Update: See SMX Advanced Seattle post
There was another SEO conference last week calling itself “advanced” and once again there was controversy about whether or not it was advanced. I stayed mostly out of the debate this time (as well as the conference), but I must note that an in-house SEO from NPR.org put it well when he said this about what it means to be “advanced SEO” (emphasis added):
SEO used to be perceived as a collection of tactics — use H1 tags, make a sitemap, add meta descriptions, get rid of JS obstacles, etc. That’s a pretty one-dimensional view, and even a few years ago most companies looked at SEO as just a project engagement. In the past, I saw so many engagements fail due to lack of stakeholder buy-in. The fact that we even got hired in-house speaks to how much has changed. Advanced can mean a lot of things. I think it does mean a greater understanding of how our work touches everything from development to usability, design, ecommerce, and analytics. We’re also coming into our own as strategists and online marketing managers. There is no one-size-fits all way to handle even fundamental tactics. We can argue whether PR sculpting is advanced. From a technical standpoint, it may or may not be. What is advanced is (as Nathan suggested) following a rigorous decision process as to whether it’s the best use of your time, bang for buck, and if so, how you would measure its results. I’ve spent months analyzing engine data, the search landscape, web analytics, our customer profiles, you name it. One of the major “advanced” initiatives I’m undertaking is drilling titles and alt tags with our writers. Why is that advanced? Because I’ve looked at my resources, my opportunity, and my expected outcome and in my long-term strategy, this is the right short-term move for my specific situation, for our team, for our site. Advanced does mean staying abreast of the cutting edge of tactics. Advanced also means the set of critical thinking and soft skills to actually get things executed in organizations of all sizes.
Javaun Moradi said that well. An “advanced SEO” is considering much more than on-page and network factors, and is deeply involved with strategy as search strategy defines the opportunity pursued by the web publication under consideration.
But we need to be smart here, and not just accept what an in-house SEO practitoner says is true. As forward-thinking or strategically-involved as Javaun might be over at NPR, he is in a job, and his job has a defined role. This may be his perspective, but I’d like to hear his boss’s perspective. His boss probably has a view of Javaun’s role as SEO in the overall goals of the publishing effort. He would also know if there are SEO consultants involved (SEO consultants maintain that focus on the strategic role search startegies play in web publishing). I would not be surprised at all if Javaun and some of his greater colleagues in SEO world believe what he wrote. However, I would be surprised if he continued to stay in his role as an in-house SEO, given his insights, of if his boss would pay him enough to keep him there.
SEO broke out of the chains of procedure years ago. Task SEO shops have drawn fire from the SEO community for several years now, for their failure to accommodate the strategic needs of their customers. That SEO is not a list of tasks is not new, so the fact that “advanced SEO” is not a list of advanced tasks should not be surprising, either.
The surprise is that so many attendees of SMX Advanced are debating whether the SEO tactics presented were advanced or not. To me, that is the proof that SMX Advanced is not the sort of SEO Conference I need to attend. Concepts, yes, but tactics, no. The pro-SMX people may not like to hear it, but the Search Engine Strategies show has the right name for the topic at hand.