Hermits and Missionaries

Ammon Johns

If variety is the spice of life, then certainly SEO is one of the hottest jobs around. Rand Fishkin over at SEOmoz was looking at some of his favourite SEO tasks some while back, and just those few brief picks highlight just how diverse the facets of SEO activity can be. One also could not help but notice how almost all of his favourite tasks are interactive and centered around discussion. 

I think Rand's list made me look again at the one real divide in the ranks of those who practice SEO, and indeed web developmers too - it isn't the hats, nor the techniques. The real divide is between the hermits and the missionaries.

Hermits and Missionaries?!?

Hey look, it is a Sunday morning after a heavy weekend and that's the best names you're getting from me.

They just happen to be especially apt names. You know what divide I'm talking about. The divide between those who practice SEO as a way of enabling them to be isolated from bosses and clients, and those who practice SEO as a way of spreading their zeal, enthusiasm and knowledge. This is the true divide in our industry. It isn't hats, or ethics, or technical ability but whether we are lone wolves, or pack wolves that has any meaningful difference.

Now hermits aren't all wild-haired geeks with poor manners. The hermit seo isn't about looking like a hermit, (Jill Whalen is a definite missionary, not a hermit, despite the wild hair and "shotgun on the porch" low tolerance for disagreement or divergance). The hermits are simply those who use SEO to be independant, to divorce themselves from the 'old school' business world. Hermits deeply relish their independance.

The Hermit SEO may make his or her living entirely through affiliate programs or contextual advertising. Hermits may sell their own products, from eBooks to software, homecrafts to, well, almost anything. There are even a few hermits who do retain clients, but they'll often never meet those clients face to face, and prefer it that way.

The Missionary is entirely the opposite. Deeply social, they love to teach and preach. The Missionary is far more likely to take a consultative approach in general, but that does certainly not mean that all missionaries practice consultancy. There are many SEO providers who take a total outsource approach with clients, who still have the missionary passion for dealing with clients, and delight in converting the 'Doubting Thomas' client.

The missionary may be in-house, or an agent, they may be an employee or a sole-proprieter, but they are always a team player, and always enjoy the social aspects of the job.

So what makes these differences meaningful?

That's simple. The difference is in what you need from your SEO agent/provider.

If you want an SEO to be autonomous, and just get on with things with a minimum of time spent chatting with you, then you may well be better suited by the Hermit type of SEO. A Missionary would probably be unhappy and disappointed by your lack of visible interest and involvement in the campaign.

If you want consultation, to have things explained, or to have face-to-face meetings with your SEO agent then you are best finding a Missionary type. A Hermit would resent the time you were taking up on things not directly productive.

There, finally a dichotomy that actually means something to the work they do, and the clients they serve.

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