There are two types of SEO’s in the world…
The first of the two types is a career SEO. A career SEO typically works in-house for a medium or large company/agency as a search specialist or manager. If in-house they are likely the only one that does SEO full time, or their time is split between SEO and SEM. If agency side they will likely be fully focused on a single discipline, but will have a dozen or so more accounts than they should. For them, it has been a year or two since the last industry conference. Their friends probably work retail, and the conversation is usually about sports. Weekends are a time for relaxation and fun. They are a 9-5 SEO.
The second type of SEO is a craft SEO. A craft SEO may work in-house or agency side, but they may also be a full time freelancer or consultant. Whatever their employment circumstance, craft SEO’s will always have side projects going on. From helping a buddy setup a new blog to managing the Internet marketing activities for a local business, the craft SEO can’t get enough of search. You can generally spot a craft SEO at a local meetup or mini-conference in the area. They will have all the standard industry memberships – SEMPO, SeoMOZ, SEO Book, SEO Dojo, you name it, they are a member. If not a social butterfly themselves, they will at least follow the celebs on Twitter and Facebook. Their brain is powered by iOS or Android. Their friends are geekier than them, with the conversation usually gravitating towards the tech space – which programming language is the best, hot startups, must-have apps, powerful advertising campaigns, latest algorithm updates,etc. Weekends and holidays are a time for working on projects. They are a 5-9 SEO.
Myself? I am neither a career SEO or a craft SEO. My days are spent solving problems that lie on the seam between business and SEO, and my nights are spent building social networking platforms and technologies. I really can’t call myself an SEO anymore. It is both a fantastic and dangerous place to be. It’s like a child who studies martial arts for 10 years only to graduate and open his own dojo. Sure, there is a new and exciting type of fulfillment that teaching brings, but there is always risk that over time your technique will get sloppy and your body or mind will start to lose their sharpness.
SEO’s optimize. I rarely optimize these days. I’m ok with that. I don’t want to optimize based on yesterday’s best practices. I want to invent. I want to build the next Twitter or the next Google. I want to file a patent. I want to go IPO. I want create something that others spend time reverse engineering so that they can optimize what I’ve built.
I have a great deal of respect for craft SEO’s. It’s a great industry to be in right now, but you have to be careful. SEO is like a great turtle that appears above sea level for a short time, then disappears. If you think SEO to still meta tags and keywords, you are in trouble. That turtle submerged years ago. If you think SEO is links and infographics, watch out. That turtle is almost gone as well. The rising turtle is social, mobile, semantic and video, but even those focuses will only last a short time. The real secret to this industry is to anticipate and embrace the next big thing. Even better is to create it.