Let’s not beat around the bush: everyone hates SEO consultants, and I don’t just mean a metaphorical hate; I mean a literal, nauseating, punch-in-the-face-fantasy kind of hate.
A long time ago, in an Internet far, far away, search engine optimization was a niche subject. A few curious people started to research ranking algorithms and calculate how various on-page factors subtlety influenced success. And it was worth it; people found that by tweaking their website code and content, they could improve their revenue.
Seeing the benefits for themselves, everyone wanted in, thinking that there were a few simple secrets that, once learned, allowed you to wear the ‘SEO consultant’ badge. Before you knew it, there were more SEO consultants than websites.
That was the mid-2000s. More recently, in the last couple of years, the same has happened for Social Media. You’ve probably witnessed first-hand the plague of ‘social media experts’, swarming around the crop of unsuspecting businesses with the rumbling insect-hum of ‘user engagement’ and ‘collaborative content creation’.
Before I go any further, let’s broach the elephant in the room: yes, we are a small new agency offering content strategy, social media and SEO services. Clearly, we are full of self-loathing.
The graph above shows Google searches for ‘SEO’ and ‘Social Media’ over the last six years and highlights the rise in popularity of these subjects. For social media, the 2009 ascendancy was dramatic.
These are now extremely competitive fields: the average Cost Per Click for a Google AdWord against the search term ‘search engine optimization’ is currently $10.89. It makes sense that everyone is now looking for the Next Big Thing.
It would seem that Content Strategy is it. Perhaps spurred on by the success of Kristina Halvorson’s influential Content Strategy for the Web book, published towards the end of 2009, the beginning of 2010 has witnessed a considerable increase in interest towards content strategy. Wait a minute – maybe it’s because of us! No? Oh. You’re probably right.
Even with this massive surge in interest (reinforced by the growth in number of web pages about the subject – see above), there still appears to be opportunity in the content strategy hills. The average Cost Per Click for the phrase is a healthier $2.60, although the number of US monthly searches (8,100) is nowhere near that for search engine optimization.
Perhaps more tellingly, the surge in interest for the discipline doesn’t seem to be matched by an increase in internal roles overseeing the discipline in organizations. We were talking to Sara Wachter-Boettcher recently, who is almost single-handedly spearheading the subject in the fifth largest city in the US. Even with a population of over a million people, she struggles to find relevant people to attend local content strategy meetups.
LinkedIn data supports this. In contrast to over 18,000 people with ‘social media’ in their job title, and over 22,000 with ‘SEO’ in their title, there are less than 2,000 users who identify with ‘content strategist’ or ‘content strategy’.
Of these, nearly 85% are located in North America. In web subjects, this figure can be seen as a measure of maturity: as the subject and role becomes more globally recognized, so the UK, India, and other countries will adopt it. This can be seen with SEO, where only 33% of matching LinkedIn users are located in North America.
Expect to see more Content Strategist roles in larger organizations, and a growing hatred towards the freelance content strategist as more people adopt the title. As the people who warned you about it, we hope your violent content strategist fantasies are a little less vivid when they involve us.