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December 3, 2010


Type A SEOs: Lapdog Heroes

by Anthony Verre

Type A SEOsThe reasonable man adapts himself to the conditions that surround him. The unreasonable man adapts surrounding conditions to himself; therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.

– George Bernard Shaw

It’s a rarity that I lead anything off with a quote; it’s cliche and uninspired most times. But today is the exception because that quote address the situation perfectly. We know that SEOs come in all shapes, sizes, and personalities. But, today, I’m going to focus on one particular brand of SEO: The Lapdog Hero.

What’s The SEO Lapdog Hero?

It’s a special breed of Type A SEO. First let’s look at some of the common Type A personality traits:

  • Competitive (more toward the hyper-competitive end of things)
  • Strong Achievement-Orientation
  • Blunt (i.e. pulls no punches)
  • Aggressive and impatient
  • Rude or sarcastic
  • Likely to be a “Work-a-holic”
  • Perfectionist
  • Realist (usually cast as pessimistic attitudes)

Are You a Tremendous Asset or PITA?

The Lapdog Hero is at once the most tremendous asset a company has, and is also the biggest pain in the ass a company can have. I know because I am one. And, without a doubt, I align with a majority of the characteristics in the trait list above. Chances are pretty good that if you’re an SEO, you’re Type A personality. Because, let’s be honest, we live in an industry that never sleeps. And, if you aren’t a Type A, it’s a difficult task to do what we do and be great at it.

Clearly, to suggest that extraneous social factors or specific nurture factors don’t play a role in shaping the adjacent traits would be short-sighted. It does. Many times our adjacent traits, at least in my case, are leaned on more heavily in a work environment in order to be tolerated by others. But it’s akin to a coping mechanism; they don’t last and cracks in your armor come through.

Why I am Telling You All This?

Certainly, it’s less for us (we know who we are and have accepted that about ourselves), but those around us. Most SEOs are I know are brilliant, generous, Salt-of-the-Earth types, but competitive, driven machines. Nothing is ever tackled in a half-assed, half-measured way. Ever. You get 100% of us: bullshit and brilliance together. The hard-charging, driven machine that has a very sharp “my way or the highway” mentality.

It is the Type A personality traits that corporations/bosses love. We are the ultimate soldiers of fortune. Ask yourself this question: when something has to get done, has to get done to perfection, and has to get done quickly, who do they call on? Yep, you guessed it. You. Because they know you’ll eat whatever they’ve given you alive, and ask for seconds. Because you are clutch; because, like it or not, you are the Alpha. Things gets done, and done well. You are the Lapdog Hero. Called upon when needed to fill a massive void and winning out.

There is a reason only a few industries are jam-packed with Alphas (i.e. search marketing, medical doctors, lawyers, etc), because that’s what it takes to be successful. Anything cut of another cloth withers and dies.

Hiding Your PersonalityWhen the Job is Done?

This is where the PITA part comes into play. You are not supposed to be you all the time, just one of those unwritten codes in the corporate play book that most of learn the hard way. You are supposed to revert your entire being to something other than the Alpha you are. The bottom-line: go back to be being a submissive until your are called upon again.

Then the trouble starts. Mediocrity exists everywhere and Alphas/Type A’s love nothing more than to fix, correct, and abolish mediocrity. If it doesn’t work right now, then there’s no reason, in our minds, that it can’t work right. Then moment you get feisty and/or refuse to accept the status quo, is the moment everyone that’s not like you tells you to sit down, shut up, and do as you are told. Don’t rock the boat and just deal with it.

Therein lies the problem. We can’t just shut it off. We can’t just sit by, be lackadaisical, settle for half-assed, and be content puppies. We are the harbingers of change, and change is always a violent endeavor. That’s where we thrive: high stress, high pressure, constraints. When it seems insurmountable, that’s where we shine. And that’s we are tolerated in the workplace; we do what no one else will do or touch. And, we kick its ass. Hence the phrase: Lapdog Hero.

A Dying Breed and Dealing With Us

We’re still around, we “unreasonable” people as Shaw calls us. But we’re far an few between. I don’t want to say that people enjoy being mushy, gooey, and are just satisfied with “good enough”, but the older I get the more prevalent it becomes. It only serves to make me more unreasonable.

Dealing with us isn’t easy, I’ll be the first to admit that. And, we do try hard to keep our most intolerable, ferocious instincts at bay in order to “play nice” in the corporate sandbox. But, the rest of the world has to give us a break and cut us some slack. We’re honest with everyone because we know there’s enough greasiness in world. It’s refreshing. We drive hard in everything we do because we only have two gears: 100 MPH and Off. We want to be the best at everything we do because not being the best is just a waste of time (that doesn’t mean we don’t fail. We do A LOT of that. We just drive harder the next time.)

So the next time you’re annoyed with us, just come back to this post. Take a deep breath and cut us a break on our “over-bearing” attitudes, our outlandish snark, our brutal honesty, our what-have-you.

In Memory of Steven William Verre. I love you. I miss you.

  1. Dec 3 2010

    Tony, your list of traits is spot on and I now have a label. Gareth the ‘SEO Lapdog Hero’! Oh, and respect to the A-Team reference.

    • Dec 5 2010


      I do what I can; enjoy your new label 😛

  2. Dec 3 2010

    Good stuff, Tony, and I’m sorry for your loss.

  3. Dec 3 2010

    Tony what a great read… and perfect for a Friday early morning. You are a rare gem in the SEO community that’s for sure. I always knew when I first met you at The Dojo you are real and down to earth… No ego. That’s not to say there aren’t many SEO’s in the community that feel the same way but, it’s always refreshing reading your opinion pieces and realizing what an awesome guy you are!

    • Dec 5 2010


      Wow, I’m humbled at your comments. Thank you sooooo much. Right back at you, Gabs!

  4. Dec 3 2010

    Excellent post, a tremendous tribute to our colleagues. And the analogy to to other alphas (such as doctors and lawyers) is spot on – most search marketers I admire have been ones are one their own (very much like an independent law practice) or surround themselves with OTHER alphas at search agencies. Existing in a “tolerated” environment is about as life-sucking as it gets. When work is slow boring, we are about as effective as a bag of bricks. Resentment builds, and there’s no going back. I hope traditional agencies who use the best search marketers out there realize that the best come with a price – not just a monetary one, but a price that drives results outside of mediocrity.

    • Dec 5 2010


      Could not agree with you more. That tolerated environment is a energy-vampire. And, you’re spot on with resentment aspect; I didn’t really think about that until you said it. But, I think once you’ve reached that resentment point, either you projecting that to your co-workers or vice versa, it’s probably time to move on. It’s nearly an irreparable situation.

  5. Dec 3 2010

    Excellent piece, Tony!
    I’ve always been one of those 100mph/Off types, in every field in which I’ve worked, and never learned to sit down, shut up or not rock the boat. I feel a little better now, knowing that if it’s a serious character flaw, at least I’m not alone.
    I suppose it’s one of the reasons that so many SEOs work independently, rather than in-house… Type A’s often just don’t play well with others.

    • Dec 5 2010


      Well, if it is a character flaw, I suspect there is more than just us afflicted with it. 🙂 It’s taken me years to learn to “play nice” with others, and I still have a long way to go, but it can be done. It’s not easy and organizations really have to understand who you are at your core to work. Admittedly, not many will or care enough to do so. They just want modular piece they can plug in to fill a gap. Just think about the resumes you’ve written in your lifetime; how many times have you written “motivated and dedicated”, or a ” go-getter”? Probably on every one of them. Why? Because businesses want to read it, as comfort thing, but don’t really want you to have those qualities. If they did, there wouldn’t be an issue.

      As you said, that’s probably the reason why so many of us choose to go out on our own, work independently, because most organizations aren’t equipped to deal with us.

  6. Dec 3 2010

    My sincere condolences Tony for Steven and spot on post, totally describes my day to day job and agency life. I feel like a wild card, brought in when people need me and discarded when they don’t. I wonder if all high pressure high stress jobs are like this. It could be that I need to go on a hunt for self-meaning.

    • Dec 5 2010


      I can’t say for sure if all the high pressure jobs are like yours or like the ones I’ve had, but I can agree about the “wildcard” aspect. As Matt says, in times of peace, they want nothing to do with you. Treating you like a burden instead of an asset. Self-meaning? I’d say you have that you have that already.

  7. Dec 3 2010

    I hear that… too many puss-wagons in the world. They only like us when their lives depend on us. Then, they hand us guns, send us to strange places, and celebrate our determination. But in times of peace, we are more of an annoyance than anything else. “Can’t we all just [go along to] get along?” I celebrate the Unreasonable Man. Indeed, all progress depends on the Unreasonable Man. F*ck the ninnies! Nothing but fodder who like to play dress-up.

  8. Dec 3 2010

    I promise everyone to leave replies before the weekend closes. I haven’t forgotten you, and the outpouring of comments and warm and fuzzies, all but ensures every single one of you gets a reply. PROMISE. 😀

  9. Dec 8 2010

    Wow – that’s potentially one of the best articles I’ve ever read. This, and pretty much wrap it up perfectly! 🙂

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