What sent me into this tail-spinning panic? An article titled "Troubled Times for SEO Firms."
--I do not know, nor have I ever met, the author of that article. This is not a personal attack on him or his company.
--This article is the opinion of Joshua Palau (yeah, I went third person). The views expressed here may or may not be shared with my company.
--These are not the ramblings of someone who is simply trying to protect the underworld of SEO. I advocate being engaged in both paid and organic search.
"Troubled Times" article references the just released Search Marketing Guide and speculates that SEO firms are in
trouble because clients believe SEO:
--Is not rocket science;
--Is a once-only-and-then-done solution;
--Can lead to penalties if you push the envelope.
"There are 3 kinds of lies--Lies, damned lies, and statistics." Homer Simpson once told a reporter "People can come up with statistics to prove anything. Forty percent of people know that."
The benchmark guide is exactly that--a guide--and the data delivered can be interpreted in different ways. If you simply look at year-to-year growth, the numbers look flat, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The report says "getting a handle on SEO spending is unusually inexact... the costs of SEO are hidden inside of other budget items... assuming SEO takes only half their time, 40k - 50k doesn't sound free." (p. 35). Based on this and my experience, I don't think the number is as flat as it appears in a bar chart.
Nothing is rocket science, except rocket science. I work with smart clients who have more acronyms at the end of their names then I do. They are capable of comprehending and executing an SEO strategy. Yet when you add SEO to a list that includes additional responsibilities, employing a specialist makes sense.
I've watched an SEO engineer reads patent filings to see what can be learned about possible algorithm changes. I've seen him look at two clients in the same industry, pinpoint the issue and devise a solution that worked. Web development, usability, paid search, and creative development are not rocket science, but there is value in leaning on a resource that plays in the space full time.
SEO--set it and forget it. This only works for Ron Popeil and his incredible Rotisserie Oven. Still, I agree with it to varying degrees. A one-time solution may work for a small site or one that is very niche because of its limited keyword universe. Since clients continue to tweak their sites, I think that SEO needs to be in the conversation. If you have a page that ranks but does not convert, you may add more conversion words. This tweak may alter your keyword density and thus compromise the rankings.
This idea also assumes that everyone understands all the factors that affect your results. Many are aware of keywords and content, but what about changing your CMS, appending URLs with tracking tags, or changing web servers? Taking this a step further, how many of these decisions are the sole responsibility of the marketing department?
The SEO penalty box. If it's not rocket science, it's not that hard--so I should know the boundaries, right? There certainly are penalties that exist--which underscores the importance of an expert.
I applaud the "troubled times" article for pointing out the factors that lead people to shy away from SEO. I swear there is not some conspiracy to make SEO too ambiguous and difficult, but in some ways it just can be--just like paid search, usability, and all the other marketing tactics. We just need to work with clients to help them understand what aspects of SEO make sense.
So fear not, SEOers. The world is not as bleak as described--at least not today.