The State Of Search Engine Marketing

    December 6, 2005

Search engine expert Danny Sullivan gave a glowing account of the search engine marketing world today in his keynote address at SES Chicago.

How are your SEM projects working out? Do you see the future as bright as Sullivan does for the field? Share your thoughts on WebProWorld.

The state of the search engine marketing industry is alive, strong, and growing at an accelerated rate. Just ask Danny Sullivan. This particularly glowing endorsement came during Danny’s keynote speech for the 2005 Chicago SES conference.

To be sure, these positives were not just the result of some excessive smoke-blowing. In order to justify his position, Sullivan pointed a number of positive examples during his keynote, which focused on the state and perception of search engine marketing and those who conduct such services.

For instance, the state of talent recruitment throughout the search industry, not just with Google and Yahoo, is extremely competitive. This indicates companies are, in a sense, scrambling to acquire these talented individuals before the next one does.

Normally, the computer industry operates in an opposite method: the hiring process for qualified individuals is still quite competitive. However, with the search industry, it’s the other way around. Companies are scouring the globe in an effort to hire a talented staff.

From Sullivan’s perspective, the reason for the search marketing industry rapid evolution is because search has become a legitimate, stand alone advertising medium. With search being available (or soon to be) on practically every media-playing device (cellphones, iPods, computers), the search industry has the potential to replace, or at least render redundant, traditional methods of advertising.

And as Internet search continues to grow, one of the most popular Internet activities as it is, so does the SEM/SEO segment.

Another area of emphasis during the keynote was how the search marketing community has grown, mirroring the growth of the industry itself. To reinforce this point, Sullivan pointed out the large number of search-related forums and blogs (WebProWorld, SearchEngineWatch, SitePoint, SearchEngineRoundtable).

Organizations such as SEMPO and the SES conferences were referenced as well. All of these examples further the point that Sullivan was illustrating: the state of SEM/SEO industry is thriving and from the looks of things, it will continue to do so. It’s not as if the act of searching is going away anytime soon, if ever.

Reading into Danny’s comments, it certainly seems as if the search engine industry is not facing the specter of an Internet bubble pop.

To continue his point about the state of SEM, Sullivan also discussed the Ian Turner episode. If you aren’t familiar, Ian Turner was a noted SEM who came up missing after one of the WebmasterWorld conference sessions. Ian was subsequently located and issued a heartfelt thank you for the various efforts.

When word of Ian’s disappearance surfaced, almost the entire SEM community rallied around a grassroots effort, launched by Nick Wilson at, to find Turner. This includes the likes of the Yahoo and Google’s respective search blogs, who posted entries about Ian’s disappearance.

To further substantiate his position, Sullivan also mentioned the Barry Schwartz ( marriage proposal with the help of In one of the more unique “will you marry me” moves, Barry used Ask’s Smart Answer service to assist with his proposal to his soon-to-be wife.

Again, these examples reinforce the growth and position of the SEM/SEO industry. I don’t recall seeing any Google Blog entries about some random missing person, do you?

Sullivan also mentioned the benefits SEM/SEO providers have reaped since the acceptance of these services into the mainstream. For instance, search engines, especially Google and Yahoo, give frequent “weather reports” on the status of their search index and potential upcoming algorithm alterations.

This allows SEO/SEM types to effect necessary changes before these updates take hold. When you consider the work and constant tweaking necessary to be successful in search, having notification beforehand allows preventive/preliminary measures to be taken instead of having a group of SEOs running around like headless chickens trying to implement reactive alterations.

This can make a huge difference when Jagger-like updates occur.

The introduction of Google Sitemaps, Yahoo Site Explorer, the “nofollow” tag, and Google Base are other examples of these benefits. Danny also mentioned various publications and prime time television shows that have either focused or made mention of this growing industry.

However, as with most things, where there is good, there is also bad. To emphasize this point, Sullivan also mentioned some negative aspects of the SEM/SEO industry. In another time, one would probably call some of these tactics black hat SEO, but in the keynote, specifics were discussed.

One of the more troubling tactics involves blog/message board/guest book comment spam. Leaving the session, one was left with the notion that comment spam is almost at epidemic levels. To prove this point, Sullivan conducted a Google searched for memorial sites (for deceased people) with the keyword Viagra as part of the search.

What he found was entirely too many examples of this type of spam occurring. Not only is comment spam prevalent, it looks like it doesn’t discriminate either. I mean come on, Viagra spam on site that eulogizes a person’s life and death. What in world are these people thinking?

Unfortunately, thoughts on how this type of spam can be combated was not discussed, save the “nofollow” attribute. Admittedly, Sullivan’s keynote was only 30 minutes, not nearly enough time to discuss something you could spend a whole conference talking about.

All in all, when the keynote was completed, there was definitely the feeling that despite some of the spam issues, the SEO/SEM industry is growing at an accelerated rate and will continue to do so. The industry has also found its way into the mainstream, something that will not cease, as long as search is a viable Internet activity.

Chris Richardson is a search engine writer and editor for WebProNews. Visit WebProNews for the latest search news.