SEO has come in for a great deal of flack in recent years. The underhand practises of some SEO agencies, and the Google updates that responded to them have led to some marketing commentators declaring the SEO industry done for, and good riddance to it.
You would be forgiven for thinking that SEO professionals were a disappearing breed. Not so, SEO skills at all levels are as much in demand as ever. After all, the importance of appearing in search rankings for key search queries is as constant as it ever was. Good SEO is essential to every organisation.
By it’s nature, the SEO industry is in a constant state of change. Jumping at Penguins, scrabbling after Pandas — the mystery surrounding Google algorithm updates makes for a wild ride that defies accurate prediction. The skills and knowledge needed to be at the cutting edge of the SEO industry shift in a similarly mercurial manner.
This makes for a lively job market. Many of the top talent work agency-side and can be reluctant to cross over into client-side, but the demand from client-side remains high. Fuelling this demand is the importance of a solid understanding of current SEO to the general marketing mix.
The long-term trend in search is for Google to target SEO practitioners gaming the system to get results. The shift from keywords to semantics (understanding what the user meant to type, not just what they typed) means that whereas once upon a time keyword-stuffed posts listing dozens of combinations of short search terms could positively affect search ranking, now this approach is actively penalised. Similarly, the tried and tested tactic of scattergun link-building is now ineffectual.
The safest SEO strategy now is to publish useful and meaningful content. Content that is used, shared, linked to and quoted will have a positive affect on search results. Blogging has been important for SEO to keep sites current for a while, but the emphasis now is on quality.
This shift coincides with the inexorable rise of content marketing. Content Marketing, as defined by the Content Marketing Institute is: “The marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Part call-to-action web copy (albeit in a more subtle form), part customer experience, and part brand development, content marketing is in actuality an entirely separate discipline from SEO. Nonetheless, because they share the goal of getting views and shares, SEO professionals at all levels are increasingly expected to understand not just content strategy for SEO, but also the wider applications of content as a marketing tool.
It’s the same story with social media. Social signals don’t directly affect search results, but they do indirectly. A social media profile does not impact search results, what impacts results is the same thing that social media marketing is geared towards — engagement. A brand being talked about on social media, and their content being engaged with and shared, has a positive effect on search rankings. The SEO value of viral content means that understanding what makes social media tick is a must for today’s SEO professional.
This trend towards social signals playing a part in SEO is only set to become more important. The Google algorithm is said to favour Google+ shared posts, and now Twitter feeds are included in search results (with Google said to be working with Twitter on ‘further projects’ as of February 2015).
Add to this the recent Google updates geared towards making search results more mobile friendly (catchily dubbed “Mobilegeddon” on Moz), and preferring secure sites, and the modern SEO must be a veritable renaissance man/woman of technical and creative skills.
It seems then that the host of marketing (and SEO!) commentators that declare SEO dead or dying are failing to take into account the diverse range of skills that SEO professionals hold. SEO isn’t even feeling slightly peaky — it’s evolving. Evidence of this is the former SEO agencies around Brighton that have developed into digital marketing agencies.
What this means for SEO recruitment is that its as vibrant a career as it was ten years ago. The broad and yet technical skillset of an SEO professional is for the brightest and the best, and it will continue that way.