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Natasha over at ThreadWatch nailed it today with her commentary on corporations seeking SEOs as employees. In “Everyone and their momma wants to hire an SEO these days” she says:

As someone who recently went Corporate, I gotta say, it wasn’t difficult finding a job. The difficult part was finding a company that “got it”. Listings where they would want the SEO to do SEO, PPC, Metrics & Analytics and pay them under $100K a year got a “Are you out of your mind?” response from me. Because they obviously didn’t get the amount of work involved. And I thought, the person who takes that position must really be a masochist… or so new to SEO that they don’t “get it”.

That sounds right on, but not too different from most other jobs. Isn’t it typical that the employer doesn’t “get it”, asks for too much, sets unrealistic goals based on the wrong outcome metrics, etc? Isn’t it typical that a qualified candidate has to wade through the lesser-quality job offerings? Or is it different for SEOs because SEO is one of the few truly performance-based endeavors out there, and also one of the least understood? Employers “get” the sales department. They pay salepeople that produce, and churn the ones that don’t.

The difference for SEO is the technical nature of it. SEO rocks boats. It makes waves. And it backs up the “I’m telling you” with the boldest form of “I told you so” there is – measurable performance.

I know a few web people. I know designers, coders, and programmers (and yes, I know the difference). They all have their own special talents and areas of exceptional talent, knowledge and/or ability. But when they get together they don’t usually show each other up. A top designer isn’t usually going to be so highly skilled in coding to debate a coder about some scripting technique or Apache server issue. Even a great web developer doesn’t usually know enough about website accessibility or CSS validation to engage the CSS person in a high level “collegial” discussion. That’s what makes them so team-worthy. They have high levels of expertise that contribute to the success of the project, without threatening the other players on that higher plane of “personal worth”. Nobody could do it without everybody. They need each other, and benefit from each other’s abilities.

Enter the qualified SEO (let’s say, Natasha Robinson joins the “team”). Now I am sure Natasha has better people skills that I do but from the get-go Natasha, as SEO, is threatening to the rest of the players. The SEO knows a helluvalot about CSS as it relates to WHAT MATTERS. When the CSS designer wants to implement a new idea, the team used to defer to the CSS person for that “judgement”. But now the SEO has an opinion, and that opinon is either supported by observations or can be demonstrated (there is anecdotal or empirical evidence). It’s not just talk. The SEO can hold a candle to the CSS designer, on topics of CSS and web site performance.
Now when the Apache person makes some server configuration changes in order to streamline maintenance or harden the network, the only person who used to care was the CTO. Now, the SEO also has a professional stake in server configuration issues. As long as the web server appears to be working, the others are fine. So the SEO becomes a P.I.T.A. for the sysadmin. Since when did the all mighty sysadmin have to clear her server adjustments with anyone other than the CTO?

And when the PHP coder wants to deploy a custom templating system and is able to do so in a way that is helpful to the designer and virtually transparent to the end user or browser, he already has the necessary buy-in from the team players. It is the SEO who still may have something to say about it. Not hostile, and delivered with excellent people skills, but based on outcome metrics and not professional development or intellectual curiosity. SEO certainly “gets in the way”.
It just got harder and less interesting to work at Company X, for all those who thoroughly enjoy their own niche areas and have become accustomed to certain freedoms in the workplace. Does anyone else recall the late 1990’s when “management” of dot coms was all about understanding and handling “primadonnas, know it alls, greasy pigs, and TheWickedWitchOfTheNorth”?

It’s no fun to be “the SEO” in a typical corporation. Nobody likes a know-it-all, or a Quality Assurance person looking over his shoulder and second-guessing his decisions. Unless it is a quality company that engages employees in success metrics and profit sharing. Unless it is a team that truly desires to achieve collectively defined goals that align with the goals of SEO. Unless the position has sponsorship from upper management. Unless there is a communications channel to the CTO *and* business unit managers. Unless it is a learning environment. Unless… yeah. What Natasha said.

The ad is here. Check out the list of duties and requirements. Geesh. The very fact that they posted this as a Monster ad suggests they don’t get it, regardless of their recent SEO history. These jobs should be recruited, and that SEO should have staff.