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We are all teachers; we are all students

Written by David Harry   
Monday, 14 June 2010 13:13

Strength in numbers

One of the most important elements that we wanted to bring when we created the SEO Training Dojo, was a lack of egos. All too often in the internet marketing world we see jackasses strutting around with their peacock feathers fluffled for all to see… I can’t tell you the number of times people have come to me about such-and-such (cough) A-lister SEO all but brushing them off at a conference acting puffy and pompous (or related tales). This is something we sought to avoid.

You see, regardless of people’s odd affinities for hero worship, we’re simply a bunch of search marketers nothing more, nothing less. There is NO SUCH THING as rock stars or A-listers… the concept has always left me shaking my head, that’s for sure. No one outside of our little niche has a clue who we are. And ‘industry leaders’? There are few of those I’d dare say are suspect as well since most of the more prominent SEOs tend to be ‘more prominent’ from a profit motive than one to lead.

SEO Sheeple

You only know what you know

Which brings us to one of the core concepts we like to stand by; We’re all teachers, we’re all students.

You see, each of us in the business have different experiences from each other. Some work as in-house, others are freelancers and some manage SEO companies (or work for them). We can only work in a finite number of markets which means other SEOs you meet will have experience in markets you haven’t. We also work on sites of varying age/authority and so on… you get the idea.

This means there is no limit to what we can learn, and teach one another. An SEO with two years experience can learn from those with five years, (experience) and they can teach those that are noobs to the game. Even beyond that, a more experienced optimizer can pick up tricks once in a while from a noob as well.. there is no limit. None can know it all.

"The purpose of a fish trap is to catch fish, and when the fish are caught, the trap is forgotten.
The purpose of a rabbit snare is to catch rabbits. When the rabbits are caught, the snare is forgotten.
The purpose of words is to convey ideas. When the ideas are grasped, the words are forgotten.
Where can I find a man who has forgotten words? He is the one I would like to talk to
" - Chuang Tzu

The Minds of the Collective

Speaking of ‘rock stars’, prominence is another misnomer if you ask me. While there are plenty of folks writing SEO geekiness in the sphere, visibility doesn’t always equal genius. Some of the best/smartest SEOs that I know can’t be bothered with blogging nor the whole conference circuit. Add to that the boat loads of sub-par info in the search blogoshpere…. And well, you have to take the public crap for what you will. Few and far between on the value meter.

Networking is the name of the game my friends… having a strong base of professionals to call upon when needed. The power of having a strong base of warriors can’t readily be measured, but it’s huge. I know from the many hours spent hanging with my gang of geeks in a chat room (sorry FaceBook too public, nuh-uh-uh Twitter, 140? Get real).

Pass on the Art

And so I say to you, the passionate professional, never miss an opportunity to pass on your knowledge to the deserving and a keen ear to learn from practitioners old and new. This is what makes the true artist...for lack of a better word. It is the desire, if not out right enjoyment, of sharing it with others.

When the idea, (for the community) began in late 2008 I would have never imagined the incredible heights it would take me. There is no greater feeling to be part of a strong group of peers pushing beyond merely 'getting the job done'. Thanks to new friends made I've learned more in the last 18 months than the previous 3 years before it. May we never stop learning and the engines continue to evolve to fuel the fire, (cue music and fade out crane shot).

That's about it... not even sure why I wrote this. Just was on my mind.

As you were....

ADDED; friend of the Trail, Rishi, sent this over which I thought continues the dialogue well; We can't all be Rock Stars



0 # Justin Parks 2010-06-14 13:39
Its definitely about time someone said it.

Industry Leaders? Rockstars? A-Listers?...get over yourselves please.

Im in agreement. In the Dojo I have met more intelligent, generous, and successful on line SEO /marketeers (or whatever you want to call them) who lack one major thing - ego and that suits me down to the ground.

Cheers Guys, and Girls I'm sure it will continue to be a pleasure working with you all.
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+1 # Robert 2010-06-14 13:41
Okay, so people get that idea because of the body piercings, long hair and weird beard. But hey, at least they never forget me.

As for being an SEO, the market is so small here in South Africa that it's more a case of just working with clients for results. No ego... not enough space for it.
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0 # Melissa - SEO Aware 2010-06-14 13:53
My web designer and I have been discussing this for the last two weeks. There are "rock stars" it seems in every industry...I do learn from these "popular" people. However, some of the coolest and most useful things I learn are from non-"rock stars". I also see that some rock stars, in several industry, are out of touch a bit. I am not saying all...

My biggest issue with Sphinn is that the "rock stars" are always hot even when the articles offer me nothing. Then I can look at what is "new" and read really great articles, but they may never get past 2-3 Sphinns.

I have also stated I that I don't know how people can go to all the conferences...when do they work? For many I know the conferences are how they make their money or enhance how they make their money. I also know that it is a lot of fun to be at conferences and hanging out with everyone, but I took 3 days off to attend Search and Social in Tampa and it took me two weeks to catch up!

I do completely agree with you on the fact that we are all teachers and students. This industry requires it. Fantastic article!
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0 # Dave 2010-06-14 14:00
@Justin - yea it is funny, I talk to people as closely realated as the web design world and they (by and large) have no idea who Matt Cutts is, never mind the rest of us. Thanks for the kind words and help in building the Dojo into what it now is mate... together we are a force.

@Robert - hehe... yea, have the hair, tats and even play a mean guitar over here, but like SEO, few would know me anywhere on that level. The SEO community would be better served with less egos and cliques. It should be about furthering the art... about passing along the knowlege, not about 'whos who' garbage. If I never make a 'Top X SEOs' list in my life, I shall be happy. Because it is the kind words I get from those we help out that really matter. The small business person whos life has been changed from successes gleaned from our efforts. That's what matters more.
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0 # Dave 2010-06-14 14:16
@Melissa - hullo M, nice to cya as always! It is certainly a true thing that so many of the best and brightest don't actually write. Being talented at something and being a writer don't generally go together actually.

As for Sphinn, I am slowly running out of ways to say kind things about the place. I may put my 2c in on that front in the coming days. Stay tuned.

And YES, that has been the mantra I have had since my days teaching martial arts. Everyone has something of value to offer and should be given the chance to do so... ha! They should be required to actually..
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0 # Dana Lookadoo 2010-06-14 21:23
Gosh, so much to say and don't want to repeat what has already been said. My personal takeaway and agreement with the following:

"There is no greater feeling to be part of a strong group of peers pushing beyond merely 'getting the job done'."

Having attended many conferences, I do agree that it's hard to do it all. I often wonder, sort of marvel, how some people balance real life with constant online life and the speaking circuit. I'm wiped after each conference just to check my snail mail.

Then when I meet with IRL friends who don't know a lot about this industry, they pronounce SEO as "seeoh" - Point, they surely don't worship our so-called rockstars nor care that something got retweeted XX times.

Back to the point, if there was one, I appreciate this community. I no longer feel like a long ranger as a freelancer. Thank you, Dojos!
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0 # Al Sefati 2010-06-15 00:53
This post is great. I have been encountered a lot of smart asses during my career in IT which is over 10 years now and many claim they know a lot (and they do) but they don't know everything.

Great post brilliant!
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0 # Alan Bleiweiss 2010-06-15 03:45

It's interesting. I spent the first 13 years in this industry focused on one thing - client solutions. Then, a couple years ago, as I began paying more attention to the places I'd been visiting as I gathered knowledge online, that some of what was shared was golden, and some was a pure crock.

That was when I felt a nudge to join in - both to be more a "part of" as well as of the belief that I had something that might be worth contributing to the community.

And this year, I made the decision that after pouring my heart and soul into my clients success for so many years, that I wanted to honor me for a change- to treat myself, literally, to attending conferences, while at the same time, increase my hourly rate so I could work less hours on client projects. That was a huge shift for me. And I did that because I love blogging. I love sharing my own take on this industry and diving more fully into the dialogue others start.

Yet your feelings about the cliques and the egos is absolutely dead on as well. Because there is a significant amount of that. (and in my "it's all about me self-worth lacking observer, I wonder if I've crossed into that ego roll also)

I think part of it is the human condition, part is the fact that we're a business industry that's flourishing more than ever - and power comes as a result. And we all know what happens when enough people taste power right?

Very difficult concept to address. Not sure if it's even possible. Heck, six months after my first SEO cesspool cleaning article and uh, it's not much cleaner yet... :-)
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0 # Marc 2010-06-15 06:05
I feel ya Dave. I've attended speaking panels and have wondered if there were more deserving (or qualified) people who should be in their place.

Much like with anything out there, marketing and hype can cloud someone's credentials or accomplishments .

Anyone who's been in this space for a while probably already realize who they should "hear" vs. who they should listen to.

I kind of miss the days of collaboration and sharing in forums. Instead we have the constant broadcast mode we have today.
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