Airo Security Declare: 20 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Working in the SEO Ind... - Jonathan Cartu - Advertisement & Marketing Agency.
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Airo Security Declare: 20 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Working in the SEO Ind…

20 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Working in the SEO Ind...

Airo Security Declare: 20 Things I Learned From 20 Years of Working in the SEO Ind…

Being an SEO professional has its challenges and its rewards.

After working for in the SEO industry for more than 20 years, I have come to learn a lot about myself and the peculiarities that come with optimizing websites.

I started my career in 2000 optimizing my pet supply website for search engines Excite and Lycos.

I learned from Microsoft’s bCentral for Business helpful tips and search engine submission.

My career took a turn when I jumped from the pet industry to the SEO industry working for an agency.

Since then I have managed SEO as a consultant and in-house for startups, medium, and enterprise organizations.

I now manage SEO for one of the largest and well-known companies in the technology world and throughout my years, I have come to learn a lot.

Now that I have reached my 20-year mark, I felt it was perfect timing to share the 20 most important lessons I have learned working in SEO as the landscape of search engine optimization has drastically made twists and turns.


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With that has come lessons from 20 years of working on many different types of websites and organizations.

1. Things Change

In the early years of SEO, optimizing a website was less of a challenge than what SEO professionals face today.

You could pick a few keywords to work into a website’s content, in the title, description, and keyword meta tag.

They would submit the website to search engines and various directories to find the site would drive traffic and business would pick up.

There were no keyword tools or analytics, but there also wasn’t much competition.

Now there are more complex algorithms that filter out spam and black hat SEO tactics.

There is personalization, localization, machine learning, neural matching, RankBrain, and E-A-T (Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trustworthiness).

We have insights into keyword data, complex data-driven environments, analytics, and data science that drive the strategies we choose to make for optimization.

SEO has become a complex and more challenging world that is ever evolving.


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2. SEO Was Dominated by Men – Not Anymore

Being a woman in SEO, I have taken notice of my surroundings and the people that I have come to know in this industry.

In the early years, search publications, agencies, conferences and reputable blogs were dominated by our male counterparts.

There have been many speculations as to why that is, but the number of women who are in SEO – and those who are being recognized for their work – is changing.

I have seen more women applying and interviewing for roles I have had open.

There are more women speaking at conferences than in the past.

There is even a Women in Tech SEO organization started by Areej AbuAli, who is transforming the way SEO pros look at women in our industry.

The women in SEO today all have the early adopters of SEO that include Rhea Drysdale, Dana Lookadoo, Ann Smarty, Lisa Myers, Jackie Hole, Laura Lippay, Cindy Krum, and my personal closest friend and mentor, the co-founder of, Gillian Muessig.

These ladies lead the industry and paved the way for the women that are now taking SEO by storm.

You can support women in SEO by giving them a follow on Twitter (check out my SEO Women list and Enterprise SEO Women list) and give them a seat at the table.

3. It’s More Than Just Knowing SEO

An SEO professional who delves outside of their roles and responsibilities will allow for creative approaches to solving problems.

SEO is about:

  • Knowing the keywords a user is searching.
  • Having an understanding of why they are searching it and what they are expecting to get out of the result.

Going beyond keywords in the content, URL structure, and structured data shows your users that your site is exactly what they are looking for.

Having an eye for design, a feeling for usability, marketing toward a target audience, and understanding the technology that makes a site run will aid in the overall success of SEO.


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4. Tech Is Important

I can count on both hands the number of times I have been turned down for roles in SEO because I wasn’t technical enough.

While I may have started my career out as a developer and I tried to keep up with the latest technologies, I seemed to often come up short in my knowledge for some roles.

Ten years ago, I made it my goal to be the smartest in technical SEO that I possibly could and to know how to work on a large scale website – both backend and front-end – the same as the engineering team would.

That hard work has paid off in my career.

I can edit parts of the site just as any engineer would (which comes in handy when resourcing for SEO) and I am able to come up with creative solutions to extremely complex problems.

5. Relationships Are Important

To be successful at SEO, you need to know more than the best practices.


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I often say that 90% of success in SEO is relying on the people you work with.

If you can’t convince engineers, content writers, designers, and even the stakeholders within an organization, then the effort optimization will be low and can lead to a lack of results.

If leadership within an organization doesn’t understand or believe in SEO, then the work that supports SEO won’t get prioritized and therefore could take months or could never get done.

If content writers don’t understand SEO then they won’t worry about the balance of keywords and synonyms.

If engineers are complacent about optimization then the site will have issues that drive the quality of the domain down.

I speak to this in more detail in my Search Engine Journal article Why Enterprise SEO Needs a Champion.

Getting buy-in from others and finding your champion within the organization will help get work for SEO completed and ultimately drive results for the business.


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6. Argue without Arguing

Search engine optimization is often reliant on the SEO fighting for the work to get done.

While frustration is a daily occurrence in…


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