Saturday, January 20, 2018

Is SEO Dead in 2018?

Earlier this week on LinkedIn, Ben Lee, the CEO of Rootstrap, a web and mobile app development firm, announced "SEO is Dead." Lee's post, which attracted almost 18,000 "likes," sounded the familiar refrain of all SEO naysayers: the technology is outdated, SEO "hacks" don't work, and that Google "doesn't care" about optimized pages.

"If you’re thinking about paying someone to teach you SEO-- Don’t," Lee writes. "Save your money. It’s ancient history. You’ll be a 21st-century dinosaur."

It's easy to dismiss Lee's post--and many people did exactly that in the comments. His post is similar to any number of  articles announcing the death of SEO. It's a yearly tradition, notably inspired by changes in Google's algorithm. A simple Google search yields a host of articles predicting, or downright announcing, the death of SEO.

Most of these articles share two key similar features:

1. Reactionary Analysis

2. Misguided SEO Knowledge

Eris Poringer's 2013 article, "The aftermath of SEO's Death This Summer," is typical of the genre. Reacting to recent Penguin algorithm updates, Poringer wrote, "The latest SEO shift has actively changed the core competence of savvy SEO companies to Content Marketing specialists."

"That means if you want to see your company’s website on PAGE 1," Poringer wrote, "you’re going to have to consider a comprehensive online marketing campaign, rather then rely on an SEO company to stuff meta tags with keywords."

Stuff meta tags with keywords? Keyword stuffing is not SEO. Like most SEO naysayers, Poringer cites long-abandoned, Black Hat practices to describe an entire industry.

Unfortunately, this misguided view is not uncommon. In his article, "The End of SEO As We Know It," on, Allen Dibb describes SEO as a process of "trying to game search engine results."

In reality, organic SEO was never about keyword stuffing or gaming the system, although these myths persist. As we've noted before, SEO has a reputation problem.

But does a bad reputation equate to death? Is SEO actually dead in 2018?

It wouldn't be an "SEO is Dead" article without the cliche death iconography.

Is SEO Dead in 2018?

To truly understand SEO, you must understand its history. From the beginning of search, many websites have tried to game the system; even today, much of the negative reputation surrounding SEO stems from the nefarious tactics of Black Hat SEO specialists.

Black Hat SEO has proved effective in the past. Even today, techniques such as keyword stuffing, link schemes, and the creation of duplicate content continue to haunt the Internet, compromising businesses and personal users alike.

Thankfully, for the most part, Google has become too advanced for tricky tactics to enjoy any real success. The days of Black Hat SEO are dead--and the penalties for even trying are much, much higher.

Yet, like Poringer and Dibb, many writers limit the definition of SEO to these very practices. If you define SEO as a tricky tactic for manipulating search engines to rank content that is not relevant or engaging--well, then, SEO is dead. And we say: "Good riddance."

In reality, true SEO--organic SEO--has never been about these tactics.

Of course savvy SEOs use keywords and links to inspire traffic, but never in a way that "games" the system. Just take a look at Twitter to see the way keywords (hashtags) are alive and well--and inspiring relevant results.

Here's the truth: There is nothing to game. To succeed, a website must supply relevant and engaging content. In fact, today the most important determinant of success by far, as Lee notes, is content:

"The kind of stuff people actually love reading," Lee writes. "Because it offers real, actionable value. Because they’ll tell all their friends about it. Because it’s just too damn interesting to click away from."

Lee's distinction between content and SEO, however, is misguided. Any SEO firm worth its salt emphasizes precisely the type of content Lee is speaking about. All the other SEO "hacks" work to support content.

For example, the application of appropriate titles and tags to the content, a common SEO practice, is S.O.P. for any content marketing specialist. The fact that a piece of content is more important than the title tag or meta-description misses the point: without appropriate tags, browsers may never find the content.

Read: SEO 101: How to Optimize Title Tags and Meta Descriptions

Here's another truth: SEO evolves to match the algorithms.

Poringer admits as much in his article. In fact, once you get past the click-bate headline and misguided SEO knowledge, Poringer's article speaks articulately about the need for SEO to evolve to meet the demands of the changing online marketplace and Google's evolving algorithm.

In fact, the definition of SEO is in flux because the practice evolves.

So is SEO dead in 2018? No. Not by a long shot.

Organic SEO with Stepman's SEO

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