If you’ve been working in the SEO industry for some time now, whether in-house, at an agency or as a freelancer, chances are you’ve thought about shutting up shop and venturing into another career at some stage.
This won’t be because you doubt your abilities, or because the sector itself has become stale and uninteresting. In fact, it’s still as fast-moving and as dynamic as ever, and there are plenty of ways you can progress as a search engine marketing professional.
No – it’s probably because ranking clients’ websites, and therefore achieving the results they want to see from their SEO investment, is becoming so difficult.
This is a topic that was recently covered by Barry Schwartz at SE Round Table as a result of various discussions from the forums on WebmasterWorld. If you’re interested, you can read one of the conversations here. It goes into some detail about the challenges faced by today’s SEOs, and the somewhat disheartening side of this line of work.
But do discussions like these indicate that even seasoned marketing professionals are losing faith in their choice of career? And what does this mean for the industry as a whole?
It’s not easy
Part of the reason why many SEOs are becoming so jaded is that it was much easier to rank websites just a few years ago. Before Google introduced its myriad of algorithm updates, SEO strategies were fairly straightforward. Link building campaigns required the ‘quantity over quality’ approach, and you didn’t need to be particularly creative or discerning about where you got your links from, as long as you generated more of them than your competitors (and you were working with a cheap offshore link generation company – naturally).
Anyone who employs these lazy tactics in 2017 will be dealt an unfavourable hand by Google and their website will be ranked nowhere near the top 100 results, let alone the top 10. Perhaps, then, SEO consultants who were used to sitting back and watching the big bucks roll in after investing nominal effort into their campaigns have been shocked to the core in the wake of Penguin, Panda, Fred et al. Maybe they are simply not interested in adapting their strategies to meet the search engine’s new requirements, and this is why they want out.
A mass departure of those who have been working in SEO for 10+ years could be a good thing for the sector, though. Marketers who are only just entering the fray will be embarking on their career with eyes wide open. They will have heard all about the difficulties faced by their predecessors, and they will be jumping into their campaigns armed with new ideas and a strong understanding of what does and doesn’t work. They’ll need to work hard for the results they need – but they will be more than happy to go the extra mile to do a great job. This fresh energy may just breathe new life into today’s cynical SEO crowd.
Making money from a changeable discipline
Another valid point discussed by Schwartz and the WebmasterWorld thread is that it’s become harder to make a living from SEO now that Google has made ranking clients’ websites more tricky and time-consuming. We all need to pay our bills, and if selling SEO isn’t generating a comfortable income, it’s easy to see why some individuals may want to diversify their marketing business, or get out of the industry completely. That’s fair enough in principle, but the question is, have these SEOs explored all their options? Have they really done everything they can to adapt to their new environment? If not, maybe it’s time for them to move over and let the newbies make their mark.
What do we think?
Personally, we are motivated by the challenges that we face within the SEO industry. We believe that Google’s changing best practice guidelines have made sure that only the most creative, meticulous and forward-thinking SEOs are able to survive and thrive in the web’s current climate. And, of course, tightened algorithms ensure a better experience for the user, which is what we all want.
Yes, businesses have had to adjust their processes to allow for huge changes to the industry, and they’ve been met with big challenges as a result. But the demand for knowledgeable SEOs has never been greater. Those keen to jump ship are missing out on great opportunities to make a difference not only to their client’s businesses, but to the quality of their customers’ experience, and – dare we say it – even the web itself.