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There's no question that, in most industries, the best referrals come from the search engines. The news in our social media streams rarely meets our immediate needs. Undoubtedly, subscribers and direct traffic are a good sign of a growing brand, but the best first impression is still typically the result of a Google query.
And yet, over the past several months, I've found myself asking how much longer it's going to make sense to call ourselves search engine optimizers. Rand's recent video at Moz solidified it for me when he concluded that the job of an SEO is, well, anything that helps achieve online business goals. I think this is representative of a huge shift that's been happening in the industry.
Once upon a time, SEO was about:
Today, a site won't rank for anything competitive (at least long term) unless it:
And the search engines are:
It's becoming more common for SEOs to suggest that the best path toward visibility in the search results is simply a good overall online marketing strategy. And this begs the question: is SEO really a specialized skill set, or are we just becoming good “online marketers?”
If we restrict ourselves to the “old-school” job of an SEO, it's reasonable to say that most of those who were in it for the long haul learned these skills:
These are still highly valuable skills. In fact, some of them are more crucial now then they ever were before. This is especially true for relationships, outreach, and CRO. Some skills that “old-school” SEOs might not necessarily have focused so heavily on, however, are:
These are not traditionally a part of SEO, but it's becoming increasingly obvious that sites won't be able to compete in the search results for reasonably powerful search terms without these skills as well.
What's interesting, however, is that as we learn these skills in an effort to boost search engine visibility, we often find ourselves in a situation where these skills may be more effective in a completely different framework. For example:
As time passes, it makes increasingly less sense to think about search engine traffic as an endgame. The skills we've learned are nothing close to obsolete. But are we hurting our image and possibly setting the wrong goals when we identify ourselves as “search engine optimizers?”
Maybe. Does it really matter?
Image credit: Esther Gibbons