I remember the first time I met Eric Nagel. It was at Affiliate Summit West 2010 and we both attended the Newcomer’s Session (I was the Newcomer). He handed me his business card and it was scratch and sniff over an image of a Tim Horton’s coffee cup. We bonded over being two Americans with convenient access to the Canadian favorite. He wrote this guest post.
When I was much younger, I can remember getting our first computer (an Apple IIe clone by Franklin) and deciding at that point that when I grew up, I wanted to work on computers. At the time, that was enough:
to work on computers.
The more I used computers, the more I realized that hardware and software were two different things, and I enjoyed programming (the software side). So I narrowed my focus: I wanted to program computers.
Being a programmer was good enough for a few years, until I discovered the Internet. Actually, it was a little before the graphical web when I was building HyperStacks on my IIGS (think of it as a self-contained website). But once I got online, I wanted to expand the World Wide Web and began building websites. A major leap forward happened in 1996, when I interned at a web design company in Buffalo, NY and was introduced to Netscape Navigator and the graphical web (before then I was using Lynx, a text-only web browser). In 1996, I wanted to build websites.
For the next few years, I built websites: created the graphics, did the HTML layout, and programmed the Perl scripts. As I did all of this, I realized it was the programming that I enjoyed, and I focused on being a web programmer.
1999 rolled around, and I took a job at another website design company, this time as their lead Flash developer (I could make a logo move across the screen). Although I told them I was a programmer, I was given tasks for basic HTML work. When I started taking tasks from the other programmers and completing them quickly and accurately, they moved me into the programming department.
Fast forward a few years… I went through programming, to supervising programmers (because, if you’re a good programmer, surely you must be good at managing other programmers, right?), to managing all of the operations in this web design shop.
When I left there, I returned my focus to web programming, but became more and more interested in Internet marketing. Soon, I referred to myself as a PHP Programmer and Internet Marketer.
But even that was too broad of a stroke. Internet marketing can be SEO, PPC, Social Media, and E-mail Marketing. While I’ve dabbled in each of these areas, I don’t do much with E-mail, haven’t touched PPC in years, and only use social media for myself. So, I focus on SEO.
I was recently in a meeting with a client, and their Internet marketing team, which now consisted of the lead techie, the project manager, the SEO guy (that’s me), and the e-mail marketing consultant. The topic of Social Media came up, and we discussed bringing someone else in. Same with Pay Per Click. We haven’t even talked about landing page optimization and A/B split testing.
What used to be the job of one or two people can now be broken down into 6-8 specialists. At the same time, my goal (set when I was 9 years old) of working on computers has narrowed down time and time again. What’s next?
Who knows… maybe SEO will be broken down into on-site and off-site SEO. Maybe your Social Media guy will focus on Facebook, and you’ll have to find someone else to manage Twitter. Or maybe you’ll have to bring in another programmer who specializes in optimizing code to run as efficiently and quickly as possible, to decrease load time and increase user satisfaction.
My point is: if you’re a freelance worker or consultant, specialize. Pick one thing, and do it great. Do it better than anyone else. I’m not saying ignore everything else (I can still do PPC, set-up an E-mail newsletter, and hack away at CSS), but focus on the thing you love.
If you’re looking to hire for these positions, know what you’re getting into. One person is not going to be your designer, programmer and SEO, and be the absolute best at all three positions. Sure, you may find someone that knows enough to be good at these things, but to find the best you need to hire the specialists.
Eric Nagel is an affiliate, PHP Programmer and Internet Marketing Consultant. You can follow Eric on Twitter at @ericnagel.
Kush A. says
Well said, one may know enough to do this and that (points at self) but a pro who specializes can and will rock the house.