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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