or money as your motivator then really you are destined to fail, you must have heart and soul in whatever you may be doing to succeed.

    Most millionaires have been down and out many times, famous actors being picked up by chance after slugging away for ages.

    Have a desire to succeed, be true to your passion this will breed you success. If you cannot be passionate about what you are doing than find what you can be passionate about.

    Brilliant post Lee, a man passionate about what he does.

    Take care all, I’m off to have a passionate surf at Bondi Beach 🙂

  62. @ Patrick

    But what if my heart and soul, my passion, IS in fame and money?

  63. Lee, Awesome Post.

    Jeez, after all these comments, I feel a little like a NeO come lately. 😉

    When I started my marketing business, the first thing I did was work up my tag line, and I really and truly think that in both marketing and seo/sem, it still rings true.

    “We’re not famous. We make our clients famous.”

  64. Reply to Chris Hooley, Then I am afraid Chris your thinking is broken. You could have a goal as fame and money, shallow as it is but you could. This would still require a vehicle to get to fame and money as last time I looked fame and money was not a job description.

  65. rumblepup, that’s a sweet tagline.

  66. Oh Patrick, making the blanket statement that being passionate about being famous or making money is “shallow” is a little narrow don’t you think? My thinking isn’t “broken”, I just don’t think the same way you do.

    I’m passionate about a lot of things. Finding a job that has the job description of “fame and money” is just ONE of those things!

  67. I just love the way a wallet full of famous feels in my back pocket. Is that so wrong?

  68. @ Chris, what I am getting at Chris is not fame for fames sake, but to serve a purpose. Our company tag line (WEBRAND) is ‘Leave Your Mark, ‘Image is everything’ is another tag line of ours, so in that context a little company fame does not hurt.

    The company is getting the fame not me, this is how I want it as people go ohh WEBRAND I have heard of you, this brings us more business more credibility and ultimately me more money.

    If the focus was on some key staff or me then your company becomes dependent on personal successes. A client may ask what happens if X leaves will I still get the best service etc. Or if the company was to be sold down the track, it is more dependent on the key people rather than the company.

    I am all for company fame, which brings me personal freedom, you have to ask yourself why ‘you’ want fame? Do you feel insecure in some way.

    Nearly any ‘famous’ person will tell you that that is the single hardest part to live with. Personally I don’t like fame and money, just money.

    Some personal fame is good, being selfless fame for instance Fred Hollows who devoted his life to curing blindness in remote areas.

    Also do not confuse ‘fame’ with personal ‘brand’ they also are two separate entities. If fame and money are what you want, you still had better find a vehicle to get you there, or in 10 years you will still be looking for that elusive job description.

    Let your successes bring you fame do not try and chase it or you may never catch it.

    At the end of the day it is only my opinion, and youare entitled to yours as much as I am of mine.

    have a B L O G G I N G good day!

  69. i don’t want to be a rockstar.. just respected among peers that are qualified to bounce ideas off of.

    paisley does not go to the office.. actually i have to keep “paisley” and the person that works at my office as me separate… clients NEVER meet paisley.. they meet the director of internet marketing for my company.. (IF.. i need to be in the meeting, the VP of new biz, handles most clients just fine.)

    if i could just have a close group of friends that i experiment with that would be great.. like SEOMoz..

    besides.. having to write 6 articles a week for places like Wired, WSJ, business 2.0 interactive week, dallas business journal and be on the radio on 3 different stations twice a week, being on TV everytime (sometimes as much as 3 times a week), there was a big virus ourbreak or a new trend in bandwidth/shopping/internet crime kinda sucked.. and it got people asking me questions while i was eating at chili’s etc.. i helped in meetings if people had seen me or heard my weeklies on the radio… but in 1996, people were not rushing to do SEO, they were just trying to geta website up, otherwise.. i prefer to experiment without rockstar status… and i learn a hell of a lot more sitting at my desk working on website and watching stats instead of having 3 press appointments in a day to prepare for.

    after all i have played for a few times for 10,000 plus people in Ibiza at a DJ gig.. now that is the kinda rockstar that was fun…

  70. I agree 100% But mostly because I believe that having to pay 2 famous for a beer is a bit much.

    But hey, I’m already famous… but mostly for the wrong reasons I guess 😉


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