There are plenty of snake old salesmen within our business, along with dozens (hundreds?) of charlatans but one man who has consistently stood head and shoulders above many within the industry is Mike Grehan.
He is the author of the 2nd best book on search there is (Sorry Mike, I prefer Aaron's) and has taken multiple businesses to exit. He knows search. He knows it bloody well indeed, and there are few that know it better.
But sometimes even the best people in the industry make calls I don't agree with. This time it's Mike :)
Mike has done a piece for the ClickZ Network entitled SEOs Going PPC
Although I agree with the title I don't agree with a lot of the content although he has some aspects 110% correct IMO.
Professional marketers have a great understanding of segmenting and targeting. Now that search engines are reaching the stage where they can begin to provide more precise audience intelligence, they're becoming much more interested in search.
Mike, you better believe it. Audience intelligence is an excitingly massive development in paid search, but it's in organic search too.
I've said many times that I sincerely believe the SEO only shop will become a rapidly diminishing corner of this industry sector.
Now this is a point I disagree with. As search gets more and more complex it will need more and more specialist skillsets. It may be that those skills are within a full media company but history has shown that, that so far that hasn't been the case and I doubt it will change. Full service agencies generally don't have the best organic search specialists but do put together teams containing a great balance of skills across many of the marketing, project and man management disciplines.
Clients want ROI from optimisation efforts, not just rankings.
Tooo right they do, but that isn't new and any business that simply wanted a ranking for rankings sake was either after simple recognition in the industry / consumer base (brand building) or only had one specific product to sell.
One more small thing Mike. You're a bloody talented British journo. Please use the British spelling :P
Within the article Mike speaks about a training day he undertook with Barry of Make Me Top, another guy within the industry who I have a lot of time for. Barry used to be all about organic search, but his public face moved more into PPC a few years ago promoting his excellent bid management software.
Mike says of Barry
Barry agrees that, what I call "textbook SEO", for mom and pops in particular, simply isn't working like it used to. He doesn't believe it's dead yet, but it hasn't got long to go as search engines make more use of end user data on the organic side and authority sites rule.
Textbook SEO as you call it Mike, or foundation SEO as I call it, does work but not on it's own. It sets (as the name I give it alludes to) the foundations for future work to stand tall and proud upon but whereas in the past foundation SEO can deliver rewards on its own, it is simply not enough nowadays. Search has evolved, competitors have joined our marketplace and algos have become more complex.
Mike then quotes Barry directly:
"SEOs are going to have to embrace marketing and make themselves much more aware of paid advertising as it reaches new levels of sophistication," Barry added.
With the greatest of respect to both Mike and Barry, that's utter bollocks. Good SEOs are already aware and undertaking paid advertising campaigns, when the ROI is justified and the market allows it. The title of the piece inferred that SEOs are moving to PPC, which may well be the case but only for the SEOs that either have seen a financially worthwhile opportunity or aren't good enough to play in the organic SERPs.
The truth (IMHO) is that as PPC becomes more complex more and more PPC companies will need true SEO skills. For established media companies that operated on the basis that a %age of their clients spend would be theirs via kickbacks and understood the basic auction system (as Barry put it) ...
"didn't require an awful lot of skill.."
still aim to operate in the PPC market when invisible, unknown variables such as landing page scores are in place truly expect to win their clients great ROI without the same skills that great organic search specialists have are either kidding themselves and/or their clients.
I agree with Barry, PPC was an industry that didn't used to need a lot of skill to win and win big. What was needed was budget!
Budget alone will simply not cut the mustard anymore, if you want an efficient and positively maximised ROI. You need the same skills as an SEO, the ability to understand unseen factors and analyse them to deliver a true and functioning system that delivers measurable ROI. If you operate in New PPC without this knowledge you are simply throwing cash down the drain. Only those with the understanding of organic search can operate effectively in paid search, so contrary to the impetus of Mike's article that SEOs should be moving to PPC, the truth is that it is PPC marketers that should be employing SEOs!
In the meantime the people that will be making a killing are those SEOs that start to play in PPC. And the big media companies? They'll continue to spend their client's money for a minimal ROI, with the clients' moving between agency to agency to ensure that the aggregated spend delivers the kickbacks that used to be available.