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Your SEO Team is Not Oprah: 5 Realizations of an SEO Newbie

The New SEO Management Handbook

As a fresh intern for Searchmetrics, I’ve spent the past week in meetings, doing online research, and reading Jessica Bowman’s The New SEO Management Handbook to familiarize myself with the rapidly growing and changing industry of online marketing. Enterprise-level SEO expert since 2002, Bowman is a trusted adviser to some of  the biggest brands online, such as Yahoo!, Microsoft, eBay and GEICO. During my time with her book, I’ve cleared many of my misconceptions about SEO and learned some basics about the industry. All of the following points may seem obvious and natural to SEO veterans but to many SEO newcomers, they’re relevant and important tidbits that can be useful to keep in mind.

SEO is a Misnomer

When I first heard of SEO in 2014 as an intern at a content marketing start-up, my brain immediately linked the concept to those little search bars at the top of web pages to help readers navigate a specific website. It made sense to me that this real search engine would be something that companies would want to optimize. Clearly, SEO isn’t something that I am, or my peers are, hearing about in college classes because when I say I’m interning at an SEO company, 9 times out of 10 I hear, “What’s SCO?” To people outside of the industry, the acronym often carries little meaning because although the concept has been present for decades, the importance that it has taken on in marketing today is still something that people are adjusting to and need to learn about; and the term “SEO” doesn’t make learning easier because as I later discovered from Bowman’s book, SEO is a misnomer. What it should really be called is “optimizing your webpage to make it easier for search engines to find” or OYW2ME4SE2F. Admittedly, this doesn’t have the same ring as SEO.

SEO Means Revenue

In an age where nearly three quarters of the US population self-report as internet users and almost all businesses, big and small, have some sort of online presence, web success can oftentimes be synonymous with corporate success. And as search engines are being used more and more to find all these sites, SEO is also becoming increasingly important to content and corporate decisions. As Bowman writes in her book, “a truly effective SEO strategy means exponential returns and also time and energy savings.” She writes that even though some companies can put SEO on the back burner and still be successful, competitors with the same resources who prioritize SEO will gain exclusive access to a goldmine that the other companies opted out of.

SEO is Not Natural

Another misconception I had about the industry was that all website developers and designers were familiar with the ins and outs of SEO. I imagined the website-making checklist to be, “This page looks good, has all the relevant info on it, and is optimized for search engines. Good to go.” When in actuality, as Bowman describes, the process is more like “Great, this page looks good, and has all the relevant info on it. Good to go.” And then a separate SEO team (if even existent) has to step in to make sure that the page fulfills SEO requirements. Bowman insightfully writes that since SEO has not been the priority for many companies, its implementation often takes on more of a fire-fighting nature, where the SEO team chases down optimization “fires” and puts them out in a way that causes the website the least damage.

Your SEO Team is Not Oprah

Search engine optimization is not the SEO team playing Oprah and excitedly shouting to the other departments, “You get SEO! You get SEO! You get SEO! Everyone gets SEO!” Your SEO Team is Not Oprah

It would be nice if implementing SEO were that easy but I’ve learned that in reality, it can be more like the SEO team chasing other departments and actively pushing their way into projects. This method is clearly inefficient and can leave many projects not optimized for search engines, which means neglected potential traffic and revenue. Full SEO integration is a team effort where all parts of a company are cognizant of the power and relevancy of SEO, and actively try to optimize their written content, webpages etc. for search engines. Not everyone has to be a search engine expert but a proactive stance on SEO from the whole company will result in the best online results.

SEO and Content are Inherently Connected

Search engines are smart. Nowadays, people can’t rely on things like keyword stuffing to improve visibility. Great content and creating things that people will actually want to and need to consume are now main drivers for search engine success; and what constitutes successful content can be concluded from an analysis of a website’s SEO performance. Any software designed to collect and analyze SEO data should also be seen as a resource for content creation research, evaluating what topics are relevant and significant contributors to online traffic. In a nutshell, SEO is a platform for content marketing and content is the basis for SEO success.

What did I miss? Let us know in the comment section below what you think SEO newcomers, and even SEO veterans, should always keep in mind. Stay tuned for my interview with SEO expert, Jessica Bowman.

Pearl Qiao Xu

Pearl Qiao Xu

Pearl Xu is a Marketing and Communications Intern at Searchmetrics. Currently a Media Studies and Political Science Double Major at UC Berkeley, Pearl hopes to learn more about online marketing by getting her hands dirty at the San Mateo office. Follow Pearl’s posts to see SEO and content marketing from a fresh point of view.

10 thoughts on “Your SEO Team is Not Oprah: 5 Realizations of an SEO Newbie

  • You hit the nail on the head when it comes to the lack of priority on SEO. Whether it’s the additional cost upfront to ensure a site and content is optimized for search engines, or the long term investment in both time and money to track results, experiment, make changes, and repeat, it’s a hard sell sometimes. It’s really only when we can show the client what their competition is doing to bring in visits organically through optimized content that the light bulb begins to flicker.

  • Thanks, Joel! I really appreciate the feedback and I definitely agree with you. I think what you were saying about showing tangible results and seeing competitor strategies is why I’ve heard so many sales calls in our office emphasize the point that our suite is not just a platform for looking at keywords, but also a platform that uses SEO to help clients get a better lay-of-the-land, and see what competitors are doing in terms of SEO. The challenge in the industry is really proving that a long-term time and financial investment in SEO will result in a substantial monetary return.

  • True! SEO is a misnomer. What it should really be called is “optimizing your webpage to make it easier for search engines to find” or OYW2ME4SE2F.

  • Please keep us tuned for your interview with SEO expert, Jessica Bowman. Thank you, Pearl!

  • As someone who has just finished an internship in SEO, this article has a great amount of resonance for me. I am impressed that you made these observations so early into your internship, I think you’re ahead of where I was. Anyway, it was a great read, and i’ve read a lot of SEO articles. So thank you.

  • True! SEO is a misnomer. What it should really be called is “optimizing your webpage to make it easier for search engines to find” or OYW2ME4SE2F. We’re looking forward to reading the report of your interview with SEO expert, Jessica Bowman.

  • Hello Pearl,

    This is an excellent read I must say!

    I do things all for myself so I take advantages of some SEO tools to perform the tasks as I am not so good at it.

    I know that I should at least be observing as how are things being done in practical.

    True that content is everything now. And it is more valid that people should always consume your content as nothing can improve your visibility if there are no visitors coming to it, sharing, and interacting.

    This is indeed a great article, Pearl! I am so happy to find it and sharing it on my social life.

    ~ Adeel

  • 2015/12/22 at 8:40 am

    Hi colleagues, good post and nice urging commented here, I am in fact enjoying by these.

  • i really agree of the idea that “SEO is Not Natural”, coz many industries are behind..

  • Hey Pearl,
    Thanks for sharing the useful information.
    Yes! you are right, SEO means more and more revenue.

    Thanks for you hard work and great efforts to write this awesome article.

    ~ HDwale

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