When you ask any SEO how they got into the industry, chances are they will tell you they just sort of “fell into it.” The reality is people are typically not taught SEO in school. The skills required are so diverse that someone with a background in almost any field can adapt. Since SEO is a moving target, just about everyone is self-taught and learns through experience. Despite this lack of formal education or training, demand for SEO specialists is high and constantly on the rise.
Before I was introduced into the industry, I, like most people, took search engines for granted and assumed Google used some magical powers to return results to me at the click of a button. I went to college to attain a degree in journalism and only took a handful of classes that even mentioned the term SEO. When I began my job hunt I quickly realized that:
- I didn’t really know what I wanted to do,
- It was increasingly difficult to find jobs requiring only skills in journalism, and
- Not many companies were willing to hire someone without “experience.”
But soon, the HR gods answered my prayers and I was offered a SEO internship at Elite SEM. I figured, “I know how to use Google, how difficult could it be?” But after my first couple of days I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was under-qualified and way out of my league. How could an intern with a background in journalism ever have something to offer in the SEO industry?
If Content is King then Journalism is Queen
I soon learned my education in journalism provided me with skills that are becoming increasingly more important to SEO. As Google has begun to place more importance on value and relevance, the SEO industry has followed suit by focusing more attention on engaging content that enhances the user experience. Straying from the metric-driven practices of the past, the SEO world has ushered in a new era of content creation that endorses link quality over link quantity. There is a growing need in the industry for the kind of writing and creative skills journalists possess. The job of a SEO has expanded from content manager to embrace the journalists’ expertise as content producer and is evolving into the role of content strategist.
Great Stories Produce Great Links
Even those seeking to learn technical SEO, not just content creation, should acquire advanced writing skills. Journalism practices can be easily adapted for SEO purposes. Because web users tend to only scan pages, web content must be engaging and to the point. A skilled journalist is economical with language, only employing words with value. Effective SEO writing takes into account clients’ desires and audiences’ expectations and formulates engaging calls-to-action from those insights in order to inspire prospects to convert. A skillset that comprises the ability to tell a good story by creating clear, compelling content is integral to a SEO’s ability to captivate an audience. After all, great stories produce great links.
The over-arching goal of SEO is to connect products with potential customers. We use content to provide information, but also to plant that purchase desire. Quality journalistic content uses words to persuade and shape the attitudes of prospective customers because it is written for the audience, not just the search engines. Whether you are writing for curious readers or potential customers, the ability to reach them and make them pay attention is priceless.
Telling My SEO Story
While writing compelling stories is far from the traditional practices of SEO, there is now more to SEO than numbers. SEO is one of the few industries that warrants you to work with both sides of the brain, requiring a combination of analytical logic and creative exploration.
My adventure into SEO has remedied my initial job search woes by providing me with something I enjoy and that utilizes my journalism knowledge. The growing focus on user experience and quality content has allowed me to find my niche in the SEO world. This ever-changing field creates an environment of natural instability that breeds innovation and opportunities. Even I, the intern with a background in journalism, bring something unique and valuable in the SEO industry.