We Can’t All Be SEO Rockstars

by rishil on January 12, 2010

Rockstars (not the SEO kind)

Rockstars (not the SEO kind) Photo Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/anirudhkoul/

NOTE: For those poor unfortunates that follow me on twitter, you ought to know by now that I recently visited Kenya August 2009.  I wrote the post below on the plane on my journey there and partly at Doha International Airport where I had a two hour stopover.  I forgot about it until  I realised in was officially recognised one of the contributors to SEOmoz’s Search Engine Ranking Factors survey.  : NOTE END

So I am 33000 feet up in the air, travelling at a speed of 790 km/hr and about 8 hours from my first stop, which thankfully is a short one. I have watched a film, a pretty good one, which unfortunately I didn’t catch the name of, (*edit it’s called The Rocker – googled it) but it was about this has-been “rock star” that used to be with a band “Vesuvius”  and three teens who formed a band to include him in it 20 years after his fall from grace. As feel good movies go, this is pretty standard, in that it delivers the promised happy ending along with the usual sub plot melodrama that makes it interesting light hearted entertainment.

What does that have to do with SEO?

I don’t know. Maybe nothing. Maybe everything.

There are those of us who are always high flying, living the good life, playing the SERPs at every shot, the SEO rock stars. Recognised everywhere the word SEO means Search Engine Optimisation, hated, adored and envied in varying proportions throughout the world.

Then there are those of us, who life passed by, but we are still trying, still “rocking on” still wanting to be the “in” crowd. We used to do something or the other until we got into “internet marketing” and eventually into SEO. Those of us in that category aren’t  failures, but just haven’t discovered our strengths.

Then there are those of us who are new, young, fresh, with some seriously mad ideas, rising stars and recognised as such by the Rock Stars and the rest of the community.

And then we have melodrama. Boy we have melodrama. But then, that’s a whole story in its own right and not one I dare venture tell.  I have friends and people I respect on most sides of the arguments.

What I would like to offer to you today, in return for you taking a few precious minutes out to read this, is some simple advice.  But fist allow me tell you a little about me.

I moved to London 8 years ago from East Africa. I chose my university by picking the furthest distance from London so I wouldn’t have to stay with family. I had a computer back home, it was an Amstrad which I used to load games on from radio cassettes. That was the limit to my exposure to computers. When I submitted my first ever university assignment, I received a £20 bill from the administration office. I had delivered the assignment handwritten and they had to pay someone to type it up.

For the first 2 years I paid people to word process my assignments. You know when I regularly started using computers? When I found out there are websites where I could read free science fiction online. That’s where my flirtation with the internet began. Trying to find stupid geeky shit that I loved to read but couldn’t get most of the times.

In the interim I have done a lot to earn a living, DJ’ed, ran a club, promoted events, marketed a hospital, and marketed doctors. But you know what? Nothing EVER gave me the satisfaction that working with SEO does. Nothing.

But I am not the world’s greatest SEO. I am not even a mediocre link builder. I do not understand web servers or how certain analytics work. I hate spreadsheets and do not like making charts.   I do not understand PHP, ASP, or any other programming language for building websites, except for HTML and CSS, which I have a rudimentary knowledge of. Self taught. Thanks to Open Source  Design networks.

You know what I am good at? Strategy, creativity and assimilation. Most of all assimilation, as this leads to successes in the former two. I read information. I absorb it. I process it, and I come up with solutions, or potential solutions. And I do that pretty well. And I am good at teaching people. Making them understand what I mean without getting too technical. And I am pretty OK with relationships, which really helps.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am making a point. I am not a rock star. But I know that I am pretty good in a couple of areas. That’s where I excel, and that’s where I stick. For everything else regarding SEO, I know where to find people to help. And as much as I hate the word synergy, it’s the word most apt when two SEOs or a team of SEOs meet who all have complementary skills. Case and point?   The guys at SEOmoz.  The amazing Distilled team.  And all the other successful agencies that have teams for SEO’s in different fields.

My point is, find what you are good at. Stop reading 100 posts on link building in the hope of becoming a link ninja. Don’t try and become an affiliate guru if you don’t really understand the intricacies of affiliate marketing. Dont try and be an SEO writer if your normal writing skills are below par.  Know your strength and specialise in it. Practise it even more. SEO is still an infant industry. There are sub disciplines in it, even though the boundaries are murky. SEO is not just onsite vs offsite SEO. It has plenty to offer people specialising in micro parts of it. Find your skill, hone it and work it. Help those who are weak with that skill.

Everybody can’t be a rock star. But everybody can be special.

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Rishi Lakhani is an independent Online Marketing Consultant specialising in SEO, PPC, Affiliate Marketing and Social Media. Explicitly.Me is his Blog. Google Profile

{ 2 trackbacks }

Small Business SEO: Search Engine Submission Scam — Explicitly Me - Rishi Lakhani's Home on the Web
January 25, 2010 at 10:24 pm
Think Visibility: Why I Traveled 15,272 Kms For My First Conference — Part 2 | Angie's Copywriting Services
September 20, 2010 at 7:08 am

{ 25 comments… read them below or add one }

Lord Manley January 13, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Can I be both please?


Domenick January 23, 2010 at 5:12 pm

“I hate spreadsheets and do not like making charts. I do not understand PHP, ASP, or any other programming language for building websites, except for HTML and CSS, which I have a rudimentary knowledge of. Self taught.”

“I read information. I absorb it. I process it, and I come up with solutions, or potential solutions.”

Damn, I thought I was writing this for a moment, you just hit it on the nail. And the last paragraph is why some might consider you to be a “RockStar”,”Special” or anything else deemed worthy.

Beautiful read brotha, couldn’t have said it any better.


Goosh February 12, 2010 at 8:43 am

Rishi, that is a perfect post. I suffer from the opposite – jack of all, master of none, but that is more for my cravings for information and trying to improve my all-round knowledge. You can’t just become an SEO overnight – There’s a Difference Between Reading Something and Doing Something!

It’s hard to pullback and say “I don’t need to know that, lets focus on something else”, but I totally agree that you should hone the skills you know you are good at – for some people that just takes longer to find out what that is.


Simon Mickle September 17, 2010 at 9:22 am

There are a lot of unsung heroes in SEO writing great content and inspiring others. Sometimes its better to be safe in the knowledge you’ve helped others than be an “SEO Rockstar”


Dave October 6, 2010 at 2:46 pm

An interesting post and very true there are so many layers to SEO !!


Prachi D December 13, 2010 at 3:55 pm

Great post Rishil.. It is just finding out what you are good at and being able to use to excel yourself and others around you


Tony Verre January 11, 2011 at 10:43 pm


There’s a lot words I’d love to use to describe this post, but the two words I wanted to express the most when I finished it were: “thank you”. Takes some real moxie to write that, especially in a field, sad but true, littered with ego-maniacs and dictionary definitions of one-manship.

I’ll admit it too; I’m no “rockstar”. I’m not the best SEO there was or ever will be. I’m just a guy who happens to love creating nothing from something, guy who loves data and information, a guy, much like yourself, who likes to teach, and just happened to find my niche and home here in search marketing.

Thanks again. Pretty righteous and special.


Doc Sheldon January 12, 2011 at 3:08 am

Definitely one of the best posts I’ve seen in a while, Rishil! We’ve all got our strengths and weaknesses. Recognizing both is a strength unto itself.


Mike1981 January 28, 2011 at 11:52 am

This is a bloody awesome post!! As @Domenick said it genuinely feels like someone has written down my thoughts and in doing so have alleviated some fears about not knowing everything SEO wise as sometimes it feels like others do!

Genuinely inspired by this – good stuff mate!



Gordon Campbell January 28, 2011 at 12:57 pm

Cheers for that post mate. When starting off in any industry I think the most important part is hard work & studying as you work. After that, and you get a bit more experienced, it goes back to the old ‘work smarter’ cliché.


SEO.co.uk July 2, 2013 at 2:44 pm

Dear Webmaster,

We are currently undergoing a “Link Profile Cleanup”.

Would you be so kind, as to remove the links shown below from your site (including this blogpage), pointing to ours (http://www.seo.co.uk/seo/)?

I would highly appreciate it if this is done as soon as possible.

Many thanks, and kind regards,

SEO.co.uk Management

The links:



rishil July 8, 2013 at 8:07 am

Many thanks, and Kind Regards


Sandeep March 25, 2011 at 5:07 pm

Nice post Rishil..truly speaking it really helps some one like me who’s new to the industry..just 7 months old…it is always good to know your strengths and focuss on it…


Marcus March 25, 2011 at 5:54 pm

Hey Rishil

It’s a good point. I myself started out as a programmer, then website developer which incorporated bits of SEO in my first few jobs (wayyy back) and then slowly, I ended up working for myself and mainly building sites, some basic promotion and SEO advice etc.

Thing was, the area that I always read about, the info that I followed was always SEO based, it just took me some time to realise this was where my passion was. Well, that and the fact that you get tied into things, jobs, clients etc, so it is still taking some effort to detach myself from previous endeavours but I am now only taking on new work that I actually want to do.

It’s important to figure out what you like and what you are good at, don’t try to force a square nut into a round hole as they say. As well, if you are doing something you enjoy, it’s hurts a lot less when you are still hacking away at midnight! :)

If everyone did work that made them happy, the world would be a happier place my friend.

Anyhow, the weekend beckons. Cheers!


michael balistreri April 18, 2011 at 10:50 pm

I like the simplicity yet very sound advice you give to apply what you are good at.
Once a certain amount of inter discipline -ish knowledge is accumulated, you can then roll that out of the testing arena and directly into client projects. As, theoretically you’d now also be good at that too. I find that in testing all areas SEO, while I become as good as time and interest allow, it’s the interest that makes it an easy choice to roll some stuff over to others. Some stuff is simply exceptionally boring regardless of results.


Steve Hill June 6, 2011 at 3:07 pm

My favorite part of this post was when you said “SEO is still an infant industry. There are sub disciplines in it.” Everyone in this industry, including myself constantly needs that reminder. We often fall into the trap of thinking we need to do it all well. If you really want to learn how to do it all, you’d best focus on building relationships with people who have already specialized and perfected their unique craft. Great post!


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