John Andrews is a Competitive Webmaster and Search Engine Optimization Consultant in Seattle, Washington. This is John Andrews blog on issues of interest to the SEO community and competitive webmasters. Want to know more?

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The Value of Gestalt

Just back from Think Tank meeting in San Diego, I am struck anew by the awesome latent value of SEO “gestalt“:  the collective gut feeling that practicing, experienced SEO people have. That is arguably one of the most valuable parts of a conference like Think Tank. A gathering of Internet entrepreneurs, Think Tank is not just search people. But there are enough SEO experts in attendance to make it a valuable gathering for those of us focusing mainly on search issues. The collective demeanor and opinion of those engaged with the optimization of search monetization on the web has incredible value.

Today’s Techmeme highlights a Wall Street Journal article entitled “Monster Has Plans to Become 800-Pound Gorilla of Job Ads“. The article states things like “Over the past three years, it [Monster.com] has spent more than $200 million to redesign its Web site for job seekers;“. It includes a number of optimistic quotes from Monster’s representatives.  Clearly this Wall Street Journal article will help Monster.com maintain its stock price or even sell more stock. The problem is, this article goes against some very strong SEO gestalt currents I’ve witnessed.

I recall a number of recent conversations with colleagues about how doomed career sites like Monster are these days. How the job/career marketplace has moved away from central database-driven sites and into decentralized social media. How the monetization of career opportunity has shifted away from the old “employer/recruiter” system, despite the efforts of companies like CareerBuilder and Monster to syndicate and socialize their efforts. I won’t highlight here where the insights pointed, but that these private conversations with web entrepreneurs practically deny this Wall Street Journal article’s main premise. See the disconnect?

The Wall Street Journal has access to leaders and analysts in the career industry. I only accessed the collective gestalt of a few dozen web entrepreneurs. Who would you bet on? What does that say for the value of the broadcast news media, and the value of the gestalt of your network of peers, friends, and colleagues? What does that say about how media outlets like The Wall Street Journal have evolved in this day and age of Social Media, perhaps as tools of industry instead of tools of the readers? If outlets like the Wall Street Journal are recognized as tools of marketing for the corporations they “analyze”, and are no longer considered sources of insights and education for the readers/investors, how can they survive? Should they survive as consumer products?

Social Media is most revered for its ability to aggregate the collective conscience of small niche groups, in public, for free. That may not yet be recognized, but should be. But Social Media does not have to be free. That collective gestalt is valuable. We are still in the early stages of tool development, which is largely driven by investments chasing huge markets, but soon enough the private forum/private membership sites will be able to lock up those communities. It has to happen… that is the only way to develop them beyond the basics structures we have now.

I’m sure there are theories addressing all of this, but I, like today’s software developers, don’t have time to investigate. We are all forced to go with the flow during the transition phase. But don’t be fooled… those entrepreneurs who branch off early enough (but not too early) will win big. I doubt the wisest investment involves Monster.com except as it plays in an exit strategy.

Pubcon is coming up in Las Vegas, and that is the next big gathering of search-focused web entrepreneurs I’ll attend. I’m going to  set up at least one small private dinner or gathering, specifically to address some of this SEO gestalt theory in the context of Pubcon networking. If you’re interested, drop me an email or call. I can’t promise you’ll get a seat, but I will put you on the list. Aside from networking with quality peers in a quality venue (good food, good fun) it will aim to elicit a general sense of the status quo and the future of select SEO issues we all deal with every day. Nothing intense… nothing to distract from the general value of networking, but I will ask everyone to contribute some gut feelings on core SEO issues that are certain to be important going forward. I think that has incredible value, and would like to prove it.

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4 Responses to “The Value of Gestalt”

  1. Michael Martin Says:

    John,

    I would love to join the SEO dinner at PubCon or at least drinks, as I am speaking on several SEO panels at the conference.

    If you aren’t going to SMX East next week in NYC then definitely let me know about anything you have planned at PubCon.

    Thank You,
    Michael Martin

  2. Dennis Yu Says:

    John,

    It would be an honor if I could get an invite to your PubCon dinner!

  3. John Says:

    I might have some perspective here… I’ve been promoting some of Monster’s affiliate programs for the last year. (Not the job search, but other related properties of theirs).

    Well, recently and all of a sudden, they slashed payout rates on one program and completely shut down the other. Now they are angling for a more direct advertising program, but if they actually got the value out of the signups, why wouldn’t they encourage more affiliate activity in addition to any other promotion efforts?

    Monster was great for me. Pretty much a month after updating to include my degree, I started getting random emails including one that got me into the web business. It was a few years ago though, and I’ve noticed these days a lot more ultra-specialized job boards. I still browse the local listings once in a while, but haven’t found anything temporary or part time enough to hold my interest.

    What I see though, is that you can’t just become “the authority” for a huge topic like “jobs.” There are too many opportunities for someone to become “the authority” in a much more focused slice of that broader topic. So yeah, I guess I agree with the bloggers and feel like the WSJ is living in the past a little bit. This wouldn’t be the first time I felt that way about old-school media!

  4. Ravi Says:

    Some interesting stuff about monster from this blog by Joel Cheesman, a well known blogger in the recruitment domain. The blog is now closed, but the archives have a treasure of articles for this sector, as well as SEO specific stuff for this domain http://www.cheezhead.com/2008/07/31/monster-acquires-trovix/

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