Although the internet is the most important business development of the past 50 years, an astounding number of companies still don’t know the first thing about marketing themselves online. To be honest though, why should they? Jack Daniels was doing just fine before all this talk of branded micro-sites and integrated marketing campaigns came along and I’m fairly sure that Agent Provocateur were successful before the days of viral videos.
But here we are in our bubble. Grasping on as tightly as we can to the notion that as SEOs we really get marketing.
“The days of SEO being dirty are gone”, we muse, “directory submissions and comment spam are so old hat – it’s just not like that any more”.
“The days of SEO being dirty are gone”
No, now we fire off as many guest post requests as humanly possible and create vaguely interesting infographics in the hope that someone, somewhere, actually cares enough to drop our beloved embed code into their DA27 blog. The funny thing is, though, that we really don’t know how lucky we are to work in an industry that is becoming more and more important with every passing second.
SEO is not dying. It’s evolving, and simply has to be an integral part of any company’s marketing strategy. The mind-boggling volume of online content created daily means that standing apart from the crowd is increasingly difficult. Many erroneously assume that Google is humming its way to the point where SEO is more or less irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth and businesses of all sizes are going to need our help more and more as time goes on.
If we go back to basics, Search Engine Optimisation is the modification of websites and their constituent pages to improve their rankings in the SERPs. Roughly translated this means that we’re trying to
trick persuade Google into thinking that our page is the best result for any given phrase. At the same time Google are trying to work out whether that persuasion is genuine or the result of less ‘ethical’ techniques. Don’t fool yourself though – if you’re an SEO, you’re trying to game Google… even if you’re whiter than the whitest of whites.
But let’s take a step back. Why are we doing this?
As with any kind of marketing, we’re trying to get the right kinds of visitors to stop by. Our Title tags and META Descriptions are there to do in less than 200 characters what a magazine or TV ad is trying to do: grab someone’s attention and make them engage. All of that lovingly crafted keyword research is the demographic targeting that any ad agency would do, and the copy that’s written and optimised should be given the importance and respect that the script for a national radio campaign would.
As SEOs we’re not just playing around with an endless array of tools. We’re making our own little stamp on a businesses, one word, link and Tweet at a time.
Sadly though, our issue is that we’re still trying to work out exactly where we fit in. For me the answer to that is quite simple: we’re the bridge between the server room and the creatives. The reason that there are so few truly great SEOs is that it’s a tough job. You need to understand the technical side of things while being able to think how users think, create fantastic copy, know what works visually, be creative, and also listen to what people want and need. That’s where we have our advantage.
While behind-the-scenes technical details like meta tags and 301 redirects are important, SEO is really about content and connections. In an information economy, knowledge and insight are the most valuable commodities; think of a content marketing strategy based on sound SEO principles as your very own travel guide to gaining visibility on the internet and drag everyone along with you.
But isn’t this just for big business? Hell. No. I was recently lucky enough to work with a small business based in North Wales who, with absolutely no input from me, started giving away free timber to schools. A TV appearance, loads of links, and a blog post on Moz later and you have some instant proof that combining great SEO with offline marketing is possible for a business of any size.
The moral of this ramble? Don’t underestimate how important this industry is. I firmly believe that anyone working in SEO needs to have their own project that they really care about and are trying to nurture and grow for the long term. It might sound over the top but with great power comes great responsibility, and we really do hold the success and failure of a business (and therefore peoples livelihoods) in our hands – something we need to always remember.