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Are you a regular webmaster who wants to up your SEO game? Feeling like your traffic’s lagging and want to figure out what exactly being an “SEO” entails? Well, never fear – Rand Fishkin to the rescue! The SEOmoz founder dedicated a recent “Whiteboard Friday” session to explaining what (in his opinion) a SEO’s job looks like today.

It was a refreshing video, and even existing SEOs can learn a little something from his talk. It’s not just about using fancy software to hunt for “money” keywords and mechanically building links anymore. Now, the role of a SEO is more wide-reaching, and just as the search landscape has changed, so has the SEO’s job description.

Defining Marketing Goals

Fishkin began his talk by asking SEOs to think about defining their marketing goals. He gave a couple of cool examples to illustrate what he meant. First, he had webmasters imagine they were in charge of marketing a recipe or food-related site. Obviously, he said, the surface goal is to attract people who are interested in food. The deeper goal? To establish a rep with like-minded foodies around the Web. A good rep would equal more traffic (and good backlinks) – guaranteed. This example, according to Rand, is that of a website with a very broad set of marketing goals.

The second example focused on webmasters with marketing goals that are far more narrow. He gave the example of a new toy he digs; a remote controlled ball that can operated by a Smartphone. The product serves a very specific niche, so the marketing plan in this instance would be tight and laser-focused. This means the search demand for the product would not be as high as searches for a broader subject or interest.

According to Rand, the gadget is, “…[s]uper cool, but nobody searches for “little electronic ball that I control with my phone.” This just does not get search volume, despite maybe Sphero [the manufacturer] wishing that it did. But there might be lots of other interesting things that they could rank for.”

In this kind of situation, the marketing rules would be much different. The SEO would be hyper-focused, and marketing efforts would center around activities such as increasing brand recognition and getting the word out about the company’s product in the press.

These two sharply contrasting scenarios are Rand’s way of illustrating how dramatically different SEO marketing campaigns may be depending on what exactly you’re trying to market. Back in the day, SEO was pretty much the same, regardless of what you were promoting. Keywords, backlinking and automation were the name of the game and Fishkin is attempting to get us to wrap our brains around the new reality of SEO: it’s all about creating a marketing plan – not just a simple SEO strategy. As the Web becomes more complex, so does marketing online.

Should SEOs Focus on Search Engine Traffic?

This seems like a redundant question, given that the job title is “SEO,” no? But surprisingly, the role of the SEO has greatly evolved and expanded right alongside the ever-changing landscape of the Net.

To flesh this point out, Rand returns to his previous example of the Sphero toy. He says the company would likely want more press and exposure. Hence, it would need more reporters visiting the site. The company would want to find an angle that could get its toy recognized by influencers in the tech niche, such as inclusion in write-ups on sites like Engadget or Techmeme. The new SEO is about connecting those dots, and not necessarily about directly ranking for a certain set of terms.

For the broader niche example – the foodie website – the classic rules of SEO would apply more heavily. An SEO in this situation could use a more traditional approach to rank for various long-tail food-related terms, recipes, brands, etc. However, Rand says, you should think even bigger than that. Today’s SEOs should deal with all things that stand to positively impact the process… even down to UI/UX and marketing. The SEO of the past was all about metrics, numbers and lists. Now, she must become a Jill-of-all-trades.

Other SEO Job Responsibilities

Now that we know the job code is much broader than it once had been, let’s end with a look at some of the other responsibilities Rand highlighted for SEOs.

According to Fishkin, speed, website accessibility, branding, press and public relations all play a part in the new SEO’s job description. It’s not just about classic SEO – the game has evolved into creating an entire brand presence for your clients online.

I would add that social media management plays an essential role here as well. Your goal is to create one unified “face” for a company or website; a persona that people will immediately recognize and gravitate toward in your niche. Sure, it’ll be one hell of an undertaking in the beginning, but all that perseverance, organization, and determination will pay off royally in the end. If you play your cards right and cast your net wide, your campaign will eventually take off and more doors will open than you ever dreamed possible.

Do you agree with Rand’s description of the new SEO? Care to share any additional job responsibilities you’ve encountered while in the trenches? Tell us about it in the comments below.


Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

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