SEO is a very insular field. My impression from my readings of SEO blogs is that many SEOs themselves are so involved in search engine optimization that sometimes they forget that there’s a whole wide world of individuals who still don’t know about it and why it is necessary.
A few months ago, I didn’t know what SEO was either. The term was used in front of me, and I’ll admit (with a little blush :oops:) that I didn’t know what in the world SEO meant and shrugged it off whenever it was mentioned rather than asking. I never wanted to find out what it was because I didn’t want to risk looking stupid among people to whom SEO is a daily routine.
I come from a mixed technology background: I started off dabbling in programming and web development, though I realized I fared better with more of hardware, networking, and system administration work. I began my career in SEO by actually doing system administration at a web design, SEO, and hosting firm. And I still didn’t know what SEO was when I joined up with the team.
I talk to old coworkers, people who are immersed in technology, on a regular basis. They ask what I’m working on. I explain that I’m branching out into what is known as “search engine optimization.” They tell me that I don’t work for the search engines so I can’t really optimize them.
Or they tell me that there’s no need for this field of study because people will find what they want if they look hard enough. After all, you could find almost exactly what you’re looking for if you search using quotation marks. They do not understand that search engine optimization makes finding the right sites easier for them, thereby eliminating the need to be of the mindset that they actually have to spend such a long time searching.
The SEOs that I read about today have been at it for years. I have been at it for less than a year. I am learning about the importance of SEO, but I feel like I’m still on the outskirts of the community and am easing my way in slowly. My tech-geek friends outside the office and outside this blogsophere still don’t understand the criticality of SEO — and a lot of them work for web development companies or do development on the side. These same people shrug off the notion of using blogs and social media to communicate with their potential markets and undervalue the essence of updating website content frequently, thinking that the product is done once it’s out the door. They fail to recognize that a website needs an element of marketing to gain new traffic.
Now that I’m immersed and surrounded by SEO knowledge with an obvious thirst for more, I’m realizing that not long ago, I was once outside the box, not realizing its significance, even though I search all the time. It is admirable to think that everyone understands this and puts an emphasis on SEO, but it’s not true — not yet. Shockingly, the average person in the IT industry does not acknowledge the importance of SEO. The term “SEO” is likely still unheard of by most.
On SEOmoz, Ammon Johns makes a statement “customers for SEO have been getting smarter.” This may be true of a well-read SEO customer. Unfortunately for many, the Cluetrain Manifesto to which Ammon so forcefully endorses is unchartered territory.
Ammon makes a statement that shows that SEO is emerging. But it could be seen and frighteningly interpreted by newer SEOs as “it’s time to catch up to your customer.” Fortunately, there are still people out there that need the beginning concepts — and hopefully over time, these newer well-educated customers will ultimately determine and define the success of each individual SEO firm and expert.