Earlier this week I was headed down the elevator and a guy made small talk by asking what I do. As an entrepreneur it usually takes a bit of effort to get people to understand what is that I actually do. I told him that I run a bunch of websites that bring in visitors using search engine optimization techniques. To my surprise he responded by saying: “SEO? Oh, I’ve heard of that before.”
After thinking about it for a little while, I realized that for the past 6 months, whenever I mention “SEO” or “Search Engine Optimization” to people not directly involved in the internet marketing industry the majority of them actually have a pretty good idea of what I am talking about. This was not the always the case. When I first started doing SEO in 2007 people always seemed convinced that I either worked for Google (especially if I mentioned AdSense) or they would just say something along the lines of “I’m horrible with computers” to hint that they weren’t quite following me.
What I have realized is that most people that have heard of SEO associate it with some news story, such as the J.C. Penney’s SEO story in the NY Times or Overstock getting caught buying .edu links off students and faculty. Many people have even heard of Google’s Panda algorithm change because it had enough of an impact on the average online business owner (either positive or negative) for it to spring up stories in major news outlets.
Here’s a Google Trends graph for the search term SEO over the past 6 years. While the top graph does seem to flatten off a bit in the past year I do find it interesting to also look at the bottom graph for “news reference volume” which shows a big jump starting in 2007.
What does all this increased publicity towards our industry mean? It means that we are in the right industry. It means that more businesses are seeing the value in showing up in Google, Bing, and Yahoo for search terms related to their own industry. Companies are hiring more SEO consulting firms and expanding their own in-house SEO teams and it means that companies are now searching for more well rounded marketing candidates that can also integrate SEO and social media into their marketing strategies.
As companies hire more SEO professionals and media outlets pay more attention to algorithmic changes the more likely it is that the next time you offer your business card to somebody they will understand what it is that you do.
The next time you are in an elevator ask the person next to you if they have heard of search engine optimization and then post your findings in the comments section!