Is SEO dead?

Sixteen years later, it seems every ‘armchair Nostradamus’ with a base level of understanding of SEO feels qualified to call it’s time a death. The latest occurrence was by Tim Anderson for the Guardian who claimed in an article titled ‘SEO is dead. Long live social media optimisation’ that SEO is manipulation that will be replaced by social media optimisation, which he claims is more user-friendly.

Search Engine Optimization includes enhancing a website to improve its visibility on search engines including Google.

Image Source from: Shelli Walsh.
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Nonsense, SEO is alive and well and will only die if people stop using search engines or if every result on a search page becomes advertising. Neither outcome is likely, SEO today is more vital than ever, and investment and revenue from SEO activities is growing.

The fact is the growth in that usage of search engines continues to rise, with an 18 per cent year on year increase in search engine traffic. The conspiracy theorists claim only 13 per cent of the Google search results are actually ‘organic’ web pages, but do a simple search and you will see this is clearly not the case.

Google is indeed incorporating results from an even greater variety of sources, such as video’s and localised information. This means a switch of SEO emphasis, but certainly not stopping altogether. While social media is a powerful marketing tool, rather than competing with search, the two techniques are converging, with social providing powerful signals to the search engine algorithm.

It isn’t a simple choice of SEO or social; successful businesses must be doing both.

Search Engine Optimization includes enhancing a website to improve its visibility on search engines including Google. In the late 1990′s and early 2000′s unethical SEO firms grew in abundance and discovered methods to falsely optimize a site by essentially “tricking” the search algorithm. This false enhancement became known as “black-hat SEO”. Since then, Google has been taking aggressive (and necessary) steps to correct this problem so that quality websites with strong, original and relevant content would rightfully claim top rankings. Poor websites would falter, while ethical SEO services firms would significantly benefit.

A number of Companies where doing ‘I’m alright Jack’: with their SEO activities by building up very good traffic to their website. The ROI (Return on Investment) on what they were paying their SEO guru’s didn’t really matter as income from the website far outweighed the cost.

Where a number of companies failed was by failing to keep their eye on the ball, and by not actually asking their SEO guru’s what strategies had been put in place or discussing long term plans.

I don’t want to repeat the same mantras about the ‘penguin’ updates but after the big ‘penguin’ update in March, 2012 a number of innocent Companies fell out the ‘Google tree’ and where once they were enjoying page one on Google for many years, they suddenly dropped to about page 10. This impact was like a tsunami to them and hit them hard! Some companies, and I am referring to the small sized companies could be generating an income of £80,000 per month from the website alone and to have such a devastating effect of dropping to page 5 or more would have probably wiped out their income completely.

The panic had set in and the website owners could only demand from their ‘guru’s’ the facts of what happened and why. Their own research had revealed that their ‘guru’s’ had built up thousands of ‘spammy’ links, or low quality links to their website that had no relevance or authority. The guru had indeed been looking for a short term financial gain without considering a five year plan!

As well as a number of Companies going to the wall there was a number of SEO Companies who simply packed up their market stall and left!

Once you have entered into the ‘Black Hat SEO’ arena there is no recovery process in place or ‘backspace’ button to press. These poor links that have been put in place (and I mean probably more than 10,000) will leave a footprint for a very long time. And as long as Google can see the footprint you’re basically ‘dead in the water’.

SEO is now more about engaging your target audience through many different medium platforms and applying your tactics in an ethical way with a strong and well thought out plan. But most of all content will always be king and although you may not be the author of any prized book novels but you have to take time to get your message across to your target audience.

SEO has changed and white hat strategies are a ‘must’ if you do not want to fall foul of Google!