If you ask an SEO professional if passion is necessary to succeed in the industry, they will likely tell you 'yes'. Without that passion, the job becomes monotonous and the desire to learn new things begins to die. You become unhappy with your work and the quality suffers.
Unfortunately, the SEO industry seems to be a victim of its own demise. It has grown at such a speed that those outside of it often miss the point and have a very poor understanding of what it entails. Solo professionals deal with clients who want impossible guarantees and results. On top of that, they still need to worry making a living and maintaining a solid reputation.
The mass amounts of bad information, the arrival of social media into the mainstream, and the lack of clear lines have created dissension and mistrust within the industry as well as with paying clients.
You would think that in-house SEO's would have it made since they just take the orders and run with it.
Well, I'm afraid this only complicates matters. Some companies offering a mix of services understand that SEO is a vital component, but they fail to understand the limitations and rules of the game. They make promises that are impossible to keep and the professional is stuck working with a client who refuses to look at their situation any differently.
Then, there is a sharp end to the learning. It seems like once you reach a certain point, the facts suddenly disappear and opinions take over. Disagreements begin and confusion ensues.
These are just a few of the problems facing the industry, which cause a number of professionals lose interest in the field and quit outright. We need a number of solutions, and we need them fast.
With the high saturation of professionals in the industry (and I use this term loosely), you need to set yourself apart from the crowd. Focusing on a particular niche is only one way to go about it. Consider adding additional services such as viral linking opportunities, submission to niche social media sites (Tip'd for financial sites), and social media optimization. Find out what your clients have to look for before and after they hire you and either supply it, or make it easier for them.
Don't be afraid to qualify your clients. It can be hard, but turning away a client who will be difficult to deal with is your better option. Otherwise, you torture yourself, the other person, and end up with a bad outcome that could likely cost you your career. Companies with in house SEOs should follow the same practices.
Other SEO professionals are not your enemy; join forces instead of drawing swords. It doesn't matter how much we like or dislike it, search engines, IR experts, social media people, marketing, business, and other professionals all have something to offer. By working together, you will learn things you might not learn otherwise, open the door to new opportunities, find friends to vent to that you didn't know you had, and maybe even collaborate to create something new and in demand.
Stop preaching to the choir and focus your marketing. If you maintain a blog to increase your ratings and situate yourself as an industry leader, don't focus on advanced techniques and industry news. You will attract lots of attention from other SEOs in your industry, but chances are high that your target clients aren't going to understand or be interested in this type of information.
On your blog, focus on how clients can enhance their online business and the results you provide for them. (Focus on problem solving and benefitting the client.) This improves their experience with your company and increases the chance that they will return. Situate yourself as an industry leader and improve your blog further by using your in-depth SEO posts for guest posts on great sites.
One of the biggest problems seems to be educating the client or the company you are working for. You should still try, but don't expect it to make a significant difference. Clients often don't care and aren't interested in how things work; they only know they need money (traffic) and don't care what it takes to get there. This is where qualifying your clients come in.
Mix up your work. Just because your main focus is on SEO for dentists for example, doesn't mean you are limited to that. Take time to sign up and volunteer for beta testing important new tools and markets on the web. Currently, I write, work in social media, and am involved in beta testing a new Twitter tool for measuring the success of a campaign that is unlike any of the others currently market. This is perfect for me; I love Twitter, like trying out the new tools coming out, I get in on some of the best tools and concepts on the web, and the developer gets the information needed for a quality product.
Perhaps the most important thing is to understand your limitations and learn not to take everything to heart. With the economy in the toilet, everyone is grasping at whatever straws they think might help to ease the pains. For the days when it seems like all of the crazies have found their way out of the virtual forest, find a safe place to complain and take your mind off things.
Have you noticed the economy and frustration taking their toll on the industry? How do you combat these things?