The State of the SEO Industry Address
By Taylor Pratt
It seems like over the last year more and more posts have come out criticizing SEO, questioning the use of standards, and all in all, casting a dark cloud over the industry that so many of us have grown to love. I’ve stood up to fight in the pointless drama, but it seems like there will be an endless amount of posts as to the death and corruption of SEO. Allow me to light up the beacon of SEO freedom, and follow me to what the industry used to be, and still should be, regarded as.
Just over 2 ½ years ago, I stumbled into this industry. I signed up for industry forums and subscribed to RSS feeds, not knowing what lay ahead for me. As I started to listen to podcasts and read forum and blog posts, I realized that this industry was more than ranking for high traffic keywords. It was about trusting in others, learning from one another, and building a helpful and friendly community.
Yet over the past 1 ½ years I’ve seen a change in the SEO industry. The very cornerstone of this industry is being ripped to shreds. Is it because the industry has grown so much over the last few years? Can we return to the glory days of SEO? I think we can, but it requires focus and commitment from each member.
First, we must remember what this industry stands for.
This is the industry that adapts to new challenges. Since the dawn of Search Engines, they have always used an algorithm to decipher which pages were the most relevant to a user. As the Internet continues to grow and become more and more relied upon as a source of information, the Search Engines are forced to update and create an algorithm that can adapt to new technologies. This practice is over a decade old, and any (and every) SEO will tell you that you need to pay attention to adapt to these new changes. You (the SEO) needs to tweak your algorithm, make the changes that you think are the most beneficial to the user (just like the Search Engines) and continue to follow their rules (a.k.a. their algorithm) in order to make your site found. I’m not talking about jumping because Google told you to. I’m talking about knowing why Google wants you to jump so you don’t have to wait for them to tell you to do so. Those who have lasted over a year in this industry will tell you they are working on that every single day.
This is the industry that focuses on usability and conversions. We don’t report rankings. We don’t care if we rank #1 for a high-traffic keyword if it doesn’t convert. We care about creating a user-friendly website that is designed to make conversions easier and faster. Just as the Search Engines are focusing on returning relevant results to the user, we are determined to make our result as relevant as possible. That includes adding helpful tools, educational articles and a short newsletter signup form.
Second, we must re-establish a respect for one another.
Too many of the SEOs in this industry who dedicate their time and energy towards helping you progress in your career take a beating for doing so. Whether you already knew everything they spoke about, you didn’t think it was advanced enough, or you even thought they were too rough on your site review, remember one thing – they did it with the intention of helping you. The backlash I read in conference reviews is heart-breaking. Bloggers will tear these speeches apart, just to get a few cheap shots in and hopes to getting a few links. If you have beef with the level of education at the conference, take it up with the organizer – not the ones volunteering to speak for your benefit.
We have every right to challenge one another and debate best practices in SEO, but we need to do a better job of maintaining a level of respect for one another as well. Stop getting baited into childish banter, and start standing up for your SEO beliefs by proving your theories. Ignore the trolls and focus on what you know to be true.
Finally, take time to thank one another and to challenge each other’s theories, rather than attacking them. There are too many people who work their tails off to make this industry what it is, and they don’t get nearly enough respect for it.
In the past 18 months, SEOs have seen the unfolding of demeaning accusations about their profession. In all of the SEO industry’s young history, even when we have disagreed with one another, we have seen posts of purpose that unite us.
The true understanding and dominating of Search Engine Optimization was once a dream each one of us had. And as we each reach that goal, we begin to challenge ourselves with new dreams. Let us go forward united and with confidence. The road to victory is uneven and unpredictable, but as long as we focus on building sites for our users, we know where that road leads: It leads to conversions.
This is an entry to Marketing Pilgrim’s 3rd Annual SEM Scholarship contest.