Advanced? It’s Not What You Think.

Advanced isn’t what you think.

“Skilled” isn’t the same as “advanced.”

“Skilled” means you know how to do a thing. Skills are crucial.

“Advanced” means you can recognize the bullshit, cut through it, and then apply skills to solve problems. “Advanced” is invaluable.

It’s a hard lesson to learn. It took me years. So let me spare you the pain:

If you ever sit in a room thinking, “there must be more to it than that,” or “am I missing something?” chances are there isn’t, and you’re not. You’re advanced.

If you ever cut away a bunch of jargon and explain something in a way that makes sense, you’re advanced.

If you find a way to efficiently accomplish a task that does not involve creating a new approach, you’re advanced.

I can program Python. I know how a reverse index works. I can true up a bicycle wheel. Those are skills. They’re great, and they matter. But they don’t make me “advanced.”

Stop here if you wanted the short sermon. For an ongoing rant with examples, continue


Buzzwords, buzzwords, buzzwords. And other silliness:

You know rel=canonical and hreflang. I am suitably impressed. Seriously, I am because 75% of the SEO world can’t figure it out. However, those are skills often applied to cover up bullshit. Tell me what “canonicalization” means, though, and my knees will get weak because you’re advanced.

Programming in Python? Nice! I’ve studied both for years and can’t print “hello world” without using Stack Overflow. Python programming is a great skill that does not make you an advanced SEO. Turn that skill into useful tools, and I’ll give you the unsigned “SEO developer” plaque that’s been sitting my desk drawer for five years. You’re advanced. Learn a lot by checking out Hamlet Batista’s work.

Entities and natural language processing are hard to learn. They’re also skills and buzzwords that SEOs blurt out when they’re stumped. Show me how you use entities and NLP to improve a site’s rankings, and I worship you as a deity among SEOs. You are advanced, and then some. For examples, see @ipullrank, @bill_slawski, Justin Briggs, and @dawnieando (among others).

You can interpret Google Search Console reports. Congrats! That skill rarely solves anything because there are too many layers of bullshit between you and the problem. If you can analyze log files and check how Google truly sees your site, that’s advanced. It’s not the nerd factor — you’ve cut through the bullshit that GSC puts in front of you. I’m going to pat myself on the back here and tell you to read this.

Efficiently sending five thousand link-grubbing emails doesn’t make you an advanced link builder. It makes you a skilled spammer. You’re flooding the internet with manure looking for a pearl. Cultivate relationships and provide valuable information in exchange for citations, and you’re the bee’s knees. You’re advanced.


So many tactics, so little time:

Growth hacking or whatever the word-of-the-month is for effective marketing tactics is a good (?) skill set. Deliver a clear, compelling message to the right audience, and you’ll have my attention because that’s advanced.

Every time I write, “You won’t believe what happened next!!!” I throw up in my mouth. It’s part of a family of one-liners that might be a marketing skill. I’ll weep with joy if you can tell me why those one-liners work because you’re advanced (To get there, read a few of Seth Godin’s books and check out Robert Cialdini’s Influence).

Tell me your marketing toolset uses artificial intelligence and I will cackle madly while I fill your trade show booth with packing peanuts. Explain what AI is and why there’s no way in the nine Hells your product uses it and bam, you’re advanced.


Now I’ll get in trouble:

“Hustle” is a skill that pays off .0001% of the time. We think it works more often because we’re victims of survivorship bias. Building a great reputation and a profitable business with solid fundamentals is advanced.

Acquiring massive funding is a skill (that I lack). It doesn’t solve the challenges of building a successful business. Turning whatever resources you have (which might include massive funding) into a lasting business, though – that’s advanced (for an honest look at the startup world, read Rand Fishkin’s Lost And Founder).

Bullshitting your way into a sales call is a skill that wastes everyone’s time and makes me swear at you. It doesn’t win you much business. Telling what you’re selling. Then be around when I need you. That’s advanced, and I appreciate it. Learn consultative selling: Read a book like Spin Selling, which came highly recommended.


Typing cynical, vaguely bitter blog posts while battling carpal tunnel syndrome and caffeine shakes is a skill, but definitely not advanced.

Make of that what you will.

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