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Why 'SEO Marketers' Need to Start Calling Themselves 'Digital Marketers' Instead

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SEO isn't what it used to be. I'd argue that the term "SEO" is barely even still relevant.

SEO used to be a powerful tool. (Powerful is an understatement.) One could easily game the system. You could buy links, submit to link wheels and directory blasts, keyword stuff, and hide on-page text. You could submit to irrelevant blogs for keyword-rich anchor text, and you could syndicate your content across the Web. Those were all viable techniques during the SEO heyday, techniques that brought thousands of visitors to sites that were undeserving.

Those tactics didn't bring value to the customer, however, and were generally bad for the business world.

Today, each of those tactics is unhelpful. Yes, you can guest-blog... but only occasionally and in very specific instances. Yes, you can syndicate articles... but only with canonical tags or other methods that prove to be difficult to execute because of restrictions from the destination site. You cannot buy links, use link schemes, use directory blasts or any hidden content tactics, or you will be hit by an algorithmic or manual penalty faster than you can say, "What's Google's algorithm?"

SEO Today

SEO isn't dead; it's just different. I like to compare the current state of the industry to a teenager. We (the parents) are mad because our child is acting strange. Our beloved child, SEO, is growing up into someone we don't even know or understand anymore. Our teen is now a fickle semi-adult with mood swings every other month (Google Authorship, anyone?). SEO has evolved as Google has evolved, and it's now more of an aggregate result of other marketing tasks than as its own standalone task.

Confused? You should be. Everyone is. Why are there still entire companies based around SEO if it hardly has its own space in the online marketing realm? Why are we still even talking about it?

You could say we're talking about SEO because some of it still needs to be done: basic on-page optimization; technical stuff, such as sitemaps, redirects, and making sure robots are active; and maybe some link-profile cleaning. However, I'd then counter that almost anyone can do that stuff now. Between easy-to-use WordPress plugins, YouTube tutorials, and sites like this one, anyone can learn, share, and execute the basics by themselves.

Stop worrying, though. (I'm telling myself this more than anything)! There's a ton to do in SEO; it's just not SEO anymore in its pure, early form in any case.

Today, SEO is a function of fantastic marketing. It's back-to-business basics, back to satisfying the customer. We're back to creating and doing things that are interesting, useful, and awesome.

What an 'SEO' Company Really Does Now (or Should Do)

A great SEO will take part in many marketing tasks. It will...

  • Employ endearing social media campaigns aimed at targeting the correct audience
  • Create sweet content that people love to read and promote that content through channels that are applicable and relevant
  • Use Google AdWords and social media advertising to build brand awareness and optimize clicks into conversions or customers
  • Use email marketing to its fullest potential, and help you create a long-lasting and scalable online marketing strategy

We need to stop calling ourselves SEOs, and we need to stop calling others SEOs.

Start calling yourself an "online marketing company" or a "digital marketing agency" or a something other than "a company that does SEO."

Making that distinction will help you create marketing packages that are best for your customers. Calling yourself a digital marketing agency will help your customer grasp what you do for them and will help your customers navigate your site.

We're still transitioning ourselves, and being busy with all of our clients doesn't help. Simply rewriting the content on our website has gone by the wayside, but we're aware of the issue. Creating content, remaking pricing packages, and (possibly) re-branding your entire identity takes time. But the first step is admitting the truth. Then move forward from there.

SEO is on its way out. Digital and online marketing is on its way in.

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Andrew Herrault is lead strategist at Connective Insights, a digital marketing agency based in the lovely mountains of Boone, North Carolina.

LinkedIn: Andrew Herrault

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  • by Alan Thu Dec 18, 2014 via web

    I agree with most everything you say, it's a very good write up. SEO companies and professionals need to stop thinking like they are developers and programers. They must start thinking like marketers and stop having users and start having prospects and leads. At our company we've stopped calling it SEO opting for Organic Promotion and seems to be working well.

  • by Andrew Thu Dec 18, 2014 via web

    Thanks for the input Alan! Organic Promotion, interesting. I really like that. Does your company have an 'organic promotion' service page?

  • by Alan Thu Dec 18, 2014 via web

    Andrew, yes we do

  • by Andrew Thu Dec 18, 2014 via web

    Alan it looks great. Love the concept!

  • by Molly Fallone Mon Dec 29, 2014 via web

    Thanks, Alan! Wow great below. I think a lot of us are still caught up in the old, evil, spammy SEO's good idea to even stop referring to it as SEO for something else like organic promotion like said. With Google constantly changing its algorithm, I've been trying to stay on top of advice/how to react and focus on ways to organically promote. I just came across this post from IAcquire & Quicksprout - good visual of old/new (, think I might print your last paragraph with this visual and hang on my board. One tactic in particular that we're still seeing pop up around my place is keyword stuffing...we're trying to remind ourselves to throw that out with 2014 and focus on consistent, quality, and shareable content. I think this paired with an updated, mobile-first website is a great first step to search optimization today.

  • by Andrew Mon Dec 29, 2014 via web

    Thanks for sharing Molly, and I agree!

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