Editor's Warning: This week's Searching for Meaning contains wisdom not intended for children. If you are at all offended by controversial material, please refrain from reading and continue on about your day.
Not that I shouldn't be surprised, but it seems everyone wants to talk about the future of search. Quite a few opinions have emerged in my discussions recently, and the biggest question that seems to be on everyone's mind: how can we as an industry facilitate search becoming more mainstream and respected?
Of course, I could simply end this week's diatribe with a short and sweet "you gotta give it, to get it" pep talk, but I thought I'd take an 800-or-so-word detour with a few thoughts on the "how-to" in search marketing's quest for a seat at the big kid's table discussion.
Search Is a Private Joke
And no one is invited. Guarding the delicate secrets of SEO (define) science is a favorite pastime for many optimization gurus. The problem is secrets seem to be disappearing quickly as the search sites work to dispel many of the great myths of SEO with practical knowledge and common sense.
Now, what was that old saying about common sense?
Ah yes, common sense just isn't as common as it should be, and whichever side of the fence you sit on (white hat, black hat, grey hat), protecting or debunking search myths are perhaps not as important as welcoming new and curious members into the search community.
The specialized knowledge of search should be shared in order to raise the global profile of the discipline and tradecraft. All too often, those new to the SEO business are treated like outsiders. Instead of a warm welcome, neophytes get a warm cup of "get lost," Oliver Twist style.
If you want to add credibility to the practice, stop treating people like bastard orphans and greet them happily into your world.
Organically Paid Sacrifice
While the industry should be invested in advancing the practice itself, many devote time to warring factions within the search disciplines. Natural optimization folks don't get along with paid people, and there seems to be no unifying force among them.
Where is William Wallace when you need him?
The bigger issue here is the comparison of online advertising and offline advertising. Or is it the comparison of online advertising and search?
Guess what? All of the pieces of the marketing puzzle are converging from the data, and you can either jump on the train and ride it into town, or you stand there and watch the choo-choo pass you by.
It will take a brave heart to mend the wounds created by self-serving naysayers seeking attention instead of constructive solutions. The problem is sex, death, and lies still sell papers, and until we buck up and work together, the inevitable change just won't be as positive as we'd like.
Waiting for Google to Exhale
Somewhere along the line -- it might have been the triple-digit stock price and billions in cash stockpile -- quite a few people stopped what they were doing on the Web and started waiting for Google to create the next big innovation.
That's not to say there are no innovators left. If Jason Calacanis can Mahalo his way into a perceived better way to index the Web, and Tremor Media can sell American Express card memberships in a mid-roll environment, there are still plenty of options out there for the little guy to innovate big.
And here's a little message for those providing venture capital out there: Just because one has exhibited scholastic aptitude sufficient to spell v-e-r-t-i-c-a-l s-e-a-r-c-h e-n-g-i-n-e, there may yet be better options out there for a first round of funding. Just a small suggestion.
Milking the Bull
Imagine the surprise of one farmer who tried to fill his bucket with sweet cream only to be kicked in the head by an angry bull. Moral: Even though you're an expert, it always pays to check your equipment carefully and proceed only when you are reasonably sure of a productive outcome.
Each and every day I spend in the search marketing world is a new and exciting challenge. For the last 30 days or so, much of my time has been spent either being interviewed or interviewing people to chat it up about the future direction of search and ultimately, SES.
Many old-school search and online advertising practitioners feel their world is being taken over (perhaps justifiably so) by the next generation of big marketers. Newsflash -- attempting to restrict access or burying your head in the sand won't help -- it isn't going to work for the phone book people, and won't work for you.
Kevin Ryan is off this week. Today's column ran earlier on Search Engine Watch.