It seems like every time I check up on blogs someone is decrying the bygone days of search engine optimization as if it has been dead for years. This strikes me as more than strange. Granted, many of the old black hat techniques are certainly no longer viable. Google continues to create better and better algorithms to stop search engine spammers from ruining the web, and because of continual failure, many old school SEOs (myself included :-)) have hung up those black hats and decided to pursue something else.
But here is the reality. SEO is thriving! I might even go so far as to say it is in its prime. A number of key factors have come together very recently to cause a dramatic uptick in demand for SEO services. Among them are the following:
- Paid search is becoming more and more popular and very expensive as an advertising method
- Google is no longer shunning most SEO as black hat. The company is embracing it with guides, videos, and search engineers who now act as SEO evangelists
- The complexity of paid search is almost on par with SEO
- Serious investors are getting involved in SEO
Paid search is becoming more and more popular and very expensive as an advertising method
I still love paid search because of the instant gratification and all the nice tools and information Google provides to create winning campaigns, but being forced to raise your bids or get extremely creative to “stay in the game” is very challenging even for an experience search marketer like me, I can feel the pain and frustration of all those business owners that give up right out of the gate.
The great thing about this for SEO is that once people experience some success in paid search and see how valuable it is, organic search or not having to pay for the clients becomes a rather enticing proposition.
Google is no longer shunning most SEO as black hat. The company is embracing it with guides, videos, and search engineers who now act as SEO evangelists
I never thought I’d see the day when Google’s engineers will be proclaiming themselves as “the real SEO experts”. These are not their exact words, I’m paraphrasing from “SEO Site Advice from the Experts”. Here is the link to the video. As an SEO I’d definitely not want this kind of competition, but I am really happy Google is giving the SEO industry a lot of the credibility it deserves by having Matt Cutts and other Googlers evangelize best practice SEO principles and strategies.
One of my favorite pieces of SEO advice provided by Google is their own SEO score card, where they scored how their own product pages do in terms of SEO. I use the format and some of the ideas presented in their document in some semi-automated and extensive SEO audits I’ve been performing for large e-commerce sites.
Again, nice validation to the usefulness of SEO directly from Google!
The complexity of paid search is almost on par with SEO
Sometimes I feel like Google launches a new feature for Google Adwords every week. Not to mention all the features they have in beta that are only accessible to a small group of advertisers. In short, Google Adwords give the really sophisticated marketer far more tools than he needs to outsmart his competitors, but for the regular business user, the learning curve is simply getting steeper by the day. If you have to put so much effort to learn paid search, why not invest the time to learn SEO and get the clicks for free?
Serious investors are getting involved in SEO
Perhaps the best sign of the maturity of an industry is when outsiders start betting with their money on the success of companies creating products and services to serve the market. Companies such as SEOmoz, DIYSEO, Altruik, BrightEdge, Covario and Conductor have received millions of dollars in funding to create powerful technology that can help companies of different sizes improve their SEO.
As a side note, I accepted a really good offer to join Altruik as their Chief Search Strategist to help with the evolution of their SEO software platform. I’m really excited about the work I will be doing there. I’m relocating with my family to New York next month. I plan to write a more detailed follow up post, but didn’t want to miss the opportunity to thank my SEO celebrity friends Will Critchlow, Dr. Peter Myers, Curtis R. Curtis, Adam Audette, Ralph Tegtmeier, Eric Enge, Sean Golligher and Stephan Spencer. They all wrote fantastic endorsement letters for my O-1A visa petition, which got approved and now I am able to live and work in the US for the next three years. I’m handing my baby, RankSense, to a team to help me operate it while I’m gone. The bottom line is that launching a technology startup with target customers in the US from the Dominican Republic is a terrible idea. Don’t try this at home.
Now, going back on topic …
As always, the prospect of more traffic for little to no cost entices many companies to get involved with SEO. This dream brings them right up to your door, paycheck in hand, ready to hire out your services. Because so many companies see the successful SEO strategies that others are implementing, more and more of them want to get in on the action and compete.
After all these years, SEO is still mostly misunderstood.
While the demand for SEO services is on the rise, the actual services offered aren’t getting any better. Many SEOs are still playing a cat and mouse game with search engines. They are trying to find little rules of thumb and quick fixes, thinking it will amount to more than short term success. The main problem with that is that search engines can and do change a lot their parameters in an effort to find and push more quality content to the top of the results and to kill any spam. I talked about this in one of the first posts I wrote on this blog and I think it is still very valid today.
SEO is not a game. It is a public relations activity. If you understand this very simple concept, you automatically understand 90% of what SEO actually is. I will elaborate more about this in a future post.
A lot of people get this wrong. They want to take the easy way out. If you can show your clients why your competitor has the wrong idea and how you can create legitimate testable results, you will never have a problem making money in the SEO field.
Only the SEOs who can truly deliver will prevail.
Despite the fact that demand for SEO services is at an all time high, much of the SEO world resembles the medieval era. There are too many fragmented ideas, too many witch doctors with magic SEO spells and potions that offer no real guarantee of success. People are all too willing to blindly accept what they believe to be the best practices without taking the time to validate what they hold so dearly to be true.
Don’t think of this as a bad thing. It’s an opportunity in disguise. Companies are tired of the overly polished salesmen who are only good at creating pretty charts and studies that merely look sophisticated on the surface. You can be their knight in shining armor, someone who takes the time to perform experiments and test SEO strategies before declaring which ones work and which ones do not.
In the end, SEO isn’t about following a strict set of rules. It’s about understanding Google’s priorities and aligning your client’s content with them. Simply put, Google makes its money by providing highly relevant top-notch content to its searchers. The best SEO strategy is to do the same.
SEO might be dead for gamers and cheats, but it is very much alive for people who are willing to invest the time into performing useful experiments and using hard data to guide them in all of their decisions. You have an opportunity to step in and help out companies who are in desperate need of real expertise. All things considered, there is no better time to be in the SEO business!