When you think of basketball, you think of Michael Jordan. When you think of golf, you think of Tiger Woods. When you think of swimming, you think of Michael Phelps. These people have elevated themselves, and what they do, to the next level — they are the rockstars.

How about in SEO? Are there any SEO rockstars? If so, do these rockstars help the industry like Phelps has helped swimming?

The Trend-Setting SEO Rockstar: Aaron Wall

Aaron WallWhen you pop SEO into Google, what do you get? Some Wikipedia entries (naturally), a .org for the Sponsors for Educational Opportunity, but one of the entries that catches your eye is probably “Learn. Rank. Dominate.: SEO Book.com.” Learn, rank and dominate? Sign me up; if I put SEO in Google, I’m certainly not looking for Sponsors for Educational Opportunity — I want to learn about Search Engine Optimization!

Such is the star power of Aaron Wall. He, quite literally, wrote the book on SEO — “SEO Book,” which first debuted in 2003. He started very simply with Search-Marketing.info, but quickly learned his trade by trolling through forums, writing articles and eventually setting up his new site, SEObook.com, writing his SEO book and then tirelessly marketing it.

Wall has grown his newest site to a massive scale. He is a sought-after speaker at almost every SEM and SEO conference and everywhere he goes in the SEO world, people follow what he says.

The Community Mastermind SEO Rockstar: Rand Fishkin

Rand FishkinOnce you start worshiping at the alter of Wall’s “SEO Book,” you eventually realize another great SEO resource exists: SEOmoz.org. People can learn volumes about SEO and SEM here. But, is there one person behind the site? Naturally, and that person is Rand Fishkin.

Fishkin himself wasn’t involved in search marketing until 2002 and then didn’t start SEOmoz until 2004, but since then, this site has become one of the resources for SEO. Why is it so great? With over 5,000 members, an active community commenting on posts, multiple daily articles and an engaged discussion on everything SEO related, really, isn’t that question a little silly?

And the mastermind behind this melting pot of SEO knowledge? He speaks at conferences (you’ll remember him for his bright yellow Pumas), authored the “Beginner’s Guide to Search Engine Optimization” and has helped about a million different companies rank better.

Seriously, who do you think Microsoft went to when they needed SEO help? Yup, Fishkin. Rockstar? Definitely.

The Original SEO Rockstar: Jill Whalen

Jill WhalenWall made his mark late in 2003 and Fishkin was making a name for himself in 2004. Is there anyone who has been around longer than a few years?

Let’s welcome to the stage Jill Whalen. You want longevity? Whalen founded High Rankings, one of the best SEO companies around, in 1995!

Seriously, 1995? Rand Fishkin was still in high school at that point! Whalen is, without a doubt, the original SEO rockstar. You want to add credibility and authority to your speaking panel? Ask Whalen to speak on it.

Both Wall and Fishkin are rockstars who generate big crowds and have huge followings online, but no one can come close to the reverence that Whalen receives — and rightly deserves.

The SEO Rockstar Trend Setter: Matt Cutts

Wall, Whalen and Fishkin are all experts in the field of SEO, but Matt Cutts is the guy who creates and enforces the rules they play by. Who is he? He leads the Search Quality group for Google — and they specialize in SEO issues.

What does that all mean? He’s the one who ensures Google’s Webmaster Guidelines are followed and he keeps an eye on link spam. Most importantly, he’s the face of the Search Group. That means when he speaks at conferences, gives tips on improving your site to rank in Google or anything related, his words are the law and people flock to him like he is the shepherd.

Do the SEO Rockstars Help or Hurt the Industry?

Do these SEO rockstars help the industry, or do they hurt it? SEO is all about getting websites found, and people don’t find things they don’t know about. The same thing is true for the industry itself. If no one knows about it, then there won’t be much business. Consequently, without a doubt, these rockstars are invaluable assets.

Having people who stand out in our industry as experts helps give us credence. These shining stars help the public learn about SEO and get familiar with our industry.

Not only that, but these rockstars help the rest of us agree on certain things, they help us come up with rough guidelines and standards. For an industry that has no specific written rules to follow, it’s good to have people out there, getting the word out, helping shape how we do things and leading the industry.

by Morgan Greenhalgh