What is an SEO?
I don’t think the term Inbound Marketing ever took off as a professional title. It sort of crashed right out of the launch pad. And now, as content development agencies spring up, it leads many SEO’s closer and closer to the edge. Internal marketing teams talk about their need for “content” ad nauseam. So, what is an SEO anymore? And, is Inbound marketing just a practice or strategy?
Who Runs the Show?
The C-Level professional does not know digital, marketing automation or attribution & segmentation. But rather, it is their goal to educate the marketing team on how a campaign could grab a percentage of market share with a clear brand reposition. I sat in front of a traditionally experienced marketing professional who had worked for a company for over ten years and who had always run marketing until recently. He was drawing up a large campaign on a whiteboard in front of a marketing team consisting of more than 10 individuals across many different practices who had all recently been hired, all of whom were professionals in digital.
Questions like, “Who are we?”, “What do our customers look like?” and “Where do our customers visit?” are tossed around the conference room.
Even further, the importance of campaigns. Crossing all channels of marketing with effective pre and post engagement tactics with an ultimate goal of lead generation (B2B) or sales (B2C). Webinars & Whitepapers, Segmentation and E-News blasts as well as blogging & product marketing.
Why are these questions and strategies being developed and led by employees and marketing professionals outside of the digital space? Collaboration is important when you have thought leaders within an organization who can answer these questions, but having them ask these questions is a waste of time.
So, What Does an SEO Do?
An SEO nowadays is most valuable as an analyst as well as a strategist. But with the phrase “Content is King” in play; I have worked with so many director level and above companies/agencies that feel they know best. They know their product and the way their content should be written/read. But this is really our fault isn’t it? With recommendations from major search engines and their spokespeople. This was the advice. Provide quality content. Think of the user. Over the past decade we have shoved this down companies and marketer’s throats within the digital space.
And now the industry is shifting to hiring more and more Content Development agencies. And these are companies that merely write articles for a company. Ghost writers and freelancers. It’s a great time to be a writer coming out of school. Plenty of work. But this wasn’t the point. This isn’t content. This is what SEO’s paid Blogvertise or some other off-shore company to do five years ago. Simply write posts for us. And most of them cannot even secure the placements.
For that, the vicious cycle continues to the PR agency. And many PR Agencies don’t feel that securing placements for content is really their role. Your PR Agency should be your most valued link builder. With routine media pitches and internal employee coordination. That is the focus of a successful digital PR Agency function.
But these content development companies are merely sweatshops of words, words, words. What is content? Just an article? Whitepaper? Or even something else? No, it is subject matter, substance and material. Having a whitepaper for the sole purpose of driving leads is trash. Leave the true analysis to the Forrester’s and Gartner’s of the world.
Content is a conversation I had with you that you remembered. You remembered it so much that you implemented it into your next post or drawing. Content is that photograph you took of me two conferences ago last year. That one I didn’t even know you took, but when I saw it again it reminded me of that conversation we had.
An SEO is a Business Analyst
An SEO Analyzes a Company and Develops a Brand Placement Strategy for Search Engines (or the digital eco-system). Just as SEO’s hands are no longer tied to keyword rankings and page load time so is the importance of an SEO to evolve through CRO, digital brand distribution and multi touch conversions. Some of the smartest people I know are SEO’s, or work in the capacity of search engines. But, as the spicket of which our industry flowed so fluidly in years past begins to spray in different directions, we are at a point in which the SEO function has been segmented into many other roles.
This isn’t a bad thing. We all feel resource strapped. But the role of SEO is lost in its heritage. As Samuel Scott writes in a great piece, “SEO Doesn’t Exist: The Future of Digital Strategy” we are past the the role of an SEO. Either SEO’s need to grow up to become digital marketing leaders or they will be left behind.
SEO’s Can Do it All
As SEO’s, we have it all figured out. Give me the keys and let me drive your business towards new traffic, leads and revenue. It’s an elitist conversation I have had with other SEO’s at recent conferences and true, there is some validity to it. What do you get when you put 10 SEO’s in a room together? All of page one organic.
But consider the current landscape of how a marketing team should look:
- Content Writer/Product Marketer – Develops copy articles around the company/services/products
- Marketing/Communication Associate – Coordinates events & shows as well as internal authors for the companies’ blog. Also updates web site and social platforms
- Developer – Handles all on-site technical work guided by SEO recommendations
- PR Specialist – Tasked to pitch major media outlets for placements, engagements and opportunities
- Media Buyer – Coordinates SEM efforts as well as other paid advertisement activities
- Email Campaign – Runs automated marketing software and develops campaigns around specific segments
There are probably a few more different functions we could add in like database administrator, analytics or others but the question is; who really guides these players? These are all digital functions that require expertise in owned, earned and paid media.
SEO in the Future?
While we have great communities and publications that allow us to share ideas with each other we will lose the battle in the board room. We will lose relevancy in organic. We have already lost the regard of our peers and mentors.
I don’t think it’s as important as hiring an SEO Agency as it is to hire a Digital Marketing Analyst/Strategist that can direct the symphony of instruments that lead to sales, lead generation or other corporate objectives. But, does that level of individual have enough brand control and political authority to be successful? I think it takes a special type of person and company to make it.