The SEOmoz Team made a particular and reasonable survey to analyze the industry of SEO in 2010.
As with the last surveyThe SEO Industry Survey Results for 2008, there are a number of caveats to take into consideration when looking at the data and conclusions that follow. In particular:
- It’s an online survey and it was perfectly possible to submit multiple answers
- Despite the widespread take-up, it is likely that there remains a bias towards readers of the SEOmoz blog and users of the SEOmoz tools (*)
- Respondents are self-selecting and have no incentive to provide truthful answers
Take great care when interpreting the data below. It should be implied throughout that every statement includes an embedded “among our respondents” and that statements may not extrapolate to the population at large.
Despite the inevitable limitations, the depth of information available for the engaged reader is immense. With answers given to 45 questions by over 10,000 people from over 90 countries on everything from earnings, job title and responsibilities to tactics and tools, we can dig out some really interesting stuff.
It is reassuring to see that through a period of extreme economic uncertainty, there is evidence of increasing demand for all the services surveyed. Over 70% of US respondents indicated an increase in demand for SEO services (a figure that was almost 80% in the UK). This fits closely with the anecdotal evidence we see from our own experience and that of many of the consultants and agencies I have talked to. It’s good to see our industry thriving through hard times.
Who files SPAM reports?
Compared to the general population, those filing spam reports are more likely to be:
- British, Canadian or Australian
- Under 30
- Earn at the top end of the ranges
- Be a member of SEMPO
- Work in an agency
- Describe themselves as “Advanced” or “Expert”
However, none of those are the interesting data-points. When we looked at those who have purchased links through a broker or service, we find that 27% have filed a spam report to the search engines compared to 12% in the general population! Those operating outside Google’s guidelines are over twice as likely to have filed a spam report about others.
Of those who have filed a reconsideration request, the number who have reported spam rises to 35%! It’s interesting to see that those identified by Google as potential spam are almost three times as likely to have reported spam elsewhere.
How is Google doing vs. paid links
There is also a dramatic cross-over between link buying and filing your own reconsideration requests – 30% of broker-based link buyers have sent a re-consideration request to Google (compared to 12% in the general population).
When we look at those who have bought links directly from webmasters but haven’t bought from brokers, however, we see just over 20% of those have filed a reinclusion request. Despite the rhetoric, (and as anyone experienced in competitor research knows, whether they buy links or not) Google clearly still hasn’t cracked the problem of digging out paid links that don’t have a network footprint.
What are the youngsters up to?
Looking at the segment of respondents under 22 (unfortunately not controlled for other differences such as role, company etc. due to small sample sizes) we see that the next generation are far more likely to have:
- Removed nofollow
- Used rel=”canonical”
- Bought links from other websites / webmasters (over 25% vs. ~13% of the general population)
- Interestingly, they are not significantly more likely to have used a link broker
- Filed a reconsideration request (over 20% vs. ~10% of the general population)
- Filed a spam report
Large site (500k pages plus)
Defining a segment of the SEOs who work on large sites (defined here as 500k+ pages), we find that they are:
- Much more likely to have attended a conference (65% have attended one in the last two years vs. 37% for those working on smaller sites)
- More likely to have direct reports (75% vs. 63%)
- Spend more time on on-page optimization and analytics / reporting – but significantly less time on content creation and social media marketing
- The dichotomy between on-page optimization and content creation is likely to be because of an increase in user generated content (UGC) for large sites plus the increased likelihood of separate departments creating content
These data points closely mirror those of the self-identified “advanced” and “expert” segments. We also see that the management of large sites is more of an in-house SEO role, with agency SEOs managing small to medium sized sites.
In the announcement of the survey, Rand said: Since SMX Advanced last year when Matt Cutt’s told us that nofollow no longer worked the way we thought for PageRank sculpting, I wonder if these numbers have changed?
Unfortunately, we asked the question in a slightly different way in 2008, so we can’t show exact graphs of the change, but we did get some interesting data.
In the 2008 survey, we asked about whether respondents recommended the use of nofollow. This year’s survey asked if they had added or removed nofollow from internal links. There was no significant difference between in-house and agency SEOs in their answer to this question:
32% had added nofollow in the past year while 21% had removed nofollow from internal links in the same time period.
This doesn’t tell the whole story, however, as around 15% had both added and removed nofollow from internal links in the past year. It seems, therefore, as though only 6% of SEOs changed their view sufficiently to move from having nofollow on internal links to removing those links.
What about the non-SEOs?
Not everyone who answered the survey works as an SEO. Just over 3/4 of respondents are “personally responsible” for SEO. We expected to see a pretty dramatic difference in responses to some questions, such as “which 3 sites do you most use for your marketing efforts?”. In fact, Facebook and LinkedIn were big for both SEOs and non-SEOs. In general, the SEOs were just more promotional almost entirely across the board. Only Flickr and Posterous are used more by non-SEOs than by SEOs ;