The Evolution of the SEO Mindset: A Call for Change

June 24, 202414 min read

The Evolution of the SEO Mindset: A Call for Change

Before you delve into this article, it's important to me that I establish my position: I advocate for ethical SEO, strictly adhering to white hat strategies. The content of this article is not intended for those who employ black hat tactics or seek to 'game the system. ' I do not associate with black hat SEOs, as I believe their methods are not only unethical but also a waste of time in the long-term. In order to be taken seriously, it is our collective responsibility to uphold the integrity of SEO practices.


If you have your own website where you want to employ different strategies, please do whatever you want. However, when employed by someone professionally, you have a duty to do what is in your company, client, or customers' best interest.

This is a letter of sorts or a calling from me to fellow SEOs to set the standard and stop letting people who have no idea about what we actually do determine how we operate in our profession.

SEO has drastically changed over the past six months, and websites, whether large or small, have felt the effects. With Google making multiple major changes to the search engine over the past 6 months, many SEOs find that their websites have fallen out of search, impacting their visibility and ability to gain organic traffic.

If you are in SEO circles online, you've likely seen people lose their jobs, clients, and, in some cases, their entire livelihoods due to these changes. While that is disheartening, it should be a wake-up call for companies to examine SEO's role in their marketing efforts.

The SEO problem: A disconnect

In my experience, most executives and senior leadership are not interested in learning what SEO can and cannot do. They lack the patience to build solid strategies that generate actual results. They only care about how much money SEO can make for their company without realizing how it actually works.

Unfortunately for SEOs like me, this typically means our results are constantly compared to the instant gratification paid ads bring. The same people who see SEO as a "black box" turn around and tell us that we need to produce results on their timeline. They learn a little bit about SEO and go full Dunning-Krueger, telling us how to do our jobs because they read one article online. We lose our worth, budgets, and jobs because companies and leadership do not find us valuable. They don't appreciate what we do or how we blend the art and science that is SEO.

While extremely frustrating, this is a great time for SEOs to reconsider how we present our value. How do we make sure we explain the return we are providing for our clients or companies? How do we convince leadership that just because a competitor is doing something doesn't mean we should do it, too? How do we temper expectations for executives who hear a buzzword and want you to implement it in everything you do (cough, cough, AI)?

More than an SEO: The complete user experience

For a couple of years, I've been trying to avoid calling myself an SEO—it's much too limiting. I am not only optimizing for search engine result pages (SERP). It is incredibly insulting to think that I am some bonafide link builder or simply implement new title tags or meta descriptions every couple of weeks. The truth of the matter is that most of the SEOs I personally know manage or influence the entire strategy for marketing websites.

I am optimizing for the entire user experience of organic web visitors. I am building brand awareness in hopes that someone who discovers us will come back and visit our site again. I am creating a pipeline of marketing or sales-qualified leads that can be used across different marketing channels and efforts—including our paid advertising counterparts. I am creating content to move various user personas down the marketing or sales funnel. I am ensuring that the website is accessible, performant, and adheres to best practices. I am conducting experiments to determine how to enhance our web experience for our visitors. I interview and listen to web visitors' or users' experiences to determine how to improve a website.

The SEO solution: A mindset change

I've struggled with how to remedy this disconnect between modern SEOs who are actually rolling up their sleeves to do the work and the executives and leaders who have minimal knowledge of our profession. The solution is not to develop an us vs. them mentality, even if it sometimes feels that way.

I understand that it gets tiring to constantly prove your worth to someone or an entity instead of focusing on producing results. It makes me think about how the designers who initially build a product or website are later laid off to hire someone cheaper to "maintain" what has already been built. Like most things that go wrong in my life, I've thought about what role I've played to result in the current circumstances. Furthermore, what could I have done or what should I do moving forward to make sure no one ever again questions the value I bring?

As SEOs, we must first examine ourselves and the current landscape. We all knew that AI was going to affect search results. We should all know that Google has been looking to devalue links in its algorithm for years. We know the best way to provide value to web visitors is to serve high-quality content that speaks to their pain points. So, how did we get here?

"Gaming" the system

One of the sayings I hear from many SEOs, whether black hat or not, is, "It works until it doesn't." That is true for some strategies. However, if you actually do what your prospective customers or current users want, you are future-proofed in a way that poor SEO strategies are not.

As SEOs, we know that Google tells us things that are absolutely not true. We know that Google is trying to make their money off their ads while telling SEOs they are keeping an even playing field. And any SEO worth their weight knows that you listen to what Google says and then test it for yourself.

SEOs have been able to "game" the system for many years. Even when Google told us not to, I know plenty of SEOs who, to this day, continue to buy links, create private blog networks (PBNs), and create content that has nothing to do with their product or service offering. In the past, they've been able to outrank people doing SEO the "right" way—especially if you're a big brand with recognition.

It is fairly obvious that Google is trying to figure out how to crack down on these sorts of practices. While they may no longer live by their "Do no evil" mantra, I genuinely believe they are trying to fix search. The fallout from the latest updates shows how many people have been trying to "trick" Google into ranking their websites.

And, yes, I do understand that there are some people who have been using white hat SEO tactics and still got hit. Instead of deciding that "SEO is dead" or something else drastic, take it as an opportunity to improve your methods.

As SEOs, it's imperative that we not only gain new technical and creative skills but also examine our current and prospective customers and determine what they really want from us. Anyone can buy bot traffic to improve metrics, but how does that translate into conversions or paying customers?

Finding new metrics that matter

Traditionally, SEOs are valued based on how much organic traffic they can drive to a website, but there are plenty of other metrics to measure that make sense to your industry or company. With most industries seeing a drop in organic traffic since Google has implemented its search generative experience (SGE), there is an opportunity to reevaluate what other metrics are valuable and what tools can help you measure them.

Take the time to meet with the other departments to determine their challenges and what they have tried to overcome them, and develop a comprehensive strategy. Break down the silos keeping you and other team members from coming together to be successful.

14 Actionable ways to implement modern SEO

With the implementation of AI-generated responses living at the top of the search, we should be looking at how to optimize or create content that can win those spots. Furthermore, as SEOs, we must understand where those opportunities are not winnable.

For example, if you had a website focusing on mathematical conversions, that's not likely a viable traffic source because those zero-click results no longer drive traffic.

Let's look at some other ways SEOs can create strategies that produce results.

  1. As Google continues to move away from rewarding content with a sales perspective, you should mirror this in your content strategies.
  2. Organizations focused on serving specific areas should tighten their local SEO strategies and create content only for those locations.
  3. Creating topic clusters and writing content for them is not enough. Users and search engines alike want to see that you have expertise in topics.
  4. With a boom in AI-created content, it is important that real experts or authors write or review the content you produce.
  5. Mobile users are not going anywhere, and we see a trend of more of them using voice search to find results. Make sure that when users ask questions, you provide succinct answers that actually help them.
  6. Gone are the days when Google could not identify images. Make sure your images have descriptive alt text and filenames. Users can now take a picture and upload it to search engines themselves. Use high-quality and original images that speak to your content and your brand.
  7. Google understands user behavior metrics. When you are rewarded with high-ranking results, but users quickly bounce from your website, Google knows your content is not valuable to searchers.
  8. Produce content at a regular and consistent pace. Your content production cadence is important, and your content needs to show your expertise, authoritativeness, and trustworthiness.
  9. Forget about word counts to an extent. While a 10,000-word treatise is likely unnecessary, write as much content as needed to explain concepts to visitors.
  10. Create complementary or supplementary strategies with your paid search teams. SEOs and paid search professionals are not enemies, and even though we have different goals, we can work together to create comprehensive marketing strategies that work.
  11. Understand that SEO is more than the SERP. There are many channels you can use to help drive targeted organic or organic-influenced traffic to your website. When you create content, utilize your other channels to help get the word out.
  12. Improve your product. This seems simple, but I cannot tell you how many companies have terrible products that don't deliver on their promises and want SEOs to "fix" that perception.
  13. Work on your soft skills. Understand what strategies you want to implement and why. Be prepared to defend your thoughts to leadership or other stakeholders who do not understand the purpose of SEO.
  14. Up your skills. SEOs need to wear many hats to be successful. Understand the technical aspects of SEO, learn how to use data visualization skills to tell a story, or learn UX best practices to optimize your websites properly.


SEO is not dead by any means, and I genuinely feel bad for people who think that is the case. The SEO landscape is changing, and as in any other industry, it is our job to keep up with the times and the skills that will allow us to continue to be successful.

I understand it can be discouraging, especially if you have lost significant traffic or been laid off due to some of Google's changes. Understand that SEO is not a "black box" but, instead, a unique and specialized practice that will continue in the future, even if it looks different.

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Ekom Enyong is an organic search (SEO) professional with a career spanning over 10 years crafting search strategies, optimizing digital experiences, and connecting brands with high-intent users.

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