In short, they’re converging.
Search engines like Google are designed to provide the most relevant websites based on a user’s search query and they do this by ranking sites on relevancy and authority. This is calculated by Google’s infinitely complex algorithm which takes a myriad of factors into account. Historically, the number of inbound links to a site was used a key indicator of the site’s authority and link building was a numbers game – the more, the merrier.
Google’s Panda update was released a couple of years ago – designed to reward sites that were rich in unique, compelling content and downgrading those which were ‘thin’ – light in content or full of advertising. The Penguin update from last year aimed to penalise sites that deliberately bent the rules (those performing black hat SEO) and put a stop to the ‘more is more’ link building mantra.
The emphasis is now on building meaningful links with other content-rich sites (including major publishers and privately-owned blogs) and creating compelling content that is sharable (ideally viral). Social media platforms are increasingly important for SEO specialists and the ideas of ‘blogger outreach’ and ‘content marketing’ have emerged and are growing ever-popular, straddling the divide between SEO, content and social media/online PR. You can read more about that here.
What does this mean for graduate-level recruitment in SEO?
It means we need a different sort of person – we need people who understand how social media can be used to drive relationships with publishers and get content seeded and shared on their sites. (There’s a great article from SEOMoz here if you’re interested on how it all works).
Companies are going to be looking for people with good social profiles – people who run their own blogs, Tweet, Pinterest, Facebook etc. We’re looking for people with a head for numbers (SEO is still about results after all) mixed with a creative streak and the ability to conceptualise strong, relevant content which is going to get shared.
What will help you?
Just having the level of information above will already give you a good head start – having a good idea of the role and the challenges involved will already put you ahead of most others at entry-level. Make sure you’re exploiting your social media profiles on your CV, get on the key blogs and don’t be ashamed to reference your research on your cover letters/CVs. “I’m a regular reader of Matt Cutts’ blog and also frequently read SEOMoz…” will attract interest from hiring managers and should help to get the phone ringing. Just make sure you can back it up.
Above all, aim to understand it. It’s a really interesting market and there are loads of great articles out there. Best of luck and if you have any questions about this, please get in touch.