The golden age Of SEO?

I think that our industry is the best that it’s ever been, but, perhaps, also the best that it’ll ever be. Is it only down­hill from here?

Our industry is at a pivotal moment. We’re in a time where the people, agen­cies and brands which truly under­stand, prac­tice and reap the rewards of SEO have a unique blend of exper­i­ence. They came through the turbu­lent last few years, learned, adap­ted, and became well-​rounded, soph­ist­ic­ated market­eers. Those who failed were left behind – or will be soon.

In many ways, SEO is now both simul­tan­eously easier and harder than it used to be. The concepts are ‘large’, but gener­ally straight­for­ward – and many of the prob­lems are now often polit­ical, organ­isa­tional and educa­tional, rather than just tech­nical, tactical and scalab­il­ity chal­lenges.

The people who are winning, now, however, under­stand and excel in both of these areas. They can code and under­stand the world of PR. They can scale processes but also under­stand the value of indi­vidual rela­tion­ships. They can under­stand busi­ness require­ments, and join them up to tactics which deliver results, and which win hearts and minds.

Getting all of these things in one place, person or company is hard. They’re heavy­weight and distinct skill­sets, applied with exper­i­ence and expert­ise. The blend­ing of the worlds of SEO, PR, web devel­op­ment and real busi­ness creates an increas­ing require­ment for digital poly­maths.

In the coming years, it’s likely that these worlds will further blend, and that success­ful indi­vidu­als who enter the field will become hybrid, semi-​technical online marketers and research­ers. New entrants will be highly capable of creat­ing, main­tain­ing and capit­al­ising on rela­tion­ships, on build­ing brand equity, social currency, and large-​scale influ­ence. However…

None of them will be special­ised in the way that we, here, are today. None of them will have the breadth *and* the depth which we’ve been forced to evolve to survive. Our tech­nical prac­ti­tion­ers of yesteryear have learned to build real rela­tion­ships. Networkers have learned to read server logs. Campaign strategists have learned to under­stand the link graph.

Through a forced evol­u­tion, we’ve become super-​marketers who under­stand the whole ecosys­tem. We’re the TV marketers who also under­stand radio, print and event manage­ment. We’re the play­writes who also direct, compose, conduct and perform.

And yet we still struggle. We’re not good enough. Brands don’t get it. Directors don’t invest enough. Organisations don’t change or improve. Shortcuts and quick-​win tactics are still the norm. Our require­ments are too radical, too complex, too chal­len­ging.

The future does­n’t look great for our prac­ti­tion­ers, either. Schools, courses and educa­tion are slowly start­ing to teach broad but shal­low skills across these areas – to create well-​rounded digital market­ing prac­ti­tion­ers ‘out of the box’. We’re produ­cing a gener­a­tion of people with ‘T‑Shaped’ skill-​sets, but few who truly straddle multiple vertic­als in the way we have through our darwin­istic struggle to evolve our industry.

Is this as good as it gets, then?

We’ve incred­ible people who under­stand market­ing, busi­ness, tech and Google’s ecosys­tem suffi­ciently to be able to take a brand, outline a compel­ling roadmap to success, and to make it happen. Fear, obstacles and entrenched processes stop things from happen­ing even when our very best people fight their hard­est to enact change.

We’re in a golden age, but the clock is tick­ing, and we’ve yet to change the world enough.

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