September 4, 1998 – Things Changed. Google was launched. On that fateful day new careers were born while others would soon find out that they would need to forever change the way they do business or perish. Since that day in the late 90’s we have come a long way in the world of Search Engine Marketing. Gone are the days where we would buy links or change a few keywords and rankings would double. Those days were simpler, easier times. Welcome to the dawn of the new era of SEM – where content rules.
SEO is evolving. In a 16 year span, a whole new of industry has been created and has spawned a whole sub culture of marketing folks that would have never existed a few decades ago. In the early days SEO was all about your keywords (don’t get me wrong it still is all about keywords), but now it is more about the concepts and themes those keywords present to the user. Think of it as using keywords to create an overarching theme rather than the singularity of an idea in word form. While keywords still and always will represent a key signal for any search engine, many search engines are placing a higher value on the content rather than just the keywords. This means you need to write great content, not great keywords. Search Engines take signals from social networks and identify if your site should rank higher on interactions. This means you need to be on social sites, sharing great content.
Links are the oldest method for determining how well sites should rank, the more you have, the better you rank. Simple, right? Until Google decided to alter how they track each link and all the sudden those links you had yesterday mean less than nothing, they actually hurt you. This means you can no longer buy links, you must write naturally great content and share it with industry insiders.
What does this mean for college students, recently graduated and currently employed Search Engine Marketers? We need to evolve with SEO. In my time in the industry I have learned that you need to be jack of all trades to be really successful in this industry. This means you need to know how to write content, well. To be well versed means having the ability to talk and operate pay per click, HTML and design. While you can be highly knowledgeable about one single aspect, it is rare that your clients will only deal in just one of these marketing areas. We are seeing agencies hire on journalism majors for the strict purpose of writing content for sites, something that 10 years ago would have never happened. The role and perquisites for a SEM career are ever changing. As long as Google and other search engines change the rules for ranking well, we have to find new ethical methods for getting our clients business on the top results.