When I’m asked what I do for a living, I debate in my head how to answer the question. Should I say: “I’m an SEO” and wait for the inevitably confused look?
Perhaps I should go with my wife’s answer, instead: “He organizes the internet to get high rankings on Google.” You have to admit, anyone who can organize the internet is probably pretty cool.
Should I keep my answers brief, or should I take a little time and educate them about the awesomeness of SEO?
Many professionals in this industry still find it challenging to explain to someone in a different field exactly what they do. Then again, when my wife, a nurse, comes home and tries to share stories and challenges from her day, I feel like she’s speaking a foreign language. So maybe it’s the same for any profession.
In the SEO industry, however, communication and clarity are important. Hopefully, I can clearly answer the question: “What is an SEO Specialist?”
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) helps people find products and information on search engines like Google and Bing. An SEO specialist, then, researches and analyzes the trends and best practices online to develop and implement strategies that improve search results.
The overall goal is to increase the level of traffic to a website by using keywords and keyword topics to improve the user experience and meet search engine guidelines.
Search engines, however, are always changing. And SEO specialists have to keep up. Let’s think about what exactly we mean by this.
Consider, for example, a search for the keyword: “SEO.”
Back in the day, the search results looked something like this:
At the time (2011ish) SEO.com ranked third in the search results. You’ll also notice that aside from Google’s own entry and Wikipedia’s definition, the other results are all SEO companies.
These days, the results are a bit different for the same search. Now, this is what it looks like above the fold:
And this is what you get below the fold:
Do you see a theme with these results? Some kind of trend that suggests the type of results Google wants to deliver for that keyword?
That’s right. Currently, there is only one agency showing up in the top ten organic results. (For what it’s worth, we currently rank #11.) Instead, you get a lot of beginners’ guides to SEO, how-tos, and definitions.
Google learned that when people search for the term “SEO,” they were more likely to click on information over a list of services. So, eventually, the algorithm changed to incorporate this behavior, and now it delivers the types of results it believes the keyword is really asking for.
An SEO specialist needs to be able to spot these trends, understand what they mean, and develop strategies that work within them. (In our case, we’re working on a massive guide to SEO that will be published soon. Stay tuned for that.)
Doing the Job
There are literally hundreds of factors that contribute to your final rankings. On top of that, it can be hard to determine what kinds of trends Google may associate with your chosen keywords.
The job of an SEO specialist doesn’t stop with a couple of website tweaks and a few links scattered around the internet. Instead, the specialist has to be on the ball, constantly looking for trends like those noted above and finding new ways to maximize website traffic.
(And by “maximize” we don’t just mean increase the numbers. We mean finding people who are ready to convert and do business with you.)
Optimizing your website for search engines involves being aware of these factors and implementing the right strategies. However, as the search engines change, an SEO can’t rely on the same old activities forever. Modern SEO is about so much more than keywords and meta tags.
There are a lot of factors that an SEO specialist must deal with, and that means they need a wide range of skills. If we were to break it down to the basics, though, you could say that a specialist should understand:
- Why links are important
- What can be done on-page to help a webpage rank
- What can be done off-page to make a webpage rank
- Why content marketing is critical to any online marketing push
- How social media provides value
- Whether Pay-Per-Click marketing is worth it
- How to take advantage of emerging trends like video SEO
The daily routine for someone working in SEO could include a combination of any of these activities, which means that a true specialist has to have a broad skillset and be willing to always learn more.
(Editor’s note: This post was originally written by Ty Kilgore and published in March of 2011. It has been updated on February 8, 2017 for data accuracy and industry developments.)
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