I have worked with SEO since 2001 and the early days of Google. I have never professed myself to be an SEO expert, mainly because I didn't want to be seen as an SEO person. My love has always been with coding and developing websites and I didn't want to be taken away from the IT team to start working with the marketing department. However, I enjoyed learning about the different changes that Google was making to its algorithm in order to make search results better. I remember when you could easily manipulate search rankings by using keyword-stuffed title tags, hidden text, and spammy links. Once that went away then it became getting links from other high-ranking sites and the start of blog comment spam. Now it's manipulating your page in order to create a fast-loading page for the Google bot while showing the end-user the real page.
The reason why I have hated SEO and tried to stay away from that term is that so many "SEO" companies focus on trying to get you ranked rather than providing a good user experience. It's more about determining the precise keywords you want to rank for based on how many search queries they get, rather than making content that is relevant to your customer. One thing we have seen Google do over the past 20 years is consistently changing its rankings to provide the best results to its users for what they are searching for. Every time there is a change, you hear a cry from those whose ranking technique just took a hit, and now their pages are suffering. If the focus had been on creating a good user experience for the customer, then it's likely that their rank would have improved.
Another reason why I hate SEO is that most SEO experts cannot tell you why or how you should do something, only that you should do it. Here's an example from a company that I worked with in the past. A client of mine had hired a top local SEO company to do an SEO audit on their site. The SEO audit was the same type of audit you will get from 80% of the SEO companies out there and listed pages missing title tags, meta keywords, meta descriptions, etc... The same audit that everyone has been using for the past 10+ years. At the end of that audit, it also included two items saying that canonicals were needed and that schema was needed. This was years ago when Google was starting to handle these two items. I asked the company how they wanted me to set up canonicals and schema. I was told they didn't know and only included it in their audit because an article they read said websites should use them. These were the supposed "experts" in SEO, yet it was up to me the developer to research and determine how to set it up.
The reason why I love SEO is that it can be turned into a game to see if you can get a higher score. There are many tools out there to help you score your website on different factors such as performance, security, and ADA compliance. I like to see how I can set a new high score, and along with it making the website better for users. Making a website load 3 seconds faster, might not seem like much. But when you are in a low-bandwidth area and that page actually loads now where it might not have loaded before is a big deal. There are still many people in areas without high-speed internet that appreciate it when a site responds quickly. Going back to my first point, these are factors that not only help with your rankings but also provide a better experience for customers.
I'm now getting back into SEO because I have learned that I do have a passion for it and I am seeing the merging of development and SEO bringing together a good customer experience. I enjoy testing theories about SEO and how the Googlebot might handle some of the new technologies that we have access to. I also enjoy seeing how I can improve website performance and pass along some of those tips to others. My goal this year is to test, blog, present, and report about what I am learning and help others create a good customer experience.