Respect the A-list, Kill the boys club
While I was participating in Bruce Clay Bowling Day (so fun!) this weekend, Nathan Holley was pointing a finger at search engine optimization’s "boys club", Michael Gray told non-A-list SEO Bloggers [to] Step Away From The Keyboard, and Jason Calacanis proved he’s living in an entirely alternate universe arguing the blogging A-list doesn’t exist and saying you’re an idiot for thinking otherwise. Ah, yes, that Jason is always so reasonable and even-tempered.
So is there an A-list?
Of course there’s an A-list. There’s an A-list in search engine optimization, in blogging, in NCAA basketball, in dating, and in life in general. The strong and the pretty survive to make lots of money, while the rest of us soldier on unnoticed. Deal with it. You should actually be used to it by now – it was the same all four years of high school, wasn’t it?
If Jason can’t see there’s an A-list, it’s because his ladder rung is so far above the rest of us B-, C-, and S-listers (that would be you, Karl) that we appear as mere black dots to him. We don’t even exist to Jason and his crew.
Whine all you’d like, but the A-list is a natural striation that you’re never going to get rid of. Some people will always be better known and attract more fanfare than others. Lisa walking into a room will never cause as much as commotion as when Rand Fishkin saunters in. And the therapy must be working because I’m okay with that. The concept of an A-list doesn’t bother me for two reasons: First, those people are there because they earned it, and second, the inner circle is penetrable. If you work hard and work smart, you can earn a spot at Danny Sullivan’s table.
Michael Gray may or may not agree considering he used his Saturday morning to rant that non-A-list SEO bloggers should stop blogging and find a new hobby. I agree with the heart of Michael’s message that there is too much regurgitation in this space, but I don’t think that means there’s not enough room for the smaller bloggers or smaller SEOs who are providing value. If you’re delivering a unique point-of-view, regardless of how small you or your readership are, regardless if you’re talking about a story you found on TechMeme, ignore the cranky Saturday mornings rantings of the Graywolf and keep soldiering on. You are worthwhile to this industry. He’s just angry because Long Island keeps getting hit with more and more snow and his feet are cold.
It would be a disserve to the industry if B-,C-, D-List bloggers and SEOs gave up. In my eyes, they are the heart of this space. They’re the ones still hungry, still getting their hands dirty, still working with that fire in their eyes that comes with the struggle.
Sometimes I sit through SES sessions rolling my eyes at the story about that one Fortune 500 company that was able to increase their yearly profit from $100 million to some other ridiculous number. I mean, good for them, but I don’t really care. I want to hear about the small in-house SEO who was able to get themselves out of the red and start turning a profit. I want that guy to start an SEO blog. He’s the one most affected by the random search engine fluctuations so he’s likely to be paying more attention to the little things others have let slide by. I’m way more interested in his search engine optimization tactics than I am by some of the members of the A-list. His next meal depends on the fruits of his campaign. The small SEO bloggers and companies are often far more interesting than anyone that goes solely by their first name.
And then if Jason and Michael didn’t get you riled up enough this weekend, there was Nathan Holley’s comments over at LED Digest about the "boys’ club" of search engine optimization.
Nathan commented, in part:
My point is, almost everyone writing on SEO and getting cited is in the boys club of that 1%… writing and linking and talking about each other. It’s a very small world, a tiny speck really. These Search Promotion Professionals (the new acronym I’m coining) are churning out a remarkable amount of ink talking about minutia and very little of value for the average Web business. They want to retain an air of exclusivity about their approaches and a proventialism about the industry that they are helping to shape. It’s driven by vanity, ambition, and greed, not by a desire to really get to know search algorithms.
The only part of Nathan’s comment that I agree with is the tendency for bloggers and SEOs to reference each other, however, I don’t think that’s evidence of a "boys club". I think it’s just human nature to talk about and show love to your friends. It’s a bad habit that needs to change.
For the bulk of his comments, I think Nathan is heralding an era that no longer exists. You may find the "boys’ club" approach to optimization still intact on some of the older forums, but that attitude is starting to dissipate. Calling search engine optimization a "boys’ club" signals that there’s no way for newbies to be accepted or gain respect and that’s just not the case. Up-and-comers are finding ways to make names for themselves, and better yet, women are speaking up gaining acknowledgement as well.
There’s a difference between the A-list and "the boys’ club". Newbies can break into the A-list over time; the "boys’ club" is elitist and impenetrable from the outside. I don’t think the optimization community reflects that and we should be careful not to confuse the two.
Does the A-list exist? Yes. Should you worry about becoming part of it? No. Concentrate on providing value through what you do. Once you’ve done that, stop obsessing and go bowling.