90 Seconds or Less: SEO is Mystery Meat (Here’s Why it Makes Content People Puke)

“It’s easier to teach content creators SEO than it is to teach SEOs to create great content”.

When James Gunter dropped the line at ConFab, the crowd went wild with applause. Several voiced how his was the first SEO session they’d ever seen that didn’t make them want to hurl into a bucket. SEOs were predictably defensive and confused as to why they’re so hated by the Content Strategy bunch.

Let me try to clear that up:

  1. Nobody agrees on the definition of SEO – not even SEOs themselves. It’s mystery meat.
  2. Outside the industry, public perception is generally that SEO ruins creativity/art, spits on user experience and thrives on greasy tactics- even if that’s completely unfair (it is). These people learned from both experience with sour SEOs (spam e-mails) and from misinformed big industry hubs like Forbes, who see SEO as black magic proliferated by hobbling basement dwarves. 
  3. That’s because for years, SEO was actually a whole lot like that. People got spammed, the internet was really ugly, website content looked like keyword madlibs. (I know you’ve been legit fo-ev-ah and whatnot, but SEO was messy on the whole)
  4. Instead of collaborating where their goals overlap, SEOs and Content Strategists would clash in an epic power struggle. SEO, for its part, was just too lucrative to ignore in those early days, ugly as it was. And importantly, the two different parties rarely share the same office – or even the same company.
  5. The Penguin update came. SEO’s favourite pet “died” (Links still matter a whole lot). On the positive side, they start recognizing the importance of branding and not being a complete dick online and creating awesome content (Yay!)
  6. Mass exodus by SEOs to have a controlling say in the creation and distribution of content as a means of securing links.
  7. Oops. Now there’s more clashing than ever.
  8. SEOs start mistakenly referring to having a strategy for the creation and proliferation of MARKETING content as “Content Strategy”. Content strategists, whose jobs are much bigger than this, do not approve of this misguided definition, nor the hijacking of an important part of their jobs by a bunch of people who were formerly spinning blog posts and outsourcing branding to Bangladesh.
  9. In the mean time, technical SEOs are like “Shut up everybody” because their job remains unique, difficult and COMPLETELY UNDERVALUED in light of all the unicorn fairy dust being thrown about the magic cure-all of content
  10. Overeager “SEOs” guzzle down their own kool-aid and start believing the whole of the industry can be summed up in “create and share good content and Google will reward it”, somehow forgetting the enormous reality that Google is still a machine and not an English teacher marking papers
  11. Everyone creating content thinks they’re an SEO now – and many SEOs would call themselves marketers (And in many cases actually are). Now, nobody agrees on what SEO is or what that job entails in its entirety. Tech? Content? Marketing? ALL OF THAT!?
  12. James Gunter (A smart guy!) makes a provocative statement, which, while well-intentioned and in many ways true (creating something truly amazing is very difficult), is also in many ways false (There are parts of SEO that are equally difficult get a mastery of) and steps on the toes of those who have spent years honing their technical chops, learning how to analyze data and building an understanding how the algorithm works (Hint: It’s not powered by platitudes)


  • I did SEO for 4.5 years in an agency. It was fun and I met many wonderful people (who are not black magic hobbling dwarves) whom I consider very talented friends.
  • We’d all do better if we collaborated instead of trying to steal each others’ jobs.
  • This was tongue-in-cheek satire.
  • Thanks for reading. If you want me to write funny, informative things for you, head here.


2 Responses to “90 Seconds or Less: SEO is Mystery Meat (Here’s Why it Makes Content People Puke)”

  1. Aaaaahhhhmen.
    The “echo chamber” effect of people who want to get SEO clients has made the color of Matt Cutts t-shirt into an SEO omen. I’ve taken to just telling people who ask what I do for SEO that I simply select the right animal sacrifice for the Great Google. (FYI Goats blood is great for local rankings!)

  2. Jay Patel says:

    SEO is easy to grasp up to certain extent. SEO is a mystery and always will be.

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