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Where Do I Fit?

December 11, 2017

I love the process of organizing and a part of that includes finding the appropriate words to describe a particular thing. In working with clients, I obsess over the best words to use in navigation or in links—not just the best word to drive clicks but also the best word to capture the intentionality of that link. I obsessed over every word of my book to the extent I’m surprised I agreed to stop editing. Same goes for presentations. I even have an old blog post obsessing over the definition of a problem.

Yet, the one term I can’t really figure out is how to describe the work I do: do I describe it as SEO, UX, CRO, IA, analytics or something broader like “web consultant”? I know I’m not alone struggling to define the work I do, which is a hybrid of all of these fields. Indulge my pedantic ways as I try to sort this out…

Sure, the work we do at Elementive does relate to SEO. Many of the changes we recommend people make to their website’s structure and content help people earn higher search rankings and bring more traffic to their websites. We often conduct keyword research and will revise title or description tags, undeniably core SEO tasks. I do a lot of work on the technical SEO side—including working through redirect hairballs, SSL rollouts, schema markup, and more. But, unlike an SEO at Elementive, we really don’t focus on link building or outreach, which are also core aspects of SEO.

Of course, all those on page changes we’re making usually have search ranking goals as a secondary focus. Mainly, clients hire us at Elementive to help increase conversions—calls, leads, sales, orders, signups, downloads, or more. And, the cool thing is that in 2017 a lot of what helps increase conversions also helps to increase search performance. So…maybe my work is CRO instead of SEO?

But it isn’t just about getting conversions for clients. I’m a firm believer that you have to pay attention to the needs of the people who are visiting your website—you can drive conversions in ways that are terrible for the end user. To be sure, this focus on users does help to improve conversions (especially in the long term) but it also means that you create a better website more generally. So, along with doing things to push toward conversions, I also help clients work to improve their user experience (UX)—and doing so in a way that helps the organization but also in a way that helps the people visiting the website.

A large part of how we help clients improve conversions, improve their user experience, and improve their search performance, is by improving their website’s information architecture (IA). IA is all about making it easy for people to find things, use things, and understand things. That pretty much sums up what we do at Elementive for clients, so is the work I do IA? In many ways, yes.

Finally, at the core of all of this work is data. To help figure out how to help visitors, we spend a lot of time at Elementive helping clients dig deep into their stats to measure all the things that are really hard to measure. This work is vital to being able to get a clear handle on where the problems and opportunities are. So, are we data scientists? Yeah, very much so—we are constantly reviewing sets of data and running experiments to find the best ways to improve the experiences visitors have on a website, in order to find new ways to increase engagement, conversions, and traffic from search engines. But we go beyond just reviewing the data and setting up the various analytics reports and tools, to also help clients use that data to improve the website.

The work I do, and the work we do at Elementive, is really a hybrid of these fields. For that matter, I doubt if there really is a distinction between these fields for the large majority of people working on websites and apps. To be successful, you have to look at the data, you have to think about getting users to engage, you have to think about the business needs and push for conversions, and you also need to pay attention to performing better in Google too since that is directly and indirectly important to the general health of most websites.

In short, IA, UX, CRO, SEO, data analysis, and other fields are distinct but, in many ways, the distinctions don’t matter as much as the results that can be delivered when the people working on these fields forget the labels. And results do happen when these disciplines become tools for the people working on the website to use, not job descriptions describing exactly what each person on a team does. When these fields become job descriptions, people put up barriers—that is the job for an SEO, that is the job for CRO, etc. To my way of thinking, nobody should be allowed to work on “CRO” without also having to work on “UX” and nobody should work on a website’s “IA” without also working on the site’s “SEO” (and so on). Many do put up these barriers, which is quite sad. These fields relate and need to go together.

So, what label should I use to describe the work I do? I still don’t know. Web Consultant seems quite broad to the point of being unhelpfully vague. Of course, DATA-CRO-SEO-IA-UX Consultant seems overly detailed and somewhat frightening spelled out.  What do you think? It would be great to hear your ideas.

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