Years ago, when I first started with SEO, there was a lot of uncertainty about how to classify the function SEO served. Was it marketing? Was it technology? Was it something else entirely? Contributing to this uncertainty was the mystery that originally shrouded SEO. Over the years as SEO became mainstream and the SEO process became better understood, so few would argue against bucketing SEO within marketing. And yet, SEO plans are rarely described using traditional marketing terms.
At its simplest, an SEO plan may segment activities as those that are on-site vs. off-site. Maybe some go into more detail and talk about content vs. technical on-site activities or perhaps they blow out off-site into a couple of different main components. What I haven't seen is anyone that presents SEO using more traditional marketing terminology and yet it would take just a little more effort. Restating SEO in terms that are more likely to be understood by other marketers could increase comprehension, gain stronger buy-in, and even lead to larger budgets. Emphasizing your activities as marketing might even lead to job growth opportunities since your function won't be seen as so siloed.
One way to get started down this path is to reframe your efforts as involving different types of media:
The four types of media discussed above may imply that there are barriers between them that can't be crossed. That isn't so. In fact, actions of one type can easily result in actions of another type. For example, shared media, at its most effective, results in earned media. Paid media can be used to increase awareness, which in turn can lead to earned media. Both of these situations are desirable and with enough foresight and planning, an SEO can even take advantage of another team's budget to support the SEO effort by looking for these overlapping opportunities.
Retooling your language isn't, on its own, going to change the impression others have about you, but it could serve as the first step in demystifying what you do. While some might argue that SEO jargon is part of your job security, I think that, in the right environment, removing the language barrier would actually be more beneficial. After all, just because others know what you're talking about, doesn't mean they actually know how to do any of the things you do.
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Marios Alexandrou is the East Coast Director of SEO for Steak's Search Marketing team and has a background in web development and project management. While he loathes to tell people just how long he's been working with computers, he will admit that his first computer had just 16KB of memory.
His SEO experience includes work with both in-house and agency teams ranging from one-man shows to 20+ dedicated SEO strategists. He has worked with organizations of all sizes and across multiple industries including hospitality, financial services, publishing, and healthcare. He particularly likes to use his combination of skills to identify ways to scale SEO activities through process standardization and automation.
In addition to writing about SEO for ClickZ, Marios also writes on the broader area of Internet marketing for Infolific.
March 19, 2014