The Many Lives and Deaths of SEO

By Dave McAnally, Natural Search Supervisor

People have been saying the business of SEO is going to die every year since I can recall there being a concept of SEO. It never actually has happened, and each year there are more and more SEO’s walking the earth. Supposedly around 2007 (although I can clearly recall SES in 04 when some massive agencies said search as whole wouldn’t last past 08), the phenomena of a “SEO Bubble” was introduced.

Well, here we are in the dog days of summer 2008 and the discussion is brewing up once again. I certainly won’t begrudge somebody for calling this a bubble in these times of the post dot com fallout. I was there, as I imagine most of you were. It certainly seems logical that anytime we see a swell of activity in a particular part of the technology sector, we’re bound to encounter those who think this is a bubble waiting to explode and destroy us all.

Maybe ‘evolve’ doesn’t play as well in type as ‘die’, but after reading through all the “SEO will die” articles, it always seems like evolution is the undertone of the article. Doesn’t everything evolve?

I have a friend who likens the arch of the search industry to the American Industrial Revolution; wherein many players competed for the same business and the ways of the free market simply eliminated the inefficiencies this created (the massive VC funding of the late 90’s anybody?) and from that evolved efficiency. The American Industrial Revolution took place over the course of a hundred years.

Seems a lot like search (or maybe the internet in general) is just another form of the market correcting inefficiencies in our business, and perhaps it’s happening too fast for us to stop and see it for what it is.

Most people seem to agree that SEO as a practice will (or even must) continue to be results driven. This will, by definition, eliminate those who do not produce results. I talked about this before, but with larger corporations that have a lot of moving parts, the ability for the SEO (agency or in-house) to communicate the value and necessity for implementation is increasingly essential. Without even speaking to the validity of the work, if the value of a title tag or a query to target cannot be sold through to an organization, it’s pretty likely it won’t get implemented, and those results won’t be produced.

To that end, I would expect a major skill set for SEO’s in the coming years (can we blame this on the economic downturn?) will be that of multi-level communication. What I mean by that is that an SEO will need to be able to sell value through to people who are coming from very different perspectives. The IT guy in the room needs to understand the value of a page level optimization just as much as the marketing guy (and their bosses and their bosses).

I see more program management skills being required as search evolves. Furthermore, I think this is less a function of 'marketers becoming more savvy’ (although that certainly is happening) and more a function of SEO encompassing more of a company’s digital assets.

SEO’s bring loads of value to businesses leveraging mobile, video, image and web assets. However, their ability to leverage that value (especially in this economy) will be directly correlated with how well they can convey value. I’m talking about hard evidence, folks. Rankings and dazzling traffic projections are only as good as the methodologies and strategies you propose to get there.

In the interests of keeping my post length in check, I’ll stop here, but next time I’ll talk about some of the research and data points we use at Resolution Media to build our strategies and how we communicate them to our clients.


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