To SEO, or Not to SEO; That is the Question

So, you think you want to be an SEO specialist? Search Engine Optimization – or SEO – is a growing field and fast becoming essential to any business that does internet marketing. Which is just about every business that means to stay alive in the present era. Nothing happens until somebody sells something, and funneling customers to the product is one of the things search engines do. Optimizing that practice is what you do in SEO. Or will do if you still want to after reading this.

Yes, you can find work – and good paying work at that – in this field, but is it for you? What kind of a person makes a good SEO specialist? Of course, you need to love IT and understand how search engines work. Especially the ones used by the big boys like Google, Yahoo, and Bing. But the field is developing rapidly, so having the tenacity to stay up to date on the latest developments is important. Optimization techniques that worked last year won’t necessarily work this year and indeed may penalize your organization, working against you.

There is an element of aggressiveness in being a successful SEO specialist. You have to be willing to push the boundaries without going too far. To do that, you must know the boundaries and that requires constant attention to the state of the art. Keeping yourself tuned to fresh information with SEO-rich information websites and groups is essential. The kind of people who make good SEO specialists are life-long learners.

What may be a bit of a surprise is that, if you want to market yourself in SEO, you need to specialize. This is no longer a field for generalists. You should immerse yourself deeply in a single industry sector and know it well enough to be able to advise the people without losing them in technical jargon. You want to build long-term relationships and have repeat business from clients that trust you.

So, how do you get the skills you need? What certifications are necessary?

As with most things, the best way to learn is by doing. Optimizing your own website is a good place to start. You should pay close attention to how other websites are optimized, especially the leaders in the field you are interested in. There is an abundance of courses available, both from established academic institutions and online certification programs. But don’t put too much importance on certification. SEO training and certification isn’t really required for most jobs and people don’t trust them much anyway. It’s the knowledge you are after, not the certificate. Your proven ability to get the job done is all that is important and that comes from honing your skills with continual practice and staying up to date with the art.

Being able to code in HTML can be useful, but it is easy to slip into the illusion that your customer is the code. Although SEO is something machines do – orders that a robot carries out –  your customer is not the machine; it’s the guy who owns the machine, or more precisely, who owns the business that runs the machine. You have to be able to talk to people, to explain what you do and, most importantly, to sell yourself. Why is what you do important to this particular client? How will your contribution enhance his profits?

The SEO Sales Course contains a unit where the learners are encouraged to sing a little ditty that goes like this:

  • What does he want and why does he want it,
  • What does he want and why does he want it,
  • What does he want and why does he want it,
  • And how can my product meet his needs?

The purpose (besides getting a group of stiff, suit-wearing marketing specialists to loosen up a bit) is to remind the students that in order to sell something, you have to understand what your potential client wants and why he wants it. Only then can you answer the question of how you can deliver what he requires.

So, while you are studying your craft, learning your industry and their market, keeping yourself up to date with Google’s latest search engine enhancements, don’t take your eye off the client. Get to know him or her, their needs, and the motivations behind them. There is no “one size fits all,” no right way to do SEO that works for clients in every business. You must focus on the customer, first and final. At its most fundamental level, this is people business.

Still want to be an SEO specialist?

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