Is the SEO Industry Dying?

Recently, on the HighRankings Forum a member wondered if the SEO industry was about to collapse. He speculated that because there’s so much information freely available about search engine optimization, pretty soon everyone would have an optimized site and there would be no need for professional SEOs.

I don’t agree, at least not completely.

Go into any general-interest bookstore, look at the "business" section and count how many books you find on the subject of marketing. Review the catalogs of most local universities and colleges for business courses related to marketing. Search online for sites offering marketing advice and information.

From my observation, as much information as there is out there covering search engine optimization, I’d say there is much more information available on the topic of general business marketing. Which only makes sense — after all, SEO is only one part of an overall marketing campaign.

And since so much information is so widely available, and since marketing and advertising have been around in one form or another for thousands of years, you’d think it would be pretty much down to a science today, wouldn’t you? Basically, any business owner or manager should be able to do a quick search or two on the Web, go down to the local bookstore, or attend a class or seminar and learn everything he or she needs to know to be able to optimize their Real World marketing and advertising for maximum ROI.

Everyone and his dog should have a well-written, budget-conscious marketing plan and be able to effectively implement that plan, with no need for professional assistance, right?

And yet, and yet… there are still literally thousands of marketing, public relations and advertising agencies and freelance specialists in the USA alone. And there are many more thousands of small and mid sized businesses operating without any marketing plan at all, much less a well-thought-out, ROI-maximizing one.

This is because marketing — whether "Real World" or online — is not a paint-by-numbers exercise. You can’t simply slavishly follow a set of steps in a formula and hope to achieve significant, lasting success.

There is a measure of art involved, and some of that art can only be learned "hands on" by actually getting out there and running a real-world campaign or two (or ten or twenty). It takes time and practice and a bit of innate talent to become really good at it. And despite all that, sometimes even the top professionals miss the mark.

To my mind, "search engine optimization" is not a goal, it’s a never-ending process. I’ve said for a long time now there’s no such thing as a "finished website," and I’ve come to the conclusion over the past few years there’s no such thing as a "completely optimized site," either.

There’s always something that can be improved, especially when you move beyond thinking of "optimization" strictly in terms of rankings — when you start considering usability and the customer experience and conversion maximization as part of a holistic optimization process.

One thing I do think: there will be less and less demand as time goes by for those "SEOs" who think it’s only about rankings. Those SEOs can (and should) go the way of the dodo.

But for true site optimizers — the folks who truly "get" the holistic approach — the demand should remain strong for a long time to come.

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