SEO is everything, SEO is nothing

Interesting discussion going on about what being an SEO actually involves in 2015.

There are a bunch of different sides to this issue, but the two ends are:

SEO is everything. Google wants to rank successful brands. Anything you add to your brand is SEO.
SEO is nothing. Google wants to rank successful brands. Spend your time creating a brand and don’t worry about SEO.

Few people would agree 100% with either of the statements above but fall somewhere in between. They either view SEO as a byproduct of success or a driver of success.

Your perspective on SEO’s role in business depends largely on the type of online marketing campaigns that you’ve worked on in the past.

If you do SEO work for large brands, you’re more likely to believe good SEO is a byproduct of success. The site you manage is already trusted by search engines. You aren’t out building links or finding longtail keywords you might have a chance to rank for. You are publishing content like crazy and running conversion tests to make the most out of the powerful domain.

If you work for startup/small/medium size companies, you are more likely to view SEO as a driver of growth vs. a byproduct of other things. You can’t get away with the same things from a site structure or technical standpoint that established brands can get away with. Your time is best spent doing what we traditionally think of as SEO work: keyword research, writing page/product copy, optimizing title tags/URls, cleaning up links…you know the drill.

It’s a good sign for SEO as a marketing channel to see it mean different things to different people.

A mature marketing channel is going to play different roles for different strategies. SEO for Acme Brand might manifest itself as a year-long content marketing campaign. SEO for Widget Co. might end up looking like 5,000 unique product descriptions.

This is a good thing. Nobody thinks of print advertising as a short list of 5 strategies and anything else isn’t “real advertising.” SEO as a channel shouldn’t be limited to only writing meta tags or sending link removal requests. Even if some people are misguided in the role of non-traditional SEO signals as ranking factors, more people are placing importance on the role of SEO as a channel.

It can be frustrating to know and study the art of classic SEO and then watch some stooge parade around a conference stage proclaiming how SEO is now content marketing or link building is dead. I get annoyed by that too.

But if you work in the industry, the more exposure SEO as a marketing channel gets, the better.

(Plus, if other people want to optimize their websites by asking friends to +1 them or by focusing solely on UX…fine by me :D)

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