The Evolution Of A Newbie SEO

We’ve all seen the graphic shown below or one similar to it, haven’t we? Sure, it’s the typical image of the evolution of man. In fact, you may even have pictured this image in your head while you were reading one of Julie Joyce’s famous SEO Chick posts, Could A Chimp Do SEO? Heck YES! or SEO Easy, A Caveman Can Do IT!, back in October and July of last year. (I’m pretty sure Julie watches The Planet of the Apes series every few months, and that’s why she’s obsessed with that particular theme). I’ve decided to continue Julie’s recurring theme and present to you, The Evolution Of A Newbie SEO.


seo-evolution-stage1-1870936In the beginning, a newbie webmaster (who did not yet know SEO existed), created a web site. The newbie webmaster sat back, satisfied with his first attempt at HTML (which looked very similar to a 1997 geocities site I once owned), and waited for the instant wealth that would be bestowed upon him. Five minutes ticked by, and the newbie webmaster couldn’t understand why he’d not had the millions of visitors he’d expected by now. In fact, he’d had not even one! WTF? What happened to “build it and they will come?” At about the same time as the newbie webmaster was pondering this, he received a fortuitous email in his inbox. It read: 50,000 Visitors To Your Site For Only $19.95! And so the noob began his journey into the seedy realm of purchasing untargetted (and often imaginary) traffic from shady sites and exit popunders.

seo-evolution-stage2-2200781The newbie webmaster later begins a slight evolutionary process as his web travels introduce him to a new term: SEO. Filled with wonder and excitement, the newbie webmaster becomes immersed in this new world known as search engine optimization. He now understands that a site sits empty and alone if it cannot be found, and so begins his quest to rank well in search engines. His first exposure to SEO, again through his wondrous email inbox, details the riches to be gained by hiring a firm to optimize his site’s meta tags, and subsequently submitting that site to thousands of search engines each and every month. It costs $99/month, but surely that is nothing compared to the massive amounts of money that will be made once his site ranks in the top 10 for over a dozen phrases chosen by the SEO firm in at least 50% of the search engines they submit to. Wow! Thousands of search engines…50% of those get top 10 rankings…for more than a dozen phrases! The riches are right around the corner! Until they aren’t.

seo-evolution-stage3-3898970At this point, the newbie SEO has learned to be wary of the promises made in unsolicited emails that land in his email inbox. Another turn of the evolutionary wheel has been made, and the newbie SEO wanders out into the realm of the … SEO Forum. There lies all the answers…and all for free! The newbie SEO now makes the leap into optimizing his site himself, as he spends all of his waking time (which is close to 24/7) reading every post, in every thread of the SEO forum he has tumbled into. He soon learns that METAS aren’t the holy grail of SEO, and that submissions to search engines are silly and outdated. Instead, he skips off down the brown-brick road of recip links pages, sending form-letter emails requests demanding reciprocal link exchanges of thousands of site owners, optimizing his home page for 30 important keyword phrases, and including every keyword phrase he can think of in teeny-tiny light gray text at the very bottom of his home page. Then, he checks his rankings every day for every keyword, and gets really excited when he finds a few ranking in the top 100! Finally, the riches will come! Until they don’t.

As the months roll by, and the recip directory on his site reaches 30 pages of spam-filled links, but the rankings and traffic aren’t at the expected levels, the disgruntled noob seo begins to wonder where he went wrong. He now turns an important corner in his forum world, as he emerges from his “lurker” status to ask for feedback on his site. He is shocked when his amateurish attempts at optimizing his site are ridiculed and mocked. He is suddenly faced with new theories of content, long-tail, and one-way linkage that causes his brain to hurt as it is remolded and reshaped so intensely, that his skull actually begins to change shape (and will continue to do so over the next evolutionary stages), and he realizes that he needs to stand a little taller to be able to grasp this higher level of learning. Still, his past experiences have so shaped his thinking, that he still sees the need to take this new knowledge and twist it into a form that can be easily added to his site. So he listens again, despite his wariness, to the emails in his inbox that offer to help him generate lots of content on his site with the newest, whiz-bangiest RSS feed mixer available today! And as a bonus, he’ll also receive a blog comment auto-generator for no extra charge! Thus begins the budding SEO’s use of “automation tools”. He uses his wondrous new tools and the dollar signs flash green in his eyes, as he sees his 3 page site suddenly expanding to 3,000 pages – overnight! – while his blog commenting gizmo increases his one-way links by the thousands with just the click of a mouse button. And because he now has a slightly-straighter posture, he learns to dance a little at the thought of all those riches pouring in. Until the music stops.

seo-evolution-stage5-2958653One morning, the budding SEO wakes up to find that his site can no longer be found in Google – at all. It has been completely removed, and the tales he has heard of sites being banned suddenly become real for the emerging SEO. His beloved site, his baby, his creation, has been dealt a mighty blow, and he has been banned. The endless days and nights of research into the causes of such penalties creates new neuro-pathways in our SEO’s brain, and his evolution takes a mighty turn. It is at this point that our SEO does one of three things:

  1. His evolution stops and his species dies as he abandons his web site dreams forever.
  2. His brain calculates the risk vs. reward of automated site building and he buys/builds/outsources new, stealthier, less easily detectable tools that can crank out site after site after site, so that as some are banned, others are bringing in small amounts of money (which all add up)
  3. His brain comprehends the many mistakes he’s made in the past, and he seeks out those who can mentor him in search-sanctified methods

At this point, our SEO is well-past the newbie stage and spends his next few years as an experienced (but ever-learning) SEO. His evolution is as complete as it will be for quite some time, and his occasional fashion changes (hat colors) only serve to increase his level of expertise. He has now completely started over, concentrating significant time and resources on either:

  • Creating a well-designed site filled with quality content that naturally attracts links, and becomes more marketing-focused as he begins to understand that conversions matter, networking matters, and being unique matters. He spends considerable time doing keyword research and writing strong, compelling copy. He has mastered the the technical aspects necessary to ensure his site is crawlable and provides no roadblocks to search engine bots.
  • Immersing himself in the clever intricacies of black-hat technologies, always attempting to stay one step ahead of algorithmic changes, but being able to quickly adapt and change tactics when the search engines occasionally catch up and catch on. His failures are many, but in this game of numbers, it only takes a certain percentage of wins to make it all profitable.

This stage of evolution will sometimes show our SEO occasionally crossing over from one side of the fashion world to the other, and back again, but ultimately, we will likely see him choosing one fashion over the other as he determines his true comfort level. Perhaps in a few years, we will be able to add a few more evolutionary cycles to this post. Until then, happy SEO’ing.

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