It seems that every time Google deploys a major change in their algorithm, a few authors/bloggers proclaim the death of SEO, and marketing websites/blogs are awash with titles like “SEO is Dead” and “Is SEO Dead?” In most cases they admit (later on in their piece) that it’s not really dead, but rather that “SEO as we knew it is dead.” In other words, their blog/article title was mainly hyperbole (no doubt meant to increase click throughs and serve as link bait).
SEO just keeps dying!
However, some authors/bloggers appear to really believe that this is the case. Never mind that it was supposedly dead in 2009 when Google began to place more emphasis on personalization. And before that, it was dead in 2007 when Universal Search became more prominent. This time it’s for real! And no doubt, SEO will continue to suffer more fatalities in the years to come.
So why did SEO die this time?
All that’s happened is this:
Google has gotten better at weeding out gimmicks meant to ‘trick’ their algorithm into giving a page/wesbite more relevance and/or authority than it actually deserves. For years Google has been giving SEO people mixed signals. On one hand we’ve been told time and again that useful and intuitive content is the way to improve rankings and we’ve been told to avoid gimmicks. On the other hand, we’ve had to watch competitors climb the SERPs by gaming the system through link networks and other schemes. Google is simply doing a better job of putting into practice what they’ve been preaching for years.
Nothing has really changed. SEO has always been about useful, intuitive, relevant and authoritative content. People like Rand Fishkin have been saying this all along. This was (and still is) necessary for the natural gain of relevant inbound links from related sites. It is also necessary for the natural gain of relevant social media signals.
In other words, the SEO pie has grown into a much larger pie with a higher number of (smaller) individual slices . This didn’t happen overnight. This has been a gradual process since day 1. SEO hasn’t been merely about meta/title tags, proper H tag placement since well before I even got into SEO.
Some have argued that it may be time we stop using the term SEO. After all, there are so many overlaps with other channels. Writing useful and relevant content may help with your rankings but it also keeps readers coming back (and helps ensure they will link to or at least share your content) and reduces your bounce rates. These in turn will further help your rankings for that page. What’s more: you can compound this effect by sharing your articles through social media and various forms of link acquisition. All of this crosses into territories known as:
- Article marketing
- Social media optimization
So some will argue that it’s no longer “SEO.” And indeed, the SEO is dead advocates often claim that SEO’s are simply shifting the goal post by merely claiming that social media optimization is now part of SEO. But this is a straw man argument which assumes SEO is a static set of unchanging practices. This has never been the case.
Why it’s still SEO
Google has no intention of relinquishing their status as the Business Directory and Encyclopedia of choice. So as long as they (or another search engine) are successful in holding on to that position, businesses will covet that first page section for whatever search terms (or search intent–with Google focusing more on themes than keywords, SEO will focus more on addressing user’s search intent than optimizing for specific words or phrases) match their business model. And that means businesses will pursue “SEO” regardless of what list of practices that encompasses. So for the time being (and foreseeable future) SEO isn’t going away. It’s simply becoming a broader and broader set of practices that (ideally) will make it difficult for black hats to fool the search engines.