Post written by Dan Sealana. Follow Dan on Twitter.
SEO people: Have you ever tried to explain your job to, ya know, normal people?
Thank God I’m not single and looking for love. “What do you do for a living?” (a polite substitute for “How much money do you make?”) will inevitably come up in the initial conversation with a woman. Explaining the ins and outs of search engine optimization and analytics to a slightly buzzed girl at a bar while Flo Rida is pulsating loudly on the speakers in the background may not be too productive.
At least when the girl’s eyes glaze over and she finds an excuse to leave her barstool (Umm… but wait! You forgot to take my number!) I can blame it on SEO not sounding super exciting.
Lately, I’ve found myself explaining SEO to laypeople like this: “If you hire our company, we help make your company’s website show up higher on search engines.” Unfortunately, this type of explanation may leave people to believe that you spend all day coming up with shady ways to snooker Google.
SEO guy: “But, you see, I’m a white hat SEO!”
Normal person (innocent bystander somehow stuck in this conversion): “What?”
SEO guy: “Never mind.”
Until recently, I was just like the bored girl at the bar or the normal person who’s never heard of SEO and doesn’t appreciate its value. I was new to the SEO world and previously had no idea that this geek subculture even existed.
I had originally thought people just put up websites and the best ones ranked better because, well, Google just somehow magically knows which ones are best.
But, after delving into it, I was immediately struck by how competitive and complex this religion of pleasing the gods of Googlotry really is. The internet seemed to be bursting from the seams with tips and tricks of the SEO trade.
And here’s one thing that’s scary about searching the web for SEO tips: Who controls the search results? SEO people! And, of course, not all of them are reputable. It takes a little work and common sense to separate the real experts from the people who want you to think they’re experts.
But, luckily, from day one here at Image Freedom, I’ve been encouraged to devour the wisdom of sites like SEOMoz. Checking the SEOMoz blog is part of my daily routine – right up there with incessantly tweeting and deciding to quit coffee “after today.” I would definitely recommend SEOMoz to anyone who’s jumping head first into the SEO pool. SEO newbies will appreciate that the site’s writers and comments are generally friendly and don’t have the intimidating or condescending attitude that some tech experts portray.
For me, learning SEO has been like learning a new language. You can’t wait until you become the world’s greatest expert in your second language before speaking your first word. Instead, you practice. You study. You make mistakes and embarrass yourself at times. You get advice and feedback from others. You watch SEOMoz Whiteboard Friday videos even if you only understand 30% of what they’re talking about at first. You study more. You practice more. You jump in and do your best to keep your white hat bright and clean.
I’m not the sharpest guy in the world. But even I am getting this SEO stuff, little by little. No matter how much I learn I doubt I’ll ever call myself an “expert” and I’d never embarrass myself with the pretentious self-label of “guru.” All I can do is learn as much as I can, work as hard as I can and do my best to avoid being seduced by the SEO dark side.
The girl at the bar would be proud… if she didn’t think I was a total dork.
Dan Sealana is an SEO Analyst for San Antonio consulting group Image Freedom. Dan has a background in both print and broadcast journalism and uses that content expertise to help web pages like yours get more traffic through content driven SEO.