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Why the Rumor Mill Can't Stop Killing Off Search Engine Optimization

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Every year, I hear the same thing: SEO is dead.

At first, being new to the practice, I was a bit concerned but then realized that SEO is not dead nor will it die quickly or by the hands of a Panda, Penguin, Hummingbird, or any other animal.

The phrase mostly comes from digital marketing professionals, webmasters, programmers, and other people that don't really understand SEO. It is also popular around SEOs that jumped ship once it got more complicated.

The only way SEO will ever die is if we no longer use Google or other search engines to search the Internet.

The Death of Poor SEO Tactics

The root of all the "SEO Is Dead" articles I have read really focuses on tactics that are dead.

Tactics such as including submitting sites to directories and using exact match domain names are dead. Outsourcing to India to get hundreds or thousands of exact match anchor text links, excessive blog commenting, article submissions, and press releases that really weren't news—those were all parts of SEO that are now dead.

One of the more popular articles, "The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content," published on Forbes in July 2012 predicted the end of SEO by the summer of 2014. That date has passed... and SEO is still alive and well.

But I see what author Ken Krogue meant. His article really was not saying that SEO was dead; it was saying his definition of SEO was dead. He was wrong in thinking that SEO would be gone completely, and he thought social would take over (he labels himself as a social media missionary, so that doesn't surprise me at all). What he did get right is something that most SEOs knew by then: Old tactics would die, and something new would replace them.

Business owners who have not been successful with SEO don't understand it. Those who don't want to put resources towards SEO or who hired a bad SEO in the past shouted for joy as they decided to turn away from SEO and never look back.

The Death of Treating SEO Like a Silo

Another reason some may say SEO is dead is because treating SEO as a silo is dead.

A SEO can no longer work alone building links to a site and simply adding keywords. Today, companies need to keep in mind the changes that will happen with user experience that can affect bounce rates and time on site. SEOs work with other digital marketing channels like paid search and social media that will contribute to success. There are many aspects of a business that affect SEO, and an internal SEO specialist should be consulted with constantly to contribute to the overall success of a digital strategy.

How Will SEO Actually Die Some Day?

SEO will only die when we change the way we use the Internet. As long as we are using Google and other search engines to find what we want online, SEO will always be necessary.

Even though SEO is not dead, it never lived for some companies. In the short term, we may continue to see online companies completely ignoring SEO. These innovative marketers always impress and interest me. These online brands don't even have a website or only use a website as an online shopping cart, not to drive traffic.

One example of this type of brand comes from a friend of mine, Sarah Burroughs and founder of Anne B Designs. She started selling her bags by word-of-mouth and from her personal Facebook account. Today, her strongest marketing platform is Instagram, where she has quadrupled her followers in the last year. Today, she continues to grow her company, and when I asked her if she ever used SEO, she laughed.

Another example is Red Dress Boutique, which was featured on Shark Tank. The company used Facebook and Instagram to build a company to make $12-15 million in its fourth year of business. There are countless other examples of sellers on eBay, Amazon, or Etsy that have killed SEO in their own way.

SEO can also be wounded as users continue changing the way they search. Users are already starting to bypass Google to get to sites they are already familiar with. Customers are going directly to sites like Amazon, eBay, Yelp, OpenTable, or Etsy instead of Google.

Moreover, with the increase in mobile and app use, search engines are being bypassed as consumers go directly to apps they use.

Those behaviors could affect SEO in the long run but only if these behaviors were heavily adopted.

* * *

The "SEO is dead" lie will continue until the day that search engines no longer exist and we have another way to find what we need on the Internet.

Today, about 200 factors are looked at when Google is deciding what will rank. It is much more sophisticated today, but SEO still follows the same concept of giving Google what it wants to make a site rank. A site needs backlinks, on page optimization, a decent site speed, and many other factors to make it rank.

SEO specialist are here to make that happen.

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Dan Bagby is SEO manager at Builders Digital Experience, a builders' resource for online marketing, website design, graphic content, and education.

LinkedIn: Dan Bagby 

Twitter: @danbagby 

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  • by Jim Greenway Mon Jun 1, 2015 via web

    I think this is a great article. I would like to point out the companies mentioned as not using SEO or other means to push their product are the retail/e-commerce companies. I can understand how leveraging Facebook or Instagram would be the right marketing choice for their business but I believe SEO will still be viable marketing objective for B2B companies. I don't see Google or any of the other search engines going away any time soon.

  • by John E Mon Jun 1, 2015 via web

    A clever and clear article. You hit the point clearly that simplistic bad SEO work is now dead and that now it's more subtle and harder. I run a site that discusses these issues which I call I've been running it for years so you can see all the hot issues over the last decade of SEO and see what's changed and what hasn't.

    It's blog+forum for Intermediates and cxperts. I'd like to lead a discussion of both day to day online techniques with some speculation about the how & why of why the digital industry functions the way that it does. Come learn with me and lets share thoughts on the hot questions of the day.

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