SEO Lessons From Apple’s Steve Jobs

SMS Text

To some he is the devil incarnate, and to others he is nothing short of a god-like genius. Love him or hate him, you cannot deny that he has a fairly nifty way with words (as well as considerable business acumen and good taste in design).

After reading a recent article in a geeky magazine, I got to thinking that maybe the esteemed Mr. Jobs could teach us a thing or two about modern SEO – and when I say modern SEO I am not talking about the spammy, repetitive strain of meta keywords and directory submissions. I’m talking about creating great content, beautiful sites, link building through real relationships and the creation of new brand names.

So, without further ado let us dive into some of his most famous quotes:

“Being the richest man in the cemetery doesn’t matter to me … Going to bed at night saying we’ve done something wonderful… that’s what matters to me.”

Gone are the days of being propelled into the upper echelons of Google results by submitting a thousand blog comments and creating different pages for different search engines. What are you creating for your site that is truly wonderful? Sites that work hard on the content (and promote it a little) tend to do that little bit better nowadays. Put effort into what you create.

Think with the audience in mind. What would you want to see? If you wouldn’t want to see it, scrap it. You have to feel that the content you create belongs on that first page of Google.

“We made the buttons on the screen look so good you’ll want to lick them.”

We know that Google is looking at the design of the site to some extent nowadays. Several versions of the Panda update debuted this year, and before that, Google rolled out its site-preview option on search results pages. Apple products are testament to the fact that people appreciate nice design as long as you don’t forget functionality.

Make your site ooze sexiness or authority or whatever is relevant to your vertical. Investin finding a good designer who will work alongside your SEO team. Usability and beauty do not have to be mutually exclusive. Which leads us to:

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

Think of the iPod and the dial on the front. Not only does it look beautiful but it is practical (and to be honest, it feels good when you slide you fingers around it). Consider the slid-to-open function on the iPhone, it feels good doesn’t it? Sites should be created with these things in mind. Make sure the design is an integral part of functionality.

“I’m as proud of what we don’t do as I am of what we do.”

Think of some of the most famous people operating in SEO at the moment. They wear their white-hat credentials (rightly so) as a badge of honor. Be proud of only carrying out white-hat techniques on your (or client’s) sites. It is a long race when you are playing by the rules but it pays off at the end. Think of the guys and gals who have succeeded in SEO (mostly white hat, right?), whilst the black hats are busy burning sites and worrying whether this morning will be the morning that they wake up and the site is gone from the search results. (That quote comes from Wil Reynolds.)

“It is hard to think that a $2 billion company with 4,300-plus people couldn’t compete with six people in blue jeans.”

As Google starts to favor brands more and more it is easy to think that you are not going to be able to compete with the big guys. We are the guys in the jeans, and we can compete. Be inventive, be flexible, create and innovate. It can seem fairly obvious that you are not going to get a little bitty site to be No. 1 for the keyword “insurance,” but you can find a niche that the big guys haven’t. It is all out there for you. You just have to find it.

“We have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

I wasn’t at mozcon, but I have seen the slides, and both Rand Fishkin and Will Critchlow talked about this in their face-off. There is nothing wrong with “appropriating” a few good ideas from other successful companies. Twist them to fit your style, your site, you social media campaign or whatever. Most SEO strategies start with a little bit of borrowing – from keyword ideas to low-hanging link-building opportunities.

So love him or hate him, Steve Jobs has some great ideas that you can appropriate for you web strategy, and let us not forget he has been fairly successful with that little company of his.

I will leave you with two more quotes that I have in the pile, they go quite nicely together, and pretty much sum up this post:

“It’s not about pop culture, and it’s not about fooling people, and it’s not about convincing people that they want something they don’t. We figure out what we want. And I think we’re pretty good at having the right discipline to think through whether a lot of other people are going to want it, too. That’s what we get paid to do. We just want to make great products.”

“Click. Boom. Amazing!”


Wayne Barker
Wayne Barker works and writes for Hallam – an SEO and Internet Marketing company based in Nottingham – right in the middle of the UK.... Read Full Bio
Wayne Barker

Latest posts by Wayne Barker (see all)

Subscribe to SEJ!
Get our weekly newsletter from SEJ's Founder Loren Baker about the latest news in the industry!
  • Nick Stamoulis

    “Usability and beauty do not have to be mutually exclusive.”

    Excellent point! Design is so subjective that it’s easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty details and forget that you it doesn’t matter how good your site looks if no one can navigate it. It’s not about what you think looks good, it’s about what your target audience responds best to.

  • Lance

    White hat seo is truthful for long time in future. This was a very well-written and enjoyable post to read. Thanks for the info sharing with us. The way you have explained all the things are outstanding. Keep it up. Keep blogging.

  • Wayne Barker

    Hey there Nick,

    Design is subjective and knowing your target audience is crucial. You have to make sure your site is easy to use, looks beautiful and is relevant to your audience. If you get all of these right – or even kinda right – you are going to be in a good place!!

  • Maverick

    Though I didn’t find any of Jobs’ quote coming even close to the topic — SEO, the article even without the quotes is as inspiring as it is with the quotes. Would have appreciated even more if you had not unneccessarily included Steve Jobs here 🙂

    • Wayne Barker

      Hey there Maverick,

      Thaks for your comments. I think any great article has to have something to tie it together other than ‘here are 6 points about this’. I understand where you are coming from but sometimes it is difficult to cram a concept into a headline! I belive the term SEO is expanding way beyond what it was originally and any SEO worth is salt now should know and be able to deliver Conversion Rate Optimisation, understand design and web usability. the article is also about where you position yourself within your community – how to you undertake these tasks and are you making sure the tactics you use are not polluting the web with spam.

      Rand Fishkin eloquently argues that the roles of SEO of has changed here:

      Your comment is much appreciated and I am glad you found value in it – even with Steve Jobs in there!!!

  • Oli

    Quality in SEO is in my opinion one of the most important factors. While you can use some grey hat effectively, I always imply it is matter of time before you get penalized for taking a shortcut.

    It is already evident in the fact that a little high quality SEO trounces low quality spam time and time again.

    • Wayne Barker

      Hi there Oli,

      You are so correct, SEO is a long term strategy for anu business. If you have aspirations of reaching the big time then you need to play by the rules – the risk is just too great. What strike me about Steve Jobs is his belief in his products and his staff and his company and he makes sure that feeds right down into everything that Apple produce and there is no reason that smaller companies can’t take his advice and apply it to their web strategy.