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July 16, 2009

Lessons from Harry Potter: How to Become an SEO Wizard

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This hot summer weekend you might find yourself in a refrigerated movie theatre, savoring the brain freeze from a cherry slushy, and dropping the occasional chocolate-covered peanut down your shirt. If you’re smart, the parent of young kids, or just have good taste, there’s a chance the film in front of you will be “Harry Potter and The Half-Blood Prince.”

The enchanting story of a young wizard uncovering mysteries and learning about magic is nothing short of a worldwide cultural sensation. Opening night midnight ticket sales came to a record-breaking $22.2 million. More records are expected to be broken throughout the film’s first week. With fans directing so much of their support and energy to the Harry Potter series, it’s exciting to see that there are lessons we can receive in return. Search engine marketing lessons, at that!

Learn from the Best Wizards

Whether a witch or a webmaster, everyone starts somewhere. And the best place to start is with a solid education taught by the experts. Harry goes to Hogwarts to learn about witchcraft, and he’s taught the tricks of the trades from the best wizards around. Just as study and training hones magic into a skill, so too does study and training improve the skills of search engine optimization.

As an SEO, let learning be an ongoing project, and continually grow and improve. My introduction to the search industry may have been the best ever. I started with Bruce’s SEOToolSet Training, establishing a strong foundation with high-level concepts and methodology. The following week, I acquainted myself with the major search engine news sites, built up my subscriptions to reputable blogs, followed the experts on Twitter and picked up the nuggets of info that trailed them. By learning from the experts, I was on the fast track to SEO proficiency.

Don’t Discount the Muggles

In the Harry Potter universe, a Muggle is a non-magical person like you or me. There are some witches and wizards who look down on Muggles because they don’t understand the magical realm. Even Harry, an infamous and influential member of the wizarding world, is made fun of for his mother’s Muggle heritage. Muggles are viewed as outsiders and their value is often discounted by the wizarding world, however Muggle bloods like Harry and magical prodigy Hermoine, prove that these “others” are critical contributors to the greater good.

SEOs interact with their Muggle counterparts everyday. Whether it’s a client, a co-worker or just someone who doesn’t understand the value of search engine visibility, the gap of understanding can be a frustrating thing. And yet, the success of an SEO campaign depends on the efforts and cooperation of all parties involved. SEO evangelism is vital not only for the growth of the industry, but also for the buy-in that’s required to get the job done. When the SEO department works hand-in-hand with the marketing department and seamlessly with the IT department, there’s a spell for success.

Avoid the Dark Arts

In wizardry and search marketing alike, great power can be used for both good and evil. Harry fights against the evil forces of Voldemort, championing the power or goodness, friendship and love. For those like Harry who defend justice and fairness, it can be hard never knowing who to trust. But with his conscience, instincts and education as his guide, Harry maneuvers through the challenges that come his way and stays strong against the seductive influence of the Dark Arts.

Similarly, the temptation to practice black hat SEO techniques lingers around the search community. It would be nice if there was a way to shortcut the perpetual grind that is search engine optimization. But there is no shortcut to quality. Whatever is gained by black hat techniques will be short-lived, could hurt your professional reputation, and might even come with a penalty from the engines. While the dark side of SEO is seen in ranking manipulation and hacks, white hat SEO centers on the creation of a better Web site. In the case of the latter, everyone gets to enjoy a piece of the magic.

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One response to “Lessons from Harry Potter: How to Become an SEO Wizard”

  1. David Temple writes:

    What a fun read! Looking forward to the sequel.



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