I recently had an interesting Twitter conversation with Bill Slawski from seobythesea.com and Dr. Pete from SEOmoz around different college degrees and how well they prepare you for SEO. If you’re interested, you can go through the conversation below, otherwise, skip on down.
Over the last few days the conversation has continued to stick in my head as I’ve often wondered how SEO could be pushed into the traditional educational world. I personally have found my own degree combination of an MBA with a heavy dose of psychology rather beneficial for SEO. I have to say, I’m not that surprised though as SEO tends to be a mix of disciplines and there are certainly multiple paths that can prepare you well for life in the field.
That being said, I’m curious, if you had to choose a degree to recommend to someone who’s interested in SEO, what would it be?
At the moment I’m leaning toward psychology and I think I have a decent case as to why - please tell my why I’m wrong.
Psychology is about people. SEO, when done well, is about people.
The word Psychology comes from a pair of Greek words that mean “soul”, “breathe”, or “mind” and “study of”. In many ways I don’t think there is a better way of describing the essence of SEO. Oddly enough, good SEO is the study of (and implementation based on) an algorithmic mind that is designed to satisfy human desire based on input. This isn't a person, however, because of this, I believe SEO is also the study of the people tapping into that mind as well.
Let me put it another way, SEO is the art (and science) of understanding how people interact with this algorithmic mind in various situations, and how that mind intern attempts to satisfy their desires. After all, what are search engines other than computerized attempts at being the biggest smartass know-it-alls in the world (which is a very human trait)? You might say they don't bring human emotion into it, but I'm willing to be if they could understand our moods and build results based on that they certainly would. Arguably, they are actually doing that to some degree by looking for ways to better understand how we interact with each other.
Because of this, those who are able to naturally understand humans, how they interact, how they think, etc., those who have studied these aspects academically, or those who are fortunate enough to have naturally high EQ’s and have studied more of the science (no matter how soft you think it is) behind who we are and why we do what we do have an advantage in this field.
side note: Longest sentence ever right!?
If you understand people, you can understand what Google, Bing, and the others are trying to do. You then need only (if it were only so easy...) to understand how they try and tell their machine mind to understand human behavior. BTW - this is why I enjoy Bill Slawski's work so much. He brings to light information that exposes their attempts at understanding us and translating it to computer speak.
Google is focused on it
I had a professor once tell me that if you really want to know what’s important to someone, look where they spend their money. I’ve thought of that often and find it to be rather accurate. I think the same principle applies in business.
Just the other day I came across an article from a few months ago written by AJ Kohn - that talks about where Google is choosing to invest some of their loot. While I wasn’t overly impressed with the amount considering what Google’s probably got in the bank, any time a company throws around a million dollars and then finds a way to talk about it, it’s usually good to pay attention. So, where did they spend it? They gave 1.2 million to support the “Social Interactions Research Awards”. Not bad. The post mentioned above, which I highly recommend reading BTW, has some great quotes pulled from the event where the announcement was made if you’re interested.
Essentially, they’re investing in big data to help understand how people interact online. They’re investing in psychological studies.
Watch where the money goes...
Business and marketing basics change rapidly and expertise abounds
If you move into the business world, there are a lot of very talented, bright, people with business degrees that can teach you pretty much everything under the sun about marketing. However, it’s much harder to come across individuals who are both knowledgeable enough to apply psychological studies and appropriate information in the business world. You can learn business when you’re actually working in business - it’s not that hard, but it is far harder to gain a depth of knowledge in a generally “unrelated” field such as psychology when you’re on the job selling widgets. Yet, it appears to directly apply.
I’ll also add with this that you can pick up business thinking/logic/analytical abilities (if you’ve got the mental muscle to do so) on the job, especially if you’re in the right field or hangout on the right blogs.
Like I said, you think I’m crazy? I’d like to hear why and what you’d recommend to all those future SEOs going the traditional route.