SEO Short Stories

// // May 29th 2012 // Humor + SEO

I've wanted to comment on a number of the debates going on in the SEO community but every time I started to write about it, it felt wrong and boring.

So instead, I wrote a few short stories about SEO that (hopefully) convey my perspective. I'll leave you to decide what I'm talking about and hope you find it as entertaining to read as it was to write.

Law & Order: Silicon Valley

Detective Gorem O Rly?

The room was hot, the two-way mirror smudged with sweaty fingerprints. The pea green paint on the wall was peeling and the battered metal table clanked as the well dressed man fidgeted under interrogation.

The grizzled detective paced back-and-forth rubbing his stubbled jaw.

"We know you did it," he growled.

"I did not kill my wife," the husband said, deliberately stressing the first word.

"You're good with words, I'll give you that," the detective sneered. "Maybe you didn't pull the trigger but you might as well have. You walk into the bank, take out five grand in cash and BANG, next week your wife is dead."

He punctuated the last line by pounding the table with his fist. The husband jerked upright at the sound giving the detective the opening he wanted. Moving around the table the grabbed him by the collar. "Tell me who you paid to do it."

"Fine," the husband said sagging back in his chair. "I'll tell you, but I want a deal."

A commercial break later the detective is staring at the husband from outside the interrogation room. It's oddly dark as he chats with the young Assistant District Attorney who announced herself by clacking into the room in her high heels.

"Guy says the killer's been busy," he tells her.

"You believe him?"

The detective nods. "Yeah, went through some old cases and the MO wasn't hard to spot."

"Okay, pick 'em up. We'll charge them both," she says with curt finality.

The Mountain View Speeding Ticket

So Ya Thank You're A Tough Guy Huh?

You're pulled over on the side of the road watching the cop slowly walk up to your candy apple red Porche in the side view mirror.

Hands on his hips CHiPs style, the cop asks you a simple question. "Do you know how fast you were going?"

What a stupid question you think to yourself. Of course you know how fast you were going. In this instance you'd blown past the normal 10 mph buffer zone of the speed limit. You were in a hurry.

"No officer, I don't," you say laconically.

The cop isn't wearing sunglasses but instead some sort of strange asymmetrical band that makes you think of the Death Star attack sequence from Star Wars.

"Too fast," he says and begins to tap you out a ticket on his Galaxy Nexus. As he does an old maroon Ford Aerostar minivan roars by doing at least 90 mph. The cop doesn't seem to notice and that bugs the shit out of you.

"Didn't you see that guy," you blurt out. "He was going way faster than me!"

The cop glances up from his phone to look at you, to acknowledge that you've spoken, but doesn't reply and continues to tap away. God, what an asshole, you think. Doesn't he know that he wouldn't have a job without my tax dollars!

"There shouldn't be any speed limit, you know," you say as much to yourself as to the cop. "It should be like the autobahn where everyone can just drive as fast or as slow as they want."

Another glance from the cop.

"And, I mean, the speed limit changes. It's flexible. Did you know that they lowered the speed limit to 55 mph during the gas crisis in the 70s? Its' all just arbitrary," you say thinking that you've totally pwned him.

The cop pockets his phone and deliberately leans through the car window. Without cracking a smile he says, "Son, last I looked this isn't Germany and it's 2012."

The Girl in Canada You Went All the Way With

Negative SEO

"You don't know her," Eugene says. "She's from Canada."

It's the first day of High School and everyone is trying to look cool. Eugene has been strutting around telling everyone he knows that he went all the way with a girl over the summer.

"So you got laid by some girl from Canada?" Matt asks incredulously.

"Totally," Eugene nods smugly.

"But you can't tell me her name?" Matt asks.

"No," Eugene says. "I mean, if I tell you her name you're just going to look her up and ask her all sort of questions. She needs her privacy, you know."

"Is she hot?"

"Oh yeah, she had curves in all the right places," Eugene says with a Bogart accent, which doesn't really tell Matt anything.

"So what exactly did you do?"

"Oh you know how it works, do I really have to explain it to you?" Eugene says condescendingly.

This conversation has played out over and over again throughout the ages. Clearly Matt doesn't believe that some hot girl from Canada took Eugene's virginity. In this case Matt's absolutely correct.

Eugene spent the summer mooning over a girl working at the art house movie theater. "Enjoy the show" is the only thing she's said to him. "Thanks" is the only thing he ever said in response.

That's not to say that the hot girl from Canada doesn't happen. It does from time to time. But sometimes important details are left out. The girl from Canada is sometimes a 'lady of the night'.

The East Comes West

Get Off My Lawn

A long time ago there were a handful of people who saw an amazing opportunity. They moved out West and set-up shop right along a brand new railroad.

They built their business from scratch with their own hands. Not many had the gumption to do this so business was brisk. Not only that but you could get away with almost anything. Heck, the sheriff only rode into town once a month or so. The law just couldn't keep up with the number of towns springing up.

The people riding the railroad were hearty folk. It took some doing to travel out West on the loud contraption. So they were willing to deal with folks they didn't know or had heard of before and were careful not to get rooked. Of course, a few liked it so much they wanted to make it easier to visit.

Roads were built and that brought a lot more people to the town. Business was booming. But along with the visitors came a few others ready to set-up business. The town grew and suddenly you had to work a bit harder for your business. And the sheriff started coming around more often, so you had to be (or at least seem) more respectable.

The rich people back East began to realize that the West was going to make it. They'd thought it might have just been a fad but now they recognized their error. So they packed up their things, put on their Sunday best, and headed out West. The 'old timers' laughed as the newcomers flailed about trying to build like they had back East. They didn't understand the West.

But over time they did figure it out. Once they did, they made sure everyone else back East knew that they were out West. They built huge signs that you could see from nearly anywhere and just couldn't ignore. That's when things really changed. Because suddenly everyone was out West. But these weren't the hearty folks of old who were happy keep their back against the wall and one eye open at all times. They just followed those big signs.

The 'old timers' still knew a thing or two though. They could get things done behind the scenes, grease some wheels. And there were still some places left that were untouched by the taint of the East. Of course, there were others who saw what was coming and rebuilt their business mixing equal parts West and East.

Because it wasn't too much longer until that town was a massive metropolis jam-packed with people. Unfortunately, it was getting increasingly confusing too. A new zoning board sprung into action. Their goal was to make it easier for folks to find what they needed. They built malls.

It was difficult to compete with the malls dotting the cityscape. Everyone and their brother's sister's dog was trying to get a spot next to those big East anchor stores. The 'old timers' walked through the malls shaking their heads, wondering how they'd been shoved aside. Telling themselves they were better than those from the East.

Sometimes they sat around in the park and talked about how unfair it was. They told stories of the crappiest of crappy strip mall they saw over in some suburb. Proof that the system was broken! Other times they turned on each other, brawling in a fit of rage. When they finally tired of the gossip they went back home and tried to recreate that time of yore, doing the same things they always did and expecting them to work.

Hardly anyone noticed.

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Comments About SEO Short Stories

// 11 comments so far.

  1. Mark // May 29th 2012

    Very funny AJ – I recognise the first two from your comments on Point Blank, so glad to see you’ve elaborated on the idea! However the last one is my favourite.

  2. AJ Kohn // May 29th 2012

    Thanks Mark.

    Yes, it was making that comment on Point Blank that gave me the idea to do this. So I reworked those two stories and tossed in a two others that had been in my head.

    The last one is my favorite as well. I could probably write three times as much and/or make it a first person narrative. Maybe I will some day. I liked the idea of an alternate science-fiction universe with a nod toward Gulliver’s Travels. Not sure that came through but I think my point did either way.

  3. Michael J. Kovis // May 29th 2012

    Good stuff AJ.

    I too saw your comment from yesterday or Sunday (whenever it got posted) and couldn’t help but have a hearty laugh. Great analogies you have created with these stories.

    Always good to have some camaraderie in our industry.

    Thank you for the Tuesday morning smiles.

  4. AJ Kohn // May 29th 2012

    Thanks Michael, I’m glad you enjoyed it. The speeding ticket analogy is one I use often and I noticed you too used it in your own response over at Point Blank. It just makes sense doesn’t it!?

  5. Michael J. Kovis // May 29th 2012

    Yes it does. That is one of the closest analogies in retrospect to the responses we get in the SEO industry when people complain about violating Google’s guidelines. It frustrates me beyond belief when I read them, just like when someone complains about the officer who pulled them over for speeding and gave them a ticket.

    Could I assume that the main point here is to step up and take responsibility for your own actions? Especially after being the recipient of a disciplinary response.

  6. Sean // May 29th 2012

    AJ, this is a great read. I love it when people put different spins on SEO topics. My personal favourite was “The East Comes West”. Excellent stuff :)

  7. AJ Kohn // May 29th 2012

    Yes, taking responsibility for your own actions is definitely part of the point to the speeding ticket story. The other points are that it doesn’t matter if others get caught or not. That’s just the way it works. Plenty do it, but only a few get caught. Whining about that reality doesn’t change it.

    Nor does it change the rules as they stand right now. Things change and evolve. Tracing the history of those rules and why they exist now is … interesting, but ultimately unproductive.

  8. Matt Davies // May 29th 2012

    Very enjoyable post… the Girl In Canada story especially made me lol.

    Additional to the speeding analogy, consider the steroid analogy. They’re not necessarily illegal (although they can be), but if you’re caught using them then you’re out of the game, sometimes permanently, and all the work you’ve put in up to then, and any achievements you made, will count for nothing.

    That said, if everyone else is using them and getting away with it, you’re unlikely to achieve anything without them anyway, so a lot of people end up hooked.

    The only real problem with the analogy is that most sporting bodies are much better at picking up on and punishing athletes using steroids than Google are at doing the same for websites that are breaking their guidelines. But it does avoid the implication that Google = The Law, which I find people often get a bit hung up on.

  9. AJ Kohn // May 29th 2012

    Thanks Matt, glad you liked it. And yes, steroids is another great analogy! in fact, you could say that for a time major league baseball was turning a blind eye to this and finally decided to clean up the sport. A lot of good parallels there. I actually blogged about cheating in sports a while ago. There are some transferrable themes in that post.

    Yes, the Google = The Law is something many latch on to like a rabid dog. In the end, I view Google as the zoning board who is simply trying to cater to the demands of their constituents. Algorithm changes aren’t aimed at SEOs, they’re in response to market forces and customer demand. If Google doesn’t respond, those users will go elsewhere.

  10. AJ Kohn // May 29th 2012

    Thanks Sean, I appreciate the kind words. I figured a preachy rant would be boring but this might be fun.

    The East Comes West is my favorite. I could have spent a number of hours making it bigger and more detailed but done is better than perfect.

  11. Juliemarg // June 02nd 2012

    Very clever. BTW, you need Pinterest on your social share – I just pinned you ;^D
    http://pinterest.com/juliemarg/get-on-the-map

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