3rd Grader

This year, my oldest son entered third grade. This is strange for me, because I remember third grade vividly. I remember my teacher’s name, what the room looked like, and I can name everyone that was in my class. In fact, I still keep up with many of them on Facebook.

I remember third grade was much harder than second grade. Sure, at the beginning of the year, the teacher did nothing but make sure we hadn’t forgotten what we learned in first and second grade – but then all of a sudden, we started writing in cursive (my print handwriting was bad enough) and learning multiplication tables. The game had changed, and many of the 8- and 9-year-olds in the class learned that we had to adjust … or fail.

I believe the search industry is entering third grade. In the past, we’ve been able to obtain results with code tweaks, algorithm tricks, and, let’s face it, a lot of smoke and mirrors. We were being cute – which works great in first and second grade. But guess what? We’re now entering into an awkward stage. The rules have changed, and our industry, in many ways, is starting to change from a cute kid into a gangly pre-teen with crooked new teeth and the promise of more awkwardness to come.

The industry has worked hard to gain legitimacy. And now, SEO’s have a seat at the adult table sometimes. Just because we have an adult seat doesn’t mean we never say inappropriate things, though. I’ve been at meetings with other SEOs where the advice given, while solid from an SEO point of view, is sophomoric when it comes to the overall goals of the company. Just because one A/B test shows that a different color scheme works on a landing page does NOT justify changing an established brand’s graphic standards. Especially when the company has spent billions of dollars over the years to create that brand equity…

SEOs are starting to understand brand, but we haven’t worked hard enough to understand how branding can work with our goals. If I read one more article about how Google favors big brands in natural search, I’ll take my ball and go home like any good third grader. I don’t believe they do (it’s the signals brands give off that Google favors). But even if they don’t,  we may have to learn a lesson that my third grade teacher said very often: Life is not fair.

Google sometimes acts like my third grade teacher. I remember getting in trouble for something that I thought was OK to do. I remember her withholding information from the class because she thought it was for our own good. Sound familiar?

It’s time to grow up and stop whining. It’s also time to stand up for ourselves – and show that we do have value. We may not be adults in the world of marketing yet, but we certainly understand how the world works. Every kid has to endure a few bad teachers, but kids adapt and move forward. So should the SEO industry.