The story behind SEO: The Movie

‘This kind of sets a new bar for content marketing on the Internet.’

As of 29 June, a new documentary about the SEO industry from digital marketing firm Ignite Visibility is ranking on page one for a Google search for 'SEO', which is likely the best possible outcome as far as SEOs are concerned.

SEO: The Movie certainly includes a who’s who of the search industry – Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin, former SEO consultant Jill Whalen, Pubcon chief executive Brett Tabke and Pushfire chief executive Rae Hoffman, to name a few – and has nearly 80,000 views in 10 days. All that for a budget of around $15,000.

John Lincoln, chief executive of Ignite Visibility, said the documentary provides a historical overview of the industry for anyone looking to learn about SEO or get into the industry:

SEO was the original way to do Internet marketing. The two first ways [were] really SEO first and then it was PPC because they were doing ads on these search engines…and after that, email. So what this documentary does is it traces the first way you could ever do Internet marketing. Before that, you were putting your website on a business card. What happened in the early days, these search engines were so unsophisticated and just a few people figured out how to game them. Through this practice, [these affiliates were] making millions…huge money…and the early players really developed Internet marketing as a trade. And there’s all this exciting stuff that goes along [with it]…there were parties that occurred where people felt like they were rock stars, almost like a Wolf of Wall Street thing…[a lot of people] don’t realize how much of that was going on, so we tell the history that nobody really knows of one of the first digital marketing practices to explain how it evolved and show today it’s a 100% legit, very important part of the digital marketing mix and the biggest way that most online businesses drive traffic to their websites.

'I was sitting at home…watching a skateboard documentary...'

Lincoln said he always wanted to do something “big” on SEO, but wasn’t sure what format it would take until he realized video is the fastest-growing content channel on the Internet.

“I was sitting at home…watching a skateboard documentary and kind of taking a look at that and thought, ‘This is really good – I could do something like this’ and started thinking about this,” Lincoln said. That was October 2016.

From there, Lincoln said he had lunch with his two business partners and “one of them thought it was an amazing idea and one said it was a stupid idea and I said, ‘I’m going to do it.’”

That’s when he created an outline and contacted search publication Search Engine Land and got chief content officer Danny Sullivan involved. The Search Engine Land team helped determine who to interview and facilitate said interviews and, five months later, Lincoln hired video editor Dan Liffick.

“I wanted to make sure we did it right…and I knew if I didn’t have Danny Sullivan involved, it wouldn’t be a movie,” Lincoln said.

The documentary is the first such effort from Ignite Visibility, but Lincoln has created plenty of other educational videos.

“I think I put interesting stuff in there – [I tried] to make it fun and exciting and jazz up an industry that people don’t think is [exciting],” Lincoln said. “I just think this kind of sets a new bar for content marketing on the Internet. Everyone is constantly trying to develop the next piece of content that will reverberate. This will be key to our business success moving forward to attract attention online and I hope inspires other people to create cool stuff, too.”

Ignite Visibility is using #SEOMovie to promote the video and has also tapped into the SEOs it featured to get the word out.

“It’s pretty much organic…with quite a bit of influencer marketing,” Lincoln said. “Every influencer in the industry is in the movie and helped promote [it].”

As for what’s next, Lincoln said not to rule out SEO: The Sequel, but “I’ve also had some people in the industry who want to see PPC: The Movie”.

Ignite Visibility has 40 employees and is based in San Diego.