I am an SEO.

However, what I do mean to say, with great emphasis, is that SEO as a specialty has, does, will and should continue to exist.

I felt like I should chime in regarding Rand’s excellent Whiteboard Friday today.

1. SEO is Bigger than SEO:
SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” is is a statement of purpose, not a statement of methods. Carl Sagan once said, “If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.” I suppose we could call bakers Gods if this were the case, but I believe most of us would agree that to be generally false. Except for the creators of the bourbon pecan cupcake‘. If your goal is to bake foods, you are a baker, regardless of the tactics necessary to bake those foods. Listing off CRO and UX and Branding as necessary components of a successful SEO campaign does not change the intent or purpose of that campaign – to increase qualified organic traffic from search engines. While the responsibilities have grown, the goal has not. If the goal has shifted, then yes, you should change your title. If tomorrow, Google changes all the necessary tactics to rank, I will still be an SEO. But would I still be an Inbound Marketer?

2. Perception is Bad:
I agree that the perception is generally bad, but this obstacle does not change what we do nor should we surrender our true identities to a new facade because we can’t shake the vestiges of our past. Using terms like “Inbound Marketing” and “Online Marketer” merely obfuscate the reality of our primary goals in the hopes that we aren’t lumped together with people’s misguided perceptions.

3. We are Selling Ourselves Short:
I believe that Rand’s arguments here are what I find most disconcerting. SEO is getting harder and Google intends to make it harder and harder. When we begin to call ourselves inbound marketers and begin devote more and more of our time to ancillary marketing tactics that have tangential impacts on organic search, we have moved our eyes off the ball. We have lost focus. Now, I will admit, that focus is a luxury that only some businesses can afford – those that can afford a team of individuals who can have multiple marketers working on a cohesive strategy but with individuals focusing on different aspects.

Final thoughts.
I do not mean to say that people who are inbound marketers out there should not call themselves inbound marketers. They absolutely should. I also do not mean to say that a group of SEOs are shifting away from SEO to inbound marketing. They absolutely are. However, what I do mean to say, with great emphasis, is that SEO as a specialty has, does, will and should continue to exist. That specialty will likely become more difficult to master, more costly to perform, and will require more skills than before – but I will gladly be a part of it.

I have a purpose. It is to increase qualified organic traffic from search engines. I embody that purpose. I am an SEO.

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  1. Jon Cooper
    May 3, 2013

    I’m glad I didn’t have to be the writing up a response to that video; totally agree with everything said here. SEOs aren’t going anywhere, and they’re still a specialist that’s required by most companies, in-house or consultant.

  2. John Wiehe
    May 3, 2013

    Rand’s WBF sent my SEO to an identity crisis this week.

    SEOs are the mavens and nannies of Internet marketing. I tell myself engaging relevancy to our target audience is a big purpose of SEO. There are many ways to relevancy and I’ve become obsessed with knowing each and every one of them.

    SEOs can’t be the baker with one too many fingers in bourbon pecan cupcake but we have to know the ways we’re best engaging our audience. One example is making sure e-mail campaigns have profile pictures from the sender because those have higher chances of being read. Another example is installing Google+ comment boards on blogs to help Author Rank. We don’t have to do those on our own, we need to tell the e-mail marketing team and dev team about implementing them for the sake of customer satisfaction.

    All branches of Internet marketing are unique but SEO is the only one that makes sure all of them are bringing in relevant interaction between clients and customers.

  3. Max Minzer
    May 3, 2013

    Russ, I VERY much appreciate you taking time to put your thoughts in writing. Glad to see few people still thinking critically in this industry and not jump on bandwagons. Thank you!

    And thank you to Steve Webb & Matt McGee for spreading the word about this article and bringing me here.

  4. Bharati Aahuj
    May 3, 2013

    SEO or “Search Engine Optimization” is a statement of purpose, not a statement of methods. > very well put.

    I totally agree that SEOs alone have the power to market the term SEO and maintain its true meaning and essence. Though SEO is a branch of online marketing, it has its own purpose and its own niche identity which is beyond marketing.

    This true identity of the SEO industry can be retained by SEOs itself. If we as SEOs only question the righteousness of the term then we SEOs only will be responsible for multiplying the misconceptions which exist about our work.Focusing on educating the clients about the expectations from search engines and the SEO campaigns is the only way to establish the true identity of this industry . If our discussions reflect the doubt that SEOs themselves are not convinced about what term their work is called by then we ourselves will be responsible in diluting the importance of the existence of the SEO industry in the web world.

    Search engines too have their true existence due to organic search results. The search engines also know that very well and hence keep trying to achieve the optimum balance between paid and organic search results.

    Search engines want quality organic search results for their search engines hence they keep fighting the spam and keep upgrading the algorithms to attain good quality results. As SEOs we have to be firm about our identity and stick to helping search engines achieve good quality search results and the clients get good quality targeted traffic from search results which in the bargain is possible by giving their online presence a good quality overall well optimized web presence.

    Hence , its not the term but the attitude, approach and the effort we need to put in to retain this identity which needs to be discussed and shared to help the SEO industry gain its real meaning and existence.

    Moreover, as online marketing is evolving every aspect of the whole pie is heading towards specialization. Just as in the field of engineering and medicine the initial years of study are about general concepts and then you branch out to your area of specialization like mechanical engineering, chemical engineering, etc. similarly this field is also branching out to various specialized fields and SEO is one such specialized field and to gain overall success any organization today needs to harness all these activities and have experts from various fields like social media, web analytics, content management and creation, etc. in their team depending on the purpose they want to achieve from their online presence and according to the requirement in the process of their online journey.

    Activities of all the various branches supplement each other but yet have their own unique identity.

    Recently many people have started saying content marketing is the new SEO which again is a misleading statement ….

    More in detail on….


  5. Erik Nelson
    May 9, 2013

    I dont really have a lot to say here outside of that I agree with your sentiment. My role has shifted a lot over the last 2-3 years and i’d say im more of an inbound marketer than an SEO anymore as I wear a lot of other hats a lot of the time… but I do still think there is a difference and a need for people to solely focus on SEO. Thanks for shining some light on to this from a different angle.

  6. Daniel T
    May 10, 2013

    As a recent entrant into the SEO game, this article feels like a commanders battle speech before the fight. It was actually inspiring, thank you for the good read.

  7. Will
    May 10, 2013

    Hey man,

    Just want to say thanks for all the great content! I’ve read probably 10 of your posts today. I love your seasoned perspective on a lot of these issues…

    All the best,

  8. George Anderson
    May 20, 2013


    I would hate to see the need for SEO disappear. Although we are also know as Search Marketers now!


  9. D Thomas
    Mar 2, 2014

    I have to agree, I think SEO is becoming even more specialised so search engine marketing will certainly become more and more in demand as time goes on and Google updates it’s algo’s.


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