SEO is not dead or dying, despite some critics claiming otherwise. You may have heard, for example, about SEO Jill Whalen moving on after a successful 20-year career in the field. Her reason? In her opinion, since Google released its Penguin and Panda algorithm updates, sites that publish amazing content will get rewarded with higher search rankings and visibility, regardless of whether they have the help of a professional SEO.
While I agree with Jill to a certain extent, I believe there’s still plenty of work left for SEOs; in fact, SEO is more in-demand than ever, and the work that SEOs do has transformed completely from what they used to do just a few years ago. Whereas most SEO professionals of five years ago were simply well-connected people who knew how to manipulate the algorithms, modern SEO professionals are content strategists that have an expert, intricate knowledge of the technical aspects of the discipline.
Creating and optimizing a search-friendly site involves keyword research, strategic link building, technical compliance, and a strong presence and integration with social media — all fields which true SEO professionals must excel at.
So, I believe the world still needs professional SEOs, and that demand is only going to increase. But how do you know if it’s the right career choice for you? Answering affirmatively to the following questions may just mean you’re a good candidate for a career in SEO.
1. Do you excel at real-time strategy games?
The very first genre of games I fell in love with was real-time strategy (RTS). Games like Starcraft, Total Annihilation and Age of Empires involve a top-down view of a battlefield where you — as the commander — devise a strategy, build a base, acquire resources, and lead your units into battle.
In many ways, RTS games are a great representation of what SEO professionals do: the view of the ‘battlefield’ is the SEO dashboard(s). Instead of units, supplies and weapons, an SEO manages rankings, traffic, content, and inbound link acquisition. And instead of different types of air, land and sea weaponry, SEOs have onsite content, inbound links and social media signals as their ammunition to achieve their goals.
Real-time strategy games require a supreme attention to detail, the ability to micromanage individual units and processes, the ability to project manage many different elements of an overall strategy, and the ability to coordinate different divisions of an organization working toward one goal.
Doesn’t that sound like what SEO professionals should do for their company?
While SEO doesn’t offer the immediate gratification of RTS games regarding doing something and seeing the results immediately, SEO draws many parallels to RTS games. If you’re interested in seeing my entire comparison, see my article, Why SEO is Like an RTS Game (and why you should care).
2. Do you excel at puzzle games?
Are you a fan of jigsaw puzzles, crosswords, Tetris, or Candy Crush? (I know I just hooked a bunch of you with that last one). Puzzle games require the player to take various components and put them together in a way that offers the correct solution. Puzzlers often excel at recognizing patterns, and have keen deductive reasoning skills. Another key trait puzzlers tend to display is patience: they understand that there are necessary steps that must happen in order to reach a solution, and that these steps often happen over time.
In the same way, SEOs must have the ability to piece together various aspects of a site or campaign — keywords, rankings, traffic, and links — and see how they all work together. Through deductive reasoning skills, they can take various facts, trends and patterns to reach conclusions that inform or challenge their strategies.
SEOs also understand that SEO is a long-term endeavor; there are no shortcuts when it comes to achieving high rankings. They know that creating high-quality content and attracting authoritative inbound links takes time, money and talent, none of which come quickly or without significant time or money.
3. Do you excel at hidden object games?
Hidden object games require the player to search for items hidden amidst various levels of gameplay. In many games, unless and until a certain object is found, the next stage of play can’t commence. For instance, a key may be hidden in a pile of rubble, and a gate can’t be opened until it’s found.
In the same way, SEOs are constantly on the hunt for ‘hidden’ components, particularly when it comes to on-site SEO and competitive analysis. These may be technical issues that are holding a site back in the rankings, toxic inbound links, keywords their competitors are targeting, links they’re acquiring, or social media strategies they’re employing.
In hidden object games, the individual puzzles are often set in the context of a bigger story or mystery; in the same way, SEOs must always be looking not only for the individual ‘hidden objects’, but for how these fit into the big picture of rankings and traffic.
Hidden object games also illustrate the importance of being thorough. They require that you search every nook and cranny until you find what you’re looking for. And sometimes, you don’t even know what you’re looking for; so being thorough can reveal objects you didn’t even know existed. In the same way, SEO necessitates researching every aspect of a campaign and website, leaving no stone unturned. It’s only then that you know you have all the pertinent facts to help inform your SEO strategy.
How playing games made me a good SEO
A number of years ago, I had a revelation that significantly improved my success as an RTS gamer: when I increased my screen resolution, I was able to see more of the battlefield at a time. This allowed me to react more quickly and more accurately to threats and to control my units more effectively. This got me thinking: could I use the same strategy to improve my skills as an SEO? By shrinking down the font and cell size of my spreadsheets or dashboard, and thereby seeing more info at once, would I be able to spot new trends or correlations?
Turns out the theory held. I realized it wasn’t enough to just see the various components of a campaign — the keywords, the rankings, the links, etc. — if I couldn’t also see the landscape they functioned within. Using additional monitors allowed me to view multiple dashboards and spreadsheets at a glance, and this quickly lead to me to detect new opportunities for improvement and advancement. I could suddenly see exactly why a certain page wasn’t ranking, why a strategy was failing, or why a competitor was ranking for one of my keywords instead of me.
You certainly don’t need to be a hardcore gamer to be a successful SEO professional, but I the two do have a good amount of similarities. The ability to see detail and understand how it fits into the ‘big picture’, as well as the patience to stick with a strategy until a solution is found, are traits of successful gamers and SEO professionals alike.
So, what do you think? Is SEO the right career for you? Leave a comment below!