Jono Alderson Joins the Distilled Family

Hey, folks! Today marks me joining Distilled as principal consultant, based out of London. It’s been a move a long-time in the making, and I’m thrilled to be on board.

I’ll be rolling my sleeves up as part of the team, working with clients, developing internal projects, and waving my arms around on stage. I’ll be leaning on, and contributing to, the great work and thinking that Distilled already produces, to help drive us and our clients forwards.

It’s great to be back in the consulting game, and I’m looking forward to doing some great work with ambitious brands.

So… I’m keeping a bunch of space free in my calendar to catch up with everybody over the festive period, and to explore opportunities. If you fancy a coffee and/or a chat (or if you’ve just been desperately waiting for me to get back into consulting), you can grab me on Twitter or LinkedIn, or via the website.

...And if we haven’t met yet, hello! I’m a geek, a techie, a foodie, a cat person, an amateur futurologist, and obsessed with optimising all of the things, all of the time. You can find out more about me here.

I can’t get across how excited I am to be working with some of the people who shaped my thinking for years, who I’ve looked up to and been inspired by. Now I get the opportunity to add my own skills and experience to Distilled’s already formidable lineup, and to take on the world.

Me on stage at SearchLove London 2015

For years, working with Distilled has been a pipe dream. I’ve attended conferences, read blog posts, and hung out with the team. I’ve been impressed, compelled to act and grow, and to push myself to meet their standards. And as I’ve watched the industry mature, the Distilled name and its team (and alumni) have been a constant voice in the most interesting, challenging, and forward-thinking conversations.

Turbulent times for the industry

Now, more than ever, having those kinds of conversations is critical. It’s not enough to maintain the status quo or to rely on last year’s tactics.

We’re witnessing tectonic changes in how people search, which affect our businesses and clients in new and challenging ways. Simultaneously, the broader digital landscape continues to change and accelerate faster than ever.

We’re dealing with emerging and evolving platforms and technologies; AMP, mobile-first indexing, driverless cars, intelligent homes and personal assistants, to name just a few.

It’s not long before we’ll need to seriously consider whether we need to think about how to rank a website on Mars. We’ll have a colony there, in a few decades. What search engine will they use? Who’ll win, and who’ll lose, based on what factors? You can guarantee that a client or stakeholder will ask, soon. What’s your answer?

SEO on Mars? Image source: ESO/M. Kornmesser

The world spins around, and it’s a lot to juggle.

We’re entering a time of unknowns, new experiences, and new challenges.

So we race to stay ahead of the curve, as we assess how Google, other players, and our competitors change their own models to adapt. We learn from each other.

We support our businesses and clients as best we can, when we don’t always have all of the answers - when, frequently, there aren’t any answers, and we have to use our intuition, experience and skills to engineer the best solutions we can. These solutions become the building blocks for others, and for further exploration.

Moving beyond T-shaped

From a personal perspective, flying this close to the cutting edge is exhilarating. We’re shaping the Internet. The changes we recommend and make, make the world - in a small way - a better (or at least, more interesting) place.

But for everything I learn or know, there’s a mountain I’ve missed, forgotten, or don’t understand. And it keeps me up at night that I don’t have all the answers; that there’s more to read, and more that I need to learn. If I push hard enough, maybe I can stay ahead of the curve, be an expert in all of it, and stay at the top of my game.

Except, I know that this isn’t realistic. I don’t think that I, or anybody else, has the breadth of skills or capacity to stay on top of all of the disciplines our remit encapsulates, all of the time. There’s simply too much - and the gap is widening.

Today, we already need to be deeply technical developers, sophisticated PRs, brand strategists, consumer psychologists, compelling writers, emotive designers, trained negotiators, and a hundred other things. Tomorrow, we’ll need to be a hundred more, too. Effective SEO increasingly requires joined-up bits of many of these disciplines, and it’s frequently too much to do alone.

But, increasingly, some of it isn’t enough. In competitive spaces, even if you cover 90% of these areas, having just one weak pillar (e.g., a flawed technical foundation, a poor brand reputation, generic copy, etc) can result in stagnation and even failure - despite good work elsewhere. A balanced digital scorecard, and the skills to support all of it, are critical.

The oft aspired to T-shaped skill set - where an individual is a strong expert in one topic, whilst reasonably well-versed in many others - is no longer enough to ‘do SEO’. That’s why, often, we choose either to specialise as individual practitioners or to collaborate as part of a team.

I believe, both now and in the future, effective SEO relies on excellent people, collaborating effectively across the many disciplines we’re required to be experts in, to effect meaningful and impactful change.

That’s why I’m joining Distilled, in particular. I want to work with the smartest people I know, to make a difference, and to be part of a kick-ass team.

*Cue fireworks* WHOOOOOOOOOOSH!

There’s no such thing as unicorns

Because the secret is, the T-shaped skill set was never enough.

Effective SEO bridges too many interconnected, complex disciplines. It’s only when you begin to deeply connect designers with writers or PR folks with developers, for example, and to empower these groups to collaborate, that you can achieve truly great success in SEO. That’s when all the cogs turn together; when skills overlap, interlace, and amplify each other.

And that’s hard. Hiring or training teams of digital polymaths, versed in even some of these inter-related skills is unrealistic for most - if not all - organisations. There’s a finite capacity to how much we can learn and do, as well as practical limitations like salary, availability, interest. The next best thing that we can aim for is to have a team of individuals who each excel in a few connected verticals, and who play well with colleagues whose skill sets complement their own. Effective SEO is too broad for any other approach to be effective.

And of all the organisations I’ve known, worked with, or for, Distilled is one of the furthest along this road - it’s a company built from individuals and teams who collaborate, innovate, and drive success.

I already feel at home, and I can’t wait to see what we can achieve together.

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