In ancient Babylon, the line between science and magic was blurred, at least by today’s standards. Astrologers were the scientists of the day, and kings turned to them for wisdom and advice on matters both large and small. Today, those who specialize in “search engine optimization” are like those ancient magicians. We know that, secretly, you retire to a secluded back room and sacrifice small animals to the Almighty Algorithm, and our search engine rankings go up.
The proliferation of nephews with bootleg software and online do-it-yourself website builders has brought low-cost web design to the masses. Yet, search engine optimization remains in the realm of the mystical—part art and part science. (And we mere mortals are unsure of what percentage of each you use.)
In case you haven’t heard, local search is hot. The rise in smart phone usage has caused local search to increase exponentially over past the few years. That’s good news for local businesses … and an opportunity for you. It means demand for your black art has never been higher. If you’re not already doing so, now may be the time to add SEO to your offering. A recent survey of over 1,150 SEOs provides an interesting snapshot into the state of the SEO industry.
The survey found that SEOs are handling more clients now than they did 12 months ago, with an average increase of 6 percent over last year. Some firms saw as much as a 10 percent increase.
Demand for SEO services is on the rise. More than half surveyed say their success rate converting leads into customers is 70 percent and higher; and 64 percent say it’s “easier” or “much easier” to convince clients of the benefits of SEO. Yet less than half claim that they do not actively seek new clients, suggesting that new business is not hard to come by.
What appears to be driving demand are local business owners seeing their competition online. Selling on “fear of loss” rather than desire for gain can give you a competitive edge.
Greater demand brings more players into the market. Although the skills required for SEO are more demanding than a knowledge of HTML, the barrier to entry is still fairly low. In fact, the survey revealed that 31 percent of respondents entered the field within the last 12 months, so expect stiff competition to become even stiffer.
Large firms with proven track records will have their pick of cream-of-the-crop high-end clients. That means smaller firms and freelancers will be left to fight over local businesses with smaller marketing budgets.
Once people figured out that HTML wasn’t voodoo magic, the market became flooded with inexperienced web designers producing shoddy work, which hurt the industry’s reputation. The SEO industry is facing the same challenges. Differentiating yourself is no longer an option—it’s an essential survival skill.
So have you’ve decided that the opportunity to offer SEO is too good to pass up? If you’re already doing so, do you agree with the survey’s findings? You can still participate in the survey up until the end of the year, so head on over to BrightLocal and put in your two cents.
Former owner and partner of web firm Jenesis Technologies, John is currently Director of Digital Strategy at Haines Local Search, a company providing local search marketing solutions to SMBs, including print and Internet Yellow Pages, web design, and local SEO. When not working or spending time with his family, John offers great sales and marketing advice on his blog, Small Business Marketing Sucks.