This post is in reference to SEO services as a business model, however many of the ideas can be juxtaposed to businesses and their utilization of the method for marketing
So much gets said about SEO and its relevance or even legitamacy. Most of this is purely linkbait, and the SEO crowd is all to quick to fall into the trap. The arguements fall into three basic camps.
1.The SEO are scumbags camp, of which Derek Powazek became a member and then quickly left.
2.The SEO is bullshit camp, of which Jason Calacanis is probably the most visible member, but you can find tons of the linkbait here.
3. The SEO is a “dying business” concept, of which Jeremy “Shoemoney” Schoemaker is one of the main figure heads, and now Robert Scoble has joined the mix.
None of these are 100% right, or for that matter wrong.
1. Some SEOs, like some circus clowns and some grocery baggers are indeed scum bags. But then there are people like, Neil Patel who have gotten rave reviews from savvy web people due to his aid of their web properties.
“Neil has advised TechCrunch for more than two years and been an important part of the growth of the TechCrunch Network by helping us implement SEO best practices. Search engines have grown to be responsible for 1/3 of all TechCrunch traffic, so Neil’s ongoing support is critical to our business.”
– Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch
2. Some SEOs offer services that are nothing more than bullshit, every SEO has had to clean up a mess by these types of unscrupulous business people. But there are a ton of proffesionals out their helping people transition to the online space, and thus save their livelihood.
3. Some SEOs have thriving businesses based on there insane prowess, like my bud Dave Naylor, others are feeling the economic crunch.
For me, long term, I look at my business ventures and I side with Shoemoney on several points. SEO as a stand alone service offering is a tough long term business plan to feel solid about. The engines are changing too fast to allow anyone doing the service to feel confident about their business over the next 10 years, and everyone should be looking at the current changes in terms of personalization and taking it as a cue to diversify what they do.
SEO is a block in the creation of a solid online marketing strategy, it isn’t the entire house.
Good SEOs know this. Every site clinic I have ever seen with SEO rockstars like Greg Boser, Todd Freisen, Dave Naylor, Mikkel deMib Svendsen, and countless others always circles back to them spending as much time exploring conversion, usability, and social media as they do the standard SEO practices.
To definitively say SEO as a practice or service based business model has lost its legs is a bit premature to say the least. Traditional media is dying quickly, and more businesses are turning to the web to make a new revenue stream. Search is the most logical place to begin for these companies. Also, the top 5% of SEOs out there will be making money as long search engines exist.
Again though, search, paid or organic, can only be a piece of the online marketing puzzle. As we look at 2010 we are seeing that brands have cemented their position on the web, building a solid brand, via a mixture of online marketing streams is the only route towards continual prosperity online. Mobile adveritisng, due to the growth of app based mobile OSs, will likely grow from 2009s relatively small $416 million in spend, and acquiring the tools to make this a part of your offering as a service provider will soon become a necessity. Social media has become profitably, and now is a must have for CMOs.
And so we start to get this view of online marketing like a machine, one distinct entity, but with sum parts that have little use on their own.
What good is 100,000,000 search based visitors if you are only getting .02% conversion, and negative ROI on the money to achieve the paid and organic rankings?
How real is a 90% conversion rate if you are only bringing in 2 natural visitors a month?
Smart professionals in the space, like my friend Todd Malicoat, are using their talents to offer companies online business consulting services, and utilizing the revenue generated from these services to fund their long term goals. This has been the premise behind Search & Social from Day 1. Why make everyone else money? Utilize the skills and team you have built to build revenue streams beyond services. This site is the most public proof of this concept for us.
We are looking at an evolution online, and not a death. The direction the online world is moving favors diversified marketing campaigns, more directly branding based marketing, and savvy service providers will make note and transition. Others will die off. This is the cycle of business in any sector, and not a fact reserved to SEO alone.