One of the many luring topics in the online marketing world is the fate of SEO. Search Engine Optimization in the past 5 to 10 years has been a growing business that has allowed companies to maintain and increase traffic to their website. SEO conferences are designed to help businesses educate themselves on SEO strategies and current trends happening in the industry. One of the all-stars on the SEO circuit is Neil Patel, a 24 year old who has achieved tremendous success in this industry at such a young age.
TM recently sat down with Neil Patel and discussed several topics pertaining to the SEO industry. One of the most important issues discussed was the fate of SEO and the direction the industry is heading in.
Neil Patel is an entrepreneur at heart, but is more widely known for his extensive work with SEO, as he is an avid speaker at many of the SEO conferences. Patel is also the co-founder of two different internet companies, most recently Crazy Egg and KISSmetrics. Prior to that Patel owned a SEO company, Advantage Consulting Services, which he sold to concur future endeavors. Patel has worked with major corporations that include AOL, General Motors, Hewlett Packard and Viacom. By the age of 21 Patel was considered one of the top 100 bloggers by Technorati and one of the top web influencers of the web according to the The Wall Street Journal.
KISSmetrics is run by a team of designers, developers, and entrepreneurs that basically help online businesses measure, grow, and monetize their online presence. The mission of KISSmetrics is to give all businesses the tools and technology so that they can grow and measure and see what’s happening, and tune into the users’ experience, and keep it really simple. Crazy Egg is also an internet company that is helping businesses supplement their analytics with visuals and actionable date.
A relatively recent blog post written by Jeremy “ShoeMoney” Schoemaker discusses how SEO’s Need to Adapt or Die in order to survive in this industry. We invited Patel to come on our show, since he was mentioned in the blog as someone who believes there is no future for SEO.
“The problem with SEO, is it’s a industry in which it’s getting saturated. If you were in SEO five years ago or, or ten years, or even a few years ago, it was much easier to get clients at a higher price point,” stated Patel.
That’s not to say it isn’t doable today, but with the recession many companies are making cutbacks. These companies are losing money and money is getting tight which results in SEO being cutback from the budget. People can still make money off of it, but when it is a dying industry it makes it’s not that get rich quick scheme. That’s not say it ever was, but professionals could make a great business lifestyle working with SEO. It still has the potential to let people create great lifestyles and businesses ,mbut it’s just not as easy these days to create a SEO company that makes a million dollars a year.
“What people don’t realize in the SEO space is there’s the rock starslike Oil Man, Bozer, Ramfishkin, and, Aaron Wall that are all great at what they do, however the people that are really making the money off of SEO aren’t any of these guys. The people that are making the money off SEO are the iCrossings and iProspects.”
Even though these “rock stars” may be the best in the SEO business it is hard for them to compete against the sales-driven companies. The bigger companies are obtaining the bigger contacts, where exactly all the money is in SEO. You have the contract, you have the money. This makes it a lot hard for these “rock stars” in the industry to be making millions and millions of dollars when the ad agencies are the ones in control of the budget. These agencies are going to end up with the bigger companies because when it comes down to it they know how to pitch themselves to other large companies. Companies want to make sure that the process is laid out for them, ensuring that the quantity and volume makes up their margins is in front of them.
“The way we ended up getting them was doing the whole ad agency route package pitches….So we would go in there, look at their numbers, look at their average price per product, profit margin and so forth, Everything’s out there…It would be a cut and dried pitch. SEO is usually not pitched that way, but if you want the money in SEO, which most of these SEO’s out there aren’t doing, that’s how you really get the big fish,” stated Patel.
The big companies are not concerned with the ins and outs of SEO or even exactly how it functions. When it comes down to it they just want to know what you can do and how is it going to bring in more money for their cause. When it comes to rankings in SEO it comes from a lot of blogs which are more small SEO shops. Business executives are not out there reading these blogs and they are the ones that sign off on the decision. They are not too concern with the rankings whether they are number one or number two, these businesses are more concern with how much money they are making.
” I do think there’s a future for a lot of the bigger players, like the ad agencies. I don’t think there is much of a future for the small mom and pops. Yeah, they can make a decent living, but they’re nowhere near many of these guys are who are going to become millionaires doing it, ” stated Patel.
The SEO business is becoming more convoluted and quite frankly if you are not one of the major players there isn’t any long term dollars to be made. Despite the fact the SEO has a lot of educational points that businesses could use. Even if SEO allows you to think out of the box, and not just utilizing mathematical process or off the shelf software to evaluate rankings. Companies aren’t interested in that, they are the ones who write the check and all they care about is how much money you are going to make them, how to reduce cost, and how to increase profit.
“I think the SEO industry will be around for a very long time. It’s just in my perspective for SEOs to make quick money from it, or build a business that’s going to be able to help them buy that $5 million house,”stated Patel.
Patel still believes you can make a great living off of SEO for the next 5 to 10 years, but it is not going to be easy to climb up the ladder within the industry to get those big dollars. Those days in most cases are going to be gone unless you are one of the big ad agencies.
After our discussion on SEO and its future, we decided to change gears and see what kind of insight Patel had on social media and its effects on SERP (search engines result page).
“I think it’s going to actually be very similar to how it is now. It’s when you get on some of these social sites. You get an immense amount of links, and you rank better in Google,” stated Patel
According to Patel, there is going to be a way to devalue links. They’re probably is already something, but it is going to take a long time until they can finally get down to it. It is hard to say exactly where all the links came from based on what one person is doing in social media. A lot of times people were linking before from an algorithm perspective and although it may be doable it’s going to take some work to figure out the links and backlinks of each user.
We asked Patel what he thought the importance of backlinks was from a 1 to 10 scale and if they will be influential for the next couple of years. “I think backlinks are where it’s at. I think it’s a ten and that’s why I still do some, but that’s what I specialized in,”stated Patel. According to him there is still a place for them and hopefully social media will find a way to utilize them.
“I think social media is changed to be more custom-tailored towards people’s interests,” stated Patel.
The popularity of social media outlets like Twitter has changed the internet industry. Now businesses are utilizing Twitter to reach specific audiences to help expand their business. Social Media takes away from the community aspect where everyone votes, and allows the user to be autonomous and follow who he/she wants. This could lead to a combination of social news and social networking. On one side you have sites like Digg that allow everyone to vote and then you have Facebook to connect with your friends. Twitter takes angles from both of these concepts and is sparking ideas making it hard for people to not love it.
After hearing what Patel had to say about social media and how it will be utilized in the future, we decided to discuss the FTC initiative against payola. Which is basically the FTC coming out in hopes to implement regulations upon bloggers like they do on commercial TV and radio, where you have to state that it is a paid advertisement.
“So the first thing that always comes to mind is the government wants their cut, their money. Right? Nothing wrong with it, everyone wants a piece of the pie. It also provides a better user experience for most users,” stated Patel.
It’s not totally out of this world to promote or develop a more transparent outline of what is being talked about online especially when it comes to the value of back links and subliminally promoting products or services. This is easier said than done. It is going to be hard to catch everyone and determine what is paid and not paid, which will allow a lot of people to still get away with it.
Overall, Patel feels that SEO is a dying, but says it is too soon to tell. Even if SEO is considered a possible dying industry, that does not mean it cannot and should not be utilized. The big ad agencies will continue to market SEO to gain those big contracts with the big companies. With the emergence of social media and the possible FTC regulations there will be a lot of changes in the SEO world some which could rejuvenate it, other which could hinder it. Nonetheless SEO still has it place, it may get lost along the way but it just has to be found and utilized correctly.