I think it's fair to say SEO as an industry is one of the least understood areas of the web today. While there is no doubt a basic understanding of SEO has markedly increased in the past few years, there is still a fairly common misconception that anything to do with SEO is a dark art that only a select few can practice (at least well).
Even in our office, when anything goes wrong, we blame our mysterious SEO team and their devilish sorcery …. or Ash… often we just blame Ash.
The reality is far more systematic and rational, with the role of an SEO able to be broken down into several identities.
So, what are the various identities of an SEO?
Fine, they may not run around the office in lab coats, but the first hat an SEO consultant wears is that of a Researcher. We must continually gather information about clients and their value proposition, understand the way they see themselves in their market, where they want to be and their strategy for getting there. Understanding a business, their goals and their core objectives in this way helps us provide real targeted value.
In addition to this, there is then general industry research. It is always important to understand what has worked for others and what hasn’t, and understand the reasons why.
What are these?
To me they’re pants - but I'm Australian, and this is a faux pas I commonly make. Here in the UK, they would be better known as trousers. But if I were an expert on trousers, what would I call them then? Perhaps Chinos, because it more accurately describes them and differentiates them from all other trousers in the world.
The point is, as an SEO consultant we often have to remind clients who their audience is and their not an expert. Language used when implementing a SEO strategy need not meet a client's needs, but the needs and language of potential customers.
But SEOs are not JUST translators, they're also interpreters. It’s our job to interpret that when a client tells us they want more sales of Chinos, what they really want is more traffic to certain service-specific landing pages selling Chino trousers that ultimately leads to an action to purchase.
Being able to “run where the ball is going to be” requires skill and is a necessity in the SEO industry. This only comes with a finger on the pulse and years of experience, as the ebbs and flows of search engines are swift and consequential.
To continue the analogy, creating a strategy for an SEO campaign is like selecting the lineup for a football match. Misstep here and you will have problems throughout match; make the right selections and you might just come away with the win.
Content is truly king on the Internet. Google’s recent Panda and Hummingbird algorithm updates have made it more important than ever before to create original, relevant content in order to engage readers and achieve top rankings.
As a result, SEOs need to ensure all content is written and optimised properly for search and readership; understand how content fits into the rest of an organisations marketing goals; and, devise a plan of attack on how to attract search traffic and links through the creation of new content.
SEO consultants must also educate clients so they understand the reasons behind the strategies and tactics being implemented so they can become an active part in their businesses SEO and success. Doing so not only helps to run a smoother project, but aids the client in understanding the need for SEO and how to help their business over the long-term.
Lastly, sometimes SEOs have to bandage knees and dry tears, and explain how an ‘owie’ will be all better tomorrow. There are some things (like spammers) just out of our control.
It’s a big job being an SEO consultant. Fortunately for us here at Totally, we have a team to share these numerous responsibilities, which makes our process and success much more efficient.