A new year brings new resolutions.
Some readers might be considering taking that giant leap from their boring day job into the wonderfest that is full-time SEO. Huge money! Party central! Hangin' at conferences with Matt Cutts! What could possibly go wrong?
Let's take a serious look at what your new life will look like.
It's Going To Hurt
SEO is a world of hurt.
When you start, you'll have little money. Your bills don't stop coming in. Google, rather uncooperatively, may not rank your sites for six months.
Perhaps you've already got a few sites ranking. You've got some steady adsense/affiliate money coming in, which is right about the time Update Oh-My-God happens.
A Google update, like a demented hurricane, trashes your site for no good reason. OK, maybe, maybe you had *some* links that were not, in the cold light of day, strictly-speaking, based 100% on merit. But hey, everyone else was doing it, right?
It will be no consolation that everyone else's sites will have been trashed, too. You will meet these people in SEO forums, gnashing their teeth as if the world has just come to end.
It has, of course.
There are few more heart-breaking moments than when Google sends an H-bomb crashing down on your dreams. Google say they do this to improve their "service", but mostly they do it "because it's fun".
Your SEO forum buddies will explain, sometimes using elaborate math, why everyone's rankings dropped. These explanations are bullshit and can be safely ignored. Well-intended they may be, but your buddies don't have a clue. Chances are they just read something in another forum, thought it sounded profound, so they repeated it.
The sad reality is few people are doing any real testing these days.
Even more annoying will be the person who claims his site hasn't been affected. He will lecture everyone else on how, in the latest update, Google is finally rewarding higher quality sites.
Don't worry. This sanctimonious fool will likely get his site trashed in the next update. It will then be his chance to gnash his teeth.
In SEO, everyone gets their turn eventually.
Right about this time, that autographed picture of Matt Cutts hanging on your wall will start to look sinister. You could swear the picture is pulsing red with the faint glow of hells-fire.
Feeling scared and alone, you take it down and hide it in the drawer.
Are You Serious?
Events, like those described above, are just life's way of testing to see if you're serious.
If you are serious, you climb back up on the horse, get back in that saddle, and go rope some steers. Or, if you're an SEO, not a cowboy, you start fixing your sites.
Alternatively, you could decide that the performance-based SEO lifestyle is way too difficult, and vow to become an SEO consultant instead. Being an SEO consultant really takes the pressure off. Mostly, you just talk about stuff. Repeat things you've heard in forums.
Firstly, gather together some cryptic sounding jargon - "latent semantic indexing" is always a crowd pleaser - and apply to talk at the SMXWebmasterWorldSearchEngineStrategies conference. Next, get your smiling, drunken self into a photo, with your arm around Matt Cutts. This implies you have an inside line at Google. Finally, knock together an SEO consultant web site to display it all to the world. Claim to be an "SEO Expert". Often.
Being an SEO Expert is not a rare commodity. There are 22,345,947 SEO experts in India alone. And many work for less than your weekly beer bill. So unless you've got the sales skills of Tony Robbins, the solitary SEO consultant gig is a tough one.
You may decide to join an SEO agency. This is an easier gig, as you can focus 100% on SEO, surrounded by people who claim to know a lot more about SEO than they actually do. Many of your co-workers post regularly on forums.
You will soon enjoy the delights of heading off to a client site to tell a room full of hostile designers why their award winning flash site will have to be redesigned, from scratch, preferably using bare HTML.
Best of luck.
Following that lively exchange of views, you may wish to kiss the dark arts of SEO farewell, and move into the world of PPC.
PPC is a lot easier than SEO. Well, it is if you have a bank balance the size of Texas. If you don't have a lot of money, you'll spend all your time tweaking budgets, which, if you get them wrong, can end up costing you your credit limit. PPC is dangerous, but at least you can take that autographed photo of Matt Cutts back out of the drawer.
He cannot touch you now.
If you fail miserably at being an SEO and PPC consultant, don't despair. You can always take the easy way out.
Become a social media consultant.
Becoming A Social Media Consultant
The beauty of this gig is you don't need any technical chops at all.
Simply grab a book on public relations, rewrite it by dropping the word "Facebook", or "Twitter" in every second paragraph, and hit the speaking circuit. Rehash the same old stuff about "reach", "audience share", and "convergence" and mix it up with new terms like "re-tweet". If you're feeling confident, throw some Cluetrain Manifesto quotes in, like "Markets are conversations", and "Hyperlinks subvert hierarchy".
They love that stuff. No one knows what it means, but that simply validates your high fees.
The problem is the barrier to entry for becoming a social media consultant is set even lower than becoming an SEO consultant. That, and the fact everyone started calling "bs" on the whole thing last year.
My advice: don't quit your day job.
But I know you'll ignore me.
Have fun in 2011 :)
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