Search Gets Holistic

For an interactive marketing generalist like yours truly, none of the sessions at Search Engine Strategies in New York this week was as interesting as “SEO: Where to Next?” There, several of the best and brightest in the business prognosticated on where this whole search thing is headed.

Microsoft’s Duane Forrester, a senior program manager, nailed it when he described a portrait of the SEO (define) professional of the future. “An SEO [professional] must be a programmer, social media savant, know the basics of being a Webmaster, and a developer, and it helps if you speak a number of languages, too. You have to know how to talk to the C-level executives, to marketing, to the developer and the Web designer. You’re not going to find a course that is going to teach you all of that. That is the future of us SEOs.”

Bashing Down Barriers

If there’s a trend in the air right now, it’s that search is going holistic. And search marketers want a two-way street. Jill Whalen, CEO of High Rankings, astutely points out that there’s no longer a level playing field when it comes to search. “We need marketing and PR budgets,” she insists. And if search marketers have to start speaking everyone else’s language, reciprocity is expected. “Developers need to learn the fundamentals of search. Incompetent SEO-based on myths must stop. There’s so much wasted time and money on stuff that has no effect.”

SEO professionals are getting impatient with colleagues who don’t understand the effect search is having on business, or bottom lines. “Ranking reports are not metrics, so don’t put them out there to make a business decision on,” implore the experts. Instead, get serious about metrics. And metrics, in turn, must get serious about search. “Start an attribution model: search to conversions,” insists Bill Hunt, CEO of Global Strategies International and director of Neo@Ogilvy’s global search strategy.

Marcus Tandler, CEO of Creativity in Action, calls for another kind of reality check. “Being number one is totally f*cked,” he scoffs as the primary stated objective in most organic search campaigns. “Number one in what? News? Images? Video?”

What’s the alternative? “Get the most out of Facebook and other social networks. Become more independent from Google. Everything you put into social media ends up on Google [anyway].”

Tandler is also counseling SEO professionals to think bigger. Much, much bigger. “Don’t buy links — buy whole sites. Especially in this kind of economy. It’s awesome. You can have multiple properties in the top 10 sites for your keywords.”

SEO pros are also getting impatient with technologies, new and not-so-new, that aren’t search friendly. Flash, AJAX (define), Adobe Air…they’re sick of working around these systems, so increasingly prevalent in the social media world. They just want them to work.

Last, but certainly not least, the cream of the SEO crop wants their companies and clients to realize that solid SEO comes with a price tag. As their skills and multidisciplinary approach to the practice increases, as SEO assumes a bigger and bigger role in the enterprise, their fees are rising accordingly.

Of course, if you get marketing, PR, and IT rolled into one, you’re paying for more than merely being found.

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