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.