As you know, the Viking is still in Norway so I’m trying to keep things going while she’s gone…hence, my thoughts on what we can learn from the non-SEO world. And yes, I honestly am embarrassed by my own title.
A few years ago, back when every IT firm didn’t have an SEO team and most people had no clue what search engine optimization was all about, pop culture was not at the forefront of the SEO mindset. Many people, much like myself, were coming into the field from backgrounds in programming, database administration, and site design. I could not have pointed out a single SEO who didn’t know how to at least code html. Now, however, the field has evolved to the extent that many people in it come from marketing and advertising backgrounds, with little to no technical knowledge (comparatively speaking.) That’s not a criticism of anyone or anything at all…just a statement. There HAVE been criticisms of this influx though, which is the reason for this topic, but I think we can learn quite a bit from those who have traditional marketing backgrounds.
Here’s a perfect, if nepotistic, example: my cousin Joe Lawson is one of the writers behind the Geico Cavemen commercials. I can speak to the US market and say that it would be seriously difficult to have NOT seen one of these commercials, a billboard, SOMETHING. This concept is regarded (by all but the most unenlightened curmudgeons) as being one of the best commercial series ever aired. Without going into rapturous detail on the brilliance of this caveman idea, my point is that there are people out there in traditional marketing areas who are mindblowingly good at getting our attention. You’d be insane to not think that was relevant to SEO.
I was never formally trained in advertising or marketing but I was in programming. However, traditional marketing concepts appeal to me more that writing code does. They make sense to me, in the same way that some programmers can pick up a new language in an hour…you just have the intuition for things sometimes. In this same line of thought, I would never assume that someone who’d never taken a programming class could NOT learn to program. This is actually why I have always loved the field of SEO so much. It’s such a mind meld of technical know-how with creativity, innovation, communication, design, and humanity being thrown into a blender.
At my previous agency I remember the debate I had with my boss about how to best replace someone on our team. Should we pick a programmer and teach him or her SEO? Should we look for a writer, a graphic designer, or someone with a business background? As great as some of the programmers that I worked with were, I could never have imagined them “getting” SEO enough to do it well. It takes such a strange blend of talent and interest, and not to disparage anyone, but with a few exceptions, some of the best programmers I know are some of the least creative people I know, and their people skills can really suck a duck’s ass occasionally.
My point is that we should never get so wrapped up in learning just from each other in this field. There’s a lot more to good search engine optimization than talking about rankings and thinking about good link bait. We need to understand design, learn to write well, learn how to get a point across in less than the amount of time I have taken in this blog entry, take an interest in what’s going on in the world, keep up with pop culture even if you hate it, listen to a few new bands (particularly The Raveonettes or Say Hi To Your Mom), go to an art museum on vacation and don’t just shop the whole time, read something other than marketing manuals (I highly recommend anything by Philip Roth or Martin Amis), try sushi, be nicer to cats (note to self: stop making fun of cats!), and just never stop interacting with everyone and everything possible.