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October 30, 2012

Will Google Obliterate SEO?

Before any webmasters out there get all riled up in the comment section, I urge you to stop and think about this article title’s
question in light of recent events.

Google has declared a full-scale war on spam – heck, it even employs an entire webspam team headed up by the infamous Matt Cutts to deal with the issue.

Google’s rise to power has been nothing short of fast and furious, and many webmasters who’ve depended on Big G for their income have lost everything in the wake of massive algo changes this year.

Google doesn’t seem to mind about much of the collateral damage – although the search giant has been kind enough to give webmasters a heads up a bit before something’s about to go down. But providing details? Not so much. Does Google offer advice in the aftermath? A little, but it is vague and often includes the blanket mantra of “make great content” amidst other cryptic suggestions. Ugh.

I’m all for Google keeping its algorithm a step ahead of the spammers, but after this last wave of updates, I can’t help but wonder whether the search giant is more concerned with protecting the user or its bottom line. This intentional vagueness and consistent (often overkill) usurping of ranking power does make you wonder – is Google out to kill SEO?

Small Biz and Algo Updates

Many industries have taken hits across the board after algorithm updates have rolled out, but not a one has suffered as much as those in the SEO industry. Search engine optimization is the industry itself – so every time Google blackballs another practice or technique, another SEO company shuts the lights off.

And, no, I’m not talking about shady enterprises like blog networks or other outright methods of cheating the system. I’m talking about legitimate providers of SEO goods and services that are out of commission now that Google’s implemented such radical changes.

For instance, Google Webmaster Tools now offers a suite of free services (if you consider unlimited access to your personal and website data “free”), and the tools have effectively killed a number of small online businesses that provided similar services for a fee. Further, many SEO professionals who help companies show up in the SERPs have taken major hits as well. The successive algo changes have made it nearly impossible for these pros to provide reliable results for their clients on a consistent basis in such a turbulent search landscape.

So, is Google actually trying to kill SEO and small business? Marketing forums certainly seem to think so. In fact, here’s one sample of current discussions in a popular marketing forum that showed up in the SERPs today:

Image 1:

Forums for site owners such as Webmaster World have entire sections devoted to the “SEO is dead” discussion. People are really starting to panic out there. Although I personally don’t think Google is intentionally trying to target SEO as a whole, I do think they’re bulldozing search with little (if any) regard for the SEO industry.

Profits are Driving the Google Train

Google is a publicly traded company. Obviously, it has a primary responsibility to its shareholders. Google says that it wants to serve the users first, but it’s hard to trust that assertion when 95% of the search page real estate is made up of Google ads these days. The organic listings are pushed almost entirely below the fold, and for many keywords, users must scroll down to view even the very first organic listing.

It’s hard to justify this change as “benefiting the end user” above all else. After all, almost every paid link, the user clicks that’s displayed on a competitive page in the SERPs will lead the user to a sale pitch. Not everyone wants to be sold to – many people just want to find an answer for their problem without having to buy anything in the process. Google taking this ability away from people seems to point to a profit-driven business model as opposed to the one of innovation that G was founded upon many years back.

And who could blame the company in this economic climate? Does anyone remember the dotcom bust that happened in the late 90s? Tech stocks are notoriously volatile, and although Google has achieved a mind-boggling level of success very quickly, there’s still room for the company to fall from grace – and fall apart – literally overnight. When faced with the likes of competitors such as Facebook, Apple, Amazon, and Microsoft, it’s dog-eat-dog Internet out there. With the latest changes, it appears that Google took its eyes off the target during its struggle to stay on top, and now both users and the SEO industry are suffering for that loss of focus.

The Future of SEO

So, in light of all these changes, is SEO history? Surprisingly, I don’t think so. However, I’m 100% positive the way we play the game from here on out will be dramatically different. Here’s a great little snippet about the potential longevity of the SEO industry from The Guardian that will help put things in perspective for you:

Image 2:

I completely agree with this viewpoint. I think many techniques are outdated – think keyword placement, strict numbers games, community optimization. It’s about creating a presence in your industry and making a name for yourself in order to climb the SERPs.

Funny thing about this new technique? Even if you don’t reach the top of the search results, you’ll still explode your traffic and gain massive exposure for your brand by leveraging the traffic of your peers. Wow. Think about that. Google’s indirectly weaning us from our single-minded focus on the SERPs and turning us head-on toward one another. Whether or not G meant to do this, we’ll never know. But I for one like where things are headed.


Nell Terry is a tech news junkie, fledgling Internet marketer and staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She thrives on social media, web design, and uncovering the truth about all the newest marketing fads that pop up all over the ‘net. Find out more about Nell by visiting her online portfolio at Content by Nell.

81 Responses to “Will Google Obliterate SEO?

    avatar Sean says:

    This discussion in interesting. However, I check my google webmaster data and with one day there have been and 600% fall. Anyone have this happen to them or what is the reason for this.

    Go the Google Webmaster forums, the ranking and indexing group, and post your question there.

    avatar Jenny says:

    Googles biggest problem is they do NOT listen to anyone who actually uses it. There is zero support what so ever. And as mentioned, only cryptic information made available.

    I use, (or used to) use google all the time. But search results, are sometimes mind boggling! So totally off base from what I might be searching for, it’s just a waste of time.

    Google shopping was something I used all the time. Mainly because it only brought up sites selling what I’m searching for, and with pictures and prices (though those are usually wrong.) Making it easy to see exactly what the item is. But… google just did away with that making it paid only. Well some of the best stuff out there is from little ma and pa shops. They don’t come up at all now. Google shopping in my view, is gone.

    Google organic will bring up everything and anything including blog posts, forum topics, and anything else under the sun. Trying to shop using that is really a waste of time.

    Images is only slightly better. At least you can see the item but again, it may simply be a blog post, and not for sale.

    Google has destroyed shopping. I use bing and yahoo and others more and more. But it seems they all play follow the leader. Each has it’s own problems and not one ever figured out how to bring up relevant content and not total misses.

    I think if they would hire some support staff to actually listen to problems, questions, needs and wants of it”s users, they might get a CLUE how to improve. At the very least it would provide them with valuable information on where they need to improve.

    Frankly, to me, google is a fast easy spell checker. That’s about all I use it for now. (And to think they save every search. HA. All the words I can’t spell got saved. Wonder what kinds of results they “target” towards me based on the same words I never can spell right?)

    avatar African News says:

    Can anybody say Bing? The way Google is going, it may not be long until you start reading reports of how Bing is better than Google at getting you the information you are searching for…Watch out Google, there are choices out there.

    avatar Tim says:

    I couldn’t agree more. Google are way too big for their boots in my opinion and need a damn good kicking from one or all of their competitors. Perhaps a user boycott would work :o)
    Web Connections

    avatar Emman says:

    Google definitely needs some serious competitors!!! I am just a simple SEO provider that was really suffering.

    avatar DW says:

    “The organic listings are pushed almost entirely below the fold, and for many keywords, users must scroll down to view even the very first organic listing.”
    True.
    Most users just click one of the top PPC ads, and never see the Organic results

    avatar Paul says:

    How interesting. Reading this has made me examine my own behaviour when I search.
    I realise now that the first thing I do is to scroll down to get a full page of organic listings. This means I don’t even get to see the sponsored ads at the top of the page or the first four or five to the right. I wonder if I am typical?

    avatar Colette says:

    Such an interesting discussion. I lost my #1 ranking on October 6, PENGUIN 3 attack. I held it for the last 10 years. Was ousted to page 100 or something crazy! those who rose to the front page were all sites less than 2 years old…newbies in my industry who, because they haven’t developed their portfolios yet, aren’t getting many bookings, so have spent two years blogging, tweeting and getting 1,000s of facebook likes. That is what google now regards as “authority” and it’s misguided in my industry anyway. Very sad. But I wanted to comment on this article and SEO. I think SEO companies will be driven to take on a less technical role and one more soft towards Public relations…almost becoming mini PR firms where they will have to create full on marketing strategies for clients campaigning them around facebook, twitter, squidoo lens, press releases and all sites that have high PR status. I get where google is going but some businesses don’t lend themselves to the engine system. I have 300 pages on my site…high percentage of photos…my peers on page one now, don’t have a lot of photos because they have not developed their business yet so we are looking at 4-5 pages of site, mostly writing…which google loves, but clients looking for makeup artists don’t want to see WRITING…also companies selling widgets or drills or other gadgets will have websites listing one product name over and over, just a different model…is that spam? NO…but the algo machines say yes…I don’t want to read essays if I’m on a “drill site.” i want to see all the photos of all the models…so we shall see what will happen. Sadly, when I’m searching now for services, I use yahoo or msn because they still have me ranked number 1 so I know they have their library indexing all in a row; I know that I may not find what I’m looking for on google.
    Sorry to rant on…I’ve been heavily affected so I’m blowing off steam!

    avatar PBL Kumar says:

    Nell, you pinned the point very well, until the search is there, optimization will be there,

    SEO is a better marketing technique, and marketing techniques will change but never dies!!

    I remember when I started SEO eight years ago, it was easier to do, but it was like that for everybody else including the competition. SEO can’t die, it will only evolve and change like every technology. Can you imagine search results with only paid advertising? It doesn’t make any sense.

    avatar Kikson says:

    I started SEO consultant at 2008, on that time its easy to get ranks in google. Now its very difficult to rank in google, algorithms are changing monthly.

    avatar Jyoti says:

    After Penguin 3 update i lost my ranking from 1st to 5 th, then i did according to update removed and disavow low quality links now i am again on 1st position, Google updating its alogo, and we need to follow it.

    Its a great pleasure reading your post.Its full of information I am looking for and I love to post a comment that “The content of your post is awesome” Great work.

    avatar Rummy says:

    Thanks for sharing the useful & informative article with us. Keep sharing more!!!

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