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There was a time in Internet history when it was possible to be an expert at all things online marketing. That time ended around 1996. Similarly, there was a time when it was possible to be an expert at all things search marketing, a time which ended around 2003. And yet, many normally smart business people still hire the same person/company to manage both PPC and SEO.

Every day I read dozens of articles about PPC and I would say I probably learn something new every day. Whether its a new Google beta, a new bidding technique, or a hidden search engine – there’s always something to discover. On top of that, the world of PPC continues to morph and evolve. There’s PPC on YouTube, via Google Content Network, in display advertising, on Facebook, and even in email marketing.

I’m sure that there at least this much complexity and diversity in the world of SEO, which is why whenever a client asks me to do SEO for them, I tell them “I know enough to be dangerous, but not enough to actually charge you for my knowledge.” And yet, every day, PPC experts sell SEO services and SEO experts sell PPC services.

I can understand why clients wouldn’t see this as a problem – from their perspective, search is search, whether its paid or organic.  But would you go to a general practitioner for open-heart surgery and conclude that “all doctors are doctors” or hire an immigration attorney to handle your patent law? Of course not, because you know better; more specifically, you know that there are experts that handle specific elements of medicine or the law.

I would add that this is not just a problem for clients – if you are a SEO or PPC expert and you try to pass yourself off as an overall ‘search’ expert, your clients (at least your smart ones) will eventually catch on to the fact that you really don’t know what you are doing in 50% of the stuff you are working on. Granted, there’s a sucker born every minute, so you might be able to replace these clients with dumb ones for a time, but professional service businesses are dependent on word-of-mouth, and you can only skate by for so long.

Some day it wouldn’t surprise me to see sub-specialization occur within SEO and PPC. For example, you could have PPC experts who only work with display ads, or Facebook advertising gurus. Right now, I feel confident that you can still be an expert at “all things PPC”, and probably the same for “all things SEO.” But if someone tells you they are an expert at “all things search”, check your pocket for your wallet on the way out the door.