I've spent years working in search at various levels both client and agency side and have often got my hands dirty in all aspects of an SEO practitioner. This is great as I love what I do, but more recently it has also got me asking a question:

"Does the role of an SEO actually need to exist anymore?"

It's always been a tough question to ask myself as it's been my industry for many years, with experience across all aspects of organic search there's a lot too it and I've often found myself collaborating with colleagues across various projects. I suppose this is why I arrived at the question in the first place, lets look at the key areas of Search Engine Optimisation (SEO):

  • Technical Search
  • On Page Optimisation
  • Off Page (Link Building, Local Search etc)

Technical Search

Website development and code is something I've been involved in for almost 20 years now and the evolution of the web continues to fascinate me. It's also what drew me to tech search. What started out as looking at the structure of code on a website, the various assets etc has evolved like most areas of search. It's no longer enough to look at the quick wins and we must engage with developer, devops and others on everything from code structure to database and server config in the persuit of marginal gains which affect page load times.

On Page Optimisation

Page structure, layout design, UX & CX and not to mention content all affect search engine ranking factors which fall under the remit of on page SEO. Since the early days of SEO and keyword targeted landing pages search engines have become much smarter in detecting poorly written content and now place elements such as user intent high on their list. This has created more focus on content which is well written and thoughtfully created using different media and consumable across a range of devices.

Off Page Elements

In a similar vein to on page factors, off page search optimisation requires a considered approach, earning links doesn't come easy and buying them is certainly not a good idea. To add to the complexity, we also now have to deal with citations, local listings, social signals and other factors outside of our control.

Back to the question

So, the question I asked at the start of this piece was,

"Does the role of an SEO actually need to exist anymore?"

Each of the areas above no longer reside under the direct control of an SEO and some never did. Colleagues understand how they can contribute to a digital platform and search engines have adapted to the quick win strategies adopted in the early days. If this is the case, then an SEO no longer needs to write content as the copy writer does it, no longer needs to deliver technical audits as the developers sort it and need build no links or local citations as the digital PR team can nail that; we might as well all go home and have a rest.

Well, lets not be hasty. The more I have considered this topic over recent months and years, the more I realise that there is still a role for SEO's to play, but it has evolved from what it once was. My opinion is that SEO's are actually more like website managers/webasters, taking ownership of a website to ensure it works efficiently; it's an important role which many seem to neglect.

There's a second layer to this also, with so many individuals being in a position which can affect the perfomance of a website in search there needs to be a solid training education and peer review strategy in place. This will help to improve awareness of how powerful search is and the impact of best practice output.