High School Reunions And The Evolution Of Search

Last month I went to my 25th high school reunion. It's fascinating to me that with very few exceptions, people don't change a whole lot. The "cool" people were still cool, and the nerdy ones had pursued a consistent path as well. And my ultra-cool classmates were still so hip that they didn't even show up.

I have to admit to using my search prowess to keep tabs on a handful of people that I grew up with. Unlike decades past, it's fairly easy to track someone's career online. In addition, tools like Google Images can be particularly useful in advance of a reunion. The value, though, is not just to stay abreast of the people that you see every five years or so, but more importantly, the few you who you learn are coming that you haven't seen in a decade or two.

The party was fun. Seeing that many people who knew you when you hardly knew yourself, in such a concentrated stretch of time, borders on a cosmic experience. While speaking with my former classmates, the dialogue transitioned from "Do you remember when" to "who else do you keep in touch with?" then, lastly, the "what are you up to now?" discussion.



I remember at my last reunion (2001) that when the conversation circled around to "what I'm up to," the typical reaction when I explained that I had a search engine optimization business was somewhere between curiosity and puzzlement. It was a totally esoteric concept to most of them, largely removed from the better established verticals they were operating in. The lawyers were wrapped up in their practices, the real estate agents were prepping for the boom, the doctors were curing people's ills, the actors were focused on their lines, the stay-at-home moms (and dads) were busy changing diapers, and the one "dot-commer" was stuck trying to figure out what went wrong. Search just didn't register in a quantifiable manner with most of my peers.

My experience a couple of weeks ago was strikingly different. That's not to say that the concept (SEO & SEM) was viewed as mainstream, but several people elaborated on sites that they are involved with, and on more than one occasion I could see that people understood enough to be able to verbalize their frustration about a lack of presence online--or to mention that they had some type of SEO /SEM initiative in place that was working well.

I further confirmed a greater sense of identification when the spouse of a classmate offered that he only clicks on natural results and bypasses the paid ones altogether. While I politely played devil's advocate in the discussion that ensued, I was struck by the fact that I was even having the conversation. Even stranger was the fact that as we continued talking, others eased their way in and began sharing their experiences and opinions as well.

The final twist to the story is that I was contacted by the school a couple of months ago when its Web coordinator heard about the services we offer. So, after learning more about the school's state of affairs (no one has ever attempted to optimize their site), we took on the project as a pro-bono effort. It will be interesting to see if they are effective at implementing the recommended changes.

Working in the trenches of the SEO/SEM industry for the past seven years (or any industry, for that matter) can make one susceptible to a loss of perspective. The pace of the industry's growth is sometimes hard to appreciate. Yet how many other industries have grown more impressively over the past five years? Sometimes it takes an oddball event like a high school reunion to help gain a better perspective on things.

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