In 2015, Your Job As An SEO Should Be Just SEO (or Why Erin Everhart Is Wrong)

I will admit that I don’t know Erin Everhart extremely well. I sat beside her once at #EpicDinner and she seemed then super duper cool. She probably is still really cool, but unfortunately shes written a piece at SEL that has me a bit unnerved.

To sum up Erin’s post: SEO has changed so much that the role of an SEO now encompasses lots of things that haven’t been normally associated with SEO. The things that Erin list in her article are: Content Developer, UX Advocate, Digital Strategists, Creative Marketer. and Cheerleader.

To Erin’s credit, shes not 100% wrong. Because the reality is that, if executed correctly, all of the things that she mentions DO help with SEO. The problem however, is that too many people that don’t really understand SEO, are reading Erin’s article (and the 100s of others with the same message) and making the assumption that SEO is now just good marketing…. that SEO is now dead.

We hear it every couple of years, someone says that SEO is silly or dead because, what they understand SEO to be is just other forms of online marketing packaged with a trendy catch phrase. This is not only wrong, but very dangerous.

And yes I said dangerous….

Case Study #1: I once had a large eCommerce client who changed the URL structure of their site with out consulting a SEO first. As a result they lost tons of organic traffic from Google which equaled a loss of $7 million each month. I worked with them to develop a redirection strategy and implement it. As a result the client regained rankings, traffic, and revenue.

Case Study #2: I once had a small business client who lost around $500k in one month because of a rankings shift. They had to lay people off…. it was horrible. In around 3 months I was able to get them back to where they were before, and help them regain the revenue. They now rank #1 for the term in question and have also taken over several other niches.

Case Study #3: One time an eCommerce client decided they wanted a new “hip” web site. They spent thousands of dollars on a new design that used AJAX for everything. And when I say everything, I mean there were no URLs!! Every time you clicked a link anywhere on the site it would make a unique AJAX call, and load the content on top of the same HTML scaffolding. No title tags, no unique pages, nothing. This was a site that had a few thousand pages indexed. They called me in to give the design a “quick look” a few days before launch.

Case Study #4: I once had an eCommerce client that had lots of competitors, however he was the only one that actually manufactured what he sold. Because of that I started looking at his niche’s wholesale market and discovered that there was no one competing in that space. We setup a small SEO campaign around wholesale supplying and his business grew 400%.

Case Study #5: I honestly can’t even count how many clients I have worked with that have gotten hit by Panda/Penguin or manual penalty because they didn’t hire an SEO before making a change to their business/web site. This problem is so pervasive that some really smart SEOs have become specialist in helping businesses clean up their past mistakes.

All of the issues listed above were fixed by a SEO, not a: content developer, UX advocate, digital strategists, creative marketer. or cheerleader. All of those roles are very important to the SEO process, but they aren’t any more or less important than other things that we might find in a comprehensive marketing strategy.

And because all of the things that Erin mentioned in her article are important to SEO and marketing; SEOs should be working closely with folks that excel at those things, not trying to master them. One reason that SEO has a bad name is because too many SEOs try to do everything when they probably suck at some of those things. But it’s okay to suck at some things, because look at the amazing things (above) a SEO can do with out doing any of the things that Erin listed.

If you want to be a better SEO in 2015, then its time you start working along side other marketing professionals that truly excel at their jobs. In the end you will have more time to handle the things that only a SEO can, and will end up getting better results for your clients.


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13 thoughts on “In 2015, Your Job As An SEO Should Be Just SEO (or Why Erin Everhart Is Wrong)

  • Hi Joe,
    The last sentence sums it up for me. As someone experienced in traditional offline marketing AND 10 years experience as an SEO, learning to work alongside marketing professionals is a skill few in the technical arena have. In 2015, I would like to see small teams, in-house and agency alike, comprised of a copywriter, an SEO, a content creator and a web/graphic designer. Businesses that embrace a holistic approach will benefit longterm and less likely to suffer the fate of anything Google throws at them.

    • Nice response, Nicolette,
      The team structure you describe would be perfect to handle online marketing for most companies. Managers need to be careful not to give personnel who can handle extra work tasks that are outside their expertise.

  • Joe, while I agree with the thesis, I don’t disagree with Erin, either. I think it’s very possible to do “pure” SEO for people. This comes in one off consulting projects, and also work for enterprise sites.

    But the more you get down to smaller to mid-sized companies, the less “pure” SEO work there is. There, a lot more “secondary” SEO work is required in the realms Erin mentioned instead, especially for ongoing projects. For established consultants such as yourself or people working with massive sites, it’s very possible most of what you do could be blocking and tackling SEO that we’ve always done. But the more that it’s required to be in the weeds day in and day out, especially for smaller sites, the more “today’s SEO” that Erin mentioned is required.

    And if the old-school SEO wants to stay relevant/have opportunities outside just the smaller, one-off consulting opportunities or working for massive websites that can get value from them ongoing, they’re going to need to expand those skills to other areas. If they don’t want to expand, cool – you can still have value, but it’ll be in fewer capacities than it used to be.

    • I agree with everything you are saying here, except that last sentence. I agree in “fewer capacities”, while at the same time in increasing value. These days technical SEOs are doing more analysis and problem solving than ever before. The algorithms have become so nuanced that it requires much more data analysis and insight.

  • Alan Bleiweiss says:


    At first I was like “Erin isn’t known for being way off the mark” – so I was glad to see you clarified THAT little title teaser.

    And I’m blown away at the shear lunacy of someone saying “or something as silly as SEO”. Because wow.

  • Like this post, liked the other post too.

    I think it’s important to make distinctions between non-technical and technical SEO. Technical SEO is still SEO. Non-technical SEO is merging with design and PR more by the day.

    Whilst I think the other post should clarify the differences between the two, I don’t disagree with either of you.

    *sits comfortably on fence and awaits war of words*

  • Excellent piece, Joe, and I couldn’t agree more.

    PFCG is in the middle of a project right now to clean up a big mess left by an SEO who thought they knew how to create and manage content. It’s not that hard, right? It’s just writing. “It’s not rocket science.” Yes, I’ve heard that one before. And therein lies the problem.

    The lack of respect for other marketing professions is leading to a degradation of service. Too many people are trying to do and be too many things because they think it’s not that hard, not to mention, the more services you offer, the more you can charge, and the more money you make, right?

    The end result in this instance was our client asked us to rewrite every single piece produced by the other agency–which means they paid for the same content twice.

    I’d say that losing money in that (or any other) manner is a danger to any business. I’d also say that someone selling a service for which they’re grossly unqualified is also a danger to the businesses that hire them. That person is also a danger to the others in this industry who have to follow them, and work twice as hard to disprove the bad impression they’ve left behind.

    When you’re talking about businesses losing tens of thousands (or hundreds of thousands, or millions) of dollars, and people’s livelihoods being affected, yes, “dangerous” is absolutely an appropriate word.

    Anyone who sells a service they are unable to perform is irresponsible, unethical, and only concerned with making a buck rather than actually helping the client or furthering this industry.

  • I have read Erin Everhart’s post on SELand the day she posted and agreed on many of the points she mentioned there as I do agree on the points you are raising here. I see SEO as a sum of many things, onpage SEO is more into technical side and needs real SEO knowledge but the offpage SEO part, I believe to be a marketing job so needs creativity and new ideas.
    I strongly believe that Technical SEO will remain unchanged but the SEO marketing will evolve constantly. SEO can’t be different from user experience optimization and at the same time the core structure of a site must follow the fundamentals of optimization rules and guidelines.
    Enjoyed both the post, can’t disagree with both of you and that’s the reason we love SEO.

    Soumya Roy

  • There is no way you can rank well in search engines without good content, and I see more copywriters being directly integrated into the SEO team rather than living on a different team.

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