SEO isn’t Dead. It just needs a re-brand.

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Jay Dillon

Director of Strategy and Creative at Inbound Experts
Jay is a digital marketer and producer whose creative and technical skills have developed digital brand strategies and sales campaigns using a range of complex internet applications from stand-alone websites through to Facebook API integrations.
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seo-deadNo-doubt you have been told, by a person of some authority, that search engine optimisation (SEO) is now dead.

No longer they say, can you manipulate Google into putting your site above another, possibly more worthy site, in the results for a given keyword search.

But is this really true?

The short answer to the question of whether SEO is dead is really “it depends”. You see, as with many things, it all comes down to what you actually mean by the operative word (or in this case acronym) SEO.

If, by SEO, you mean the practice of manipulating search rankings for your keyword you’re trying to get traffic for, then yes, SEO is pretty much dead for you. Even though there are some old school tactics that still work, Google’s ranking algorithm is becoming more sophisticated every month, and soon all the old tactics will be ineffective.

There are still a lot of companies – some really big ones included – using spammy, old school “black hat” SEO tactics and not being penalised for it. Just ask Glen Allsopp, aka Viperchill, whose blog regularly lifts the lid on incidences of Google talking a big game but turning a blind eye when it comes to sites manipulating rankings. Take for example his recent exposé on e-commerce software giants Wix and Shopify using millions of exact match anchor text footer links to (successfully) boost their rankings – a practice Google has explicitly condemned.

But there are many who believe the idea of SEO is and always has been about simply making your site the best it can be. SEO author and expert Sam McRoberts summarised this concept best in an interview with Forbes late last year:

“…Even though some SEOs work to game the system, I’ve never really felt like that was the correct definition of SEO. Because we so often use the SEO acronym, we forget sometimes that it stands for Search Engine Optimization. SEO, at its heart, is the process of making websites more accessible and understandable to search engines. It shouldn’t be, and really doesn’t need to be, manipulative.”

In other words, if you’re trying to make your site (or parts of your site) the best resource available for a given topic, then there’s nothing wrong with that. This is what true search engine optimisation should be.

If, on the other hand, you’re trying to take short cuts to get to the top of the search rankings knowing full well that other sites deserve to be there more, then you’re probably one of the ones shouting “SEO is dead” the loudest and really don’t deserve any sympathy for a dying business model.

After all, when you do a web search do you want the actual best results, or the ones that have had the best manipulation done to get them there?

The irony of all this is that if the “bad” SEOs put as much energy into creating useful content for their clients’ sites that they do into trying to manipulate the rankings then they’d probably get a much more consistent – not to mention long-lasting – result for that effort.

Perhaps this is why we’re seeing so many SEO businesses rebranding to be more about inbound and content marketing. They realise they need to reframe their position and make it much more about improving on-site factors rather than trying to get the most possible off-site links.

This isn’t an easy shift for many of these SEO companies. They need to go from a very technical  –  in many cases automated – approach to a much more “big picture” content-based approach. This requires a shift from technical to creative thinking, and not all will be up to (or interested in taking on) that challenge.

What does SEO mean to you? And is it dead? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

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