Throwing in the Towel on SEO

Throwing in the Towel on SEO

The backstory:

...about an Intern, and a damn impressive one at that!

Late at the bar after an event she sort of disagreed with me on something I was riffing on, and I liked it. She had moxie and would speak her mind!

Then her resume came in...for PPC! Total sadface. I mean, I was glad to have her interested in SEER in any way possible, but I thought she would have rocked at SEO.

Here is someone who has an eye for standing out with words, when we asked what makes her unique on the application form she said:

 Throwing in the Towel_1

She referenced a love of data in her cover letter.

“You have to meet me to find out” - she could create a hook.

She had her own logo on her resume - she understood a thing or two about branding.

Her business cards were so well designed - and she was a recent college grad!

I was thinking: She had balls to say what she believed to the owner of the company +1 Her outreach in her application stood out +1 She loved data +1 Knew how to create a hook +1 Understood branding +1

This is the makings of a GREAT SEO! Yet she didn’t think SEO was for her due to a lack of technical skill and probably a desire to not email spam people all day (after all this was someone who understood branding.)

That particular experience is what led me to write this.

I honestly cannot believe I am writing this, but I am. I wanted to stand firmly planted in that I could be a part of a movement to help change what people think “SEO” can be. I fought it and fought it and fought it. SEER can be an “SEO” company and level up what people think an SEO is and I was fine doing it from an industry perspective. It was the hiring process that made me finally say “uncle.”

There are 2 parts to hiring that made me come to this conclusion.

People who could be a great match for our SEO team didn’t apply to “SEO” jobs.

I would see people who were web savvy, great at writing, smart at outreach, and were technical enough but were not even applying for our jobs. So I dug into how it could be that people who are a GREAT match for SEO don’t consider applying for SEO jobs?

This is simple to the outside world who doesn’t do SEO. SEO is about tricks and spam. Look at the recent news on SEO. It’s about Rap Genius getting crushed by Google for Trickery.

 Throwing in the Towel_2


Throwing in the Towel_3


Throwing in the Towel_4


Throwing in the Towel_5


Throwing in the Towel_6

If you’re a college grad, an online marketer, or a former journalist just getting into search and want to do research on it as possible career change, what would you think after seeing that?

What about the countless bad outreach messages you’ve received from someone claiming to be someone they really aren’t? Or the emails your Mom has received from people claiming to be SEO for 150 bucks a month, over and over and over again. She eventually gave in and hired one and guess what happened? They got her site penalized. Great. Only to trust another who did the same. Super!

This is likely the view of many of the exact types of people that we want to hire and that we see as the future of “SEO.” Yet, they aren’t even considering us.

Knockout #1

SEO is technical! I hear so many future SEOs say that SEO is that “technical thing.”  It’s definitely technical because without a technical base SEO is a lot harder, and for certain types of sites, impossible. As SEO professionals, we often times separate content from outreach and from technical SEO, but neither is more or less “SEO.” They both are, and it’s okay for them to be one or the other. But for goodness sake you don’t have to be both to be an SEO. Yet the perception is that “if you don’t code, then you can’t be right for SEO” by so many people I’ve interviewed. It really is sad because there is plenty of room on the SEO bus for people who love video, love writing, love pitching stories, and love closing deals, but many of them ignore SEO as a career. I’m a creative, link-y, keyword-y SEO while others might be technical, but we are all SEO.

Knockout #2

I know it takes 3 knock downs for a TKO, but I’m not going to wait for the third.  Luckily we don’t have to “rebrand” to get SEO out of our name, but I think moving SEO out of one’s company name is the easy part. The “real” part is changing how you think, who you hire, and how they see the world. Taking “SEO” out is easy, but it is a step for many like Moz, and to me they do a lot more than help me with SEO.

Does this mean we are not going to call ourselves SEOs? NOPE. I’m super proud to be an “SEO,” and to me, SEO is the embodiment of Internet marketing; you get the rankings in part from doing smart marketing. Our goal will be to improve rankings via smart marketing (call it what you want), but to me that is SEO and I’ve spent years trying to explain just that.

I’m okay with SEER being an SEO business, but it’s challenging that just by calling yourself that can prevent you from getting the talented people. The kinds of talented people you need to get improved rankings. It might be time to look at your job titles and A/B test them. We just performed an A/B test on a different job title and saw a pretty sizable upswing in applicants. This year, I expect to be posting jobs for more online/social marketers who can use their smarts and marketing, social, content, and analytics muscle to drive rankings and SEO value as a part of great marketing. Know any? If so, we want to talk to you!

Oh and that impressive intern, well... she’s an SEO @ SEER and I can’t wait to see her first blog post! :)


We love helping marketers like you.

Sign up for our newsletter to receive updates and more:

Wil Reynolds
Wil Reynolds
CEO & Vice President