Is SEO Dying?

I recently read an article that points out the very slow growth of SEO this past year. It got me thinking.

The first point the article made is that SEO is not rocket science. This is true. In the numerous speaking events I have attended this past year, I definitely point that out. SEO firms who try to act like they’re rocket scientists are liars. If you have a desire to learn, you can. We stay on top of this space by reading blogs and forums available to the public. People that do it everyday just make it seem simpler than it is.

Next it states that marketers are realizing that SEO is a “fix it once” business. In highly competitive spaces this is not always the case, but for 80-90 percent of our clients it’s true. Unscrupulous SEO’s know that really strong rankings attained using white-hat methods will stay after the 6 to 18 month period.

To summarize my thoughts:
1) SEO is an opportunity cost business. A firm currently working with experience optimizing hundreds of web sites and 20 to 30 clients will have a much better idea when making changes and when a methodology should work. Those who work with only a few sites work dangerously. When a method works for everyone but a single client, it’s easy to deduce something else is wrong. Constantly adjusting a methodology may take 2 years as opposed to 6 months with a broader test base. Many of us could fix a toilet, and many of us shouldn’t. It’s not worth our time to do it wrong.
2) SEO is frustrating. Most people would flip watching daily rising & falling in search. SEO is a chaotic business that always changes. While good SEOs know trends happen, poor ones are easily frustrated and want to give up. Can you imagine spending 6 months learning, another 6 implementing, and another 6 months waiting? Can you imagine your work going down the tubes while being prepared to start all over again? People don’t want our jobs.

3) Marketers are starting to look past rankings. The biggest farce in search is that some firms target easy words that get little or no traffic. This results in little or no sales & leads for their clients. Some–not all–marketers are wising up to poorly performing SEO’s who get rankings for simple keywords and ultimately leave the clients with no increase in business.

4) SEO is a fix it once business. Most clients don’t need to hire a full time SEO. If they hire a good consultant they’ll most likely finish in 6 to 12 months. Don’t bother hiring for a job that lasts only a year.

5) There are only 20 spots in the top 20! Can we all make a jumpshot? Yes. How many can beat Michael Jordan or Larry Bird in a jumpshot contest? We aim for the top 20 for our clients besides analyzing ROI from our campaigns. If there are 50 SEO’s vying the same group of keywords for a #1, only 1 in 50 has a shot. If we are looking at the top 20 then 20 of 50 firms will succeed. While this is an overly simplistic model, there are limited numbers of spaces for a site to show up with a ton of web sites looking to get there. By not working with an all-star firm you might average #30 instead of #10.

Clients who want to try it themselves should. Success will save you a lot of money. However in our experience, only 1 of 20 of these DIY clients are actually targeting the correct terms.

Whether failing in DIY or choosing a bad firm the question remains: how much did you spend in interviews, benefits, salaries, and lost opportunities before you realized it wasn’t working? In the end it’ll require an expert to fix the mess anyway.