Rand posted an SEOMoz comment this morning, with some illustrations of really underhanded advertising for search marketing. He then asked a question I have asked myself for months:
“So what are we to do, fellow SEOs? After 10 years of attempting to educate the outside world, is it time to give up the game and just accept the fact that SEO will always have negative, inaccurate associations and a shroud of mystery? Or… are there new approaches that could be taken to better inform a clearly curious and often desperate public?”
As influential as Google and Amazon have been in Internet history, they both made an effort to market themselves via television, radio, film, and print. And the core principal at work then is the same now: if you want to educate or influence the masses, reach them where they live.
You can’t educate the masses with an SEO blog. Trust me, I have dozens of friends and acquaintances who use MySpace and visit my blog, but they hate it when I write anything SEO related.
In order to educate the public, you have to entertain them at the same time. Someone needs to spearhead this. Let’s look at the two easiest ways to educate the public:
1. Find a budding movie scriptwriter and write a main character to be an SEO. Without overtly preaching about the industry, teach the public about SEO through the comments and experiences of the character. This is an extremely powerful (and expensive) method.
2. Get the financial backing to create some infomercials. Make them cool (think Mac & PC), funny (Sonic DriveThru commercials), or edgy (TRUTH campaign). Create 5-10 commercials, each that covers one topic or exposes one unethical practice. Let each one air for a month or two before moving on to the next.
Both of these ideas are ridiculously expensive. But how did Amazon brand itself? Traditional media. We should give Amazon a lot of credit for building the Internet user base. Millions of people discovered for the first time that they could purchase items online, and the rest was history. But it took reaching them through the mediums they use most.
Internet use is definitely on the rise. In the future, I expect most Americans with Internet access will have a website of some sort. eBusiness will continue to rise. Search marketing is a vital aspect of eCommerce. It’s unavoidable.
Are commercial spots and movie appearances pipe dreams? Maybe. But someone will do it someday, and they will become instant experts in the minds of millions. If ever there was an open opportunity to make a name for one’s self in search marketing, this is it. Throw a few million at it and watch what happens. Of course, once the rabbit is out of the hat, expect to see the unethical marketers create 30 minute infomercials on late night television promising millions if you create an instant SEO shop or use their services.
There will be abuse of every inspiration. The only way to combat that abuse may be to get enough SEO professionals to band together to support this ad campaign that the space is flooded with support and verification.