It’s not because SEO is particularly difficult. Let’s be clear — SEO is not rocket science or brain surgery. It does not take exceptional intellect to make it in the industry.
Even if you did have exceptional intellect, it wouldn’t do you much good. In SEO, the right attitude and a true appreciation for the wider contexts that underpin search engine optimization are a more reliable predictor of long-term success than anything else we’ve seen.
We could stop right there. However, in our many years in the industry, we’ve found that the way Filipino SEO professionals fail in their careers tends to have some oddly-specific commonalities.
Here are some of the more common reasons we’ve observed:
1) We Underestimate the SEO Career Path
Not everyone who gets into the SEO career path understands the true potential of their field. Starting salaries in SEO are comparable to or slightly higher than what’s typical for Philippine BPOs, which is to say, they will help you get a decent life but it won’t be enough to buy a car, let alone a house.
What’s more, not everyone gets into SEO on purpose. A lot of younger copywriters and web developers, for example, get into SEO hoping to use the job as a springboard to another career path.
Taken together, this means that a lot of people who get into an SEO career may not necessarily want to see it through. Consequently, they won’t get the financial and personal rewards that come with success in the industry.
2) We Underestimate Ourselves
While Filipinos are still largely disadvantaged compared to our Western counterparts, the gap is already very narrow and is even non-existent in many cases. This is especially true for fields like SEO, where virtually all the knowledge you could ever need to succeed is readily accessible online.
Of course, you can’t succeed at SEO or anything else unless you try. Unfortunately, centuries of colonialism have left baseline Filipino culture with a serious inferiority complex that keeps many talented professionals from seizing opportunities.
However, the idea that Filipino talents are somehow inferior is not borne in reality. Skilled labor is one of the country’s biggest exports and almost every Filipino family has at least a couple of family members who have excelled overseas. What’s more, multinational BPOs keep hiring locally-based Filipinos for job positions that could make or break their businesses.
This is all to say that, if you want to be a world-class SEO talent, there is not much that stands in your way except for your own outlook. If you can change that, you can and will succeed as an SEO.
3) Action Faking
Action faking is when we do things that are superficially productive but do not actually contribute to any substantial progress. In other words, it’s when someone confuses being busy with actually being productive. Oftentimes, action faking is done in a ritualistic manner that implies a reliance on blind faith rather than logic.
While action faking certainly isn’t an exclusively Filipino trait, Filipino SEO professionals have become quite notorious for this. For example, it’s not unusual for some SEOs to spend a whole day doing keyword research, compiling hundreds of keywords when they can only realistically target a small handful. Similarly, some link builders may complete an impressive number of links — that return zero or negative value to your landing page.
It’s not just SEOs in the lower rungs of the career ladder who are guilty of action faking either. We’ve all had bosses who engage in countless meetings (and if you’re Filipino, meetings to plan future meetings) that eat up countless hours without actually doing anything to push their landing pages up Google’s search results. So long as action faking persists throughout the local SEO scene, it will continue to be a common cause of premature failure.
4) We Only Learn What We’re Taught
Unless you’re particularly lucky to have a good mentor or to be in a great marketing department or agency that encourages cross-training, your first few years as an SEO will give you very limited exposure to the field. Even if you had a great mentor and a dynamic team, chances are that your direct responsibilities will be fairly small, which means that you will probably only have mastery in a narrow area of SEO.
This can be a problem because SEO is a hugely multidisciplinary field within the much bigger field of marketing. You don’t need to be great at everything to excel in SEO but if you want to be able to start an SEO agency or manage a team of specialists, having a certain level of competence in different areas of SEO, digital marketing, and even traditional sales will be highly important. Additionally, you’ll need to learn these on top of core management and entrepreneurial skills.
Of course — no one is going to teach you all of the skills you need to be competent in all of those areas. Neither will anyone give you all the responsibilities that will force you to develop your aptitude in these disciplines. Learning anything beyond your current scope will be mostly up to you.
Not everyone has the privilege of time or a support network that can help them be more proficient in those areas. But from what we’ve seen, plenty of people with the right resources squander all their opportunities anyway.
5) We Demand Too Much Too Soon
A lot of privileged Filipinos are in the habit of thinking they know more and deserve more than they actually do.
Going back to the previous point, SEO is an incredibly vast field. Unfortunately, not everyone has an idea of how vast it really is. As a result, a lot of people who are only SEOs in name want to get huge salaries simply for knowing very simple digital marketing concepts.
Wanting a big salary isn’t always a bad thing but it might set you up for disappointment. The biggest and most competitive SEO agencies and digital marketing departments are extremely picky, which means SEOs who don’t live up to their promise rarely last more than a couple of years.
When people get salaries that are well out of proportion to their real skills and experience, they have to do what they can to make sure that they become worth what they are paid — ASAP. If they don’t, they will, one way or another, eventually be prematurely forced out of their careers.
Unfortunately, if these under-qualified folks don’t quit the SEO life, they will probably land an SEO job at an agency or marketing department that doesn’t understand what it’s doing, hampering everyone’s long-term prospects for growth.
6) We Don’t Expand Our Hard Skills
However, you don’t necessarily have to be the absolute best at everything to further your career. In most cases, you just need to be fairly competent in as many areas as you can manage. This cross-competency will give you a more complete perspective of how to take websites up through Google’s SERPs, permitting you to be flexible regardless of the challenges you meet.
Another reason you’ll want to expand on your hard skills is that it will make you a rare commodity in the wider SEO market. The fact that so few are willing or able to take on the uncomfortable challenge of expanding their hard skills will mean that you can rightfully command higher rates from clients or employers who stand to benefit from your more expansive skillset.
Lastly and most importantly, widening your set of hard skills gives you the credibility to effectively assess the work performed by the people you work with or manage. This makes cross-training important for SEOs that want to climb up the corporate ladder in a marketing department and a non-negotiable thing for those that want to eventually start their own agency.
7) We Don’t Improve Our Soft Skills
If hard skills are quantifiable, then soft skills are just the opposite. Soft skills include such things as communication skills, creativity, gravitas, self-awareness, stress management, critical thinking, emotional regulation, and so on. Basically, things that Philippine society tends to regard as less important.
However, just because they are difficult to define and quantify, it doesn’t mean that they are any less critical than hard skills. On the contrary.
Cultivating your soft skills will give you the discernment to make effective strategic and tactical decisions throughout your entire career. It’s your aptitude with soft skills that will win promotions and earn you loyal clients. It’s these same skills that convince people smarter, more experienced, more talented, or more powerful than you to trust you, and this has to happen if you want to further your career.
While there are many different soft skills to cultivate, a specific one that Filipino SEOs should pay more attention to is their English grammar in their written communication. Today, there is no reason why anyone cannot write an email or turn in a report with acceptable grammar, yet this is a thing many Filipino SEOs in fail at. This is a shame, because it ends reduces trust and ends up wasting one’s potential.
As unfair as it seems, the importance of these hard-to-define skills will not go away any time soon. If you want your SEO career to expand beyond simple technical tasks, then it will be necessary to develop your soft skills.
When Filipino SEOs fail, it is overwhelmingly due to one or more of the reasons above. A failure to update and contextualize technical knowledge, poor soft skills, internalized inferiority, and a failure to appreciate big-picture ideas all contribute to short and uneventful SEO careers.
And that’s all OK. Not everyone can be an SEO. Many people simply have talents that are better suited for other pursuits and industries.
However, if you choose, you can definitely build a lasting career in search optimization. Success in the SEO industry is more a matter of readapting your perspectives, putting in meaningful work to support your professional goals, and understanding where others went wrong. By doing all these, you can begin to build the foundations of a long, sustainable, and satisfying SEO career.
Do you agree with our observations? If you’d like to offer a different perspective or talk about your experiences as an SEO, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’d love to hear from you.