In the ever evolving landscape of the Internet, SEO has been the cornerstone, holy grail, villain, superhero, or that weird guy in the corner crying. The job of the SEO is ever evolving and changing, encompassing more diverse skills on a daily basis.
SEO is search engine optimization. From Wikipedia: “Search engine optimization is the process of affecting the visibility of a website or a web page in a search engine’s “natural” or un-paid (“organic”) search.
An SEO is the person whose job has evolved to EVERYTHING that drives/invites/delivers traffic to the website.
SEO (search engine optimization) used to “just” be the manner in which websites achieved rankings on Excite, Yahoo, Netscape, MSN, AOL search, Google, and many other search engines. This was done through all manner of techniques, many of which are considered “spammy” today. There was white text on white backgrounds, flooding text with as many keywords as possible, stuffing meta keywords, and all types of behaviors that would influence the search “bots” (robots) into thinking your website was talking about one particular topic.
Slowly, this behavior evolved to more logical practices, like writing relevant content, and the SEO evolved with it. The SEO became more than that person who knew how search engine bots viewed and evaluated websites; they became the person who could design a website for a person AND for a robot. SEOs looked at the architecture of the website, the URL structures, debated the benefits of subfolders versus subdomains, the content on each page, and evaluated the user experience; they have grown to gauge how other websites linking to their website would influence how search engines valued the website. Any sites that linked to the SEO’s primary site had to be evaluated for quality. Inbound links were no longer the power players, now they were a liability.
Then it started getting complicated, there were Panda’s, Penguins, and Skunks penalizing websites and creating chaos. Search engines started looking at social signals to-and-from the website, they evaluated user experience and compelled more intuitive navigation pathways. Now SEOs had to become behavioral experts, and not just for robots, but for people too. Content had to be scheduled and generated on a daily or multi-daily basis. Anchor text became a more valuable subnavigation that had to be kept updated and relevant; URL structure had to be shortened, made more keyword rich and descriptive; and the nurturing funnel for conversions had to be optimized for bots as well as people.
Every on-page aspect of the website started falling under the SEO’s purview, and because of the influence of social media, the offpage content began influencing the SEO’s analytics and impact.
Social content became part of the publishing calendar that SEO’s were now running. The social engagement had to be search friendly, carry consistent messaging, have trackable URL’s. The social programs could no longer be run by interns, now there had to be a structure, a plan to engage users, and drive them back to the website, push them through the nurturing funnel. Conversion metrics and ROI analysis for social media engagement now falls into the SEO’s kingdom.
As SEO continued evolving from being just the on-page content and site architecture to encompassing all content that went online, and on mobile, there has been a realization that a shift in what an SEO was called, needed to occur. That shift is just beginning. Many SEOs now call themselves “Digital Marketing” or “Inbound Marketing” because what they do is not just about search “ranking,” they are not just creating “organic keyword lists” to stuff into content or drive sales crazy with their jargon. They are developing strategy, they are pushing for consistent positioning and messaging, they are helping SEM/PPC campaigns evolve and develop more concise and compelling messaging that match up with the on-page content and social strategy. They are writing email copy that has the capacity to be used as a blog post that can also be used for social updating and drive in sales leads.
The landscape of the SEO has always been complex; it has always been challenging to keep up with all of the requirements of search engines, users, employees, and boards of directors. The SEO has always had to fight daily to prove their content creation had a positive return and was increasing the value of the website, the spend of the user, decreasing the bounce rate, and increasing general engagement.
Now the SEO has to continue evangelizing for their industry and their job, they have to, tactfully, educate employers, peers, and customers on what it is they can accomplish, and they have do this while rebranding their industry, and themselves. They are in the unique position to create and execute strategy in multiple channels, on multiple platforms, and to multi-segmented customer campaigns. Due to these ever growing and evolving skills, the accomplished SEO is more valuable and necessary than ever.