This recession will claim death to SEO companies
I predict the financial crisis to hit hard on SEO companies all around the world. I base this on the thesis of clients no longer can afford spending money on buzzwords, and instead have to find investments that pay off, investments that give immediate and measurable results.
Those were harsh words! Did I really claim that SEO does not pay off, that it does not improve traffic to websites? Please, let me elaborate.
The idea behind SEO is twofold.
Make your content as accessible as possible for the search engine.
Modify your content to fit common search queries and to make it search engine friendly.
It is my job as a developer to make your content as accessible as possible. This means that I will produce semantic HTML to make it easier for the search engines to index your content. This is my job and this is what I'm trained to do.
Writing content that fits common search queries does not require a rocket scientist. This is something that any web editor should learn to do, and focus upon in every piece of content that is put on the web.
We could say that good search engine optimization is a joint effort between the web developer and the web editor. So what part do these SEO companies play?
As Internet grew the last decade it became more and more obvious that search engines would play a huge part on the web. At first you could register your website if you wanted to get indexed, but as these systems were abused and slowly became unusable, and every search term would render a porn result, other actors appered with secret indexing recipies that actually could give sensible results. This was where Google was born.
Now it became much trickier to fool the search engine to put you on top of the result list. You actually had to provide content in a way that the search engine would like. The webmaster were not longer the king on the search engine, the content became king. And with these secrets of how to get on top, came experts of the secrets. They gave birth to Search Engine Optimization and made gazillions of money on optimizing content and chasing page ranks.
The abbreviation SEO became a buzzword and every site needed an SEO consultant, that would magically put the site on top of the search results. Entire business grew up around the SEO myth were novice information experts would learn the basics of SEO and go out on the web, chasing money by selling SEO advice.
It did not take long until the SEO rules would become quite known in the development community. How should content be presented to be searchable? Even now the google search engine recipe is a secret, the SEO rules to give your page a good page rank is common sense. Every developer make use of site-maps, breadcrumbs and semantic HTML by default, in any application that is written.
So what do these SEO companies bring us?
Most often these companies get included in some of the development that we do. They are responsible to analyze the code and the content to build a report that they will deliver to us. We take a look at the report, make some minor adjustments to shut them up, and report to our client that the site is now optimized!
When I say minor adjustments, I mean that the site is mostly 95% optimized after we built it, because you can't really make everything perfect and you will find flaws in anything if you look really hard. But how much do the SEO report improve the page rank of the site? In most cases: nada.
Do you believe that these SEO companies have 200 information experts? No, they do have 200 kids fresh out of college that can apply SEO Template A1 to your website, manage Google Adwords and write reports on glossy paper. This is what they're selling, and the reason they are able to make money on it is because of the until recently fresh economy, and the hype built up around it. (much like Flash a couple of years back)
What will happen now when your clients needs to save money, but can't afford to let their IT out of funds? They will ask us if this SEO crap really gives them anything, and we will say: "You're already on top of the search results in these search queries. What do you really want to accomplish here?"
Tips to clients
Ask us to analyze the website and tell you how SEO could be improved and what effects it should have on visitor statistics. We know the technical aspect of the site, and can weight the effort to the result so you will make a better judgment if its really enough bang for your buck.
Instead of having some independent consultant analyze the content, educate your web editors to write optimized content, based on common search engine queries. It is not only cheaper, but will render a more consistent result.
Real information experts can do wonderful things with your information structure, navigation and how your message should be recieved. That is not what I'm fighting here. What I address are SEO companies with SEO experts that know nothing more about SEO than any common developer that has no intent of calling himself expert in any sense.