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July 19, 2013

SEO is Neither Dead nor Dying

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In the past few weeks, the Internet has exploded yet again with the latest round of obituaries dedicated to search engine optimization. The same old questions pop up under a slightly different context. What is left for SEO when Google shoots down each new exploit and tactic? If every useful technique eventually becomes obsolete, what is the point of developing it to begin with?

These laments are heard every time the search engine wipes out another fraction of its search results. The most recent source of woe is Penguin 2.0, which cracked down on the spam backlinks that many still used despite repeated warnings from Google. Besides shuffling a small percentage of pages, Penguin sent a message: The Wild West days of the Internet are over. The law is coming with guns blazing.

It is true that SEO has changed dramatically from its earliest days. In that sense, the SEO of keyword stuffing and link farming is well and truly dead. Arguing that optimization no longer has a place in online marketing, however, is short-sighted and dangerous. There have been many setbacks, but SEO is here to stay.

The Many “Deaths” of SEO

In 2010, Google introduced its newest search feature: Google Instant. Rather than waiting for users to finish inputting a query, the search engine instead began throwing out suggestions while they typed, based in part on their browsing history. The decreased standardization of Web searches had some experts predicting the imminent demise of SEO.

Three years later, having survived both Panda, Penguin and social media, experts are still forecasting its doom. And that only covers the last few years; the gradual progression of SEO since Archie debuted in 1990 has seen many such panics, each as unfounded as the last.

Who Says SEO is Dead?

Although SEO is still a vital factor in Internet marketing, it no longer commands such prominence as in the past. Many still use it as a blanket term to cover more than on-site optimization and link-building, but succeeding online now requires a strong social media presence as well. The old methods no longer work, and in that sense SEO is caught up in a constant cycle of innovation and limitation.

Others making this argument are less nuanced. Some use it for a sensationalist headline, while others claim to have discovered the technique that will fill the gap left by SEO. As with all things in the marketing community, take everything you read with a grain of salt.

Why SEO is Still Going Strong

As long as there are search engines, search engine optimization will be necessary to help worthy websites reach interested viewers. Given the incredible proliferation of websites and pages online, it is reasonable to assume that systems will always need a way to find information that users cannot. The methods, on the other hand, are sure to change, as well as the organizations setting the rules that govern them.

No matter what name it goes by, search engine optimization is simply a means of bringing publishers and companies to readers for mutual benefit. This practice predates the Internet and will outlast it, but until the last search engine shuts down, SEO will remain a vital piece of any website’s business strategy.

Modern SEO

The question, then, is what currently works in SEO? When a so-called expert cannot find an answer that he likes, he declares optimization dead. Those who wish to continue profiting from the remarkable opportunities of the Internet, however, must stop and take stock of what has been left behind.

Link building has not been eliminated. In fact, the need for high-quality inbound links has never been greater. Rather than paying for or spamming links, webmasters must now court recommendations from reputable websites and social media users. It demands effort, helpfulness and cooperation. The quick tricks are being picked off one by one, and real finesse is now needed to bring a page to the top of the rankings.

Adapting to the Future

In a few months, the outrage and despair of Penguin 2.0 will have faded into the background, only to be replaced by a new harbinger of doom. Through it all, Google will keep moving toward its vision for a strong search environment: one free of spam, exploitation and excessive commercialization. Anyone who pays attention to the rumblings of the giant’s press releases and mouthpieces like Matt Cutts should never be taken by surprise.

So, when everything is considered, it is not SEO that is dying, but rather the obvious black-hat methods that have flourished unregulated for so long. Google and its fellow search engines are ushering in a more civilized era in online marketing. Who will pull ahead and who will lag behind remains to be seen.

What are your views? Is there still a place for SEO or is Google systematically killing the SEO industry? Post your thoughts in the Comments section.


Paul Teitelman is an SEO consultant and Toronto link building expert who has weathered the many ups and downs of search engine algorithms. For more information about Paul and his services, visit www.paulteitelman.com

58 Responses to “SEO is Neither Dead nor Dying

    avatar Craig says:

    To say Google has a vision of search without excessive commercialization is one of the most ludicrous things I’ve read! If they could get away with it, SERPs would be full of ads, no doubt.

    I’ve always thought that as long as there is an algorithm and a sufficient market, SEO by its nature can never die. It’s clear though that it’s evolved beyond recognition from what it once was and will continue to do so. And no matter what SEOs do to stay whiter than white-hat, Google will shift the goalposts to make things difficult for them. See the recent threats against editorial guest posts. It’s not in Google’s commercial interests to have stable natural results.

    avatar Jim Isles says:

    Google’s core ethos has never changed ‘Content is King’. What has changed is the cheats and tricks once used no longer work as Google strives to deliver the most accurate results when a search is done. If your website contains quality, original content then it will rank well and other sites will want to link to it. Sounds so simple when put like that.

    avatar Richard says:

    Excellent read….

    In simple terms ….all that is said is build your website, design your product, and deliver quality services to the people looking for them.

    Work your SEO principle on that alone….. and no search engine will deny you readership.

    Richard

    Who says SEO is dead? Penguin 2.0 simply rejuvenated SEO and gave it a new life and bearing

    avatar Mark says:

    Along with many, if not most internet marketers, I’ve tried plenty of shortcuts but actually, I much prefer producing valuable quality content with a little intelligent keyword research behind it. It’s much more interesting than building spammy links.

    None of us likes seeing poor quality content at the top of the search engines.

    SEO consulting in 2016 is big business. This is not just because SEO’s are convincing business owners to secure their services but because business owners know this works!

    avatar J Clayton says:

    A recognizable change in SEO is Google’s response to new and natural links that have been created to your site. The Search Console may show the new link but overall the algorithm takes much longer than before to show a warranted change in the SERPs.Business owners sometimes find this difficult to accept. They want results now.

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