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