Searchlove, a Personal Journey
First of all, I know you are maybe waiting the Searchlove Day 2 Recap post. It will be online tomorrow written from this servant of yours.
In that post you will find all the details of some of the most relevant speeches in a formal “neutral” voice. And I am sure you already had read some of the amazing posts, which have been published live during and just after the event.
But I must confess you one thing: when it comes to Searchlove, I cannot be just a cold and objective chronicler, and that’s the reason of this post.
This year was my fourth time attending Searchlove. To be exact, it was still named as ProSEO, when, in 2010, I attended it for the first time.
It was my first “serious” Search Marketing conference, and it meant a change in my career because of the “illumination” I had about what I have to do for being seriously an SEO thanks to the things I learnt at ProSEO.
Its evolution during the past four years, then, reflects well my evolution as an Internet marketer.
I don’t know how many of you attended the 2010 ProSEO, but if you did and recall the memories you have of that event, you can easily see how our industry has changed in just few years.
For you, who didn’t attend it, I summarize it with one word: SEO.
It was an SEO advanced only conference, but it was looking at SEO differently. Maybe not explicitly, but it was different from all the others conferences at those times.
As I wrote in my recap of that year event, the most important take I had was that:
In order to be better SEOs we must be able to copernically revert the way we think. When we do SEO, actually we work on how people search, wander, desire, and learn on the Internet.
After four years – and after the LinkLove euthanasia previously this year – Searchlove now is not about SEO in the strict old term: it’s about SEO as an Inbound channel.
If MozCon by Moz is the conference that – as an umbrella – oversees and covers everything Inbound Marketing, Searchlove is the conference that talks about Inbound from the SEO perspective.
Content marketing and strategy, Email Marketing, Conversion Rate Optimization, Analytics, Paid Search for Content promotion, SEO – and even if we may forgive the absence of a session specifically dedicated to Social Media – what we see listed are the Inbound channels SEOs deal with every day and that needs in order to perform optimally.
And the same fact that Paul Madden presented a deck entitled Goodbye Spam, Hello Data! is the definitive sign that an era is over in SEO.
SEO is perhaps the most complex profession in Internet Marketing nowadays.
On the one hand, we cannot afford to forget that we are technical marketer, so that the technological aspect of our work is essential.
It may sound strange, but that is something we must remind often during these days, because people – especially the new generation of SEOs – tend to think just to the “creative” part of the job forgetting its technical base.
Regardless of our roots, in fact, we must understand how search engines work, what are the rules that govern them. We need not only to understand – from the point of view of Google, for example – what is an entity, but also as it results in rules that conform a graph, which in turn determines an algorithm. Or why a query is not the same thing as saying keywords.
And then to know how all these concepts are translated into the so heterogeneous reality in which we live, where our target – the user (ourselves) – nonchalantly passes from one screen to another while leading the research itself (that’s why it doesn’t exist something as “Mobile Search”).
That’s why we must re-discover things that maybe were given for granted, as Ontology as a most efficient way of building a coherent and working Information Architecture.
And finally we have to measure the results of our efforts in a efficient way so to reflect the complexity of the “simple” act of searching.
We SEOs since always say that the user is at the center of our work. But – and can burn to admit it – it is Google what really forced us to move from saying to doing things in which the users really are at the center of our strategy.
Of course I’m generalizing, but we all know what the reality was only until recently.
Our profession has become more complex not because of the explosion of the areas of specialization of Search (local, video, image, Mobile, news…), but because the user really has become the center of our work, the real target.
If it were not so, then we would not have this really great need to understand in more detail why an audience behaves differently than another. Or we’re not interested in the fascinating influence of culture in how people use the Internet.
If it were not so, concepts such as storytelling, which for some sound like the novelty of the moment but that have existed for years, they would only be an interesting intellectual diversion.
A good example of what it means to do SEO now has been the deck of Aleyda respect to International SEO.
Sure, Aleyda talked about the differences between subfolders, subdomains and ccTLDs, a topic around which revolved the 99% of the presentations about International SEO until a recent past, but they were only a few slides of the 62 that make up her deck.
The vast majority talked about why deciding to enter the international market, how to measure its impact, of the importance of learning about the culture of the countries that you target and how users act differently from country to country.
The evolution of SEO, the fact that it is not possible doing SEO seriously without collaborating with other disciples, obliges us to understand the mechanisms of those disciplines and how us, as SEOs, can take advantage from them.
As Rand Fishkin wrote once describing the T-Shaped Marketer Model, despite of the extreme specialization we maybe are focusing our job on, we must be generalist enough to use seamlessly tools, tactics and even the philosophy, which typically are “property” of other kinds of Internet marketer (i.e.: Social Media specialists).
A clear example was Wil Reynolds, who focused his presentation in how to use paid search formulas like Zemanta or nRelate for boosting the visibility of the content we produce and, ultimately, obtaining links… paid links that are ok for Google.
And all about Content, clever content, were the decks of Chris Bennet (How to win fans and influence users) and Simon Penson (The new rules of big content promotion). Both were about Content Marketing, but from an SEO point of view.
Because even if the borders between disciplines got blurred, we should not pretend being other than SEOs, and that our first purpose still is obtaining qualified organic traffic for our sites.
We are SEOs, not Content Marketer or Community Managers, but we must rely on Content and Social Media Marketing for succeeding in our objectives.
That’s why spending 45 minutes hearing how Amelia Showalter dealt with Email Marketing testing for the Obama re-election campaign matters.
SEO is harder now, but so much more rewarding, because finally we have started putting users at the center of our work and not search engines.
But, don’t be sad, we are still geeks.