No Longer An SEO

Posted on December 26, 2011

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.

13 Replies to "No Longer An SEO"

  • Aaron Biebert
    December 26, 2011 (3:05 pm)

    Dan you are a true 8pm Warrior! I love it!

    There is risk taking your path for sure. But the risk of ignoring your heart is even greater. No regrets.

    Thanks for all you do. I have a ton of respect for you.


    • Dan Cristo
      December 26, 2011 (6:37 pm)

      Thanks for that, Aaron. Yeah, I fully consider myself an 8pm Warrior. No regrets at all. Much respect right back at ya.

  • Tof Salcedo
    December 26, 2011 (4:10 pm)

    The best part of this post:
    …anticipate and embrace the next big thing. Even better is to create it.
    I think this will apply to any industry and everyone should get wisdom out of this.
    Thanks Dan.

    With respect,

    • Dan Cristo
      December 26, 2011 (6:39 pm)

      You’re absolutely right. Every industry can benefit from innovation. Most people wait for opportunity to slap them in the face. What they miss is that opportunity is something that can be created. Opportunity breeds innovation.


  • Dino Dogan
    December 26, 2011 (5:58 pm)

    I’ve been meaning to ask you a question, and I guess this is as good a forum as any, and it’s kinda related to the post.

    Has any SEO ever in the history of SEOing said to the client who wants to get on the first page of google, to create content that is the best content for that search phrase?

    And I dont mean “optimize your keywords” kind of thang. I mean, if I type in “how to build a jet pack” in google, the client’s page is in fact the latest and greatest word on jetpacking, delivered and presented better than any other page anywhere else.

    To put it yet another way, has any SEO ever placed the onus of responsibility back on the client for the page ranking.

    The difference is subtle but important -at east in my mind-….so I was just curious what you have to say about that. 

    • Dan Cristo
      December 26, 2011 (6:44 pm)

      Hey Dino,
      Yeah, we actually do this all the time at Catalyst. We constantly recommend clients create new content around keywords they’d like to rank for.

      Some of the time they will create the content, but often the rec will be ignored. Reason being is that another agency will need to write the content, and then another agency will have to design and dev the pages. All that requires business justification, scopes of work, budget allotment, prioritization, optimization, dev time and QA. So most of the time the rec is pushed off until the next redesign which could be 6 months or a year out. 

      It would be great to control the process end to end like a full service agency can. The problem is that full service agencies are rarely best in class in SEO. So there are tradeoffs with each model.

      • Zarko Zivkovic
        December 26, 2011 (10:26 pm)

        Yeah Dino, we do encourage our clients to create the most valuable content in order to rank for a certain phrase… sometimes its impossible because of the type of the site in question… other times, like Dan suggested, it falls into a never ending story of bureaucracy, where one part of the clients company send it to be done to the other which is already past due on 200 projects and we get a half baked page 3-6 months later, if we keep pushing the idea, if we forget about it for even a week, it gets forgotten completely…

        In my experience, its easier and faster to produce results with small and medium sized clients than it is with big ones, but, pay equals the amount of work and babysitting invested over our clients :)

        Like Dan said, it would be great to control the process, but that can lead to a number of complications.

        Anyway Dan, I agree with you about types of SEOs (not to mention a bunch of SEO wannabes) and that you are past that, triberr is amazing thanks to both Dino and you, and I can’t wait to see what is next on your agenda :)

        • Dan Cristo
          December 27, 2011 (12:47 am)

          Word. Thanks for dropping by, Zarko. Seems like we’ve got similar experiences with clients. I also find small-medium sized companies often have the best results. The downside with working for sm/med companies is they expect their dollar to go much further than large corporations, but that’s not always the case.

          Thanks for the compliment on Triberr. If nothing else, side projects like Triberr have given me tons of inspiration and insight that I’ve brought over to my career. You just never know where the next big opportunity lies.

          • Zarko Zivkovic
            December 27, 2011 (1:47 am)

            yeah, you are right, they do expect more for their money than big companies do :) depends on the client…  and I agree with you, everything we do can be used as inspiration and can contribute to our experience, I guess you learned a lot from Triberr, and like I said, can’t wait to see what that knowledge brings next :)

            I’m also working on my first startup with my bro, who is a great programmer. well, more on that when we get the product at least beta ready :)

  • Alessio Madeyski
    December 27, 2011 (12:20 am)

    Hi Dan, thanks for sharing this. I am in-house SEO, being one that you call here “craft SEO”. Thing is I focus a lot on SEO since I am responsible for that, but I really enjoy to focus and learn a lot about social media, SEM and all the marketing in general. I really like SEO, but I think I have to read and try different other things, so I can succeed having the whole picture in my mind. I know a lot of people working in the marketing department who do not use or know tools like twitter, or linkedin, or google+. A lot of SEO who don’t care about experimenting techniques with their own blog, or who are not willing to learn to code a bit, to understand better how a site is created. 
    I am trying to do my best here, being open-minded, looking for the next big thing to happen , so to not be unprepared but to jump in it. 
    Things are evolving, so people have to.  

    • Dan Cristo
      December 27, 2011 (12:43 am)

      I loved the last sentence you wrote, “Things are evolving, so people have to”. It is so true. Last year Google made more changes to their algorithm than ny previous year. Not only are things changing, but that change is accelerating. 

      Thanks for taking the time to drop by and for sharing your personal experience with us.

      • Marieke Hensel
        December 28, 2011 (11:45 pm)

        I agree. And I think the biggest shift from SEO to SEO having a big emphasis on Social Media. Not every SEO specialist is good in bringing their social skills into the analytical and technical skillset of an SEO. Do you see that the same way? 

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