Recently somebody asked me, is search engine optimization dead? I asked them, what does that even mean? SEO is only dead when people stop using search engines, and I don’t think that’s happening any time soon.
So what do people really mean when they say SEO is dead? I took a look at the “literature” – mostly articles from a breezy self-promoters, and it comes down to a few ideas:
Hey, people are learning about new ideas using Facebook. Facebook is a big thing and OMG you can do searches there too. Ergo, Google is dead.
What? Facebook is a terrible place to search for nearly all types of information. You may passively get the occasional idea from your friend on what to buy – and if that happened, the company that benefitted from that exposure probably paid through the nose — but that’s about it. So this argument (“Facebook up, therefore Google down, therefore SEO dead.”) is pretty weak.
Yes, Google Plus was a laughable disaster typical of Google’s occasionally half-baked approach to product development and marketing. So, Facebook won, so, uh, Google is dead, and so SEO is dead. Nice try, but same problem as above.
Google is crowding out organic results with its own properties
This is very true in certain verticals: Google is increasingly pushing organic results down to make way for its own services. Search for “san francisco hotels,” for example, and you’ll see NO organic results above the fold. It’s all paid ads and Google’s own marketplace.
This means that if you’re a travel, mortgage, or shopping marketplace, you’re pretty upset: Google is making boatloads of money off your ads and then using that money to build properties that compete with your website. Thanks, Google!
But that doesn’t mean SEO is dead: it just means that for certain searches in certain sectors, it’s going to be less effective, and you had better be really good at paid search. Everywhere else, it still matters a lot.
Search engine marketing is dead
Articles like this stupid one seem to confuse search marketing with SEO. Maybe customers are more cynical about search ads – at least, that’s not happening in my world. But even if they are, it only makes the case that organic results matter even more, which leads you back to SEO.
People are searching with mobile devices
This is definitely true. But where are those mobile search results coming from? Pretty much Google (if you’re using Android) or Bing (if you’re dumb and you search with Siri.) So SEO still matters.
People are using mobile apps
Also true: people are increasingly using Yelp, Hitlist, or other specialized mobile apps to find things they need. But these products and situations are still relatively rare. Are you going to download an app to find a bank or get help using a piece of software? The most we can say is that in some cases, in some sectors, Google matters less. But even in these situations, you need to understand and cater to user search behavior, which often means going through the same research process you’d use to do SEO.
Google changed its algorithm
As long as Google has existed, Google has aimed to prioritize good, engaging content, as well as to suppress techniques that mislead search robots and disappoint users. Unfortunately, too many SEO agencies rely on these misleading techniques (like spammy linkbuilding, keyword stuffing, etc.) at the expense of good content. When those techniques stop working due to Google’s never-ending changes in search algorithms, the agencies cry, “SEO is dead,” when really they mean, “My cheesy SEO tricks stopped working.” When Google changes its algorithm, the sky does not fall, and SEO is no less necessary.
I spent lots of money on SEO myself and it didn’t work
Really? Did you use one of the terrible agencies above? SEO is really quite simple and basic, but you don’t address it by hiring an agency making ridiculous promises. If that’s what you did, I’m not surprised you had no success. Basically, assume that any agency that promises to put you on page one is lying to you – or will get you on page one for a query nobody searches for.
Yes, stupid ways of doing SEO are dead, but SEO is alive and well, and good, readable, sticky content optimized for search always wins in the long run. The problem is that most companies shortchange the creation of good, sticky, readable content, and that’s because said content is not easy to automate and replicate. Invest intelligently and SEO is an annuity that will benefit you for the long term. (There are even more silly ideas summed up this nice infographic.)