SEO

What Steve Jobs Taught Me about SEO

Not only did Steve Jobs build the world’s largest company, he succeeded in changing the world. In fact, in many ways his products and ideas have influenced almost everyone on our planet. From iTunes to the iPhone and the iPad, Apple’s brand and products extend to every corner of the globe and are present in almost every decision made in the consumer electronics market.

The battle between Mac and PC users is nothing less than personal. You’re either one or the other, and you support your decision with a full heart. Someone is a Republican or Democrat, on Sprint or on T-mobile, a Mac or a PC … Well, you get the idea.

No matter your opinion on Apple, its products, or of Steve Jobs’ leadership philosophies, we should all be able to agree that Jobs was an innovator and almost single-handedly changed the world. What entrepreneur would not admire that and be inspired?

To learn more about Steve Jobs, I read the biography by Walter Isasscson. I found it to be a very well-written book about Jobs that pulls no punches, successfully describes his character and personality, and shows you the REAL STEVE JOBS. This book is not a glorified success story to portray an icon.

After reading this book, I did not learn new link building techniques or content generation strategies to help with my SEO practice. Rather, I learned several key business practices that will forever change the way I run my SEO company. Here are several things that Steve Jobs, through the words of Walter Isaacson, taught me about SEO:

Without Toshiba There Would be No iPod

The idea of the iPod came before any product lists, go to market strategies, or manufacturing supply chains came to be. In fact, many within Apple knew that technology to build the iPod did not exist. The idea of the iPod was before its time and could not be. At this time, the market of MP3 players consisted of “junk” gadgets that could hold 10 digital songs on a device, dominated by Sony (walkman). Who would have thought that a device that fit in your pocket could hold 1,000 songs? The idea was unreal.

A memory device that could hold 5 GB of information and hit into the space requirements of the iPod, well, did not exist—a problem that Steve Jobs would not accept. Within Apple, the engineering teams could not innovate this new technology. After the iPod idea came to be, months went by with no solution to the storage problem.

On page 385, Walter Isaacson describes a routine vendor trip that Jon Roubinstein made, traveling to Japan to meet with Toshiba. Doing this tour, Toshiba presented an idea for a  tiny, 1.8-inch drive (the size of a silver dollar) that held 5 GB of data that would be ready for market in a few months. The engineers at Toshiba had no idea how to apply this product to the market place and had no plans to distribute it.

Doing the product presentation, Roubinstein made the connection and knew that this was just the solution—the holy grail—that Steve Jobs was looking for. Rouinstein kept his poker face and left the tour. Later in the trip, Roubinstein consulted with Jobs telling him he found the missing ingredient of the iPod. Jobs, without hesitation, cut a check for 10 million dollars and cut a deal with Toshiba giving Apple exclusive rights to the product.

How did this change discovery change my SEO business?

1) Know Your Vendors

The iPod changed the music industry and portable music device marketplace. This would never have happened if Apple did not make routine trips to its suppliers to see new products. SEO in 2012 is completely different than SEO in 2008. Technology, content networks, social media platforms, distribution networks, niche industry communities, and other innovations exist.

WordPress widgets connect bloggers in ways we could not have imagined just a few years back. Web design and development companies operate differently. Public relations agencies are completely changing the way they service clients.

As an optimizer, I have approached things with a big ego, thinking that I’m the only one that knows the solution. Moving forward, I’m challenging myself to improve my vendor relations and knowledge of my supply chain’s new products. Opening consent communications to them to understand their new products and ideas.

Learning from Roubinsine’s trip to Japan, you never know when a vendor will present you with the holy grail that just may change the world. What if your local Web design company had the missing ingredient to your local link building strategy? Isn’t it worth a lunch meeting once a year to find out what they are up to? It’s up to us to understand these innovations and know how to apply them to our SEO campaigns. I bet your local Web design company has the key to success but don’t even know it. Go find out!

2) Everyone on the Same Page

“Shhhh … I’m the lead SEO at my agency, I control a team of people and I can’t show you what my master plan is. Shhh … don’t tell anyone, but here is your tasks that fit into the large piece of the campaign, you’ll see how everything fits together once the results come in. Don’t talk about it to anyone. I can’t show you everything. Trust me, just do what you’re assigned to do and don’t ask questions.”

How many of us have found ourselves in this position or currently operate this way? SEO is secret stuff. We are all battling to get top results for our clients. Our strategy’s and implementation plans are an SEO’s unique differentiating factor.

Steve Jobs is the father of the iPod as a Lead SEO is the father of the SEO strategy. However, Jobs did not find the missing part that made the iPod; someone on his operations team did. If Steve was secretive about his process and his operational challenges with his team, the iPod (and other Apple) products would never be. Who knows, maybe iTunes would never be either…

As a leader, do you send your employees to conferences and networking events? Do they engage with your supply chain? When they are in the marketplace, do they know what you’re SEO holy grail is? If they randomly found it when shaking hands with peers, would they know how it fit into your master SEO plan? Or, would they feel comfortable presenting it you? If not, you’re probably missing out on identifying key vendors and processes that will not only make your company succeed, but will lead to more success in your clients SEO campaigns.

Today, I’m challenging myself to make sure that all of my trusted partners, advisors, contractors, and employees know what innovations will make me stronger. The more eyes on the street I have, the more powerful my strategy will become. I’m still gun shy to show my entire poker hand, however, if my trusted circle knows how to make me powerful it’s a win-win for everyone.

What if Toshiba knew what they had?

Do you think Toshiba knew it invented the product that would forever change the portable music device market? If Toshiba knew that its 1.8-inch, 5 GB drive would open a billion dollar market for Apple, would it still ask for more than 10 million for exclusive rights to the gateway? If Jobs did not empower his team with knowledge of the product needs, would Roubinsine pass on the idea of Toshiba’s 1.8-inch drive?

As an SEO, will you adapt your management style and leadership techniques to incorporate these new learning? Do you think a random vendor can hold the missing link to your link building or content generation strategy?

 What Steve Jobs Taught Me about SEO
Gabriel Gervelis is the owner of Gervelis Search Marketing. You can find him on Twitter - @seo_pro,

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9 thoughts on “What Steve Jobs Taught Me about SEO

  1. I absolutely agree that everyone needs to be on the same page. You can’t be everywhere at once and what if you miss a great opportunity because your team member that was there didn’t know any better? You need to stay the leader, but that doesn’t mean keeping your team in the dark.

  2. That’s an awesome post Gabriel. Steve is an inspirational figure to all of us, looking at him from an SEO perspective was a nice read.

  3. All sounds great if we have a big budget for SEO, but what about small businesses and entrepreneurs like myself? I have tried bootstrapping, such as buying seo services on website like http://www.adsurf.net ot similar until I have a bigger budget. Great article!

  4. Hello Gabriel, I am impressed how effectively you made a connection between Steve Jobs’ s working way and SEO. You described a good point of “being on same page”, one should behaves like a lead but should also make his team aware of the plan. If lead would be secretive then only he would be the one to look for opportunities but if he makes his team aware of plan then whole team can seek for opportunities.

  5. I agree with Robins comment – it was a neat idea and spin on this article. The common links between Steve Jobs and SEO are pretty staggering when you think about it. Lets be honest, his name resides with the word innovation. Good SEO’s need to be innovative. Great article. Cool read.

  6. It was an inspiring article.! I also wanted to read his biography but didnt managed to.! Will do it as soon as possible.. Thanks for this article again… :)

  7. Interesting about Toshiba, I didn’t know that before. I bet they were kicking themselves later! Keeping an open mind while practicing SEO is absolutely necessary, especially nowadays. There are simply too many methods, techniques and strategies for any one person to know. Not to mention how quickly things are changing.

  8. Wow, that is pretty cool. Gonna have to go read his biography now. Have had it sitting on my bookshelf for a while now. Who knows, I might even come up with a cool SEO idea, or at least a post as good as yours :P

  9. Steve job was an interesting person, he taught a lot of people a lot of things.

    I think it was really good how you put that all into perspective and brought it altogether and brough a great SEO article togehter with them all.