Our team recently made the annual pilgrimage to MozCon, a leading online marketing convention with deep roots in Search Engine Optimization, or SEO. We sought the latest wisdom straight from the industry’s greatest minds. We got that in spades, but found something else, too. In many ways, we were witness to — and part of — a Jerry Maguire moment for inbound marketing.
As you may recall from the movie, Bob Sugar (Jay Mohr) fires Jerry Maguire (Tom Cruise) as a result of Jerry’s heartfelt “Things We Think And Do Not Say” mission statement. Jerry wanted to understand his clients better and ensure that his agency was delivering world-class service. Unfortunately for Jerry, the powers that be thought doing more for clients meant making less money. That attitude didn’t hold water in the movie, and it doesn’t hold water in the search marketing world, either.
It occurred to me on the redeye back East that there are basically two competing philosophies fighting for the future of SEO. It’s not so much White Hat vs. Black Hat anymore; I think the writing’s on the wall on that one. Now, it’s Bob Sugars vs. Jerry Maguires. Bobs are reactive and status quo-oriented, often because of the culture of where they work, whereas Jerrys are proactive and embrace the potential in the current world wild web of converging technologies. Even when it doesn’t ensure a quick payoff.
Bobs are resigned to the idea that people hire them to “add SEO” to an existing site and react to search engine changes as necessary, and will never get the budget for big ideas. Unfortunately, that sort of “afterthought optimization” increasingly bears little fruit. We’re worried for Bob. Though these efforts can deliver value, it can only take a business so far. The inevitable diminishing returns can even lead to the false promises of the dark side. Link spamming, anyone?
Jerrys, on the other hand, recognize that since the Internet integrates with all levels of business, so too must SEO. Stephanie Chang does a great job summing up the evolution of SEO into integrated, inbound marketing:
We’re now supposed to be knowledgeable about UI/UX, branding, PR, responsive design, international considerations, content strategy/design/implementation, social media, structured data, local SEO, authorship markup, CRO, analytics… the list goes on and on.
Jerrys know this is hard work, but that if they do their inbound marketing job well, then customers and end-users will be happy, and more of each will come. They know this in their bones, even if no one outside their industry has any idea what they’re talking about. Yet.
This July in Seattle, an industry finally seemed to speak with one voice. Nearly every presenter from a range of disciplines demonstrated the benefits of using quality content to build trusted brands that better understand and engage customers. That’s what customers want, so that’s what Google wants, too. “SEO” was barely mentioned. Technical “nuts and bolts” SEO will always have a place, but MozCon clearly demonstrated the industry-wide support for broadening the scope of search marketing.
We have accepted the responsibility to think differently, embrace risk, aspire to do more and be better, to offer world-class service, transparency, and collaboration – at every step of the process. There will be costs and challenges associated with the shift, but ultimately a lot of long-term value for all involved. So, Jerry Maguire put it best: “Who’s coming with me?!”
Update: This idea is trending!
Win by not sucking, Eric Enge’s post:
Long-tail content for SEO — 2013 & Beyond
For another “big hairy audacious goal” for SEO, check out Laura Lippay‘s newest post for SEOgadget, Think Bigger: There’s a Glaring Marketing Industry Opportunity Up for Grabs.
Photo: Still of Tom Cruise in Jerry Maguire, © 1996 TriStar Pictures, Inc..