Could you have a career in Search Engine Optimization?

Is being an expert at SEO the career option of the future? Or is it the career most likely to have the rug pulled out from under it when Google decides to change its ranking algorithm?

I have spoken in the past about my infatuation with search engines. They have made my life so much easier. (And that of my father, who is the person I used to call with questions involving anything from how long to cook a steak to how to sand my hard wood floors.)

As most addicts, I try to push aside the nagging thought that I'm not really in control of the experience. Although I think I'm getting a world of information at my fingertips, I'm actually only getting that portion of information whose "handlers" happen to know how to get on Google's first pages.

Those of us in the click rate business know how important Google attention is. We flirt with Google by sprinkling our blogs with what it claims are the most popular search terms. (Although, I must say, you have to work pretty hard to work "Dancing with the Stars" into a piece about SQL Server data types.)

And then we create whole careers around the science of Search Engine Optimization. (That's SEO if you're hip.) Companies have begun hiring people to tweak their sites for search engines or they're grooming internal folks for the challenge.

For IT, the roles are known as-what else?—search engine optimizers. They deal with the technical side of things-coding and engineering and cracking the ranking algorithms. This gets as granular as urls for individual website pages.

Although I've seen a few articles that recommend this line as a new career possibility, I can't go that far. The "science" of SEO strikes me as a little like cloud seeding, like changing the natural order of things.

It also seems very temporary to me. What if you become the Supreme Tsar Of All That Is Google and then Google figures out a way to prevent everyone from defeating their algorithms? And, really, it's Google, so they are going to do that.

I think SEO is a good side expertise to have, but I wouldn't devote myself solely to it.

Are any of you becoming search engine optimizers out of necessity? Would you pursue it as a career?

By Toni Bowers

Toni Bowers is the former Managing Editor of TechRepublic and is the award-winning blogger of the Career Management blog. She has edited newsletters, books, and web sites pertaining to software, IT career, and IT management issues.