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I’ve Got Zero Tips For Optimizing Happiness! What!?

Zero tips!? WTFudge!?

Yes, you got it right. I’ve got Zero tips for you.

In this post, I won’t be sharing any special tips, tactics, or secrets that will help you with your SEO strategies. Instead, I’d like to invite you to pause for a moment, close that analytics tab and postpone that great piece of writing to later. Just go DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) for now and hopefully by the end of the article, you’ll find a new sense of purpose in the industry we call Search Engine Marketing.

An Introspection

More than anything else, this article is about introspection and self-actualization–no tricks, no secrets, it’s all about you and everything that’s within you in the first place. In any case, allow me to start by sharing an experience.

I’ve been working in an environment where majority of the people rejoice in the technologies, advancements, and ideologies of yesteryears–with that, you can just imagine the difficulties and frustrations of working here as a whole new mind. Yup, you get the picture, everywhere you go is a hurdle.

News and information travel fast, but from a country of 7,017 islands somewhere in South East Asia it seems like people don’t necessarily take on progress as fast. It goes without saying that embracing change as a universal truth is still a bitter pill to swallow in Asia (not to discount the rest of the world with this). Fortunately, there are a handful of people who pick up the pace quite well and in a continent of automation and outsourcing, they truly are the agents of change and innovation.

On the other hand, more importantly, the vast (mechanical, monotonous, robotic) majority basks in what you can call low-touch and low-concept philosophies where work correlates with labor rather than with cultural expression. It is in these kinds of environments that spammy experiences and jeepney cultures breed–a sad, contradictory reality for a continent that is a melting pot of different colourful cultures.

Utterly frustrating. I told myself.

Semi-ranting aside, I picked up Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh‘s, Delivering Happiness from my bookshelf and read it over a couple of weeks ago. I was neither shocked nor inspired like everybody else who read the book.

Instead I was knocked off my feet.

The stories Tony shared were pure culture–high-touch and high-concept experiences–emotionally intelligent ones as Daniel Pink would have it.

It made me ask myself that beyond the relationship building, copywriting, analysis, and optimization that we do, as SEOs and marketers, what is it that we’re truly aiming for (No. 1 Google rankings!? Seriously?)?

What are our goals beyond our KPIs (hopefully, not the ones we define in analytics please!)?

More so, what is it that drives us to do what we do best?

Below I will run through three concepts of happiness Tony shared in his book, namely, pleasure, passion, and higher purpose believing that by doing so, at the very least, you’ll start asking yourself why am I doing this?


Pleasure is the lowest form of happiness. Using Tony’s metaphor, it’s similar to the “rock star” high where you go on an intense stimuli, a momentary feeling of excitement, and that’s it. Pretty much the difference between love and sex–yeah, that we all know of.

Who of you participated in the 2010 SEOmoz industry survey? From the report, most SEOs around the world seem to be in financially fulfilling situations (an awesome year for SEOs!)–you probably have no problem paying for your rent, your bills, and getting your new iPhone. But then you ask, what’s next? Am I really already looking for a raise?

Pleasurable experiences barely scratch the surface. For lack of a better metaphor, it is the most ‘materialistic’ of all types of happiness. They’re just not long term. Though they are in no way bad, they shouldn’t be your goal–more so, pleasure shouldn’t be the basis of you being an SEO.

Who wouldn’t agree that short-term doesn’t go that well with the profession?

If this article gets around pretty well, I’d definitely go ballistic and tell everyone Check Check Checkiirrrout! Okay, great! That’s normal. But then again I ask, and then what?

Still reading huh? Booyah! Thanks! (…that was pleasurable!)

Yipee! and Booyah! are probably some of the most used catch phrases that express momentary satisfaction and accomplishment. Without asking, I’m sure you already know how long both experiences of happiness lasted.

As an SEO, do you labor through short-term wins to please your bosses/clients to get that well deserved promotion and salary bump?


I noticed that my post is already getting quite lengthy.


I’m just so passionate and inspired about what I’m sharing with you here. So bear with me for a little bit longer.

Passion as happiness is a more sustainable form of happiness beyond pleasure. Passion involves more powerful emotions than objective or ‘materialistic’ ones. Passion involves our interests, our joys, our desires. Passion ultimately revolves around our enthusiasm about someone or something.

Let me ask, why are you reading my article despite knowing that I won’t be providing anything directly relevant to SEO? No tips, no secrets, no whatever? Is happiness an interesting topic to you? More than that, why do you frequent Search Engine Journal?

Anyways, it just goes to show that by being here, you express and fulfill your passion for search engines and SEO. In essence, through Search Engine Journal (and other resources at that), you fulfill your desire of being a good SEO and possibly even a great one.

The clock winds and you ask yourself again but why? Why am I so passionate about search engines and SEO? Yes, it can be financially fulfilling but what keeps me on my toes? Why do I find it exciting, exhilarating?

In web analytics, why does Avinash Kaushik love insights more than metrics?

Ultimately, is there a bigger yummier carrot that drives us?

Higher Purpose

The greater form of happiness is happiness as having a higher purpose. It is a form of happiness that goes beyond pleasure (the ‘materialistic’) and passion (self desire).

Zappos built its business by providing the best service to their customers, they’ve built a strong company culture that aligns all of their employees (partners), and in the end they’ve placed happiness at the center of everything that they do.

Now, that’s their higher purpose.

To deliver happiness in all of their relationships (e.g. employees, shareholders, customers, merchants, etc.) Zappos even created Zappos Insights (Zappos’ way of evangelizing other companies to build and grow a great culture).

Tony summarized the goal of true happiness in a very simple way–he made it a point to make you ask why?

Some of us want to have a life-long partner. Why?

We want to be with someone we love. Why?

We want to be happy with someone. Why?

We want to be happy. Who doesn’t!?

In the end, Tony concluded that all of us have our own ways of finding happiness, and no doubt, happiness is our ultimate goal–it should be.

Why do you love SEO so much? Why do you eat, breath, and sleep SEO? Are you telling me it’s more than a marketing strategy? Is it more than a job?


It’s your turn. If you haven’t started asking yourself why? It’s never too late.

Start introspecting. There’s no secret to doing it. Just ask yourself why am I doing this? And seek out your higher purpose as an SEO.

Beyond content, the backlinks, social media, traffic, and click through rates, what is it that ultimately makes you and others happy? Hopefully it’s not all for fame or the business, but more importantly for a higher purpose.

Now as I end this article, I start asking myself, why did I actually write this post? (Do you know why?)


I would love to hear everybody’s feedback.

Looking forward to see a collective idea of how you guys see your purpose as SEOs apart from improving the overall experience of the world wide web. In fact, I’d like to invite each and every one of the SEJ authors and contributors to take the time to personally share their thoughts about their higher purpose as SEOs and evangelists.


An unfortunate incident happened to me last weekend and as I proof read this article, it reminded me to ask why?

Category SEO
Jurgen Estanislao

Jurgen is a Certified User Experience professional experienced in Integrated Marketing Strategy, Product Innovation, Experience Design, Human Factors, and Usability. ...

I’ve Got Zero Tips For Optimizing Happiness! What!?

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