Disruptive Marketing: Is the SEO Industry Next?

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In most cases the term “disruptive” is negative. Nobody wants to be disrupted when they are working on something important, and few people want to do the disrupting if they can help it. However, this term in business has a slightly different reputation. While being disrupted is still a negative, there actually are people out there who want to do this disrupting. To make matters even more interesting, there are some people out there, entirely removed from the situation, who might actually cheer on whomever is disrupting another business.

To put it into simpler terms: There are disruptive companies and disruptive marketing that help to even things out in the business world. They keep every company in line by bringing issues to light that are usually purposely ignored. As someone in the SEO industry or someone learning more about the industry, it’s important to ask yourself: Are any disruptive companies or campaigns working to teach me something completely different?

What Is Disruptive Marketing and How Does It Work?

As discussed above, a disruptive company is a company that brings new ideas to the table that could hurt the competition or the industry in general. Disruptive marketing is of course similar, but instead of having an entire company turning the industry upside down it’s just a marketing campaign. Either way, these types of initiatives are interesting and generally liked by consumers.

The industries they might be hurting, on the other hand, are not usually pleased. In general, disruptive companies are not going to get much publicity from their own industry and if they do, it isn’t always the best exposure. Consider some examples to get a better feel for how disruptive companies operate.

Examples of disruptive companies or disruptive marketing:

SEO copywriting along with Search Engine Watch listed a few great examples of disruptive companies that you can see below (with a few of my own thrown in as well):

  • SurveyMonkey is a disruptive influence on the market research industry because they urge businesses to conduct their own research, which means not using the help of market research companies.
  • AirBnB.com is a disruptive influence on the travel industry because they provide a source of accommodation and housing that is more unique and therefore outside the traditional travel market.
  • Doug Clark of NEF Manufacturing who is reinventing how shoes are made.
  • Jeff Carlisle of Our Health Connector who is putting our health records under our own control rather than that of healthcare providers

Disruptive companies are successful for a few reasons. First, they bring a new idea to the table, which immediately sparks attention. Second, they act as rebels, which is also something people are drawn toward. Most importantly, however, disruptive companies that actually get publicity usually work. They do something that isn’t going to give them a lot of money at the start, which proves that they really believe in their idea. It’s attractive, and people want to try it.

Disruptive Companies In the SEO Industry

The term you will hear connected with the search industry is likely “digital disruption.” Thom Craver on Search Engine Watch offered two great examples in today’s world:

First, you have social media applications disrupting search. For example, Flipboard helps readers explore a piece of content further without having to resort to a search engine. It offers related content.

Second, we have QR codes that are helping consumers skip search completely. All you have to do is take a photo of a QR code and you’re right where you need to be—no search necessary.

As a side, somewhat out-of-place, note: It’s also interesting to think about the idea that SEO and search were once very disruptive themselves. Marketers had to learn to advertise in different ways and start focusing on clicks and searcher intent. Now, SEO is the norm.

Are you familiar with any disruptive companies or ideas coming to surface in the SEO industry? Do you have a story about a disruptive company hurting your business? Let us know your story and your thoughts in the comments below.

Photo Credit: returnonreputation.com

Amanda DiSilvestro

Amanda DiSilvestro

Online Content Editor/Writer at HigherVisibility
Amanda DiSilvestro gives small business and entrepreneurs SEO advice ranging from keyword density to recovering from Panda and Penguin updates. She writes for HigherVisibility, a... Read Full Bio
Amanda DiSilvestro
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  • William Steward

    An interesting contribution Amanda, thanks. I think the biggest disruption to SEO is the fragmented nature in which the web is progressing. 10 years ago, people used search and visited the odd favourite website. Today, hours are spent on Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, Instagram, LinkedIn, using apps on their phone, etc.. Search is getting a reduced proportion of the hours people spend online.

    Fortunately for search, more people come online each year, and more people spend more time online each year, too, to the extent that it’s not negatively impacted searches growth too much. I do wonder what is going to happen as the internet matures, and that pace of growth does slow, however. Will search begin to contract?

  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    It’s definitely an interesting question. I feel like search will probably never be hurting too much as the internet matures, but I’m sure people said that when it was first introduced. I guess only time will tell–thanks for reading!

  • Micah Fisher-Kirshner

    I love the article–anything to push people to think outside the box and realize that no industry is safe from disruptive changes. More so as the speed of technological improvements continues exponentially.

    That said, I personally think the examples given for disruptive companies to the SEO industry are a little weak. Social Media sites are a fine point, but somewhat limited as its usually around news-related information rather than transactional search. I’d also say that QR codes are mostly a joke now that are mainly used to give discounts than anything really disruptive.

    Instead, I’d throw in Amazon as that directly impacts commercial searches where there is no “organic” side to ranking on Amazon. Since a lot of people (I believe it’s in the tens percentage now?) start at Amazon to find products, that can be a very disruptive area for SEOs. Voice-recognition search may also be a new example since the last thing you really want when searching on the go is giving you a a slew of results; you want one thing so the impact for showing up first becomes quite disruptive, particularly if voice search results become the domain of a company or two.

  • Paula Allen

    The concept of disruption is better known as a “paradigm shift” and the people/companies doing the disrupting as “paradigm pioneers.” Futurist Joel Barker began writing about paradigms as early as the 1980s, based on a 1962 book by scientist Thomas Kuhn (The Structure of Scientific Revolutions). It is such a powerful concept to grab hold of that one company I worked for required its management team to watch Joel Barker’s series of videos. Hopefully, the thinking was, that would make us more ready to accept or even foresee changes.

    It’s uncomfortable to be an established, successful player when the game changes — especially because the ones introducing the radical new idea usually are outsiders, people outside the current paradigm and therefore not blinded by its limitations and rules. But it’s the way of our technology-based world now.

  • Paul Murphy

    Hi to all
    I worked in the printing industry and destructive marketing started along time ago. If you look into the printing industry there has been many technology advances that have chipped away at traditional printing companies. Lets take the internet and online advertising. The printing industry has taken a very hard hit losing its advertising revenue to online advertising, not to mention many other forms of technology that has replaced the local print shop. The most recent Disruption in the printing industry is the new emergence of online printing were a client can easily upload artwork to a printing portal and have their printing delivered without seeing a rep or talking to a printing company. The printing companies that have adapted to this change are the ones going forward and keeping work coming through the doors but the ones that are staying the same are closing their doors.

  • Paul Scheufler

    Very interesting. Thanks Amanda. The disruption you are talking about is change. Change has been around as long as anything. It builds on the past and provides new opportunities for change providers and users. It is great to know that new opportunities will be made available on a continuous basis. It also warns both providers and users that a substantial investment of time or money in any particular change could be a loss in the near term when today’s opportunities become obsolete tomorrow. As change builds on change, the velocity of change increases. That high tech smart phone I bought a few months ago has been replaced by a new and improved smart phone. In some cases, things I buy become obsolete even before I use them. Some technology companies have several future generations of their products designed, which they dole out to the market after millions of people have bought today’s current technology offerings. I find that to be an interesting business model.

    Where is it all going? Alvin Tofler’s book Future Shock, which I read in 1970, seems to have called it.

  • Amanda DiSilvestro

    Thank you everyone for reading. I’ve learned a lot about the subject just from your comments, which is what I hope for with every post that I write! I really like the idea of Amazon being a disruptive company to SEO–that’s so accurate I can’t believe I didn’t think of it myself.