I am what would be called a veteran search engine optimizer. I have many years of experience speaking at various SEO events (conferences, webinars, training, etc.). I often get involved in controversial discussions regarding SEO on various social media sites.
I’ve also had my share of bullying.
However, I also learned a lot from other SEO veterans. They have been an outstanding role model for people in our industry.
In this article, I want to share what I learned from participating in several SEO events and my experience on social media platforms. This is what I learned about dealing with unprofessional treatment.
1. Hear multiple perspectives on any topic of SEO or Search Engine Marketing
I know this may seem counterintuitive. If you are in a real-time situation, it is perfectly normal to have an initial defensive reaction.
Bypass this reaction. If you listen, you are likely to learn things you hadn’t thought about or encountered. Listening to and reading about different approaches to SEO can make you more effective at SEO.
I learned this from Danny Sullivan, who is now the Google Search Public Contact. Whenever he held a session at one of his conferences, he always had a team of experts with diverse opinions.
At first, I thought Sullivan was crazy. However, once I realized he was showing his journalistic side by doing extensive research, my view changed as well.
At first I wasn’t the best at keeping my opinions to myself. Indeed, Sullivan remarked to me, in private, that I would shake my head when I sometimes disagreed with one of my fellow panelists. I didn’t consciously realize I was doing this. However, it allowed me to stop myself in order to pay attention to what the other speakers were talking about.
I didn’t necessarily have to agree with other people’s views. Nor are you. However, listen to other people’s points of view. Try to understand each point of view. It will help you become better at SEO.
2. Be polite when taking notes
If you’re at a real-time event or it’s being recorded, learn how to mute your keyboard, even if you have a quiet keyboard. The audio will distract the audience from the speaker’s content, especially if multiple attendees are writing at the same time. Mouse clicks can also be a distraction.
This advice may seem obvious given your high school, college, and university settings. However, at professional events, the goal is to listen to the speaker, not to distract him.
I learned this tip from former Search Engine Editor Michelle Robbins. I once took notes on my tablet when I was on boards. It looked unprofessional even though I was just taking notes. Using my tablet gave the impression that I’m ignoring the other panelist, not paying attention even though the opposite is true.
As of this writing, the COVID-19 pandemic has had limited in-person events. However, do your best to be civil and gentle when taking notes once we’re back to personal events.
3. Show courtesy when seeking clarification and appealing an opinion
No one has quite the same frame of reference as another person. For example, my SEO framework of reference presents it as a form of communication between content providers, searchers, and search engines. I think SEO is optimal for people who use search engines. People first, technology second.
In my previous definitions of SEO in my books, I used different definitions. These definitions emphasized the marketing aspect of SEO more than the communication aspect. So my frame of reference has evolved. In fact, I was once annoyed with the US Congress for not having the basic knowledge about web search.
This does not mean that others have the same definition of SEO that I have. It also does not mean that my style of SEO is the same as my other style. For example, I have never spammed search engines. I also won’t. I feel like it bites the proverbial hand that feeds it.
It’s okay to challenge SEO opinion. Our world would be very boring if we all agreed with each other. I learn more from difficult opinions than from blind acceptance of everything I read and hear.
What do I really mean? Don’t call people unfair. Don’t be rude or condescending. Avoid stereotypes. When I hear insults or personal attacks, it means that my view is likely to be correct because the hostility does not challenge my research. He or she resorts to personal attacks.
Stick to your own facts, data, and research. Do not take the taste of “injustice”.
4. Follow people you don’t agree with on social media
This advice may also seem illogical. Again, my point is to learn from others. This means learning from people who have different points of view than you.
You helped follow up on SEOs who disagree with me. I want to know the reasons for our differences. It could be something as simple as our views on search engine spam. I do not do that. Other SEOs think it’s up to a company or organization to take the risk. Different approaches and different business models.
I’ve learned that many SEOs don’t understand information engineering. Smell the information and basic principles of SEO friendly design. I am a technical SEO as well as a web designer/developer. Some people don’t have the same technical skills as I do. Many SEOs have more technical skills than I do.
I’ve learned that many SEOs consider rankings only hierarchical. When in fact, hierarchical ranking can only lead to orphans and silos, two things that negatively affect search engine visibility. Link building expert Eric Ward taught me a lot about silos. So did information engineering expert Peter Morville.
Following them on social media, reading their books and implementing their suggestions has proven invaluable to me as an SEO professional and as an information engineer.
I must point out the opposite situation. A colleague who disagreed with me on every SEO topic was constantly challenging my views. She did not hesitate to stereotype me to her colleagues and friends. However, I still follow her on social media. I wanted to know why you treated me so badly.
I learned the reason. Somehow, I “looked lightly” at my education and training. True, I do not expect my colleagues to go as far as I do in formal education. Ph.D. Software is not for everyone.
My education is my choice. My elective is also optional for training and certification programs. My choices do not have to be the choices of others.
When I am faced with a challenge in a research event, I often provide resources: books, articles, training lessons, certificate programs, etc. I provide sources of my information and data.
Lesson learned? I unfollowed this particular fellow. Her posts and articles did not add to my search knowledge. I gave her a fair chance.
Don’t be afraid to give colleagues who disagree with you a fair chance. You will often learn things that never happened to you.
5. Give your fellow SEOs a fair chance
I am grateful to two specific people for this advice, Barry Schwartz and Bill Slawsky. I used to disagree with these two gentlemen for years.
right Now? I have deep respect for what they did in the SEO field. They have become search engine optimization (SEO) historians. (I once wrote about SEO and archiving here.)
If you need information on SEO and patents, Slawski is the best person to reach. If you need information about algorithm updates, Schwartz’s articles are a great resource.
I admit that I wasn’t always supportive because I didn’t initially understand that both Slawski and Schwartz have become some of the best SEO historians in the industry. However, I have kept giving them fair and objective feedback over the years. Once I realized it was for me Perspective that needs adjusting? I did this.
Now I don’t hesitate to refer to each of my colleagues for support and even jobs – jobs that I think are more qualified than me.
Ignore your primary defense mechanism when facing a challenge
Here is a quick summary of how to approach unprofessional SEO treatment:
- Honestly listen to multiple perspectives on any topic of SEO or Search Engine Marketing.
- Be polite when taking notes.
- Show general courtesy when asking for clarification and challenging an opinion.
- Follow people you don’t agree with on social media.
- Give your fellow SEOs a fair shot.
You can disagree professionally with your fellow Search Engine Optimization (SEO) colleagues. While doing this, you may learn important things for your SEO career. You never know. You may only learn from them information that would not have happened to you otherwise.
The opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily those of the search engine. Staff authors are listed here.