In 2015, Your Job As An SEO Isn’t Actually SEO
Columnist Erin Everhart explains how the role of the 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, the title is accurate — in a sense. Yes, you are still responsible for driving organic traffic. That isn’t going anywhere. But because the way to drive organic traffic isn’t anything like the way we used to drive organic traffic, SEOs have to become more cross-functional. These days, when you say you “do SEO,” you really do about a million other things that historically aren’t considered SEO.
If that’s the case, then what else is in our job description?
This part of an SEO’s job should not come as a surprise to you given how ingrained “content is king” has become in our heads.
There is no way you can rank well in search engines without good content, and I see more copywriters being directly integrated into the SEO team rather than living on a different team. In many cases, the requirements of being a non-technical SEO now include content writing.
Quality content can be hard to create; it’s not exactly something you can teach. There’s no formula you can follow (although Nate Dame does have a pretty good list of what makes quality content), and 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 and user experience (UX) got off on the wrong foot, and I blame SEO. The spammy things we were doing years ago to manipulate the algorithm were the 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 your search rankings, there’s a lot of speculation that it will be adding mobile UX into its algorithm. That means that if you want to drive more organic traffic to a page, that page has to provide a good user experience.
Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed a fundamental change in how SEOs operate — specifically the marketing side of SEO, not the technical side.
We’re becoming more thinkers than doers. Instead of taking direction from what others have decided will change on the site, we’re getting more involved in shaping that conversation. If you’re not, then you need to push to be.
We spend so much time on the site and 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 the site. Of course, I’m not advocating for SEOs to be the sole decision maker, but SEO today means playing a larger role in overall site strategy, and 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 EzineArticles. 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 and a little bit of work, and we have to be more creative in the way we’re getting links.
Instead of “building links,” we’re building things people naturally want to link to, and 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 and yeah, builds some links. Here are some great examples;
- The You 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, ~12,00 social shares. (Sadly, the Vimeo link got all the action, but all the press buzz secured a handful of home page links.)
Obviously, you can’t run things like the above by yourself. You’re going to have to rely on other departments — and that brings me to probably the 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 the best SEO (I kid), the point is that the 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 the fabric of every digital professional’s job.
Do I think we’re ever going to get to that point? Not in the next 10 years, but the fact remains that SEO in theory isn’t hard, no matter how many people try to tell you it’s a Jedi magic trick.
Everything you do online could have some effect on your organic traffic, so SEOs have to rely on other teams to understand how their actions affect our KPIs. You have to rally these evangelists in creative, in social media, in development, in IT, and in copywriting, educating them on how what they do is actually SEO. That’s the only way you’re going to be able to meet your goals.
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land. Staff authors are listed here.
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