Thursday, 15 November 2018

SEO is not 20 years old!

So I go to an SEO event in Cambridge, nothing new here. But this time I come away with a load of personal insights... I will bullet-list them:

  • I have done technical SEO for years and I was not aware.
  • It's OK to argue with myself because SEOers and web developers have issues.
  • What I am doing now is the new SEO: digital strategy and web performance
  • It's OK to ignore crawl tools' suggestions & analytics' gloom and doom alerts.
But then comes the controversial bit: SEO is 20 years old. Excuse me? I challenged this afterwards with the most senior speaker as I had already hogged too much time in the Q&A talking about my other 'shit'. Now I don't know the age of this lady, but I guess she is younger or perhaps she is like me, a wizened baby-faced person.

I don't go around broadcasting my age as the industry is very ageist, but let's say I started working when there was no internet (OK, there was but just in academic circles, not in business, not in the UK). To the risk of sounding like some aggrieved OAP, SEO became a thing in 2008 when I was learning it. Yes, I built my first site earlier in geocities, but back then SEO was not in the horizon. It was keyword-stuffing paradise while I took pain to provide decent content, which won me a Golden Web Award from a US outfit - award, well, it was a congratulatory email. I just wonder if it was the early days of this 'monster' organisation called Golden Webby Awards. Well thank you very much, I did 0 SEO on it, just wrote nice content.

The site was called London Cheapskate, offering free things in London. I started to get emails from people wanting me to advertise their events, wanting a link, you name it. I just left it and moved on while someone copied the idea and built a business on it. I was more interested in learning digital journalism and blogging. I went into blogging in 2005 and then slowly moved into copywriting, becoming an SEOer around 2008 when I built my first professional website by altering the html of a free template. This is an approach I still follow because it's all very well to use CMSes but I want to code a bit because when the CMS does not do what it's told, it's the code you need to tinker with. I got into SEO then in 2008 and started reading Search Engine Watch. Now, the speaker I questioned used that as a proof that SEO is 20 years old. Well no, it's 22 if you consider this bit from Wikipedia:

"Search Engine Watch was started by Danny Sullivan in 1996. In 1997, Sullivan sold it for an undisclosed amount to MecklerMedia (now WebMediaBrands). In 2005 the website and related Search Engine Strategiesconference series were sold to Incisive Media for $43 million. On November 30, 2006, Danny Sullivan left Search Engine Watch, after his resignation announcement on August 29, 2006.[2] Rebecca Lieb was named editor-in-chief the following month. In 2015, Incisive Media sold SES, Search Engine Watch, and ClickZ to Blenheim Chalcot.[3]Google's Matt Cutts has called Search Engine Watch "a must read." Yahoo's Tim Mayer has said that it is the "most authoritative source on search."

I am an earlish adopter and SEO did not hit me with his stick until 2008 when I was trying to optimize my own website. I got a huge client out it, an advertising agency in Ireland because I ranked for the words they were looking for. Fancy that, all I was doing was having links of articles I was writing on parenting topics. So I was a link builder as I also had links in publications I wrote for and blogs I blog-posted on. I did start blogging in 2005, so maybe for me SEO started then, but kind of made sense in 2008 because of my website.

The agency hired me as SEO copywriter and I was with them between 2009 - 2012. Then I started this SEO blog and wrote about SEO for agencies. I was writing blogs for them, anonymously. You will find my best series in this blog. I did post it here as soon as their site went down because it was and is still pretty good. I have used it a lot and got more clients from it. They lap it up because it explains simply what SEO is, what digital strategy is... It's my 'whitepaper' really, so I have done some updates and reposted it. Here is the first of four posts: Digital Strategy for SMEs, which is still a very popular post/s. It did not age much and it's still OK today because I have always been on the quality, white side, not the dark side of SEO.

So how old is SEO really? It depends, borrowing an answer from last night. Are we talking technical SEO, content-driven SEO, strategic SEO? What SEO are we talking about? However you look at it, SEO is not 20 years old. SEO is also not monochrome: it's white, grey and black, depending on your ethics as a marketer. So if I were doing a talk on SEO, I would be wearing white gloves (I don't own a white hat). The talk would be called Pure SEO, whiter than snow.

MORAL OF THE STORY: it's funny when people younger than you tell you the history of something you lived through. SHOWING MY AGE THERE BUT honestly, are you trying to teach me to suck eggs? Now I get my white gloves and I am out.

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