• http://www.samueljscott.com/ Samuel Scott – @samueljscott

    I’ve always thought: “SEO is a collection of best practices that help websites to get found in organic search results and then guide the resulting traffic down a desired conversion path.” It is doing web development well, content well, social media well, PR well, conversion optimization well, and so on.

    It’s also why “SEO” is becoming a meaningless term. When we do and talk about everything, we do and start to talk about nothing. I’m now leaning towards something different: We are all just doing “marketing” in the end — but via a new collection of communications channels that calls itself the Internet. The same traditional principles apply: positioning, messaging, and building a brand — but just in a new context.


  • http://corymarketing.com/ Cory Torrella

    Hi Jenny,

    Top search engine ranking is a result of solid online marketing planning and execution. SEO itself is not hard, and it’s not as magical and mysterious as most SEOs make it out to be. Whether it’s content or links or whatever, you’re really just pushing for more quality traffic and better metrics (on-site and off-site) than your competitor.

    I do agree that the term growth hacker is a silly buzzword for start up enthusiasts. However, I also believe SEO’s are the same thing – search engine “hackers” just trying to figure out and deploy what works.

    So where are they SEOs? They are redefining themselves to avoid being synonymous with any other service that isn’t able to guarantee results.



  • http://www.brooklynparrots.com/ brooklynparrot

    We interviewed Jill Whalan a couple of months ago. She suggests that the term “website marketer” replace SEO, given the multiple disciplinary overlaps cited in this article and elsewhere.

  • http://www.josemiguelvera.com/ Jose Miguel Vera

    I’m a little torn in regards to my opinion to this article. I completely get where Jenny is coming from. SEO’s, Digital Marketers, whatever we want to call ourselves… those of that stuck with Consultation and with Agency models are going through this identity crisis. The reason is simple. The “big guys” are drowning us, its landscape is much more saturated than it used to be 3 years, 2 years, even just 1 year ago. Take some of the biggest names in our industry and see if they’re still doing “consultation”. No, they’ve either shifted toward building tools, conferences, or other sources of revenue.

    BECAUSE we allowed ourselves to be seen as “growth” hackers and because we let the Mad-Men crowd see us as “jokes”, many of in our industry lost their edge, their juice.

    While I do believe people need to stick with what they know and that one A is better than 4 C’s. Big brands and no longer rejecting Digital. I have a buddy in a large NY agency with a Telcom company as his client. This fortune company had allocated 10% of its budget to digital 4 years ago. Last year 40%, this year 70%. This is who we are competing with. So what does that tell us? Only those “SEO’s” or digital marketers that decide to get their behinds off their comfort zones will continue with their Agency model 2 years from now. If not they will die. Plain and simply.

    We do have a very strong edge. We grew in one of the most ever-changing verticals the world has ever seen. So we’re conditioned to keep up with change. From here on it’s Darwinism. We’re back to basics, but I’m not talking about titles and descriptions. I’m talking about those Mad Men moments.

    Now picture this… A BEAUTIFUL IDEA, not just produced by one of these BBDO Art Directors, no. An idea produced by minds like ours, coming from the Digital space.

    Ladies and gentlemen, we have the ability of doing more with a dollar than any of these old time media buyers. We don’t just buy a 5MIL spot on TV and then sit back and check results (or fine add the new cool Social stuff brands are doing). Imagine the impact you and I are capable of doing with a 5MIL budget.

    Big agencies are either going to suck the talent in and continue buying all the Media out there like there is no tomorrow or a few SMART, CREATIVE, and BAWLSY SEO’s, PPC people, geeks are going to change the game. I’m going after the latter.

    Adapt or stay behind. Get comfortable and perish.

    Jose Miguel Vera

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Jose, thank you for the insightful comment! Sounds like you have your own post in the making. :)

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Cory, thanks for your comment. Well put. I think part of the reason I have challenges with all the renaming/expansion/etc. is that my definition of SEO has always been, as I stated it in my article – part usability, part development, part content, part analysis. I never thought of SEO as “hacking search engines” – I always took a more sustainable view.

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Samuel, I could not agree with you more! I’d like to see people embrace marketing as the title, and focus on specific channels. Very well put, sir.

  • http://www.josemiguelvera.com/ Jose Miguel Vera

    Excuse the typos :), but I just had to get it all out before a meeting. Great piece Jenny!

  • http://www.rachnaghiya.pw Rachna

    Whosoever has coined the term SEO need to be scolded for coining it up :P

  • Chris Tucker

    Celebrating 20 years of SEO in 2015!

  • Rajesh_magar

    First of big thanks to @jennyhalasz:disqus and that was little bit touching for me. And second @jose_miguel_vera:disqus has raised the real million dollar point, I mean seriously personally I believe and even have seen from last 5 years that SEO is most important channel to keep your business live and growing. No matter how those Paid, Social, Content marketing or any others titles keeps growing.

  • Charles T Franklin

    I agree 100% with this article. It actually mirrors the same concept that I wrote about indie/self-publishing on my blog. I help authors with marketing and promotion and we are having the same problems! On the one hand, there is a clear need for help and structure in a developing industry. On the other hand, self-publishers have to navigate through confusing and fragmented marketing strategies, scams, and unscrupulous marketing claims in a crowded world where expertise only requires saying so.

  • http://www.webtalentmarketing.com Lorianna Sprague

    I couldn’t agree with you more Jenny!

    When I started in SEO seven years ago it seemed like a no-brainer that things like social had a direct impact, and should be included in the over-all scope of SEO.

    My belief is that SEO helps create the right space for successful online marketing (.htaccess files, robots.txt, IA, UX, CRO and other technical elements are a huge part of this).

    Online commerce has forced marketers to LISTEN to their audiences again, instead of making assumptions about their audiences because they are too close to their marketing. SEO, as a discipline, came out of this behavioral shift.

    I see those assumptions even now, with current clients and how they approach both online and offline efforts.

    SEO is the Phoenix out of the ashes of lazy marketing, and pushes data-driven decisions back to the forefront. Let’s listen to people and give them what they are asking for (you’ll make more money that way anyway!) instead of arrogantly broadcasting what YOU think they want to hear.

    I have never understood the black-hat “SEO’s” who think it’s their duty and obligation to “hack” a search engine. Those individuals make all of our lives more difficult, and all because they are still TOO LAZY to approach marketing the correct way!

    SEO is engineering – it is understanding (to the best of our abilities) how search engines work, so we can help our clients work with search engines in order to be found by real people. If you’re gaming the system, then you aren’t what real people were looking for, or you wouldn’t have had to game them to begin with.

    The misperception that search engines are out to get website owners is so baselessly false. Search engines need to make their querents happy, and this is the foundation of how they make money. If you can make it easy for search engines to make querents happy, then search engines will reward you with higher rankings. It’s not too complicated.

    What irks me the most are the traditional marketers who believe that SEO is “easy”, and that the few posts they read on MOZ about keyword research make them an expert. Wow. The number of traditional marketers who haphazardly take on SEO with an arrogant perception that they are smarter then those people who call themselves “SEO’s” is mind boggling. The horrifying recommendations they make to clients with huge budgets that result is massive waste just astonish me.

    As much as the black-hat SEO, or the poorly-titled “growth hacker” make SEO look bad, the traditional marketer who claims to know SEO (but doesn’t really) makes us look so much worse.

    I will say that a traditional marketer who really knows SEO is like a super hero, and not the focus of my ranking whatsoever. :)

    Thanks for the great article. Totally spot on.


  • http://raventools.com/ Nicolette Beard


    Thanks for your passionate appraisal of the SEO industry. I love this quote: “Inbound and outbound mean nothing unless you know where the center is.” The center is Communication and the spokes differ depending on the unique needs and pain points of your customers. Then, you use persuasion to encourage them to buy. If you get that right, you can call yourself Rainmaker!

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Chuck, thanks for sharing! I’m thrilled there are other SEO specialists out there. Ya’ll will give me some real competition. ;-)

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Nicolette, that was definitely my favorite line in the whole article. I wanted to bold it, italicize it, and put little flashing gifs around it (ok, not really). It’s so important that people understand who they’re marketing to and why. Thanks for your comment!

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Charles, thanks so much for your comment and for taking the time to share the article via twitter. I really appreciate it and I’m glad to find some other raised voices in the crowd!

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    haha, to each their own. I put forward an alternative definition of SEO last year – I’d like to call it “Subject Experience Optimization” instead… since we never really have optimized search engines, although I dare say we’ve certainly helped them improve their algorithms!

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Jill is a brilliant lady! I was sad when she decided to leave SEO. Website marketer is a good suggestion, but it limits what we define as “SEO” to websites and leaves out apps and social. It’s a tough definition to be sure.

  • http://www.it-sales-leads.com/ Barbara Mckinney

    It’s more difficult than ever to get past every other agent’s attempt at “do it yourself” SEO. There are so many real estate websites online. Everyone knows that SEO is important, and they are all trying to rank highly for a host of keywords. Gone are the days of creating a site, gaining a few “back links” and watching as your number of website visits grow.

  • http://netpeak.ua/ Dmitry Pelymsky

    I like new SEO. That is more than past SEO. We make more smart work now. We begin to think about it like about Marketing – and that is good.

  • Igal Stolpner

    From an in-house point of view I can tell you that for me one of the
    biggest questions these days is who’s taking the lead in terms of the product. We
    all understand that comparing to a few years ago it is much harder now to get better rankings with off-site efforts ONLY. Finally, it really is about a better product
    and better user experience. So for me, being an SEO means first of all to be
    involved in as many company-product decisions as possible. Today I care a lot
    more about a feature’s speed, UX, simplicity, and potential shareability, rather
    than the title/description or even the links structure (internal and not).

    You’ve mentioned asking for help, I think that in this competitive era,
    one of the most important principles for companies is being able to ask for
    help, both because we don’t know everything and also because the user (and Google too actually) don’t really care (to say the least) who is it in the company who’s responsible for what. So in the end its about bringing the best possible solution to the end user.

    And the identity? My team’s title is SEO even that we also deal with
    other areas such as Social, PR, and ASO, and that’s also how I first of all see
    myself. To me it’s all under SEO.

    “Growth hacker” you say? I just think that you don’t need that if the CTO and SEO can get along and brainstorm together.


  • Randy

    Big companies will not trust anything to a small business or single consultants. There are exceptions, but I don’t believe anything other than an agency will be the norm anytime in the next 10 years.

  • http://www.mozalami.com/ Mozalami

    Amazing we’re here on Danny’s site, “the Father of SEO” who coined the term, so we’re expecting new trendy and sexy term in near future. Discretion: my clients do not rely on my title but rather on my work, although I hold a master in e-commerce with major in internet marketing. Proud to be SEO and sure that my clients are happy with this!

  • Brendan Wilde

    One of the reasons for the ‘identity crisis’ is that as SEO’s
    we have started to define ourselves by our tactics as opposed to the end goal.

    The end goal is to help websites receive more targeted traffic from organic
    search, traffic that is likely to convert into sales, leads, enquiries,
    conversions. The end goal remains the same, the tactic ‘de jour’ will continue to
    evolve and change.

    If we continually identify ourselves with changing tactics we will never know
    our real role. Yesterday I was a link builder, today I am a content marketer,
    tomorrow I will be a ???

    It’s analogous to Sales 101. Customers buy benefits & not products (or tactics).

  • http://rockthestatusquo.com/ Carrie Morgan

    Great thoughts, Samuel! Integration across the department and across the organization is what makes SEO work.The identity crisis is not SEO-specific, it applies to every discipline within marketing and public relations, too.

  • http://www.jlh-marketing.com/ Jenny Halasz

    Very well put! Thank you.