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The Truth About SEO

Posted on Oct 19th, 2009
Written by Lee Odden
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    seo truthI’ve been in the business of SEO for about 12 years and have worked with hundreds of companies of all sizes. I cannot be anything but biased towards the benefits of optimizing web sites to improve visibility in search and the commercial outcomes that can result.

    For some, Search Engine Optimization is a favorite whipping boy.  Of course, marketers that have experience with proper SEO efforts and consultants, dismiss the sweeping generalizations often made by those looking to “stir the pot” to draw attention to themselves or who are pontificating based on an incomplete set of information.

    All industries have a range of practitioners with varied levels of experience. Ease of online publishing allows anyone with a computer to promote themselves, with or without “real” skills.

    That ‘s true for vendors and consultants as well as for client side marketers that hire them. All consulting engagements do not go as planned between all clients and all agencies. Not all staff at agencies are as capable as the senior executives that “sell” the client. Not all client side marketers are competent to make the best business decisions on behalf of the companies they work for.

    Marketing on the web doesn’t succeed based on absolutes.

    Recently I’ve seen criticism leveled at SEO with disregard for details that paints an entire industry based on the actions of a mis-representative sample. The sweeping generalizations based on incomplete knowledge made right along with sound web site advice made the author seem credible. But they’re not – at least in the area of SEO. Such criticism has been deftly and humorously dealt with and smart marketers at companies can easily see the difference between ranty propaganda and reality.

    To dismiss SEO with the kinds of negative characterizations as have been published from time to time over the past few years and especially recently is not only an insult to competent Search Marketing consultants, but to the companies that hire them. Plus, it’s simply not true. Consider this:

    digital marketing 2009

    TopRank ran a poll on the top digital marketing tactics our readers (532 of them participated) would emphasize in 2009. SEO ranked #3. I don’t think those marketers are convinced that SEO is something  that “doesn’t work”.

    Search Marketing Trends

    Another useful statistic is that by 2013 total US search marketing will reach nearly $23.4 billion, and marketers will be spending more on SEO than on contextual advertising. (eMarketer).   Follow the money and you’ll see an industry that is credible and where corporate marketers are investing.  How is it that “SEO doesn’t work” and that “anyone could do it” if they just designed good websites, when billions are being spent on Search Marketing?

    SEMPO State of Search Marketing 2009
    Put money aside for a moment. Let’s look at results. In the SEMPO State of Search Marketing Survey, SEO was ranked the #2 internet marketing tactic for generating return on investment (ROI).  Those numbers speak loud and clear.  It’s because of SEO that thousands of businesses have increased revenue by hundreds of millions of $ at a fraction of the cost of other forms of advertising.

    forbes ad effectiveness 2009
    ROI isn’t enough for some people, so let’s look at the results of Forbes 2009 Ad Effectiveness Survey that show SEO as the Most Effective Online Marketing Tactic for Generating Conversions.  Still think SEO doesn’t work?

    While billions more dollars go into seach, much of it towards Search Engine Optimization, and companies continue to drive the best ROI and conversion rates from SEO over many other digital marketing tactics, the dissenters really don’t make much sense, do they?

    Companies can plan and implement SEO on their own just like all of the major search engines have in-house SEOs. Many companies outsource all or part of their SEO work. Either format works according to the situation. In all cases, ongoing education, testing and oversight is necessary to remain competitive.

    As long as things can be searched, they can be optimized for better performance in search. Until search engines are perfect at finding, crawling, indexing and sorting searchable content, there will be a need for Search Engine Optimization expertise. Making a great web site for people is not the same thing as making a great web site for people that can easily be found in search engines.

    No industry is perfect, but clearly SEO is an industry that is a powerful marketing channel and will continue to grow and evolve. Search marketers and the companies that employ them (in-house or consultants) should be proud of the progress they’ve made at making information more easily discoverable for consumers and the commerce that results.