Rise of the New School SEO Professional

klondike-gold-rushSEO professionals are watching with a gleam in their eye as users move into a multi-device, multi-screen, and multi-context digital world.

Opportunities from content marketing to GPS, local, and mobile optimization beckon and promise high ROI for brands.

Rather than jettisoning their core competencies, SEOs should build upon their technical skills, result-orientation, and outsider status to define SEO for this new age.

The Watchdogs of Results

Brands rely on SEOs to keep their design and development partners aligned to business results. When they are doing their job correctly, SEOs are dedicated to driving measurable ROI.

Outside SEO firms have little stake in existing internal power structures or technical platforms or approaches. This outsider status gives SEOs legitimacy, and freedom of action. They are the children who can point out that the emperor has no clothes, or even worse that the fancy new parallax site is invisible to search engines.

SEO professionals can speak truth to power and impact the bottom line with tactics that actually work.

The Importance of Traditional SEO

Let’s face it, old-school SEO won't be going away anytime soon and continues to be a strong value driver. And that’s a good thing. There are too many web technologies and emerging standards that need evaluation from an SEO perspective.

Despite the shrinking number of plain old web pages showing in SERPs, this is still where the action is. Traditional SEO – coding, architecture, indexing, links, and on-page content – moves the needle now as much as ever.

Even in this age of quality content management systems, the need for technical SEO remains. Brands increasingly seek differentiation by going beyond the out-of-the-box functionality of their CMS platforms. And when they do, they need competent technical SEO counsel to make sure things stay on track.

The New School Site Audit – Identifying Areas for Growth

SEOs need to stay technically minded and data-driven. Thus, expansion into adjacent and related areas makes sense. Here are the nearby greenfields that should be added to the traditional SEO audit:

  • Local Search: Ad spend on local search is projected to grow from $1.2 billion to $9 billion by 2017. Where ad spend goes, optimization spend will follow. Every site audit should include a look at the client’s local, GPS, and business listing presence. Vendors like UBL can be a real help here by providing bulk management and verification of local data.
  • Mobile optimization: Going hand in hand with local, optimized mobile landing pages are no longer optional. SEO audits need a mobile optimization component.
  • Social optimization and authority building: LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook all have optimization strategies that work and can be employed synergistically. Every SEO engagement should include a metrics-driven analysis of social performance and guidelines for social media promotion budgeting.
  • Content Strategy and Production: Armed with site crawls and a background in content strategy, SEOs can help drive decisions around content creation, consolidation, and production. Site audits should address the underlying content structures (meta data, value lists, controlled vocabularies, taxonomies) that support dynamic content sites and great SEO.
  • Apps integration: Including a review of emerging app-based traffic sources relevant to the line of business shows strategic thinking. Developing an API or reaching out to app developers may not generate a lot of revenue, but it moves you up the value chain.

Moving Into Storytelling and Content Production

The emerging content marketing philosophy is a marriage of data-driven SEO and the more distant skillset of creative storytelling.

While writing and producing compelling stories is a long way from where SEO started, there is now a wealth of vendors that can make the transition easier. A new school site audit will point the way to content needs that can be solved. Some content solutions to consider:

  • Skyword: With an end-to-end workflow and a roster of writers for all budgets and industries, Skyword can plug right into your existing relationships to supply the optimized narrative content you need from authoritative sources.
  • Textbroker: An established player in the content creation space, Textbroker has a huge stable of writers that produce all the content you need.

Building on Existing Relationships

SEOs can expand into these services because they occupy a valuable, though fragile, niche in the perceptions of the rest of the enterprise. Good SEOs are perceived as being high-ROI, technically capable partners that can be counted on to drive tangible results. Expanding into other results-oriented categories like content marketing or local search just makes sense.

If you're an SEO firm, getting there may be a matter of upskilling your client service, sales, and service delivery teams. It may also be a matter of upgrading your deliverables and audits as shown above to plant the seeds of local, social, mobile, and content marketing opportunities into the minds of clients.

If you're an in-house SEO, who better to raise the standard of local listing optimization and building social authority than you? Armed with proof of ROI and a short payback period, in-house SEOs have the cognitive frameworks to recognize the problem and map out solutions.

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SEO agencies are result-oriented, technical, and data-driven marketers - a great foundation for expansion into emerging areas of local, mobile and social media optimization.

The Names May Change, but the Game Remains the Same

The exciting thing about SEO is that is never stands still. Tactics emerge, spread, and then die or get banned. Brands need SEO firms to keep them abreast of the changing landscape, to drive results, and to give them the unbiased advice they need. Traditional SEO provides a proven and stable foundation from which to move deeper into enterprise digital strategy.

New-school SEOs are emerging now– created by smart marketers that know how to grow while preserving key core competencies. After all, there will always be something that needs to be fixed. Keep on optimizing.

"Gold Rush" Image Credit: BartEverts/Flickr