I'm tired of hearing the praises of SEO. Boring, hyped, and very confining.
Search engine optimization is just that, optimization for the search engines. But business based on search engine traffic is doomed to fail sooner or later. It's a crappy business model built on a pretty shaky foundation. Think about it. The business model is reliant on someone else to deliver the customer and that someone (or some people) are handing off traffic to millions of other websites. Not in an exclusive arrangement like you would get if you were to buy ad space in a newspaper but in a who has the deepest pockets gets to be seen scenario. Maybe a bad analogy but at least there are only tens of competitors in a newspaper as opposed to millions in the SERPs.
SEO is just one tool, like a hammer. But a master carpenter has drills, saws, levels, measuring tapes, notebooks, etc... I say we need to think bigger - beyond the limitations of one tool. SEO, PPC, social networking, viral marketing, are all tools in a much larger tool box. How you use them is up to you. The challenge is to have a sensible plan and know how to use them effectively to achieve the goal. Hm. Actually it's more than this.
When I take on a client I get into sponge mode. I want to hear all about what the client thinks about their product/service and what they want to achieve. I want to know about their perspective on the market space and the competition. I want to hear about the challenges they face and why. I want to meet the people so I can gauge them for myself. Why? Because this business of providing professional consulting and online services should be looking well beyond the narrow space of building a website, SEO and SEM. The challenge is to look at the whole enchilada from concept and development to delivery and follow up analysis and more.
If we think a narrow skill set will carry us through to retirement we're in for a rude awakening. Look at how quickly we've jumped from validated and functional websites as the service to sell, to SEO'd websites, and now onto social networking, etc. Think about how popular Flash was when it came onto the scene and the quick adoption of scripting languages. They were all quite the rage but then we played with them, tested them, implemented them in real world applications. And we realized they weren't the silver bullet. In fact, they quickly fell from hot commodities to just another tool. There will always be some knucklehead (gawd bless them) that tries the extreme like a Flash based website. We all benefit from the experimentation and hopefully they either knew what they were doing when they built it or learned from the mistake. We sure learn from them.
BUT my challenge to you as professionals in the field of webmastering is to think outside the toolbox. Where is the next tool going to come from and what will it look like. I know we'll see some flash in the pan tool/technique for some small scale gain. But what we need is to (to quote Guy Kawasaki) "jump the curve." We cannot create more of the same. We need to skip evolution and create something completely different!