SEOMoz Industry Survey: Are You F’ ing Kidding Me?

I spend a lot of my time reviewing stuff that flows through Twitter, Facebook, and places like Inbound so I can stay up to date on all of the amazing things that people in the marketing space are doing. You guys are awesome, and I want to be awesome, so this makes sense.

This week one of the most frequent items hitting my feeds over and over was the 2012 SEO Industry Survey from SEOmoz.

As usual this content was awesome. It was put together by one of my favorite marketing industry peeps Dr. Pete, and it gave amazing insight into my colleagues and their views on this industry. For a company such as CopyPress that provides products to marketers, this type of information is gold.

I loved digging into all of the data, and most of it validated what we have been doing at CopyPress.

A great example is how respondents were spending money on content.  While images are awesome and video is a growing need, the reality of pre- and post-Panda is that copy still leads the pack in terms of budgetary spend. Articles, guides, and blog posts are seeing big budget expenditures, and this goes along with where we see our customers putting their content spend.

I also was not surprised by the fact that most companies stated that they were offering more than one service set, because I don’t even see how you can find the clear distinction between some of these service groups lately.

I want to meet the guys just offering “SEO” as a service and ask what they do? Is it just the auditing and ongoing insight into the changes Google is making? That’s a tough business to scale for sure, and I think there is a place for specialists, but as a community we need to think bigger.

Er Mah Gerd

And then there were the surprises.

Here are the offerings that respondents felt were growing. (as a % of respondents)

What I find exceedingly interesting about this is the fact that 25%+ more respondents felt that Social Media and SEO had a larger growth rate than Content marketing.

The question I have to ask on both fronts is, “what are you doing for your SEO and Social Media offering if it doesn’t involve content?”. I totally understand the specialty that is SEO in terms of technical work, however that is not the bulk of the work that SEOs do on a day-to-day basis. After your site’s architecture and crawlability is strategically cemented, it is time to focus on the sustainable act of content creation and link acquisition.

The same goes for Social Media Marketing; regardless of the platform, the cores of social media are engagement and content. Social media can be utilized by marketers to engage in conversations with their customers, however it’s the content itself that helps guide these conversations.

How do these 25%+ of respondents get ready for the growth that they perceive to be coming from SEO and Social Media without planning for a subsequent growth in content marketing?


The most interesting thing to me was how the respondents were spending their time as individuals.  (as % spending more than half their time) 

So while the respondents feel social media will see the most growth potential as a service, less than 10% spend over half of their personal time on the service. Only 6% of respondents spend over half their time on copywriting and blogging, which while not completely surprising did make me wonder how internal training programs were put together.

Funny enough almost twice the amount of respondents spend over half of their time on linkbuilding as copy creation, and that fact alone makes me wonder what is being done for linkbuilding as a strategy, especially post-Penguin. If content isn’t at the heart of the linkbuilding process, what is?

Don’t answer that. (We are being watched)

Some of this did make sense, because as we see below the respondents have their team spending a larger portion of their time writing. However, the social media marketing number drops here as well.

As an industry if we are going to see a large amount of our growth come in the form of social media marketing, are we waiting to sell the service before we develop it. I can tell you that this will not work.  Best practices must be put in motion far before an offering can be put into a pitch deck. 

 So What the F’ ing F Peeps?

What is the deal here?

Obviously a lot of us are looking in the right direction, and that makes me happy; but the number of respondents putting their feet in that direction scares me. If we know that our future is based on the ever-growing unity between service sets, how come our time isn’t more evenly distributed?

The answer will be “because this was a survey of SEOs”. My response to that is, “EXACTLY!”. What does SEO mean to you in 2012? It doesn’t mean sitting around looking at site and page level architecture on a daily basis to me. I am a big believer in the foundational elements of SEO, so I am in no way saying “rewrite that book”; what I mean is “add other tactics to your playbook”.

47% of the respondents felt that their skill sets defined them as generalists, and I think that this number is going to have to grow for the benefit of our industry and their clients. I do think that people like David Mihm and Andrew Shotland, who are amazing specialists in a particular niche (Local SEO, in their case), are very much needed, however I think as an industry the days of when you could just say, “I am a technical SEO and that’s it” are coming to a close.

Maybe I am wrong.

I often am.

However, we will continue to shape our education material and our product set at CopyPress to fill the hole we felt stood at the center of this industry. This survey seems to validate our way of thinking. We will continue to work hard to offer awesome education for the content life cycle and help marketers develop well-rounded content strategies that aid their SEO and Social Media campaigns.

About the author

Dave Snyder

Dave began his career online as a well respected Internet Marketing Consultant. He has spoken around the world on the topics of search marketing and social media, and has consulted for some of the worlds largest companies on the topics. He has also been an educator and writer in past careers.

Dave’s passion shifted from a purely marketing focus as he worked with more and more entrepreneurs to build profitable companies, to the creation, construction, and management of startups. This passion was the inspiration behind SteelCast.


    • While valid, the point is that social media can aid your SEO. For example, link acquisition has gotten much tougher over the last 6 months. Creating good content is called for but how do you get people to see it and interact with it?

  • I totally agree that the days of being narrowly focused on one specialty are coming to an end. As someone who specializes in local SEO, I can tell you that these days, I spend more time on content strategy and link building than anything else. I would guess that David and Andrew are in the same boat. The days of pure local SEO are over. To rank and drive traffic from the search engines, you need a sound organic SEO strategy (on-site, link building, content strategy), as well as the local factors (G+ Local Page optimization, citations, reviews).

    • I think you get what I am driving at. Pure SEO is a part of the marketing mix, and not a stand alone solution.

      • This is exactly what you are talking about and exactly what I told my coworker and my boss recently. SEO is not a standalone service by any means these days. It should strictly be an element in your digital marketing mix, just as the elements of the traditional marketing mix that I learned about all through college (I have a bachelor’s in Marketing).

        Thanks so much for the great post there Dave!

  • good timing on this one Dave. I got so worked up looking at the survey data that I began ranting on Twitter yesterday about what I gleaned from the data. And I’m likely going to write my own article on a different takeaway that I got yet speaks to the same concerns about “WTF are ‘professional SEOs’ thinking?” I do need to say though that we need to realize the overwhelming majority of people who took this survey are not necessarily people operating at the highest level of expertise or proven track experience. No offense to the Moz for that – it’s just a reality of the demographics.

    At the same time, given how many audits I’ve done on “previously optimized” sites by “top agencies”, my own experience does reflect what we are seeing as problematic trends for sure.

    • Thanks Alan –

      You are someone whose process and insight I respect so cool to see we are thinking along the same lines here. Psyched to see what you put together. Would make a great guest post for CP 😉

    • I agree with Alan on this

      “I do need to say though that we need to realize the overwhelming majority of people who took this survey are not necessarily people operating at the highest level of expertise or proven track experience. “

  • Technical SEO is still a huge part of the scope if you work on a large scale site, like a retailer or an international site. API’s, bandwidth hogs, Google verticals, competitor analysis, uptime, site build, migration, etc. More than ever before actually. Or if you work in a very poorly monitored sector (do a search for “payday loans” in the UK, the top 10 is full of pro spammers), then your work is cut out for you.

    There is still a lot of scope for a technical SEO. In fact more than before. Companies are willing to change, you just better come with a good argument as to why and prove to their tech team you know HOW to do so. Content based SEO’s fail to clear this hurdle, suggest loads of content that merely gets stuck on a blog somewhere, simply because of the red tape such as large company legal teams. You turn the tech aspects over, the ball is in your court. Then you talk content.

    • I definitely think technical seo is important as noted in the post, but definitely wouldn’t mark the payday spam in the US and UK right now as anything more than spam (not much technical about shoving links places and playing with spam conduit).

      If you work on a large site items like these:

      API’s, bandwidth hogs, uptime, site build, migration, etc.

      Are often so guarded by the IT team that the mere mention of them from an SEO can take major politicking.

      As for competitive analysis, sure this is important, but what do you do once the analysis is done?

      I think saying “content based SEOs” advocate for sticking content on a blog somewhere really misses the point. If you are a content ONLY SEO you are missing the point as well. The idea is convergence of skill sets.

    • Thank you for saying that you cannot just slap content into a blog and expect a miracle. 99% of the people I speak with want other technical things done with their website along with search engine optimization. Meaning sometimes we have to do a rebuild switch platforms HTML to WordPress maybe sometimes these people don’t even have a 301 redirect or you can understand why they’re plummeting in the ranks. Analytics is key you have to know what the problem is just like when you go to the ER what hurts what is the issue? The client tells you and like a doctor you except their word however you check for things that they might not understand are affecting them or would affect them. Many of these things are extremely technical and I think is essential for somebody in the search engine optimization business to understand that they need to understand technology.

  • Guys 1st off I want to say SEOmoz is a fantastic organization and Dr. Pete is a standup guy. I do SEO and content is a huge part of it. If anyone claims to be an SCL and says they’ve never heard the term “content is King” I don’t have very much experience. However I am an inbound marketer hubspot partner and also value off page Seo quite a bit. But this is kind of ridiculous to say SEO is only a few things. 1st off you need a great domain by that I mean one that is out of Google sandbox at least. Then I would focus on keyword research your link models are reluctant to go on everybody knows I’m talking about and it’s boring. I’ll list some of the things SEO’s mess up hosting not many people seem to care who they host with. Speed of your website is almost 9% of Google score not to mention the reliability of your host matters as uptime is a factor most people end up getting hacked and then their sites aren’t backed up or they have Go Daddy hosting and get charged tons of money to retrieve the site that was never worth backing up the 1st place to the owner to begin with. It’s just part of this whole spam web network that allows people to spend $30 a year and $2 a domain to make some horrific spam website. I use WordPress quite a bit and would strongly recommend and manage WordPress host of course if you need more than that as you don’t run WordPress I would use a trusted her provider single hop, Peer1, fire host or go grid
    I can only speak on what I have used so bear with me.
    For WordPress WP engine, Zippy kid, synthesis &
    then you need the right tools of course you should read up on everything SEOmoz writes as well as many others like search engine land. Raven tools is outstanding majestic SEO is a winner, spider metrics to this came on the scene in there pretty cool. But as Rand says the real value is what you can learn from SEOmoz community the tools combined with the community are a true synergy however many people believe that buying a pro subscription to seomoz will SEO their site for them. It is a sad thing that people believe you can turn a switch and your site will be optimized perfectly. No one’s been able to do that granted there are excellent tools out there to help you however I am preaching to the choir. Here’s one thing I would like to know from you guys how many of you use any cast or multicast DNS? Do you think it’s valuable? My belief is use the best and do your best you will hopefully never let the client down. Remember I said hopefully.
    All the best,

  • Great post. As it was already mentioned, I wonder how come in an SEO world where “Content is King” there is no mention at all on keyword research and on matching content to desired intents of visitors.
    Just as comparison, I had a chat yesterday with a client who’s website I built back in February. Brand new website, brand new domain name, zero online activity. Fast forward 6 months, thanks to a solid keyword research and intent-driven copywriting, his website ranks pretty high for the long tail phrases we picked, and he’s getting tons of leads. The site has almost no link building except for a handful of proper forum comments, and some facebook activity. I used the same approach for another website, which also gets great exposure thanks to solid content that drives readers toward a positive mindset and a logical CTA. Both websites are WordPress-powered with all necessary on-site tweaks (caching exists, but no CDN yet, load time is around 3-4 seconds).
    It’s strange how many SEO providers focus on the technical stuff and never move past the basics. Also, there are so many out there that equate SEO with link building (err… blog spam and forum spam) without ever considering that a well-writen article that is both informative and entertaining can go a lot, lot farther on auto-pilot than spaming sites with useless links. Site admins usually wont approve them anyways, so why bother.
    Love the simple summary “what do you do about SEO that is not related to content marketing”. Says it all.

  • Hi dave, an interesting piece. The comments are interesting too with comments by Igor and you making an interesting line of thought. I do not exactly agree with Sourav here. For my point of view, I agree that the days of pure SEO are over. As for getting paid for surveys, I am not exactly a fan of this trend because I think one should take a survey if the topic and the objectives are of any concern to the respondent.