Internet Marketing and Overspecialization

Ian Lurie

How much specialization is too much?

I’ve started noticing whole new fields of internet marketing opening up: Blog marketing, social marketing, video marketing, and of course viral marketing (an oldie but still drives me nuts).

Supposedly each of these focuses on a distinct space, and someone specializing in, say, Blog marketing, can do stuff that a talented internet marketer can’t.

Excuse me?

Isn’t a blog just a web site? How about mySpace? YouTube?

"I can't leave my box."

Specializing in a tiny sliver of internet marketing just to gain a niche is OK, I guess, but how can marketers serve their clients ethically and well if they only provide a single expertise? They can’t.

Long live the generalists…

Ian Lurie

Ian Lurie is the founder of Portent. He's been a digital marketer since the days of AOL and Compuserve (that's more than 25 years, if you're counting). Ian's recorded training for, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Smashing Magazine, and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, Seattle Interactive Conference and ad:Tech. He has published several books about business and marketing: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle, The Web Marketing All-In-One Desk Reference for Dummies, and Conversation Marketing. Ian is now an independent consultant and continues to work with the Portent team, training the agency group on all things digital. You can find him at

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  1. Ian,
    Up until recently the companies that were doing SEO, SEM, Social Media Optimization and related activities were either the geeks themselves or the early adopters. The only place early adopters could go to get these services were the geeks, so the geeks started creating their own consulting and marketing companies.
    Now SEO is going mainstream and moving beyond the tech companies. We are seeing a steady rise in mainstream corporate style job postings for in-house positions at bigger corporations and well-moneyed companies. As SEO/SEM goes mainstream the geeks have to evolve and adapt. One of the ways to do that is to specialize in newer niche areas like viral marketing and reputation management.
    While SEO/SEM is leaving the early adopter stage, over at the PR and advertising firms most of the generalists do not yet know how to do this stuff or work it to the best advantage. We are seeing some agencies open fledging workgroups ( Other agencies are partnering with the geeks, the niche SEO/SEM/SMO companies. A great example is the strategic partnership between Visible Technologies and WPP ( WPP’s portfolio of public relations firms want to offer services like Reputation Management, they know that if they don’t their clients will go elsewhere for these services, yet they do not have the expertise in-house. Hence the partnership with a credible niche player.
    As SEO/SEM/SMO becomes more firmly centered into marketing’s mature phase I predict that we will see consolidation between many of the geeks and many geek firms being acquired by PR and advertising agencies. I also believe that we will see some of the SEO/SEM/SMO firms grow beyond their geek roots and become full-featured agencies and perhaps the next generation of powerhouses in their own right.
    What we are seeing is part of the natural evolution of Internet Marketing and the SEO/SEM/SMO sub-market. In some ways it is very predictable.

  2. Tom, thanks for the great comment!
    I agree – this is part of the process. But putting on my curmudgeon hat is fun every once in a while.
    I’ll be very interested to see how things go for the next few years, as traditional agencies try to acquire and expand, and internet agencies maneuver into broader media territories…

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