Where Is SEO Going?

Kim Krause Berg has an interesting post up today, The Unknown New Skill SEOs Must Have. It’s nice to see usability listed as a skill in a job description for a search engine optimization engineer. While I agree with Kim that at present you won’t find many who are experts in both, I think the line between the two is blurring and more SEOs are become much more knowledgeable about usability issues.

I don’t think this is really news to any in the world of search engine optimization. Top SEOs have been advocates of creating more usable sites for quite some time. And the more you understand how best to market a site the more you realize it’s easier to attract visitors to a user friendly site. Visitors who will undoubtedly pass the word on about the site and how easy it is to use.

What’s important though, as evidenced by Kim’s post, is that the word may be filtering to the mainstream. Far too many new to search still see optimization as being based on formulas. I think some of the formula seo questions posed by newbies to the community are getting to those who can really provide the rest of us with the best advice as you can see in this Threadwatch post about many of the old guard going private with their experience and knowledge.

I can’t blame them either. While I would like to see the best of the best posting in forums I can understand the difficulty in answering the same question over and over again. I’d hardly compare myself to any of the Threadwatch editors when it comes to what I know about seo, but I have spent considerable time answering some of the questions that get tiring. It’s frustrating to write post after post in a thread advising people not to chase after pagerank only to find the person posting after me telling everyone how if you don’t have a PR6+ site you have no chance of ranking. And I’ve only been answering these questions for a few months. I can imagine how irritating it would get after a few years.

Which is why I’m glad or at least hoping the usability idea is filtering into the mainstream. SEO has been moving away from chasing algorithms towards building a quality site and then using the social nature of the web and life in general to get people to visit. It’s a much more holistic approach to building and marketing a site and if we all practice it everyone wins. Search engines are happy that webmasters are spending less time trying to manipulate them and instead providing useful content. Searchers are happy because when they click a link in search results they get taken somewhere that might actually answer their questions or give them the information they were looking for. And site owners are happy because, all that useful content should be creating loyal visitors who go on to become loyal clients and customers. Hell, even all us web developers and SEOs are happier because building quality takes hard work and we should find ourselves with more people ringing the bell on our email inquiring about having us work with them.

There are so many different ways to categorize what we all do to market a site. Is it optimization or marketing I do. Maybe I’m an internet marketer or a website optimizer instead of an seo or web designer. Maybe I’m a usability consultant. Or do I work in PR, the press release kind, trying to build the reputation of myself and clients online. Then again I could just be an application developer since I need to create some good tools if I want to have bait for links. Sometimes I don’t know what to call myself anymore. I like SEO, in part because it’s easiest to type, but maybe as the worlds of all the above finally begin to merge more in the mainstream perception all the titles will fall under a single umbrella. I’m hoping it’s SEO that protects us from the rain. Again that easy typing thing, but also because I think SEO has become syonymous with drawing traffic to a site whether through a search engine or some other means. Those in the industry already know they do any or all of the above, depending on the day and their particularly specialty.

Nice find Kim and I hope we start to see many more resumes and job applications with those cross discipline skills. I’d hate to think I’m learning all this stuff for nothing. Then again I’m not looking for a job. I enjoy working on my own business too much. I guess I can add business consultant to my skill set.

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  1. Site usability can be a big part of SEO. If your site is desinged well people will like it and are more likely to link to it which in turn will boost your rankings. I believe the most effective SEOs see SEO in a more holistic light which overlaps with other marketing aspects. I believe the best overall SEO stragety to use is to build a site and think of how you would market it if search engines didn’t exist, then take what you know about SEO and tweak your marketing plan a little to leverage that knowledge. It is always important to keep in mind that you are building your site for users not search engines.

  2. Good point Chris. I think we all need to develop sites for people first and search engines second. It can be funny how when you think less about search engines you start to gain more visibility in them

    It’s why I wonder if all the terms used to desscribe search optimization and marketing wouldn’t be better being combined somehow. SEO would literally be optimizing for a search engine and yet so much of the work goes beyond this definition. Especially if we’re doing things first as though search engines didin’t exist.

    I tend to think of SEO more as general internet marketing that keeps search engines in mind as it goes. As an SEo I would be happy to build targeted traffic to a client’s site that led to sales, even if much of that traffic never arrived through a search engine.

  3. There’s a slight difference between working on the site as if the search engines don’t exist and for both users and the search engines.

    If you think of marketing your site as if the search engines don’t exist, you are capable of finding new ways that will drive target audience to your site.

    If you remember the search engines, you can get stuck in the ‘website focus’ mode and still think about the search engine optimization effect your every action can make. This is a distraction from real marketing, IMHO.

    Then again, you can always remember the search engines when developing site back-end and structure, but you’d still need to think about the humans first.

  4. It’s true you can get stuck focusing on search engines, but I think it’s ok to consider both people and algorithms as long as you always give priority to people. While I don’t acitvely optimize the words on these pages I do still often have a few keywords in mind while writing and try to get a few in there when it’s appropriate. It will affect my choice in words sometimes, but I don’t think I’ve ever let it interfere with the readability of the posts. And if I ever thought it did I would always opt for making it readable over optimized.

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