Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Once Again: SEO is NOT Dead

Masha Maksimava recently published a helpful article for those who would like to learn more about SEO basics. In "5 Big SEO Lies Google Wants You to Believe," Maksimava offers detailed steps for examining the link profiles and keyword anchors of your competitors, optimizing your Google snippets, and researching keywords and social media metrics.

In offering these tips, Maksimava's point is to expose the contradictory nature of Google's own advice. Despite Google's suggestions to the contrary, many SEO standbys, like link-building, still work:

"Whether Goolge will admit it or not," Maksimava writes, "link building continues to be the most important part of any SEO strategy. If you choose not to build links, you'll probably end up far behind your competitors who almost certainly are."

Maksimava's article is a site for sore SEO eyes, yet she begins with an ominous note: "It's 2016, and SEO is the farthest from a bed of roses it's ever been. In fact, most of it has turned into a bed of itchy, sharp, potentially lethal thorns."

Tortured metaphors aside, this sentiment echoes Dan Blacharski's, the "thought leader, advisor, industry observer," who recently asked "is Google Trying to Kill SEO?"

No, we argued last week, Google is not trying to kill SEO. Nothing can kill SEO. As long as search engines exist, SEO will exist.

Yet we continue to hear the refrain: SEO is dead.

SEO is Dead--According to Some [Source]

Last year, Tim Bird, writing for Entrepreneur, offered "The Top 4 Reasons SEO is Dead" (none entirely convincing). And you only need to Google the phrase "SEO is dead" to find similar articles.

Most of these articles miss the point--and this, in part, is the "lie" Maksimava is trying to expose: that certain so-called SEO techniques no longer work.

In fact, they do work. For example, Maksimava cites a series of fascinating tests by Rand Fishkin that revealed the impressive power of clicks to sway ranking:

"Most of the tests were the same in nature," Maksimava writes. "Rand reached out to his Twitter followers and asked them to run a Google search for a specified term, click on result #1 and bounce back, and then click on another result and stay on that page for a while."

In one test cited by Maksimava, clicks that stayed on a certain page moved the fourth result to the first in a manner of seventy minutes.

So empirically speaking, common SEO techniques still work. These are often the techniques the doomsayers cite when pronouncing the end of SEO. But these techniques are not SEO.

The real problem with any "SEO is Dead" pronouncement is a limited definition of SEO. In fact, any single "SEO is Dead" article exposes the most common misconception about SEO: that SEO is any single thing.

Now, we admit, the term SEO conjures certain associations--like link-building and keywords--for a reason: For years, SEO has built its foundation on certain steadfast principles. Yet in recent years, the SEO community has come to recognize the fact that SEO can and should not be defined by any specific practice.

SEO is fluid. As the algorithms change, SEO changes. We let go of outdated practices and try new techniques. Like Google's algorithm, search engine optimization is an evolutionary practice that adapts to change. Equating SEO to certain techniques disregards the fact that, at its root, optimization is marketing.

No one's saying marketing is dead. So why is SEO dead?

A few years ago, Jayson DeMers spoke to Sam McRoberts, an SEO expert, for an article that asked, "Is SEO Dead?"

"Honestly," McRoberts said, "the answer really depends on how you define SEO. If, when you say SEO, what you really mean is manipulating search engines to place sites that don’t really deserve to rank well at the top of the SERPs…then yes, I’d say that’s dead (or dying at least, as some manipulative tactics still work quite well)...

"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."

Accessibility is the key. By creating quality content, we hope to make a website accessible. By adding precisely-targeted keywords, we hope to attract a specific audience--the audience that wants/needs our products or services. You could call this "SEO." But this is simply 21st century marketing.

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