A warning to SEO agencies involved in digital marketing: the online trend is to offer more user control. Here’s an indicator.
Gradually we’re passing the age of television advertisements. Last year cable television spots were outspent by online ads, and Forbes declared we’d embarked into the age of paid digital, where advertising is now worth over $42 billion dollars, or almost two-thirds of the approximate $66 billion dollars spent on cable and broadcast television combined.
This isn’t about what medium is winning. Rather, it’s about what the trend means.
The Talking Box
Television sprang from an ethos: "Do what you’re told and have little or nothing to say about it." Long ago in a Generation X far, far away — we only watched television. We consumed most of what it blared without using free choice to swap channels every seven minutes to outsmart its commercials.
Prior to the Web there were fewer consumer choices. Arguably, television viewers were less savvy than modern customers and ill-equipped to navigate the many decisions that would allow them to sail online.
As Indian writer Rabindranath Tagore penned, “You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
Compare that to the digital vision of galactic hitchhiker Douglas Adams: “A computer terminal is not some clunky old television with a typewriter in front of it. It is an interface where the mind and body can connect with the universe and move bits of it about.”
That personal power to meddle has made us a demanding generation.
Our Wish is Their Command
As we flip digital channels and flit among online media, feeding on unending reefs of curated content, we all inform companies how their media must be made and delivered.
More of us are getting a fuller experience online than on television, and media dollars are now being split from television marketing budgets.
But our consumer behavior hasn’t just stricken analog.
While it’s now fashionable online to comment on the possible demise of television — it will be inevitably vogue to quip over the demise of our current marketing of digital technology.
The Downfall of SEO
Presently, Google and the semantic web are working to overturn the very name SEO, which may eventually be dropped from the industry altogether. If the only goods an agency offers are eventually mirrored by Google, agencies will be hard pressed to deliver worth to consumers with access to cheaper Google services that are likely just as good when measured in aggregate.
How will the agency fight back?
The short answer is to be a one-stop boutique. The long answer is to be like a used bookstore.
Lesson of the Book Shops
Amazon attacked the big, publicly traded booksellers. It forced Borders out of business, and Barnes and Nobles into a painful attrition.
But in fairness, what businesses were these two big booksellers kicking off a cliff?
According to the American Bookseller Association, 1000 local shops died between the years 2000 to 2007. After attacking large public companies, duplicating and upping their services, Amazon allowed the niche book sellers to rise from their graves in droves.
Because these shops have products that Amazon can’t match.
Products like ambiance, fresh coffee and creaky rolling ladders at the fore of oodles of pungent books. A rich, tactile experience is worth money. Anytime a business has a niche carved from the bedrock of our lives it stands a chance of holding us happy captives despite the power of lightning-quick Internet, cheaper prices and same-day-to-your-door shipping.
The SEO Agency of the Future
When Google and ubiquitous cheap technology flood SEO services like Amazon hit big bookstores, the agencies that remain will be standing in a niche.
Current agency tactics will become irrelevant. Our methods of online marketing, such as media buying and SEO, will eventually be replaced with automated and common alternatives.
We’ve already seen the beginning in Google’s use of the Search Engine Results Page to bypass websites completely and offer its own answers. Today we don’t have to visit certain informational web pages once Google’s search results page beats them to the punch.
Tomorrow, we’ll never call certain agencies once their search services aren’t worth buying.
To stay relevant, agencies need to create a niche. If the product that agencies provide is something that can’t be automated or isn’t widely available, then the business can remain viable.
That requires agency leaders to use lateral thinking — to discover ways they can deliver unique and valuable service. It may be based on an agency personality, expertise or a sub-stratum of general knowledge.
It won’t hinge on today’s SEO.
Agencies that survive will hire more than experts in digital technology. Eventually we'll all be something of an expert as digital technology democratizes and automates.
My daughter’s grandfather wants her to learn how to code. He says in her generation it’s imperative — and she’s just 5 years old.
Agencies will need to provide more creative services to remain competitive. The best agencies will tell stories about their clients and themselves. Tale spinning won’t change. It's become a central feature; straight journalism mutated with public relations and advertising has become a new breed named Content.
With creative media products, today's SEO agencies can appeal to millions who demand brand transparency and humanity before agreeing to a purchase.
When digital marketing as we know it ceases, those who can wield the new technology for niche products, markets and story branding will fare better than those who rely on SEO data alone.
That data, sooner or later, will be as common as television.
What are your thoughts on the future of the SEO agency? I'd love to hear them in the comments section!