I believe there’s a common misconception that search is a geek’s game; an industry filled with coders and web nerds.
Whilst in some cases this is most definitely true (we all know a few), the fact is that the modern SEO team requires much more than geek-intellect alone.
Step into my DeLorean… it’s the early 90s and website owners are starting to recognise the benefits of good search visibility, through increased website traffic and improved business results. Demand for better web visibility is high, and the SEO industry is born, spawning an influx of white hat (yay!) and black hat (boo!) SEO practitioners.
Back then search engines were easily manipulated, as ranking algorithms relied heavily on the meta data within a website’s code and high volumes of backlinks, both of which could be easily accomplished by anyone with a (small) dose of coding and web knowledge. The buying and selling of links was big business at this time, and dodgy, Google-gaming coding techniques were rife.
Skip forward to early/mid 2000s; search engine algorithms have matured, having incorporated a number of new (many undisclosed) factors in an effort to reduce the impact of link manipulation. While still far from being 100% spam-proof, there’s more to success than just keyword stuffing and buying links.
Skip forward again to February 2011 and Google Panda is born; a game-changing algorithm update from Google that targets ‘thin’ sites that offer no real value to users in terms of content (e.g. low quality, auto-generated or duplicate content). The primary aim of Panda was to reduce the visibility of spammy sites in SERPs, notably content farms, thereby encouraging sites to focus on creating high quality / original content.
A year later, the SEO world was shaken again as Google unleashed Penguin, another update aimed at eliminating spammy websites that violate any of its (somewhat cryptic) Webmaster Guidelines.
The search game has changed profoundly since the early 90’s, and now more than ever, a healthy organic search presence relies on quality; a quality site, quality content, and quality links from quality sources.
Important too is the need for a strong brand presence, meaning a good search strategy needs to go way beyond just links and code.
Which leads me back to the point of this post (you may exit the DeLorean now) – that to win at search requires much more than geeks alone.
Of course, technical knowledge will always be an essential part of the search mix, but arguably more important now is need for search teams to strengthen their search arsenal with creative thinkers, PR gurus, social media ‘ninjas’, writers, designers, artists, developers and anyone else with an ability to imagine, create, and promote brilliant content online.
The search geek is dead, long live the creative search marketer!