Adam Dince is currently acting on behalf of Deluxe Corporation as Head of Natural Search Optimization.
I’ve always been a bit of a tech geek. When I joined the Navy at 19, I simultaneously started an IT consulting business on the side. I’d regularly make house calls to local Coronado, California homes and help set up computers, teach people how to use software, and fix broken hardware. After my Navy days, I enrolled in college and got bit by the Web design bug. This led to my IT business morphing into a Web design company. I loved working with the many small businesses that enlisted my services, but eventually, sitting behind a computer and coding all day became too monotonous for me. That’s when I discovered SEO.
I loved the challenge of competing for top rankings in search results pages. For me, the success of outranking a competitor for a competitive keyword provided a rush like scoring a touchdown in a football game. And to this day, I’ve not lost my infatuation with organic search and the results it provides. However, as I look through the rear-view mirror of my career in organic search, there are a few things I wish I’d known when I started out:
1. The Importance of Linguistics
In college, I majored in business administration with an emphasis in information systems. While the program was fantastic and has helped me in my career, majoring in linguistic studies would have been a much more valuable program. As it becomes more and more important for search marketers to understand human language and the intent behind it, linguistic expertise will become that much more important.
2. Paradigms are hard to break
When I decided to leave search agency life for a full-service digital agency, I didn’t realize how difficult it would be to change the old and accepted way of doing things. Often times, search took a backseat to creative and technology projects because leadership and account leads didn’t really understand the value prop of search. This was difficult for me to accept, because I knew the power of organic search and couldn’t identify with those that refused to accept it as a vital marketing channel.
Overtime, search has become more widely accepted and is frequently requested as integral parts of responses to RFPs. On top of frequent internal evangelism within the agency, clients have also forced the agency’s hand at incorporating search as part of a full-service offering.
3. SEO is a four-letter word
Since the birth of “SEO,” many savvy SEO gurus have learned how to game vulnerabilities in search engine ranking algorithms which help Web sites rank higher than they would organically. However, when search engines catch these manipulations, sites are often penalized which leads to a loss of revenue for the clients who hired the SEO. This has led to the practice of SEO to be seen by many as a “below the belt” practice and was often scoffed at as a legitimate long-term marketing channel. I didn’t realize this when I started my career in search.
Even to this day, I don’t like referring to organic search as SEO, because I still feel the stigma associated with the term.
4. Paid search preference
Since Google makes little to no money off of organic search results, paid search ads are the search engine’s cash cow. I never considered that Google would put practices in place that would make it difficult for Webmasters and search marketers to succeed in their organic search roles. One of the clearest examples of this type of behavior is Google’s encryption of its organic search referral data.
In hindsight, knowing that this type of reaction would come from the leading search engine might have caused me to think much more futuristically, which I now do.
5. SEO is important but not the end-all be-all
When I first started in search, I was immediately exposed to Fortune 5-100 Website projects. I was so gung-ho on making sure that each of the sites I managed had all of my recommendations implemented. Often times when creative, brand, and search clashed on strategy, I was adamant that organic search had to be the primary consideration. While in an ideal world that works, it doesn’t when there are other stakeholders involved that also feel just as strongly about their strategies.
Needless to say, over the years I’ve learned how to much better incorporate brand strategies and organic search initiatives in a symbiotic way. As John Ritter used to say, “Where there’s a will–there’s an A.”
Overall, as I look back at where I started and where I am now, I’m thankful that I’ve been allowed to grow and mature within this incredible field. I can’t imagine a more fulfilling and rewarding career and I hope it continues for many more years to come.
Follow Adam on Twitter @adamdince