Why Marketers Should Be SEO, PPC, Coding and Copywriting Guru Ninjas

Really, why?

Employers are looking for so-called Ninja Guru Wizards who can singlehandedly design and code landing pages, write copy, optimize for search, launch PPC campaigns and develop entire marketing strategies to achieve desired results and grow revenue.


Photo credit: animalspot.net

And online marketers and SEOs are branding themselves as Ninja Guru Wizards who can simultaneously write code that won’t break a site and write copy that will convert leads.

Do people want to be taken seriously or are we living in some kind of bizarro world where marketers and agencies act like a bunch of bullfrogs during breeding season?

Now Hiring: a Ninja Guru Expert Wizard

This kind of thinking is a problem for the marketing industry. It starts at the corporate level and it’s fueled negative branding and perception issues for online marketers and SEOs.



This job post is not an outlier. There are hundreds of similar postings on LinkedIn alone. It’s unrealistic to expect one person to perform all of these tactical and strategic actions with excellence and in a way that adds measurable value to the company and clients.

But let’s say a perfect candidate like this existed and they actually believed they were a Ninja Guru Wizard, do you think this person would work harmoniously with your team?

“Team, I’d like to introduce you to Percival, it’s his first day here. He’s a marketing Ninja Guru Wizard. After you kiss his ring and recover from the sheer amazingness that is Percival, please open your hearts and make him feel at home.”

Yeah, that would go over well.

Will Any Agency Hire This Man?


Photo credit: ogilvy.co.uk

When David Ogilvy got into advertising he had never created an advertisement or designed a marketing campaign.

Thirty-three years after founding one of the most successful ad agencies ever, he sent this memo to his team:

He is 38, and unemployed. He dropped out of college.
He has been a cook, a salesman, a diplomatist and a farmer.

He knows nothing about marketing and had never written any copy.
He professes to be interested in advertising as a career (at the age of 38!) and is ready to go to work for $5,000 a year.

I doubt if any American agency will hire him.
However, a London agency did hire him. Three years later he became the most famous copywriter in the world, and in due course built the tenth biggest agency in the world.

The moral: it sometimes pays an agency to be imaginative and unorthodox in hiring.

Ogilvy was the 38 year-old non-guru who got hired by an agency in London.

Job postings that seek ninjas or wizards is not what Ogilvy meant by being imaginative and unorthodox in hiring. And if Ogilvy ever interviewed somebody who called themselves a Marketing Guru he’d smack the crap out of them.

You’re into spammy SEO tricks?

A few months ago I had lunch with a respected Public Relations pro that has legit celebrity and media connections. We were talking about marketing. I brought up SEO and began to talk about how vital SEO is to any online marketing strategy.

The conversation died. I could tell by the look on his face I lost his trust and his opinion of me went from good to Congressman-level. His response, “Please don’t tell me you are into those spammy SEO tricks to game the Google algorithm.”

Have you ever had an experience like this that made you feel ashamed to tell somebody you’re an online marketer or an SEO?

Let's start fixing the negative branding and perception issue

These few action steps are slap-a-kitty-stupid-simple, but maybe it’s something we can start with to clean up the negative branding and perception issues:

  • Agencies – write your job postings like how humans talk to other humans. You can make your company sound fun without acting like a 12 year-old on Whippits.
  • Marketers – stop with the guru wizardry stuff on your Twitter and LinkedIn profiles – you’re hurting your reputation and damaging the reputation of our industry.
  • Agencies & marketers – stop signing off your emails with things like Linkbuilding Magician or Director of Outreach Awesomeness.

If we keep it classy and present ourselves as professionals who are accountable for our actions, serious about our craft, transparent and deserving to have our voice heard, perceptions could change. But it’s up to you.

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  • Christian

    Also, if you have all of those skills, why work for someone else, you will make more on your own!

  • http://twitter.com/ianhowells Ian Howells

    Totally agree. The urge to profess how SEOs aren’t the normal “stuffy” business people has gone completely crazy, and ended up making certain people look like toddlers with laptops.

    You’re not a wizard. You’re not a ninja. You’re a tech geek who hopefully knows a bit about business.
    Do you think Lowe’s (Or any other legit, national brand) is going to hire a “Wizard” to do their SEO?
    Grow. The fuck. Up.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Exactly. It’s baffling why more marketers and SEOs aren’t looking at how you and other well-known people in the industry are professionally presenting themselves.

      For all the value and legitimacy you add to the industry, the self-professed Wizards and Magicians take it away. It needs to stop.

      • http://twitter.com/ianhowells Ian Howells

        …I say fuck a lot. I miiiight not be the best example. But. Absolutely.

        • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

          Well that’s better than saying things like ‘synergistic pivoting’ and ‘change agent’. I’m guessing you don’t say crap like that.

          • http://twitter.com/ianhowells Ian Howells

            Oh… so I shouldn’t be strategically aligning KPIs and objectives to meet growing demand as we all align with the ongoing paradigm shift in the digital space where it’s all about connecting with change agents and early adopters in order to make them brand evangelists for your new product iteration that will change the game forever?

          • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

            Very poetic. But you left out the part about taking things to the next level.

          • mike

            Needs more out the box thinking.

  • http://twitter.com/dohertyjf John Doherty

    Can we add “Stop hashtagging the crap out of your Twitter profile, since it does nothing for you in search AND looks stupid”?

    Seriously, this is a great call for companies to grow up. I’m glad to see more people championing this.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Yay to stopping the hashtagging epidemic. You’re right though, it’s time to grow up, if nothing more than to preserve the longevity and legitimacy of the industry.

  • http://www.equotemd.com/ Michael J. Kovis

    You almost feel completely insignificant when a conversation with someone who has a negative outlook on SEO turns south. Isn’t it embarrassing to a point? I’ve had a few of those moments before… The shear mention of SEO as a positive online strategy makes you look like a moron.

    It is sad to say that almost the majority of this negative perception comes from a complete lack of understanding of the web and search industry in general. Seems like everyone is an “expert” once they read an article from 1997. Companies attempt to personify these positions with these ridiculous adjectives, which only make it worse.

    All we can do is continue to make people more “self aware” of issues like this. Uphill battle, but worth fighting for.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Right. And I don’t blame people like the PR guy I met with for feeling the way he does. No doubt he’s seen the kinds of LinkedIn ads I posted and has probably talked to online marketers who pump their own tires with the Guru Expert stuff.

      I don’t think it’s a lost cause. It’s going to take a lot of work and the industry as a whole to change the negative perceptions.

      • http://www.equotemd.com/ Michael J. Kovis

        Yes sir. Neither do I blame those that feel that way. They’re entitled to that opinion, and in some ways I almost feel it is deserved by the amount of shame these “SEO Gurus|Ninjas|Wizards” bring upon the search industry…

        Definitely no lost cause.

  • http://twitter.com/SEOZero1 Phil Gregory ⇜Zero1➚

    Here Here! Well Said! I can’t tell you how many SEO jobs I applied for asking for all those nija guru wizard qualities. I’d send off my C.V expecting to NEVER hear from them, and from 99% ,I didn’t because I’m a straight talker. Not an Ass kisser, which is what many of these agencies want. There is no gaming the Search Engines, not in a long term solution. there is only graft, only graft! If you can’t be bothered to save your own business by listening to professional advice, then get out of the game because you’re literally TOAST.

    • http://twitter.com/SEOZero1 Phil Gregory ⇜Zero1➚


    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      You’re probably better having never worked for those companies anyway. It’s a shame because I think those companies are scaring away great people with talent.

  • Anthony D. Nelson

    This has long been a sore subject for me. If you’re really good at something or trying to be, you don’t need to try to show the world by creating a ridiculous description of yourself.

    It’s everywhere too. I just did a search and got 254,000 results with both SEO+Ninja in the title tag. Meaning there are 100,000s of thousands more articles and job postings that just list it in the body. That is just with ninja. Add in the gurus, rockstars, and wizards and I want to freaking explode.

    And this doesn’t mean we still can’t show some personality or have fun at our jobs. Just don’t make it sound like your skill set is entirely based off a bag of tricks. This is work. It takes real knowledge to achieve difficult results. If you do legit work, simply use a professional title for your positions and job openings.

    • http://www.davidmcohen.com/ David Cohen

      Right on, Anthony. As you said, this is work. Wayne Gretzky didn’t title himself as the ‘Great One’, he just was and that’s what people started calling him.

      If companies stop posting ads looking for Ninjas and Rockstars I think far fewer marketers and SEOs would refer to themselves as Ninjas and Rockstars. I’m convinced it has to start at the company level.

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  • Ryan O’Connor

    Have some strength in your convictions. I love that most people don’t understand the value of search. That’s what leaves lots of money and opportunity on the table. If someone doesn’t think SEO is valuable then turn the table on them and break out some facts on the measurable impact it can have on businesses. If they don’t care about that kind of revenue potential then that’s their own decision but phrase it that way and leave them feeling stupid for not being in on it.

  • http://tigermuse.com/ Johan Woods

    Love your perspective on this. I’m not sure who started the whole Wizard Ninja Guru *cough*Growth Hacker*cough* thing, but it’s silly.

    I know people who can do pretty much all of those things (yes, all in one! What a deal! Limited time only) BUT have found that building a team that encompass those qualities does more for my business, and helps my clients achieve better results.

    Why do people get hooked on these silly descriptors?

  • JasonManion

    I saw the title and thought “well, I don’t know code, but other than that I’m getting there.” Then I read the post. :)

    You’re right on though. I’d never put that stuff in my resume.