I just got back from a party with lots of friends. Few know exactly what I do for a living. I did recently do a training for many of them to teach the foundation of SEO. Some of my friends have lost their jobs recently and I wanted to introduce them to SEO as a possible career path. I know so many places looking to hire, it seemed like a good thing to do.
Tonight, my boyfriend was talking to a few friends that didn’t attend the training and he got to talking about SEOmoz, a dear company to me. I assume because he was talking to a software developer about perhaps joining them. I was in another conversation until I heard “Well that’s what Kate does for a living …” (said by boyfriend) and “I just think that making tools to do that is irresponsible because SEO is bad.” (said by friend) Now those aren’t direct quotes but that was the gist.
Perked my ears right up.
So I went to ask what was going on, see if I could clear some stuff up. I asked what was being said and got back from our friend “SEO is horrible. All you do is rank crappy sites for terms that I search for and I don’t want to see those. I like you but not your company.”
That sent me reeling. This guy didn’t know who I worked for and therefore I had no idea how he had an opinion of them. It turns out he misspoke, he meant “but not your industry”. But that didn’t sit well with me either.
After the initial argument about how he hated my company and why, I then asked why he hated the SEO industry. He went on to talk about bad SEO: gaming the system and ranking bad websites. I tried my hardest to explain what it was search marketers really do, but he’d hear none of it. In his book I was okay as a person, but not my profession.
I likened it to hating all lawyers. Lawyers get a bad rap overall. But not all lawyers are ambulance chasers. There are many that went into law to actually help people. So very many. But no one sees or talks about them and their hard work.
At the end of the conversation, after trying again to explain what we do at Distilled and how it’s not what he thinks, the last statement from him was “if that’s what makes you sleep better at night, awesome.” I wanted to cry right there. Yes, fucking girl moment and all. Okay, maybe wanted to punch something too, but you get the idea.
So lawyers, I’m sorry. I’m sorry you have to deal with this. The world’s view of all of you is tainted by a few assholes. They get press and you deal with the ridicule everyday. I’m starting to feel your pain.
Don’t get me wrong, this is not written to call out this friend (not in the least as I don’t think he’s the last person that will think this), it’s to think out loud about how SEO is perceived in the real world. We won’t be able to convince everyone that what we do is noble.
There are too many people that do that kind of SEO to change the public’s mind. Will I stop trying? No. I am too passionate about what I do. But I now realize that it’s going to just get worse and I need a personal plan for that. I need to work on calmly explaining what I do, and have examples ready to go. Know the elevator speech? I mean to build one that explains good SEO to the general public (and if you have one, I’d love to hear yours). I might not get everyone to understand, but I don’t care.
This isn’t about being right. Hell, this isn’t just about the SEO industry. I want the people around me to understand that an industry is not rotten. Not all congressmen are scum bags. Not all lawyers are out for the money. Not all MBAs are self-righteous. We are people.