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“He wanna play a riff to the man with the wires

He wanna play lead but his hand’s getting tired

He just wanna play but don’t know how to say, stop!”…Mott The Hoople ‘Marionette’

I got into SEO in the Year 2000. AdWords didn’t exist yet.

What I liked most about SEO was how cool it was to manipulate stuff on your page/site and have it immediately show up ranking well in the search engine results. My earliest tactics could be construed as very crude black hat SEO.

Ultimately, these techniques became quite profitable as I got some very nice affiliate payouts for these “crap” pages. However, the search engines caught up to me and swept these results (deservedly) from their index.

Eventually, on-page factors became less important in favor of link factors, and it became pretty obvious that reciprocal link exchanges could push some nice search engine rankings. So I got deep into them, and they worked…for a while.

The search engines caught up to these techniques, too, and many sites I worked on got shot down.

With my limited level of technical expertise, I realized I could no longer trick or manipulate the search engines to do my bidding. If I were to continue and succeed at SEO, it would have to be of the White Hat SEO variety.

While I found White Hat SEO interesting in theory, I never found doing it to be all that enjoyable.

So, I switched over to Paid Search.

You see, ethical Paid Search still shares a number of characteristics from “Early” SEO.  The nexus between actions and results is much closer and much more immediate for Paid Search. At its core, Paid Search is a shrewdly manipulative art.

For example, the purpose of choosing paid keywords is to only bring a certain class of visitors to your site, excluding all others.

The purpose of ad text creation is to smartly manipulate a visitor into clicking your ad.

The purpose of keyword bidding is to place a precise value on the visitors you desire, controlling and regulating website traffic flow.

The purpose of landing page optimization is to not only cajole visitors into performing the action you desire but to give them a landing environment solely contrived to suit your aims and purposes.

The playing field in Paid Search is much more level than in SEO; anyone with a budget can not only compete, but be competitive within hours of placing their campaign live.

By contrast, with SEO, you have far less control over the volume and type of website visitors, as well as the conversion paths they might or might not take. It can take a long time and a lot of work to be competitive in natural search (and frequently, it’s either impossible or cost-prohibitive to compete).

I’m not one of those paid search people who puts down SEO in any way, shape, or form. The impact of a well-run SEO campaign is phenomenal and incredibly valuable.

However, for me, SEO ceased to be fun a long time ago.

Todd Mintz, Senior SEM Manager