Search Engine Marketing—Marketing, Technology, or Magic?

Many people have written about SEM and/or SEO. Today, I want to offer an outsider's perspective on the industry. There is no doubt that search engine marketing is an interesting and important discipline. Search engines play a major role in attracting traffic to a Web site. And unlike many attraction methods, search engines offer insight into the specific interests and needs of the site visitor. As such, search engine traffic can be the best qualified and most targeted audience. Indeed, since the 90s there have been companies dedicated to editing Web sites so that they attract the kind of traffic that is desired. Of course, this is a tricky task. It's hard to be sure that a particular edit will make any difference, nevermind a positive one. At one time, search engine firms had exclusive access to complex tools and insider knowledge. These elements presented an effective barrier to entry to this market. These days, the tools and information are available to everyone. It's a real choice to optimize your site for yourself. Indeed, now that the technological barriers are lower, search engine marketing is starting to be absorbed into marketing. After all, determining keywords and altering tactics to attract the right traffic is just marketing. Search engine marketing is just marketing with search engines! Aside from the technological barriers, little is stopping marketing agencies from incorporating this function into the agency, alongside media buying, copy writing, etc. Does this mean that search engine marketing firms will cease to exist? I think so, eventually. For now, there is still enough difficulty that it might make sense to go to a specialized firm. But, you can already see the changes. More and more clients are hiring search engine experts internally. And more and more SEM agencies are turning down work for small clients, forcing them to get their search services as a bundled offering with their main agency. Eventually, I think that search firms will be like typesetters—a function of a larger company instead of a separate firm.