I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the future of search. What will it look like? What will the changes ahead mean to me as an inhouse search marketer? Will my work be different? Will I need new skills?
It’s almost a dead certain reality that any inhouse search marketer today will need to develop new skills, if they don’t already possess them. For years, many in the industry have advocated the need to know more than SEO to be successful in SEO. In the near future that will be proven out, and skills beyond SEO will be demanded from anyone trying to make a career as an SEO. Just knowing the basics of SEO is often enough to get you started, and that will remain true – as a statement. The basics themselves will continue to expand, so this becomes a moving target. Let’s just say you cannot be too aware of emerging trends and how they impact your world.
There are undoubtedly many who could claim to have predicted the advent of social media. If you’ve got your head in the sand hoping social will go away, you should dig yourself out and take a serious look around. To state the obvious, social is here, and it matters. Years ago, however, social media was somewhat clunkier than what we enjoy today. The forerunner to today’s “social” activity was more aligned to discussion forums. Remember those? You’d go, post a question and folks would answer in line – no limits on characters.
Those who cut their teeth in those environments learned early on things such as etiquette, respect and how to play nice. Moving outside the lines back then resulted in you being banned from the community. How does this matter today? Well, when you have 140 characters to get your message across, you’d better be careful. Saying the wrong thing, or even the right things in the wrong way, can have big negative effects on your brand. The bottom line is that you need to be careful with social – mistakes in this arena hurt you immediately and can be difficult to recover from.
So what does the future have in store for us? Let’s look to the mobile movement to set the stage.
To set the scene, I’ll construct a theoretical scenario:
I’m flying into Montreal and want to find a romantic restaurant for dinner on Friday evening.
Sound simple, right? You go to an engine, and search for restaurants in Montreal and look for reviews. And that would work fine, if you have your computer handy. Pretty much everyone carries a mobile device these days, though, so it’s becoming increasingly important to fit this paradigm.
In my personal world, I simple ask my phone to find me exactly what I want. It not only finds the results for me, but ranks them and shows me options to book a table at different times on my desired day. Even today, while this is nascent technology, it’s pretty good. Most time (80%) my system works. That ranks right up there against sitting at my laptop researching results. Plus, I can manage my search anywhere and when it’s most convenient for me.
How does this apply to SEO? Well, these search services, beyond being just plain cool, access dozens of search results to form their “answers” for you. The trick for an SEO then becomes to ensure your products or services rank well across many arenas of search. You simply don’t know when a query will trigger a result returning your information, and skipping things can have a big impact. Imagine if that restaurant found did not have comments and reviews enabled on their website? How would the search service know its “romantic” as I wanted?
Sure, the search systems could rely on plain old optimized content, but the signals from this social commentary mean much more to me than something an SEO stuck in a meta description tag. What if the restaurant didn’t subscribe to an online table booking service? Well, the next result pops to the top and I see a different result. To me, this matters not. I simply need one restaurant with the right atmosphere. I’m sure there are dozens or more in Montreal, so anyone skipping steps simply never appears to me as a result.
If you thought the race to rank in the top three results was tough, try being in the race where being the only one that matters. Are you building and executing a plan wide enough to encompass all the various factors that impact your organic search rankings? Better take another look at your plans, and those of others inside your organization, to make sure all efforts are commonly aligned.
So, do SEOs need to know more than just SEO tactics? Absolutely. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that to be a good SEO today, you need to be an expert in general online marketing, social media, link building, SEO, paid search, conversion optimization, copywriting and trend spotting. It’s a marathon, so pace yourself, and get learning if you don’t already know these areas in depth. The results you will achieve from being able to see the bigger picture will make all the learning worthwhile.
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.