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SEO and the Humanities

June 15th, 2012

by Thomas Doane-Swanson

When I graduated from college with an English degree (without a teaching certificate) at the beginning of the recession, I surveyed my known job-prospects, juxtaposed these against my debt-to-income ratio, and came to the devastating conclusion that I would have to work as a bartender for the rest of my life. Continuing along this trajectory, I would finish paying off my student loans sometime around what had formerly been considered “retirement age.”

Thankfully pessimism about my future prospects was totally unfounded. My analytical reading skills came in handy when I found a job doing document review for a human rights law firm in Washington D.C., and then later the whole spectrum of skills I learned as an English Major–intensive research, analytical reading, writing, creative thinking etc.–would be put to use when I landed a job in Internet marketing first at SmallBox Web Design and later here at Slingshot SEO.

It turns out that, thanks to Google, it’s an extremely exciting time to be a humanities major who’s been dumped into a tough job market. If you find yourself in these circumstances, as long as you possess certain other character traits and skills–such as being competitive, adaptable and competent at Excel–there is likely a place for you in the ranks of the Internet marketing industry.

As an inbound marketing specialist at Slingshot SEO, I live and work in the linguistic equivalent of the trading floor on Wall St. I occupy the epistemological edge where the rapidly evolving digital collective consciousness of humanity overlaps with emergent market forces. What I’m doing while I’m here is making sure that my clients are making money from traffic flowing through the constellation of terms and keyword phrases that best describe their products and services. Among other things.

Are you interested in getting involved? Check out the table below to see where you might fit in:

MajorTransferable SkillsEnglishCritical thinking, analytical reading, and composition: at this point, these are all core skills for many SEO positions. Crucially, you are a creative thinker (you’d better be) and you’re good at ideation–you can dream up ways to turn bare bones concepts into fully fleshed out content. For those of us who thought that writing–as a profession of any kind–was going the way of the Dodo over the last decade, we’re pleasantly surprised that there is now a huge demand for our skills in the Internet marketing field.Linguistics and PhilosophyYou understand the rules of formal logic and are  familiar with complex algorithms? You’re a master of deconstructing text to its gestural and semantic constituent components? You’ve got a little bit of programming knowledge under your belt? Beautiful. We want people like you to work for us.Art and DesignCRO & UX are technically still separate disciplines that don’t fall under the umbrella of SEO. But in the same way SEO has fused together with copywriting, content management and content marketing over the past few years, in the future, the SEO value of UX and CRO will become ever more valuable. If–by this time–your SEO agency isn’t in touch with UX consultants it soon will be.Social SciencesMost university programs for the social sciences make sure that you know how to perform quantitative and qualitative research, so you’ll be an expert at analyzing graphs, statistics in flux, as well as (hopefully) interacting with people and convincing them to give you information. Great! These are all highly desirable skills for an SEO company. Learning how to leverage and strategize around the information available to you via SEO Analytics platforms is going to be a snap for you.Foreign LanguagesYour skills, once combined with SEO knowledge & competencies, might make you valuable as an international SEO–an extremely understaffed and under-leveraged discipline within the field. Especially for multi-nationals, your market doesn’t necessarily speak English or use the American Version of Google that we are accustomed to. They might use Google Brasil or Baidu. And that’s where your skillset comes in.

Even if you’re part of some discipline that’s not listed above, what’s important is that you’re extremely creative, good at ideation and that you can (at least, potentially) be very good at organization and tracking. Based on recent data from a Millenum Branding study on the Student Employment Gap, which says that 30 percent of employers surveyed were recruiting liberal arts types and only 18 percent were hiring finance and accounting majors, I’m going to hazard a guess that these skills are well-represented in humanities graduates and less so in traditional B-School majors.

Furthermore, communication was cited as the number 1 most important skill in the study. And where better to turn to find communicators than the humanities, where people are basically being taught how to express themselves?

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