SEO vs. Star Wars

When it comes to SEM, certainly the SEO part of it specifically, probably the most common pop culture reference made in association is that of George Lucas's Star Wars saga. Anyone who hasn't picked up on the innuendo from posts like this one from Jeremy Zawodny can get a larger sense of it by checking out SE results on queries like these:


There was a brief time when the old fart in me was getting a little frustrated with this. I admit to making the correlation lightly and casually myself on a couple occasions to date as it does work well for illustrative purposes (White Hat = Jedi, Black Hat = Sith, Traffic = The Force) etc., however IMHO the industry should try to keep a lid on it. It's a fun job and an important part of geek culture, but the practice is about common sense and application of simple principles despite complex technology and content issues. So sure, while it's fun to hear people ask things like "can you work your majick on..." (to quote a manager I had once), anyone who lets their ego get too involved as if there were any rocket science or majick or such to it is setting themselves up for trouble. I find it disturbing whenever I see symptoms of this, e.g. when the industry at large gets dissed by people who have been burned by SEOs whose egos and/or false promises eclipsed their skills, also the bummer of when pipes occasionally trickle out cannibalistic, dogmatic link bait leveraging the pervasiveness of the reference (yeah, I know Pasternack's post there was a while ago but you see what I mean).

Though it can aid explaining SEO to non-search marketers and/or non-marketers altogether, the metaphor can be OK to bring up in discussions within the space but should be kept on the slight down-low otherwise, on these counts:

  1. For one thing it's not totally accurate. Traffic that can be monetized might be Forceful, but WHs and BHs aren't cut-and-dry rivals despite the rift between their cultures. Regarding competition, it's possible if not probable that white-on-white and black-on-black each happen more oft that white-on-black or vice-versa (though that does happen too at least sometimes). I regret not recalling who first put it this way, but I read it put once that WHs compete mostly with one another whereas BHs compete more with the engines themselves. I think there's probably some truth to that angle as well.
  2. More importantly it should be tempered in consideration of the client perspective particularly. The following is more analogously purposeful there:

    A SEO consultant is like a Sherpa with his/her clients being climbers looking to scale a mountain. The mountain is for the most part benign and indifferent, and can be presumed to treat aspiring scalers even-handedly. Officially speaking and in theory if not also always practice, it owes nothing to anyone or anything so it doesn't do special requests, does nobody any special favors and gives back silence to anyone hoping to find such. Terrain can be steep and the weather can be unpredictable and subject to sudden and extreme changes sometimes, but the fundamental natural laws of the environment do hold steadfast. So while there are no entitlements or guarantees and climbers should be careful of anyone saying otherwise, an experienced and savvy Sherpa is valuable for their knowledge of how to ascend smartly - avoiding pitfalls and thin ice, knowing how to not cause avalanches etc... A climber guided by a good Sherpa has a much better chance of getting from point A to B if/as they have specific destinations in mind, and/or more general gains i.e. to positions where they can enjoy better visibility and outlook. Sherpas who give sound guidance - whose guidance moreover gets followed - almost always take clients to better places, evidence of which can be documented. Bad Sherpas can cause serious accidents or other mishaps that put travelers at risk, so if you choose to walk the paths pick your Sherpa carefully, and come as fit as you can or at least looking to get some exercise.

    So far I find this is an effective way to help cover a lot of things. Aside from helping manage expectations by hammering home the point that SEO isn't at all advertising like PPC/PI, it sets up a critical "we're in this together" dynamic. It also helps explain the roles of engines, algorithms, standards and guidelines, banning, ranking, content development, and evolution of search overall. It also helps frame important discussions about performance measurement and ROI.

    Obviously other symbols could be drawn upon to explain SEO and SEOs similarly: doctors (vs. witch doctors vs. miracle workers), counselors, etc.

Anyway, as the Star Wars thing ain't going away and per recent discussions I partook in here and here re. BH and SEO advocacy respectively, I've given in and added my humble bounty hunter's bit to the myth now. For your consideration - and BTW please have your stereo speakers or headphones on:

SEO Wars: Watch the Trailer!

[9.5 MB, QuickTime required]

Thanks to those who inspired my finally getting around to this (July 4th falling oddly mid-week this year, and also the way boobs inspire boobery all helped too). Also, props + apologies to featured celebrity bloggers whose only crime was having names that happened to fit well for "casting" (I may be an old fart but I'm no little shit and made this outta nuttin' but wuv)...

Enjoy, all! :wink:

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