The New York Times, a name you can trust, or used to. That a 22 years old gets a job anywhere as a search engine optimization director is news no one online needs, save for family members. Regardless of the talents and merits of Nick Yorchak, who was recently employed by LeeReedy Creative as its SEO director, why is such a news story worthy of the New York Times online? (Unfortunately a version of this article appeared in print on January 11, 2009, on page BU10 of the New York edition.) If traditional media is to seamlessly integrate into the digital realm, getting the facts straight would seem to be a valid concept on or offline.
Patricia R. Olsen, a New York Times’ columnist who covers Fresh Starts (monthly column about emerging jobs and job trends) apparently thinks such news is worthy of a column. The author, who claims the position of SEO director indicates a new trend, is probably not aware that SEO has been a profession since early 2000. In 2003, for example, Aaron Wall, acknowledged SEO expert, published the most acclaimed SEO Book in the industry, which because of the changing nature of SEO, has been revised probably 50 times since. This book was the SEO manual for so many SEO professionals. The book is no longer available because the author understood that the SEO industry changed so much, that we can no longer count on a “bullet-proof” recipe to rank sites in the search engines.
SEO is a dynamic industry indeed, but under no circumstance can the profession be described as “A Future in Directing Online Traffic” – for it is not. The days when SEO alone was enough to direct traffic are long gone. Although the author wakes by the end of her editorial with;
“MR. YORCHAK’S responsibilities have also expanded since he joined LeeReedy. He is now involved in social media marketing (broadcasting clients’ messages on blogs, Facebook or YouTube, for example), and Web analytics, to track user behavior and other site metrics. His new title is director of online marketing.”
this is still not enough to justify the tam-tam about Mr. Yorchak’s employment. After reading the column, I am left with the question: “What was the author really trying to convey?” That LeeReedy Creative finally understood that there is no future in online public relations without search engine optimization and online marketing? But where was this PR company when PRWeb launched? PRWeb was one of the first to acknowledge the need of SEO for press releases. PRWeb was also the company that advanced the concept of social media press releases.
To support her article, Mrs. Olsen quotes a 2007 report by Forrester Research that predicts that in 2012, companies will spend almost $9 billion on search engine optimization. A 2007 report in 2009? Mrs. Olsen , who offered no link to the alleged report, obviously didn’t do her homework.
Why only three days ago Laurie Sullivan of MediaPost published an exceptional analysis that showed that companies in the US will spend this year alone $12.3 billion on search advertising. By the end of 2012 this will probably jump to $17 or more billions. This is almost twice what Forrester Research predicted in 2007, and the numbers could change again at the end of 2009. As the Web evolves, and new search engines emerge with different algorithms and different indexing/ ranking methodologies, all our metrics will obviously need revising.
If the New York Times sees SEO as a profession only in 2009, when the market is already saturated with individual SEOs and SEO agencies making seven digit incomes only from search engine marketing, I wonder when they will actually acknowledge social networks and other tools that actually drive traffic. Examples of these include specialty forums, bookmarking sites like digg and StumbleUpon, aggregators like FriendFeed or Secondbrain and most importantly Twitter-like lifestreaming networks that played such an important role in Obama’s online presidential campaign.
The New York Times is one of the most respected and credible publications, online and off, but if they continue filling their columns with no-news or misinformation, the educated readers will certainly turn to other publications. Who knows maybe it is also time for the NYT’s to get some online marketing education? Although rich in information, the NYT’s is mainly advertisement driven and cannot seriously speak about community involvement. The publishers dumped real-life feedback opportunities for the readers by disabling comments on all posts. Is this how a traditional media intends to engage an online public? If someone on Sitepoint, ReadWriteWeb, CNET or any other notable information portal made this type blunder, they would never hear the end of it.
To a degree, we as a Web community have to “police” these traditional companies. We were once worried that traditional media and business would encroach upon the Web community in many ways, and to an extent this has happened, but we did not expect ignorance would be one of them. From a developer standpoint, it is crucial to understand the dynamics of SEO regardless of the innovation. The principals for instituting search engine optimization remain the same, though the methods and tools change dramatically. Bad SEO, like bad information, is worse than no information at all. So, the message to this columnist is; “Know your topic, but more particularly, know your audience.”