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No, SEO still isn’t dead

I am old enough to remember the Spanish dictator Francisco Franco. At the end of his life, there were endless reports of his courageous fight to remain alive. When, inevitably  he did pass away, Saturday Night Live aired a news story about Francisco Franco’s'”valiant fight to remain dead.” I am getting to the point where I think we need to do the story on SEO’s valiant fight to remain dead.  I’ve been doing SEO for a long time, and I have grown weary of the “SEO is dead” stories. We’re experiencing another round now and it is still wrong. SEO is not dead. What’s dead is dumb SEO. And you could have seen it coming.

Francisco Franco (1892-1975)
Photo credit: Wikipedia

Every time I read another “SEO is dead” story, it points out some technique that doesn’t work anymore. The problem is that all of these so-called dead techniques never made any sense. People have told me that SEO is dead when keyword stuffing stopped working, when reciprocal links stopped working, when paid links stopped working–gee, this list could be a lot longer–but they are all missing the point. None of these things are SEO techniques. They are spam techniques. If, for you, spam techniques are what you think of as SEO, then, yes, SEO is dead. And it always will be.

See, what you are missing is that the search engines will eventually win against whatever spam technique you are using. That’s not bad luck. Very smart folks at Google are making a lot of money to win at this. And Google has more money than you. And they are smarter than you–at least smarter at SEO. This is not a game you should be playing.

Years ago, I argued with tricky SEOs about “link sculpting” a trick that was all the rage for about ten minutes, where people laboriously played with the internal links on their websites to pass “link juice” to the “right” pages. This, to me, was emblematic of the SEO that is dead, was dead, and will always be dead. Why? Because it doesn’t help anyone besides the search marketer. Not Google. Not the searcher. Just the marketer.

So, ask yourself, “Why would Google want link sculpting to work?” They didn’t. If it ever worked, they made sure that it stopped working.

Now, at the same time, I was advising clients to do social media. Now, social media wasn’t showing up in the search results and wasn’t affecting ranking. It was just a good idea. It connected with customers. It was good content. It was good for customers. Eventually, it was going to be rewarded by Google. And it was.

You need to understand what SEO really is. It’s not tricks. It’s not fooling Google. It’s about connecting with your customers through content. Take the examples of link-sculpting vs. social media. One worked for everyone–the other only for the marketer. That’s dumb SEO.

If you are a real SEO, and you are helping your clients identify the right keywords and you are helping get more pages indexed faster and you are helping them relocate URLs properly and you are helping them optimize the snippets with language their customers use and you are helping them measure their results and…I could go on and on…that stuff is great. Maybe I am biased, because I offer SEO training that teaches companies how to do all of those things, but that’s why I do it. You should be doing these things, too. They work because they help everyone.

But let’s stop trying to look under Google’s skirt with the next trick. Even if it works for a little while, it never works for very long. When you connect with your customers, it works forever. Not just until the next algorithm change.

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Mike Moran

Mike Moran is an expert in digital marketing, search technology, social media, text analytics, web personalization, and web metrics, who, as a Certified Speaking Professional, regularly makes speaking appearances. Mike’s previous appearances include keynote speaking appearances worldwide. Mike serves as a senior strategist for Converseon, an AI powered consumer intelligence technology and consulting firm. He is also a senior strategist for SoloSegment, a marketing automation software solutions and services firm. Mike also serves as a member of the Board of Directors of SEMPO. Mike spent 30 years at IBM, rising to Distinguished Engineer, an executive-level technical position. Mike held various roles in his IBM career, including eight years at IBM’s customer-facing website, ibm.com, most recently as the Manager of ibm.com Web Experience, where he led 65 information architects, web designers, webmasters, programmers, and technical architects around the world. Mike's newest book is Outside-In Marketing with world-renowned author James Mathewson. He is co-author of the best-selling Search Engine Marketing, Inc. (with fellow search marketing expert Bill Hunt), now in its Third Edition. Mike is also the author of the acclaimed internet marketing book, Do It Wrong Quickly: How the Web Changes the Old Marketing Rules, named one of best business books of 2007 by the Miami Herald. Mike founded and writes for Biznology® and writes regularly for other blogs. In addition to Mike’s broad technical background, he holds an Advanced Certificate in Market Management Practice from the Royal UK Charter Institute of Marketing and is a Visiting Lecturer at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School. He is a Senior Fellow at the Society for New Communications Research. Mike worked at ibm.com from 1998 through 2006, pioneering IBM’s successful search marketing program. IBM’s website of over two million pages was a classic “big company” website that has traditionally been difficult to optimize for search marketing. Mike, working with Bill Hunt, developed a strategy for search engine marketing that works for any business, large or small. Moran and Hunt spearheaded IBM’s content improvement that has resulted in dramatic gains in traffic from Google and other internet portals.

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