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Am I worried SEO is dead? No, in fact all these tales of SEO being dead is probably the best thing to happen to the industry as it forces people to choose a better SEO and many of the villains of SEO are hanging up their keyboards.
This article is born of a rant I had after seeing yet another SEO is dead article telling us how SEO’s are bad and should focus on quality websites and content rather than spam. This angered me a lot as since 2007 most of my SEO campaigns have been content centric, and since 2009 usability and conversion optimisation has been key to many campaigns. I know I am not alone in these practices and know a lot more SEO’s doing great work building brands and getting multimedia successes for their clients than I know spammers. And FYI the really talented black hat SEO’s who manipulate the search engines aren’t the people leaving spammy comments on blogs either.
So is SEO dead?
SEO is dead- SEO is changing
For years we have seen articles telling us ‘SEO is dead’ many of these are sensationalist, link baits, or just mis informed, however 2011 and 2012 have seen such changes in Google that many are starting to believe that SEO is dead.
So is SEO dead? Will we see lots of SEO web geeks down the job centre looking for jobs? In my opinion no, although as SEO is changing so dramatically we may see less job titles of SEO’s being advertised, replaced by another job description but effectively doing the same job.
As long as their are Search Engines, there will be a need for people to optimise websites to do well in the search engines. Whether this remains to be the job of a Search Engine Optimiser (SEO) or a website optimiser, inbound marketer or digital PR. Whatever the job title the end goal will effectively be the same, to get converting traffic to a website via search engines, other websites and social media.
Many of the recent articles entitled SEO is dead or a similar paraphrase have a very out dated view of SEO, once upon a Google, SEO was keyword stuffing and anchor text rich links, it was fast it was profitable and it worked wonders turning small businesses into big players over night. However, Google is always improving, these ways of optimising a website were a manipulation of the search engines and the websites were not good enough to hold the positions they did. Google reacted to this and SEO’s reacted to Google, or at least the smart ones did.
For years certain sites would get penalised for using black hat methods or methods that were against Google guidelines, you never knew if you were going to be lucky and get away with it or if you would get kicked out and lumbered with a hefty PPC bill to get any Google traffic. Many SEO’s took the risk, they also used spam techniques that meant people not using their services thought badly of them and the industry, sometimes this worked, sometimes it didn’t but the practice left a bad impression in clients and website owners minds.
Since around 2007, many SEO’s realised that although spam worked, it was a ticking bomb, they employed various studies on Google algorithms to find out what practices worked and what didn’t, not all practices were strictly ‘White hat SEO’ but combining this with good design, usability and unique content they not only helped clients do well in the search engines but also helped them convert traffic into sales. However, you rarely hear about these successes as they just become a good brand and a good website that you trust without any knowledge of the heard work done by SEO’s and web design teams to get it there.
Penguin and Panda
2011 and 2012 was when it all came crashing down for any SEO using techniques that weren’t particularly ethical, first Panda hit people using bad and copied content then Penguin hit the spammy links. This hit the SEO industry hard as many sites that had SEO on them from pre 2005 had spammy links, these may not have been from the current SEO provider or they may have been, either way sites saw a huge drop in search engine traffic.
Many SEO providers ran for the hills, but the good news is those of us who were left had either anticipated this or adapted quickly to this leaving a lot of very good SEO’s.
If you were still using the same techniques in 2012 that you were using in 2009 then as an SEO you are not doing yourselves any favours, it has been obvious for years that as Google improves, we as SEO’s also need to improve. It isn’t about finding the next black hat SEO technique that will work for the short term, but finding a strategy that will work for your clients industry, get them the right traffic, build trust in their site and brand and inevitably lead to more sales.
Penguin and Panda seem to have sorted the weak SEO’s from the strong, those SEO’s that have moved on quickly, learnt everything they can, tested and implemented to success.
Search Engine Products
With search engines, comes the need for search engine marketing, as Google and Bing have introduced more services and products there are more ways to use search engines to get traffic. It is still a very common misconception that SEO’s only work with organic traffic that comes up in the web SERPs, as Google pushes these results further down the page with sponsored ads, images, local listings, news and shopping feeds the nay sayers cry out SEO is dead!!
This is ridiculous, as a SEO it is very short sighted not to optimise a product feed into Google for an ecommerce website, or have a local listing for a local business or a place that people will visit. These additional services and products from the search engines are just providing SEO’s with more ways to get traffic to a website using the search engines.
Every Industry has heroes and villains
Stereotypes are rife in every area of our lives, and every industry has its stereotypical heroes and villains, of course in some areas it is the villains that are the better known, such as your car sales men, bankers and lawyers, many of these industry’s have been tainted by bad stereotypes and SEO is definitely suffering from a similar stigma.
Recent algorithm changes are meaning many of the SEO villains are disappearing into the sunset and those that don’t are easier to spot as they have no websites to use as a recent case study or testimonial. The un sung heores of SEO are busy getting results, getting websites out of penalisations and adapting to additional services, products and algorithm changes.
What’s in store for SEO’s
Although SEO is always going to be needed while we still have Google, Bing et al and all their products the job of a SEO is becoming much more diverse, the lines are crossing between a marketing consultant, a strategist, link baits, content marketing and many more roles that many SEO’s are having to get their hands dirty with. I haven’t even begun to touch upon the effect of Social Media on a SEO’s role.
I can envisage many people changing their job titles that is a better reflection of what they do than the very limited ‘SEO’ title as well as the negative connotations associated with this, we have already seen many companies re brand and removing SEO from their name.
I don’t think any good SEO consultants should be worried about their jobs and am I happy to be part of an industry that is so fast moving and interesting.