3 Industries SEO Should Learn From

SEO is growing up, the geeky little outcast has gone to college gone out into the world and gone all mainstream, but there is still more to learn, still some growing up to be done, and it’s time SEO looked to its elders for guidance. so here are 3 mature industries that SEO should be looking up to if its going to be a contender.

When was the last time your solicitor offered to spend an afternoon looking at something for you for free? When was the last time a solicitor felt guilty about charging for their time (do solicitors feel guilt? maybe that’s a question for another time). As SEO’s we need to learn to appreciate just how valuable our time is, it doesn’t mean that we can’t give things away now in return for future reward, but we have a very specialised, difficult to learn skill set, and we need to start acting like it. This doesn’t just go for free v’s paid either, it means that we need to put an accurate value on our time, and having come across some SEO’s pitching at less that 2000 a month for clients that are easily going to require 40+ hours work I think we still have a long way to go with this one.

When I try and think of the industries that SEO is most like, I always come back to psychology, itself a relatively new discipline It straddles the worlds of science, art and instinct in many of the same ways as SEO. Also similarly to SEO it is based on the idea of untangling a knot more complex than any individual could devise, with as many different situations as there are stars in the sky. I can’t help loving the idea of Google sitting on the couch ready to have it’s issues dealt with. Because of these similarities, I think there are many ways that we should learn from our psycologist cousins, however the thing that I think would have the biggest impact is if we learnt to embrace our differences in approach. In psychology there are many different ways of understanding human behaviour, some offering conflicting practices, but each suitabe in their own way to particular circumstances. How much better would we be able to deal with the situations presented by different clients if we understood that client A needed a Fantomastarian, where client B needed a Fishkinist SEO. Black and white hat simply can’t define us any more, it’s time we started looking to a more grown up method of definition

There are many different types of doctor, and not all of them are good at everything, as SEO’s we need to learn to accept our strengths and weaknesses and work with that. Your average SEO is like a general practitioner, able to diagnose a wide range of problems, they look at the symptoms and try different prescriptions until they find the one that works for the patient. in most cases they are the only SEO that the patient  client will ever need to see, and there is nothing wrong with that, and this is the type of SEO that most of us will practice.

Then you have the specialists, the people who have a particularly strong skill set in a particular area, are they still able to diagnose a wider variety of general problems of course, but they understand the intricacies of link building or site architecture or link baiting in ways that are beyond the skill set of the general practitioner, and these people should be referred to when necessary.

Then at the top tier you have the bleeding edge, in medicine this is the small group of specialists developing new treatments and techniques, these are the people who create new ways to perform open heart surgeries or administer life saving treatments, the pioneers, and we have them in SEO too, people who pounce on every new update and work out the whys and wherefores. Should every SEO be testing and  researching and trying new things, no absolutely not, most SEO’s should be keeping up to date with the literature and applying that to their practice, it’s these pioneers who provide the information to allow them  to do that and  we should recognise and embrace that there are many different types of SEO required, and understand where our strengths lie.

So there you have it, three lessons that we can learn from other industries, but I’m sure there are more, after all, there is something we can learn from nearly everyone.

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7 Responses to “3 Industries SEO Should Learn From”

  1. jimboot says:

    This is one of the better SEO articles I’ve read in a while, including my own! It will be discussed in the office today at beeroclock. I would add maybe business analysts or consultants? How many times do we have to help a client focus on the the key phrases that relate to the products and services they need to sell more of to achieve their goals.
    A great read thanks. RT now :)

  2. Mark Hall says:

    Great post. This is the same problem for the creative industry, you have to give a little to get a pitch, however give to much and they do it themselves or go somewhere cheaper and you can spend your week with ease simply giving away ideas. It doesn’t help that we as an industry allow it to happen, if only we all said no, no more tenders, no more in-depth pitches etc. Or better yet there was a governing regulated body for our industry.

  3. [...] thinking about this, I actually came across a great article by the SEO Chicks, entitled, “3 Industries SEO should learn from“. In this article, Sarah talks about 3 industries that do specific things, which she feels [...]

  4. Paul Tyler says:

    Excellent post. I especially associate with not charging enough/anything for time. We are often guilty of looking far too long term in financial terms. I think often the fact that much of what we do goes unseen to a client (time spent looking for link acquisitions, analysing trends in GA etc) makes it more difficult (even though it shouldn’t) to charge existing clients enough for such work.

  5. Leigh says:

    Great Post Sarah! – I would say what sets SEO apart from law is the factor of need plus the potential risk/reward.

    Can you write your own depositions and navigate the court bureaucracy? Maybe – but you’re highly unlikely to take that risk.

    There are very few e-books floating around about “how to be your own lawyer,” while SEO presents a zillion learn on your own options – ebooks, SaaS tools, video tutorials etc. so there is much more price erosion.

    Loss Aversion Theory at work:
    Getting sued, divorced, = a high risk, high loss situation
    Increasing traffic & conversions thru SEO = an iffy/fuzzy gain situation

  6. Steve Hill says:

    I completely agree with everything you said and I think that much of it could be applied to other facets of the internet marketing industry. I envision social media consultants making many of the same mistakes that the SEOs in your article made. To a certain extent paid search and web development firms are susceptible to it too. Needless to say, everything you said is great food for thought.

  7. I think one of the biggest issues is that clients still view SEO as an add-on, every web designer I know offers SEO, as part of the service of course. I work with my business partner who does all the design work while I do the SEO. Getting clients to pay for the design work is easy, SEO is next to impossible, they see it as a just part of the service.

    With design, they can see the work more or less instantly, with SEO it takes time, sometimes a lot of time for the results to be visible and I have never met a client who is happy to wait.

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