Optimize it.

Whether you work as a consultant, agency or in-house, where search engine optimization (or another technical marketing channel) is highly emphasized, I’m sure you’ve been told to “optimize it” more than once.

optimize [op-tuh-mahyz] 
verb (used with object), optimized, optimizing.
1. to make as effective, perfect, or useful as possible.
2. to make the best of.

TL;DR: What started as an innocent phrase used by other digital consultants or clients who weren’t sure what it truly meant; has become an actual task. We need to make it more meaningful.

Surely the disconnect between the phrase and the task can be understood, right? Is it rooted in pure naivety after all? We are all on the same page, right? RIGHT?

Pause. Let’s rewind for just a second.

I’m a student of this trade first and foremost and always will be. Most passionate marketers I know are the exact same way. We live and breathe it.

All the fancy titles were created to attempt to specialize this technical work into more funneled definitions: strategist, analyst and practitioner.

Strategist: scopes all the work and direction with client, relays information 
Analyst: researches the best approach and measures success
Practitioner: executes direction and plans specific tasks

Of course, I know SEO isn’t an easy thing to fully-grasp. It isn’t an easy thing to explain to someone who doesn’t live in it everyday either.

Right now, textbooks from my college Spanish courses (that I passed) are sitting on my bookshelf as I’m typing. I don’t speak Spanish. If I’m not practicing or care to know it, I won’t.

It’s like when your dad tries to have a “man to man” talk to you about why the [insert car part name here] is messed up. Sure, you care — sort of. You know the [insert car part name here] is essential to keep your vehicle up and running.

Or at least you’ll believe it. You also start making excuses. Or at least I do.

Do I really need to know this stuff? Or can I know enough to “get by”?

It’s the exact same thing in SEO and any technical marketing practice.

Of course, a trained technical marketer could conjure up something when the task is assigned. Anyone can take a stab at a task called “optimize it” and turn it into something meaningful.

That’s what makes technical marketers so good at what we do. We’ve got to be able to extract exact meaning from inexact directions. If we dive into details every single time — retainers would be 5x as large as they are.

Details. Details. Details.

Put in the work. Do it well and reap the benefits.

A few years ago, I started exclusively doing SEO/SEM more than any other specific channels. I knew I had to get ahead of the game to get good and stay relevant. It was my responsibility to my clients. I had to do it fast.

I read and soaked up all the information out there. Logged many 50–60 hour weeks. Read too many blog posts and articles. I quickly came to a realization: this is a challenge. This field moves a lot. Tactics change and they change often.

But I also understood it was an investment of my time and energy. Not only for my immediate future but for my long-term career as well.

I readily accepted it. Since that day, I’ve been able to achieve great things for a wide range of clients in an insane amount of industries and verticals. I continue to do so. But this article isn’t about that.

Work in conditions that allows successes to manifest.

If you want to be good at something, you’ve got to put the work in. If you want to grow your knowledge base, you’ve got to study up.

It’s literally the only way. It’s not unique to SEO. It’s everything. It’s life. It’s the reason why “great marketers” surpass the “okay marketers” on the totem pole.

Never be afraid to ask questions, ever.

When it comes to communication around any specific technical marketing channel, you’ve got to take the time to practice it if you’re going to preach it.

In an agency setting, if you are going to assign a task like “optimize it” to a marketer, it’s your responsibility to know what it actually means. It’s our responsibility to turn it into something meaningful.

Are we talking about code? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about content? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about back-links? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about page speeds? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about user experience? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about meta descriptions? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about local directories? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about server errors? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about crawl issues? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about usability? I can optimize it.
Are we talking about bugs? I can optimize it.

As a practitioner, it’s our job to do whatever it takes to fully understand what “optimize it” means specific to the task.

Demystify the past and work towards a better communication stream. Let everyone know that technicality is our friend. Specificity is our strength. Ambiguity is our weakness.

If we don’t push back on unclear information, we’ll be swimming in it all day. I don’t want to swim in bad information all day.

Create successful patterns and eliminate depreciated systems if they don’t make you better.

Most of the time, we’ve got a limited amount of time to map out exactly what we want to achieve for a client. Time is the most valuable resource.

We know what works and what doesn’t. We’re constantly learning as we mature in our processes.

If there is something that consistently prevents us from being better or doesn’t allow us to grow as better marketers and communicators — eliminate it from the equation. Stop wasting time on it.

Let the pros be the pros. Seriously.

Stop trying to do everything. It’s impossible. It does more harm than good.

If it’s unclear how to speak to something, that’s okay and totally natural. No big deal at all. We all experience this. There’s no reason to think anyone can do everything. That’s insane.

In my role, it’s a luxury knowing there are specific people to go to with specific types of information. Establish who that is and take advantage of it.

Treat the pros like the pros they are and in return they will do the same.

If you have a question or concern, reach out. For me personally, I love it when someone asks me something directly. It means that I’m doing my job. It ensures me the person asking knows I’m the person to ask.

Let good communication mitigate risks.

If something hits my desk and I’m the wrong person for the task, I let it be known.

I know when to reach out to a designer if I need design changes or when to bring in a developer to help me debug something.

Telling a marketer to “optimize it” is equivalent to telling a designer to “design it” or a developer to “develop it”. It has to be clearly defined and identified.

Marketers in more technical verticals (same as web designers and developers) are masters of our crafts. Meaning, the more we know the more we can affect and use our strengths. Trust me, we want to be as helpful as possible.

Enjoy the buzz of meaningful work.

When there is good communication flow. People trust each other. Clients are happy, tasks are being assigned to the correct person and everyone is on the same page.

So next time you assign or get assigned something as ambiguous as “optimize it”, take a step back. Look at the bigger picture. Think about both sides and remember:

Technicality is our friend.
Specificity is our strength.
Ambiguity is our weakness.

Thanks for reading! Hope it helps. 
If you liked what you read find me on Twitter: @michaeldoesSEM

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