In 2015, our Job as an SEO Isn’t Actually SEO
Columnist explains how role of search engine optimization (SEO) professional is undergoing a major transformation.
OK, I’ll admit right now I wrote that title just to get clicks. It’s not my proudest moment, but I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t done it before.
Regardless, title is accurate – in a sense. Yes, you are still responsible for driving organic traffic. That isn’t going anywhere. But because way to drive organic traffic isn’t anything like way we used to drive organic traffic, SEOs have to become more cross-functional. These days, when say “do SEO,” really do about a million other things that historically aren’t considered SEO.
If that’s case, then what else is in our job description?
This part of an SEO’s job should not come as a surprise to given how ingrained “content is king” has become in our heads.
There is no way can rank well in search engines without good content, & I see more copywriters being directly integrated into SEO team rather than living on a different team. In many cases, requirements of being a non-technical SEO now include content writing.
Quality content can be hard to create; it does not exactly something can teach. There’s no formula can follow (although Nate Dame does have a pretty good list of what makes quality content), & it does take a lot of time (I’ve spent 15 minutes on one Facebook post), so don’t assume that good content is something we just have lying around.
User Experience Advocate
SEO & user experience (UX) got off on wrong foot, & I blame SEO. Spammy things we were doing years ago to manipulate algorithm were furthest thing from a good user experience, so it’s no wonder UX professionals hated us.
Things are totally different now. Search engines want to see what users want to see.
Though Google hasn’t come out to say that good UX impacts our search rankings, there’s a lot of speculation that it will be adding mobile UX into its algorithm. That means that if want to drive more organic traffic to a page, that page has to provide a good user experience.
Over past year or so, I’ve noticed a fundamental change in how SEOs operate — specifically marketing side of SEO, not technical side.
We’re becoming more thinkers than doers. Instead of taking direction from what others have decided will change on site, we’re getting more involved in shaping that conversation. If you’re not, then need to push to be.
We spend so much time on site & so much time obsessing over every data point on how customers are using our site that it’s completely fair to say we know what’s best for site. Of course, I’m not advocating for SEOs to be sole decision maker, but SEO today means playing a larger role in overall site strategy, & that’s something we need to be prepared for.
Unfortunately, there are still a lot of people who view SEO in a silo, so it’s up to us to not pigeonhole ourselves into just keyword research or title tag updates.
It used to be so easy to get links: a few directory listings, some press release submissions, a handful of articles posted to Ezine Articles. Mindless work, yes, but boy was it easy.
There is definitely no such thing as easy link now. Every link, whether manually or organically acquired, requires a lot of thought & a little bit of work, & we have to be more creative in way we’re getting links.
Instead of “building links,” we’re building things people naturally want to link to, & that’s forcing SEOs to think more like marketers. What does our target audience want?
Thinking like this, you’re not creating SEO campaigns or link building campaigns; you’re creating marketing campaigns that build brand awareness, boost social mentions, generate PR buzz & yeah, builds some links.
Here are some great examples;
• The vs. John Paulson campaign MahiFX ran in 2011 (Moz has a good write-up of the case study).
• Expedia’s Find Yours Campaign – 68 linking root domains (LRDs), 196 total links, ~1,000 social shares.
• Froont’s brilliant GIFS about responsive design – 273 LRDs, 2,473 total links, ~11,000 social shares.
• Union’s employee appreciation day – 56 LRDs, 468 total links, ~1,200 social shares. (Sadly, Vimeo link got all action, but all press buzz secured a handful of home page links.)
Obviously, can’t run things like above by yourself. You’re going to have to rely on other departments – & that brings me to probably most important job of any SEO in 2015….
One of my boss’ favorite sayings is, “The best SEO’s will put themselves out of a job.” While that’s not exactly motivating me to be best SEO (I kid), point is that best SEOs have done such a good job at educating other teams on SEO that, after a while, there doesn’t need to be someone advocating for “right thing for SEO” because that’s naturally been weaved into fabric of every digital professional’s job.
Do I think we’re ever going to get to that point? Not in next 10 years, but fact remains that SEO in theory isn’t hard, no matter how many people try to tell it’s a Jedi magic trick.
Everything does online could have some effect on our organic traffic, so SEOs have to rely on other teams to understand how their actions affect our KPIs. Have to rally these evangelists in creative, in social media, in development, in IT, & in copywriting, educating them on how what they do is actually SEO. That’s only way you’re going to be able to meet our goals.