Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Will 2014 Be the Year I Can No Longer Call Myself an SEO?

Current Job Title: SEO Strategist???

As of right now, the sign on my door at work reads: Dana Tan, SEO Strategist. I've always liked the way it sounded. Until this year, I felt it was an accurate reflection of exactly what I do every day. Then, this happened:

SEOMoz is now There is a Better Way to Do Marketing
SEOMoz rebrands as a company to Moz
When the largest community of SEOs in the world takes "SEO" out of its name, that's well, remarkable to say the least.

For me, it's maybe something that's forcing me to come full circle. You see...

I started out on the Internet as a Marketer

Back in 2004, I was a member of a site that had a similar business model to InBoxDollars. People joined and were incentivized to try offers and services from a wide array of advertisers. One day, I got an email from the site owner saying the Website was for sale. I bought it for $500. I didn't know anything. I didn't even know what HTML was. But I was fascinated. What followed were many 19-hour days as I taught myself how to Webmaster a site, basic coding skills, everything. In those days, there weren't big communities of people doing what I did. It was a lot of trial and error...and there were a lot of errors. But, in those first three years, miraculously, I actually made a lot of money. More money than I had ever made in previous career as a classical musician, which, I realize, probably isn't saying much!

So after 3 solid years of email marketing my ass off, and getting pretty good at it, I owned three sites with total membership over 17,000 people from 28 different countries. Then, because I knew nothing about being a Webmaster, I fell vulnerable to a sheister hosting company. Out of the blue, my hosting company sold all of its assets to some other host and my entire database, all my customers, my site designs, my scripts, everything...were gone. It happened overnight. Instantly, I had nothing. Painful lesson learned.

One thing I had gained during all of that time were some pretty decent technical skills and the ability to successfully market a Website online. I went online to a tiny local job board and began looking for jobs. Miraculously, there was a job posted. A company located within two miles of where I lived was looking for a Web marketer with SEO experience. I totally talked my way into the job. It was 2008, it paid $23,000, about 1/5 of what I had been making running my own business...but I took it. 

I voraciously began learning on the job. I remember going to my boss with a confession. I told her I was an Excel moron and I wanted to learn how better use Excel. Turns out the entire marketing team of 15 people was filled with people equally as ignorant in the ways of Excel so she taught us all....One good thing about making only $23,000 a year is you can freely admit you don't know something!

In 2009 Full Sail University Became the First Accredited Institution to Offer a Master's Degree in Internet Marketing

Full Sail University Internet Marketing Master's Degree Program

I enrolled. In a very challenging 1-year accelerated degree program, I was part of the second group of students to graduate with a Master of Science degree in Internet Marketing. Out of the 12 courses offered as part of the curriculum, only one was on SEO. Other topics covered included Branding, Reputation Management, Paid Search marketing and more. 

So you see, I really was being trained as an Internet Marketer...not so much an "SEO." But if you are an Internet Marketer, you know that this label is almost worse than being called an SEO because there is a profound misunderstanding or misinterpretation of what "Internet Marketing" actually is.

Most People Think Internet Marketing is Multi-Level Marketing

I can't tell you how much MLMs rub me the wrong way. Maybe I had a traumatic experience with an Amway salesperson at some point in my past, but that crap just turns my stomach. I don't want to talk to anyone who does it, I don't want to do it and I certainly don't want to be associated with MLM in any way. No offense to those of you who do it, it's just not my thing. Unfortunately, whenever I told normal people that I was an Internet Marketer, they thought that meant I was into Ponzi schemes and Internet Ripoff "get rich quick" schemes. No matter what I said seemed to change their view of Internet Marketing to be anything but Yanik Silver-back-in-the-day-type "Internet Marketing Secrets " rubbish. Although I have to hand it to Yanik, he's managed to transition from semi-shady to legit Internet Marketer in a good sense, so definite hat tip to that! 

Being Called an SEO Seemed Way More Reputable then Being Called an "Internet Marketer"

After I graduated from Full Sail, my boss wanted to give me a raise and a new title. She let me pick the title. After some thought and consulting with a bunch of classmates and colleagues, I settled on "Brand Manager & SEO Strategist." No long after being promoted, I was hired away by one of my former company's competitors purely for my skills as an SEO. Consequently, "Brand Manager" was dropped and "SEO Strategist" became the new title, one a retain to this day...but maybe not for much longer.

Does "SEO Strategist" Really Reflect What I Do Every Day...Any More?

As an in-house SEO and part of a very small marketing team of 4, I wear a lot of hats. I manage Paid Search, I write content, I build links, I write press releases, transcribe YouTube videos, I monitor brand mentions and social media, I create ads, write a lot of tags, I track everything like a maniac in Google Analytics and I am constantly chasing down technical problems with an ancient (and I do mean ancient...1996!!!) Web platform via Google Webmaster tools and Screaming Frog. SEO seems to me to now really be all of that. Like, it's impossible to do anything competently as an SEO without doing this broad spectrum of tasks. The only things other than link building & content creation that seem to fall into "pure SEO" is keyword research and rank tracking. But these last two things really only comprise about 20% of my day.

Yeah, it's sounds an awful lot like I do "Internet Marketing" doesn't it?

So here' my question to all of you SEOs, former SEOs, SEMs, Marketing Managers, Webmasters and Internet Marketers our there. What is the best, most descriptive title for someone who does what we do? Here are my ideas:

  • Search Marketing Strategist
  • Internet Marketing Technologist
  • Search Marketing Director
  • Internet Marketing Director
  • Web Marketing Strategist
  • Web Marketing Director
  • Online Marketing Strategist

Do you have a cool, descriptive title that does an excellent job of encompassing what it is you actually do? I want to know what it is. Please share it in the comments!