Internet marketing has been growing in scope and acclaim ever since people discovered that you could make money online. SEO stands for Search Engine Optimization and is a field of work focused on promoting websites higher up Google’s results page. Some people have managed to make their fortune by excelling in SEO. However, while I was learning SEO, a process which included watching online videos of SEO gurus, I discovered a peculiar speech pattern common to these individuals. They slurred their words.
Here is Brian Dean of the successful site “Backlinko.” Dean often boasts of becoming a millionaire from online marketing and SEO. We should hear him out, then.
He initially slurs the phrase “founder of Backlikno” and churns out “fudder of Backlinko”. He later squashes a few other syllables and sounds (mostly diphthongs).
“So what” you’d say. And so did I initially.
Until I came across another extremely well-known figure in internet marketing and SEO, Mr. Neil Patel. While not currently as reputable as Dean, Patel is very successful in his own right, standing behind his name for an empire of SEO courses, videos, and websites. And, just like Backlinko’s founder, Patel’s speech is often noticeably slurred.
For those lazy to press ‘Play’ or can’t hear the clip, Patel’s opening sentence, “Seven marketing lessons learned from billion dollar companies that you’ve never heard of” sounded something like: “Seven marking lessons learn from billion dollar copedies that you never heard a”
“Well, so what” you’d say again. These people are not trained actors. They might slur once in a while like you and me. Whose to say that it’s not just a coincidence? Are you seriously going to say that there is a connection between SEO and slurred speech?”
Well, yes. Yes, I am.
SEO Treats Words as Currency
The job of an SEO specialist is to figure out what people are typing into search engines when they want a specific result. For example, when promoting a website that sells flowers, an SEO specialist will target keywords and phrases such as “roses” and “tulips,” but also “birthday gifts” and “valentine’s day.” Different words become important when promoting certain businesses, based on the expected words that a user might type in the search bar that are relevant to that business.
An SEO specialist uses specific internet tools to keep lookout for the essential words and phrases that make people reach a website. Every niche has its marketplace of words. Marketers invest and bid on these words to push their client’s websites above the competitors’ websites. Unfortunately, what this commodification of words also does to the SEO specialist along the way, is it makes them lose a grip on the meaning of words in ordinary language.
Using on words as coinage makes the SEO specialist, the word-broker, detach from the pronounced meaning of these words. They use words in the same framework that a search engine uses them, not as a human would. That is, they strip words of their nuances and connections and instead view them singularly, as stand alone items. A person with such view will lose the emphasis of certain words and sounds. Their speech will become monotonous and repetitive, with words sounding increasingly like one another.
“Wait, aren’t you making too much of this already?” You might think. “You’ve only given two examples, and it’s not even sure that SEO really causes people to detach from the meaning of words.”
Let’s try and see whether we can find another example based on the theory. That is, if we first started inductively, based on the two examples, let us now try and spot other famous SEO gurus who slur their speech.
While searching Google for “SEO experts,” this article caught my eyes: 9 SEO Experts To Follow In 2018. While a bit out of date, we might still use the list and check whether SEO-speech is really thing.
Here is Venessa Fox.
The article describes her as “one of the creators of Google’s Webmaster Central, the firm’s official blog on crawling and indexing the Web.” She has also created ‘Google’s Search Console’ and ‘Google Analytics’, two of the most prominent resources for SEO specialists today. She also has a great name. But, we will ask. Does she slur?
Let’s check it out
While some might disagree and say that she is merely sporting an accent, I would say that her manner of talking is SEO-speech per se. The incomplete articulation; the word “areas” pronounced “eras”; and the bland, monotonous cadence. Fox mostly uses no more than a couple of tones when speaking. She scrunches her words into similar sounding bites. Here are all the products of working in SEO.
SEO’s Repetitiveness Dissolves Word Meaning
I also want to claim that the more actual SEO work anybody does, the more it impacts their speech. That is because an SEO expert’s job is repetitive. There are many best practices to employ for an SEO specialist, and most of them are known to help in the final aim of promoting a website. Sadly, this means that in order to beat their competitors, SEO specialists must be consumed with the processes of forgetting word meanings and word contexts. In other words, the more the SEO expert is invests in the field’s best practices, the greater their danger of losing touch with regular speech.
How about some more examples?
Still from the article, here is Eric Enge.
The article tells me Enge’s Agency “is one of the SEO sector’s established leaders, with a team of more than 70 analysts and technical personnel.” Like all other videos in this post, this is the first video of Enge I found and used, so that no one could accuse me of cherry-picking my data. So the question remains, does he slur?
Boy does he.
Besides using multi-colored markers for his whiteboard and using a classic YouTube thumbnail with a surprised look on his face (and a pair of sneakers on his hands for some reason), Enge slurs royally. He exchanges his V’s for W’s and scrunches up words into an incoherent mess.
Can we say I’m right, or should we look at another example?
Why not do both?
Here is Barry Schwartz.
The article describes him as “the founder of Search Engine Roundtable, the new editor at Search Engine Land, and host of the annual Search Marketing Expo in Israel.”
The article refers to Schwartz as a prolific contributor to these platforms. Therefore, we can expect some mush-mouthed gems here. Let’s watch.
Wow. That was horrible.
I mean wonderful.
The Medium is the Message Reversed
SEO’s influence on speech patterns is a test case for the susceptibility of human minds to repeated exposure to a particular medium. It reveals how our use of words is not only a tool to shape consciousness but can manipulate us in the process.
In his 1985 book, Amusing Ourselves to Death, Neil Postman argues that television has replaced the written word with images and created a new, visual metaphor for perceiving reality. I view SEO’s effect on speech as reassuring proof that language is not under our dominion entirely. I believe language has a function humans must fulfill, which involves assigning meaning to the world.
When human beings try to emulate the workings of a computer, as with the field of Search Engine Optimization, they are limiting their scope of expressiveness. SEO-speech is what happens when a new medium comes along and humans try to speak its language. A computer does not assign significance to words. It does not perk its ears at the hint of a familiar sound. The result of this limitation is an inability to speak and convey meaning.
SEO slurring should be a lesson against becoming too embedded with media. The desire to control a medium cannot be done by copying its ways. We might learn to control it only, as Postman concludes in his book, by learning to recognize how it affects us.