SEO has changed beyond recognition over the last ten years. At one point SEO was an obscure hobby for geeks chatting to one another over Usenet. Then it became a cottage industry. Then SEO became a career prospect.

Now it’s a huge industry that commands the attention of CMOs and CEOs of multi-national companies.

SEO could grow even larger. Here are four ways in which the SEO industry could rule the world. However, before we dive deep into SEO hubris, we should also highlight Four ways the SEO industry could kill itself.

1) SEO is your digital strategy

Modern SEO looks very different from the ancient SEO of six years ago. The industry has moved on from problems like “Can the search spider reach this page?” and to challenges like “Why would anyone talk about that product?”.

That’s a question that needs to be asked if any product page is to attract links, social mentions and the other quality signals search engines look at. Bing considers behavioural analysis to be their most important ranking factor and so the SEO engaged in this web build project will also be offering usability advice and conversion optimisation.

The same SEO strategy will be looking at the communities of interest around the brand, product or message and working out engagement and outreach strategies.

In essence once a brand has made the decision to have a website it is the SEO team who figures out what to do about it and who will care; pulling together all the reasons why the site will be significant (and visible in search) rather than an also-run (and lost in search). They will be the new strategy department. The creative and content production teams, the biddable media and performance teams, technology team and social CRM team are important elements in that plan.

At least, that’s how it could be, if SEO specialists can retain their traditional expertise while broadening their skill base enough to rise to the challenge.

2) HTML 5

There are plenty of sites compatible with HTML 5 already; some basic and function and some very impressive. HTML 5, however, is still waiting for its official release. It is still in development and it may change.

This means we are yet to see the launch day for HTML 5. That’s the same day that HTML 4 becomes dated. When that day happens millions of expensive, corporate, social, ecommerce and transactional web sites around the web will start to date. The pressure to launch a new, shiny and HTML 5 website will increase with every day.

All those millions of websites will need SEO. It may not be a flood of work for SEO expert but it will be a period of feasting. The last few years have banged home the lesson – when you build a website, you build it with your SEO experts and you never ever drop them in at the last minute.

We have already seen the ripples of work created by the early but significant HTML 5 announcements. Abode, for example, have ceded the debate and will no longer look to bring Flash to mobiles in favour of HTML 5.

3) Mobile Adoption

The growth in smartphones and tablets will also carry SEO upwards. As more people use more devices to engage with content then the competition for content discovery will intensify. This means more SEO.

Brands may go to a web build specialist for their web site and might go to a mobile build specialist for their mobile site. They might even go to a third agency for the app creation necessary to support a social media campaign. These brands are unlikely to appoint three different SEO agencies to promote the web site, the mobile site and the app.

This does not mean three times the work for SEO experts but it does mean more SEO work for agencies who can deliver it. Even if brands can find agencies who can build all those media assets (web, mobile, app) who can also deliver the SEO work it still means more SEO work to do.

It also means that SEO thought leadership is present at the development of the web site, the mobile site and the app. After all, Google includes apps in its web results and app marketplace optimisation is already booming.

Just as brands have learnt the importance of getting SEO expertise in on day #1 of a web build project we will see brands accepting the importance of getting SEO expertise in on day #1 of a mobile project.

What’s more; Google has already issued guidelines for optimising websites for TV. The connected world is a rosy world for the SEO.

4) Showing the value & Social CRM

SEO funds many projects. In particular, many social media projects are justified because they can positively impact search campaigns – even PPC campaigns thanks to the +1 button. This connection will grow as search success measurements become more social in nature. For example, the impact of earning citations below your search results is having on your average CTR.

As more customers take to social networks to discuss their brand experiences the importance of social CRM will also increase. It was last year that Google said being bad to your customers is bad for business. Your search results can be harmed by negative sentiment online.

Brands and agencies with joined up teams will be best placed to cope with this. These will be those teams that can use search and social monitoring to identify negative comments and then have the social CRM capabilities to address them. Success for the social CRM team looks turns an unhappy customer into a happy(ier) one. Success for the SEO team, or the blended team, looks like robust or improving search results.

With this in mind, SEO is positioned to be the budget gatekeeper on a range of business critical projects and that’s an enviable position to be in.

Photo credit: Ali West

Andrew Girdwood

Published 17 November, 2011 by Andrew Girdwood

Andrew Girdwood is Head of Media Technologies at Signal and a guest blogger for Econsultancy. He can be found on Twitter here.

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Comments (10)

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Keir Gibson

Interesting to read about the HTML 5 stuff. Being an SEO myself I have really not given much thought about HTML 5 and it really opens up a new area.

In contract to posts like this there is a lot of stuff about the SEO industry dying a slow death with the decreasing amount of traffic coming through organic results and more coming through places, ads, shopping results etc so its good to see a positive post... but now I'm going to read 'Four ways the SEO industry could kill itself' :(


over 6 years ago


Nick Stamoulis

"when you build a website, you build it with your SEO experts and you never ever drop them in at the last minute."

If only we convince site owners everywhere of that! More and more marketers are understanding the importance of SEO, but sometimes the memo doesn't make it up to the C-suite. SEO doesn't produce instant ROI, so it isn't perceived as valuable as it really is.

over 6 years ago


Kerry @ BritWeb

Nice article, I agree with Nick. The guys in charge really do need to understand how important SEO is when building and making changes to a website. I've seen it so many times before, a client updating or even getting a completely new website without discussing it with the SEO guys.

over 6 years ago


Matt Rhys-Davies

The lack of SEO knowledge is particularly frustrating when coming into site builds half-way through. Far too many rely on the "if you build it they will come" approach, and not even consider building a list of KWs to target, or to obtain backlinks.

The sooner the wider world wakes up and realise how critical SEO is to a business, the better.

over 6 years ago


Karen Madson

Great article, as the owner of a bookkeeping business in Rogers AR. I have several customers that are really becoming aware of the digital future including mobile. I am going to forward a link so they can read this article too.

over 6 years ago


Rob Fountain

I'm still meeting plenty of firms who overestimate what social media can do for them and underestimate what search marketing can do.

It's crazy that there exist marketing and design agencies they are still dropping SEO and copy/content strategists in at the last minute.

We usually pick these clients up a year later when they realise the site is doing nothing for them.

"With this in mind, SEO is positioned to be the budget gatekeeper on a range of business critical projects and that’s an enviable position to be in."

Couldn't agree more.

over 6 years ago


Christopher Maltby, Head of Online at

i worry about people that are not up to speed on html5

over 6 years ago

Ashley Friedlein

Ashley Friedlein, Founder, Econsultancy & President, Centaur Marketing at EconsultancyStaff

Good article as always Andrew. It's an interesting thing with SEO, as with 'digital' generally one might argue, that, in many ways, it is 'taking over the world' but, almost at the same time, it is evaporating as the lines become so blurred.

When I think about SEO now (for Econsultancy, but generally) I tend to think about good content, a good customer experience, good customer service and a strong brand. If you focus on those things then the "SEO" will take of itself to a large degree? People will link to you because they like your content and your service. Google will crawl and understand your content because it is well structured, fast, accessible, semantically clean, portable across devices etc.

So the danger for SEO as a 'sector' is perhaps that it becomes not really a discipline in itself but really the end result of best practices across other areas?


over 6 years ago


Art Gardner

As the owner of a air conditioning business in Berryville AR I am seeing the adoption of the internet in my business every day. I used to be found in the print yellow pages, now I'm found on the internet (todays yellow pages). People are especially using mobile because its convenient and fast. I believe the next big thing in seo will be local.

about 6 years ago


Fence Fort Smith

I believe Penguin is the first step to preventing SEO from rulling the world and there is more to come. Who will be the winner? Pay Per Click of course.

almost 6 years ago

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