30 April 2009 | Team Tamar

10 reasons why The Apprentice is like SEO

As an avid fan of the BBC’s finest show – The Apprentice – I regularly tune in to watch the latest goings-on in Sir Alan Sugar’s boardroom, and last night was no exception. But whilst watching, I was suddenly struck by the parallels between SEO and the firings and hirings of Britain’s “finest business minds”…


Sir Google Sugar

Sir Google Sugar with his helpers, Nick and Margaret


For any American’s that might be reading this, I should point out a couple of Apprentice basics to help you translate the analogy: First up, Sir Alan Sugar is the UK’s version of Donald Trump, except without the ridiculous hairstyle. He is ably assisted by his legal advisor and PR man, Margaret Mountford and Nick Hewer. That’s about all you need to know really.

So here is my run-down of 10 reasons why The Apprentice is like SEO:


  1. It’s all about being number 1 – everyone is clamouring for it, most of them will do anything to get there, and once you’re at the top you’re going to get a lot of attention… At least until the next young up-start comes along.
  2. Having said that, sometimes coming 2nd and 3rd can have it’s benefits too. I remember hearing interviews before the current series with runner-up Claire and a few older 2nd and 3rd placers – all of whom did at least a brief period of work with one of Sir Alan’s many businesses. Just like being 2nd and 3rd in the search rankings, you might not get the glory but you’re sure to be making a fair wodge of cash still.
  3. Being a flash git isn’t going to help – We all know what Sir Alan thinks of posers or the overtly-flash – it’s not going to wash. You’ve got to be a good honest (?) hard-worker to get to the top, and no amount of bling or flashiness is going to help you con your way to the top. Is Google any different? Not really…
  4. Making friends is key – in the last five series at least, the winning candidate has *never* been one of the less popular ones, and a lot of the time their connections and friendships within the group have worked massively in their favour. It’s exactly the same for SEO – you’ve got to make links and connections to succeed, and the more influential your friends, the better you will generally do.
  5. C_71_article_1103241_image_list_image_list_item_0_image The quiet man never succeeds. As Nooral proved last night, and countless fence-sitters before him, staying quiet and hoping you get rewarded for being “nice” is not going to get you anywhere – and it’s the same with websites. In many years of SEO, I’ve heard sooooo many people whine about how their site being “fair” and “nice”, and bemoaning why that doesn’t seem to get them the rankings they want. But I’ve rarely seen anyone ranking well for a competitive term where I’ve thought “Hey, they look like they’re keeping quiet and playing fair, good on them!”…
  6. The boss is always watching! You might sometimes get away with pulling the wool over the eyes of Sir Alan (or the big G) if he really likes you, but Nick and Margaret (I was going to make a Matt Cutts analogy here, but wasn’t sure which he would be!!) will sure as hell be keeping an eye on progress too, and you can usually rely on them making sure that the fakes and cheaters get their come-uppance…
  7. Even after all this time, it’s still not completely clear what it takes to get to the top! I’ve lost count of the times that I’ve seen a candidate crash and burn despite a great performance, and Google is no different. Sometimes you’ve got to trust your instincts, and understand that when you’re playing in somebody else’s playground, you’ve got to play by their rules.
  8. Patience is a virtue. I’ve yet to see the series where Sir Alan decides he’s spotted the best candidate in the first week (and let’s face it, that wouldn’t make for very exciting viewing would it?!) and SEO is no different – if you want to get long-term results, you’ve got to put in the graft at the start.
  9. E3Sir Alan (and the big G) is always moving with the times. As he’ll be the first to tell you, Sugar made some mistakes along the way but he’s consistently moving with the times, and if you don’t stay current you won’t keep up. Google are exactly the same (i.e Google Base?) and keeping up with changes and innovations is going to put you in the Big G’s good books.
  10. Shouting about your success can be a risky business. Just like the way Google knows your complete site history, Sir Alan has a copy of your CV in front of him at all times, and crowing on about your success (“That’s why I got a scholarship to Sandhurst…”) Is just as likely to get you slapped-down as it is to get you respect with your peers. Don’t be a bragger, or it’s very likely that one of your fellow candidates is likely to let slip one of your past indiscretions while sat in the boardroom…

So there we have it – hopefully I haven’t lost you with too many tenuous analogies, or worst still, spoilt last night’s show for those that haven’t seen it yet!

Team Tamar

  • Mike

    What about ‘Everything you say in the boardroom is wrong’?
    I swear, if Sir Alan asked what is 2+3 and everyone said 5, he’d say they were wrong! Great show though.

  • Eamon Collins

    Is Margaret then like Yahoo?! Once a looker back in the day(?) always reliable for results, but in need of a makeover?

  • Barrie

    I liked Suralans defence of Nick last night, ‘dont you pick on my buddy or I’ll set my dad on you’. Brilliant, proper schoolyard stuff.
    As an aside, I think Eamon has to explain his affections for Margaret. Eamon..?

  • Eamon Collins

    I was merely posing the question out there if someone knew if she was a looker back in the day! Nick might know. On 2nd thoughts, Margaret’s prob more of an Ask Jeeves.