The ever-changing role of the SEO specialist has been a constant in my career for almost a decade. Let’s take a look at how things have changed and what you need to do in order to succeed in today’s industry.

Let’s head back to 2005, when I was doing some freelance SEO for a startup in Manchester, UK. My first paying client had a five-page website that was used as their ‘business card’. There was little or no original content on the site and further investigation showed it was full of duplicated content and links hidden within the page.

Surprisingly, for their main competitive keyword they were still appearing at the bottom of page one on So, as was best practice in 2005, we started on The Checklist:

Wap page example

WAP (wait and pay) page example

  1. Acquire as many links as possible for the site, being more concerned with quantity than quality.
  2. Use exact match anchor text for all links from external articles.
  3. Remember that external article site quality isn’t that important.
  4. Get one decent article produced then spin it five times, creating six useable articles.
  5. Use a keyword density target as the main criteria across their site.
  6. Think about their position within search first. User experience is secondary.
  7. Make sure their content reads well for search engines and don’t worry too much about the user experience.
  8. Make sure the title tag contains every one of their main keywords.
  9. Create a number of blog comments using automated software that links back to the main site.
  10. Mobile friendly… have you ever tried creating a WAP page?
  11. Link wheels work really well.

Most SEOs felt uncomfortable with the practices of old, but if everyone else was doing it and ranking for it then you had to be in it to win it. But return to 2013 in a post-Penguin and Panda world and we have a very different picture. The simplest way to achieve excellent SEO results today is to simply ensure you do the exact opposite of what the aforementioned Checklist tells you to do.

The search landscape, it can be argued, is more about being a generalist than a specialist. For example, the SEO manager of today needs to have a good grasp of copywriting skills, web development, social media, paid search, Google Analytics and at the same time be able to communicate effectively with a client asking for 300 links to their website.

There’s an interesting post on SEOmoz from someone new to the SEO game. She comes from the journalism sector and explains that her background in writing content has put her in great stead for a job in search. And she’s right. There’s no doubt that having a firm understanding of how content works in both search and for the user experience gives a great foundation to anybody starting out in SEO.

Read more: The Many Roles of an SEO Professional