What is an SEO?

What is an SEO?

Once upon a time things were easier to understand and define.

An SEO was someone with a strong technical knowledge and with the ability to understand how people were searching things on the web, how Search Engines were able to translate those behaviors into an algorithm, and his focus was mainly Google.

There was a time when it was quite common being a Jake of all Trades. Give me your site and it will rank.

Things have changed, though.

The facets of the SEO profession now are such that, especially if you are a freelance consultant, you must choose and focus all yourself into one of the many specializations of our growing industry:

  • Technical SEO
  • Link Building
  • SeoCial
  • Local Search
  • International SEO
  • Verticals’ SEO
  • SEO Copywriting
  • SEO Analyst

And surely the list could be longer.

This explosion of specialist figures in the SEO industry is clearly represented by the multiplication of titles (or specifications) of in-agency SEOs.

We have also have seen how SEO as an all is not anymore something that can be done in a silo or – to offer a more poetic metaphor – sitting in a confortable Ivory Tower, feeding the wrong belief that SEO is the same as saying Web Marketing.

And it is not simply because Social and/or Content Marketing are the “new cuddled puppies” of CMOs. The evolution of Search itself has caused the borders between SEO, Content and Social are blurred every day more.

But it is not really my intention to talk – again – about the evolution of SEO as an industry.

No, I am here sitting on the train going home to Valencia after a day of work interviews in Madrid and, while the landscape escapes at 282 km/hour, I am asking that old recurring question: what is an SEO?

Yes it is all those things I’ve listed above. But it must be something more.

If it was just someone optimizing the code, wasn’t he just a specialized developer?

If it was just someone translating sites caring the keyword optimization of the texts, he would not be an International SEO, but simply an interpreter specialized in translating websites.

If it was just someone deciphering analytic data, he could be simply an analyst.

There must be something more.

It is that schizophrenic mix between tech geekery, the same which make us talk about Python, APIs and what is the sexier way to format an Excel table, and marketing.

Because we are that: search marketers…

What we have as a distinctive characteristic is how we are able to see a schema in the things we do, and how we are to paint a marketing action within that schema.

The best between us compose marketing symphonies with the notes SEO offers.

The worst between us just try to imitate the voice of the Marketing Gods using the same notes, but fall into the flames of the hell of Indifference.

An SEO, that real SEO who knows the science behind his art and take advantage from getting dirt with other disciplines, is the Inception master. He’s like those specialists who decide what color will be fashionable in a couple of years, just being able to understand the incoming trends (why people loves white cars now? Wasn’t it a cheap color?).

Every SEO, independently by his specialization, should aim to be that SEO figure I described. If not, he will be just a worker and his actions won’t really have an impact able to stand the pass of times.

And me? Am I an SEO?

Me, who I resist myself from being closed inside the crystal walls of a specialized field?

Yes, I am still an SEO. And maybe I am that SEO that will be even more needed in the future, the one able to direct the work of the specialists, to set a strategy and to translate into every SEO channel and the power to interact in synergy with all the other web marketing disciplines.

The strategic consultant, that is the SEO I am… because I need to feel myself like watching the sky of Midwest when I dream my marketing plans.

6 Comments

  1. Sir, you’ve truly defined what an SEO is. Surely, our industry is growing & this line “If not, he will be just a worker and his actions won’t really have an impact able to stand the pass of times.” states why one should not only do regular mundane work but also predict the outcomes of the given work which requires determination, confidence & initiative like you.

    I still remember the day when I used to see your comments in SEOmoz blog from there till now you’ve truly been an inspirational to many others outside who wants to be a guru, master or moses in SEO.

    Just one question, how will you differentiate vertical seo & seo analyst?

    Thankyou again :)

    Reply
    • An Vertical SEO is the one who specializes in channels like YouTube (video marketing SEO) or News Search or even SEO for Images (imagine SEO for photographers or photo portals).
      An SEO Analyst is that SEO with a deep and certified knowledge of Google Analytics – for instance – and whose job is mainly determining the effect of SEO in TOFU, MOFU anD BOFU, and discovering new opportunities. He is also the one in charge of deciphering the Social Media Metrics, i.e. with a correct use of site like Social Crawlitics.

      Reply
  2. I think of myself still as an SEO, but my clients would call me many different names and my team even more! I could be a Social Media Manager, Community Manager, SEO Copywriter, Content Manager, Online PR Specialist, Adwords Specialist, Analytical SEO…… Trend spotter?!

    What would you call me?!

    Reply
  3. I’ve had this thought bouncing around in my head for a while, that an SEO is someone who can take something technical, translate it into creative and emotional and human, and translate it back to technical again – and keep going back and forth effortlessly.

    However I think you’ve said it much better :)

    Reply
  4. Hi Gianluca Fiorelli , you really describes SEO very similarly. But now a days. SEO work is also getting tougher. People who don’t understand SEO properly are destroying the market of SEO experts. Thanks for describing the concept of SEO differently. Enjoyed a lot this post.

    Regards
    Paul

    Reply
  5. Hi Gianluca,

    Just came across this post via a Moz WBF. Great stuff.

    The role of a SEO is evolving and expanding across the spectrum of digital marketing roles. A SEO needs to be competent to some extent in all, but perhaps should focus on one area?

    Cheers,
    Josh

    Reply

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