Anyone around digital marketing for more than a few years has already heard several times that SEO is deader than a Norwegian Blue parrot in a Monty Python sketch.
In fact, you’ve been told this so often you’re probably wondering why people are still even talking about search engine optimisation.
But…is it really dead, or are those blog posts just clever marketing?
The reality is that SEO has changed, but it most certainly isn’t dead – no matter what you read.
Most of the articles you read on the subject are nothing more than click bait.
They’re usually published by somebody trying to scare you into buying their course on paid advertising, email marketing, or whatever the latest shiny object is.
Does that sound cynical?
If it does it’s because we’ve seen any statement on SEO being dead quickly followed up by a marketing campaign for the “next big thing”.
So, in this blog post we’re going to look at both sides of the “SEO is Dead!!” argument, starting out with the fact that certain types of SEO are actually dead.
Is SEO Dead?
Yes, it is…but only the strategies that date back to the early 2000s.
The same people who keep shouting about the impending demise of SEO will usually point at the fact that the search engine optimisation isn’t as easy as it used to be.
There’s a huge difference between something not being easy and being absolutely pointless…or dead, for that matter.
Do you think professional athletes get to where they are by taking an easy route? Or do they have to work hard to achieve their results and their income?
SEO is very much the same in that regard – getting long-term results takes work.
You see, there’s no easy path to the top of the search engines.
Yes, there are loopholes.
But we can guarantee that when you use these loopholes, your fall from page #1 of the SERPs is inevitable…and it will be painful and expensive.
Google has banned entire web hosting accounts, with dozens of domains on them, even if those domains weren’t exploiting the loophole. And they’ll shut down AdSense accounts linked to those sites while they’re at it.
So, old school SEO is most definitely dead, and here are some “strategies” to avoid:
Building Thousands of Links
Once upon a time you could purchase a domain, slap some cheap articles on it, blast it with links, and rank on the first page of Google within a few weeks.
That doesn’t work anymore.
You can still follow this approach, but Google will simply sandbox your site, ignore the links and then forget about you.
Google now values link relevancy and authority over the number of links you have pointing to your site.
They were forced to take this step to prevent manipulation of their search results, and something called link bombing.
Getting one single link from a relevant and authoritative website is worth far more than 5,000 spammy links you bought from some random SEO service.
Exact Match Domains
The idea of having keywords relevant to your niche or vertical as part of you domain name might seem like a perfectly sensible thing to do.
After all, you’re simply telling your visitor and the search engines what your site is about.
Google once awarded SEO brownie points to any website doing this.
But then everything changed when Google updated their algorithm to penalise websites using exact match domains (EMDs).
They did this because lots of “gurus” were advising people to buy an EMD for every keyword they wanted to rank for…because it worked.
Back then, we tested the idea by registering a brand new domain for a keyword with 1,000 searches per month, adding 100 words of content to it, and watched it rank in #1 on Google three days later.
So, Google demolished the effectiveness of using exact match domains.
Never, ever stuff your domain with keywords.
Back in the early 2000s you could optimise your pages of content by including your keyword x number of times on the page, and this would magically push you to the top of Google’s search results.
However, this strategy hasn’t worked since about 2010, again because Google realised that SEOs were gaming their search engine and dropped the hammer on this tactic.
Private Blog Network Links
A Private Blog Network (PBN) is a farm of websites using expired domains, which have been created solely for the purpose of selling links from to website owners.
Google has invested a lot of time and money in finding and shutting down these networks, and they’re getting better at it with each passing day.
At this stage even the most accomplished and clever PBN network owners have to constantly revise their strategies to stay one step ahead of Google.
Many of them are now walking away from black hat SEO and focusing on white hat SEO instead.
Ranking For One Keyword Per Page
Google has evolved faster than most SEOs can even begin to understand.
And part of this evolution is the development of an AI (artificial intelligence) system that understands human language patterns.
So, that means there’s no point in creating a page for “financial services company in Exeter”, and an additional page for “Best financial services company in Exeter”.
Google knows exactly what you’re trying to do here, and they won’t like it.
Producing dozens or hundreds of keyword-focused pages hasn’t been of any value since 2011, or the equivalent of 30 years ago in SEO terms.
Instead, you should focus on creating pages of content that can rank for hundreds of keywords.
The Perfect Optimisation Strategy
Anyone who tells you that they have the “perfect” strategy, especially one they read about elsewhere, is fooling themselves.
Because it’s only a matter of time before Google updates the algorithm to filter websites using that strategy out of their search results.
If there’s any SEO strategy worth pursuing it’s one that focuses on content relevancy and user experience.
Everything else takes second place.
Bad SEO Played Its Part
We completely understand why some marketing managers got sick of SEO.
There’s any number of search marketing agencies out there who will promise you they can rank your business for any keywords you want, and they can do it all in just a few weeks.
Several months later you realise they’ve done nothing except send you “vanity statistics” – a lack of tangible improvement wrapped up in charts and graphics that mean nothing.
So you cut the agency loose, and swear you’ll never make the same mistake again.
To be blunt, there’s no agency charging you £299 per month for SEO that can deliver the results your business needs.
A few hundred pounds per month only allows them to outsource the work to the cheapest overseas vendor they can find, and hope that it all works out.
That’s why we know there are thousands of marketing managers in the UK alone who have had their fingers burned by dishonest digital marketing agencies.
And that’s why paid digital ads are popular – they deliver instant results.
But that doesn’t mean digital ads are necessarily the best way to spend your marketing budget – they’re not.
SEO Tactics That Still Work Like A Charm
Now that you know what aspects of SEO are dead and gone…is there any light at the end of the tunnel?
The funny thing is that the same guys who never shut up about the negative aspects of outdated SEO strategies never, ever mention that modern SEO is actually alive and well.
In fact, all those Google algorithm updates are great news for any business because they’ve all but eliminated black hat SEO, levelling the playing field for ethical search engine optimisation strategies.
And what strategies are we talking about here?
If your website can provide a web searcher with the best possible answer to their question, then Google will fall in love with you. That’s the core of their business – providing answers to questions.
Businesses all over the world generate billions in revenue by simply giving the visitor the information they need.
There are no tricks or gimmicks involved – you’re simply providing the searcher with value, and Google rewards you with higher rankings as a result.
You can’t just publish 500-word blog posts and expect visitors to bookmark them or share them on social networks.
Because there’s a limited amount of value you can offer in 500 words.
A better approach is to look at the content your competitors are publishing, and then create a new piece of content that is 10x better – this is what SEO guru Brian Dean refers to as skyscraper content.
This is a new term for the tried-and-tested search engine optimisation tactic of providing visitors with the best possible information on a subject.
Doing this allows you to become the authority in a given niche or market, which has a compounding effect of drawing in lots of additional traffic from Google.
Remember those 500-word blog posts we mentioned earlier on?
There’s every possibility that you have at least a handful of these on your site. The good news is that you can upgrade these blog posts to make them far more powerful in terms of attracting organic traffic.
Doing this means making the page of content far more valuable by including charts, graphs, screenshots, bullet points, videos and another 500 – 1000 words of content.
Google now pays a huge amount of attention to how web searchers are interacting with your website.
So, let’s imagine you have a website ranking in position #7 in Google for a specific keyword. If you were to optimise your title tags to entice searchers to click on them more often than your competitors, then Google will most likely reward you with a ranking boost.
Yes, you can actually beat your competitors out of their search position by simply optimising things like your Title and Meta Description tags.
SEO vs. Digital Ads
Here’s the main reason why we know for a fact that search engine optimisation isn’t dead – PPC (Pay per Click) ad costs are soaring.
Did you know that there’s been an almost 500% increase in the cost of running digital ads since 2008?
That means a either a 5x increase in your advertising costs to get the same results, or a 5x% decrease in the number of potential visitors you’ve been able to attract, when compared with any of your competitors.
Over the years what we’ve noticed is that the same doom and gloom merchants you find online preaching that SEO is dead are usually the same people selling PPC courses.
They do this because the only real deciding factor in PPC is the size of your budget – if you have enough cash then you can outrank every single one of your competitors. But you need to keep spending that money to outrank them.
SEO, on the other hand, is about focusing on long-term goals, maximising your lead generation and revenue while also minimising your advertising spend.
This is based on the fact that Google makes about 500 – 600 updates to its search engine every year.
Staying aligned with these updates is a full-time job.
So, no matter how often the “experts” tell you that SEO is dead, that doesn’t stop Google generating 3.5 billion searches every single day.
That’s a whole lot of organic searches going somewhere!
SEO in Numbers – Dispelling The Myths And Rumours
You could quite easily simply view this blog post as an opinion piece. Finetune is, after all, an SEO agency.
So, how can you be certain that we’re telling you the truth about the position of modern search engine optimisation in the digital marketing landscape?
Here are some numbers to think about:
If you think about it, people are automatically geared to use search engines. Children now use them without having to be taught, and Googling is just something we all do. And the average person has to Google something 3.5 times each day.
This isn’t a recent development, PPC has always struggled to compete with organic search traffic.
That’s why Google shifted their entire page layout to move Google AdWords ads from the right-hand menu to where they’ll get the most views – at the top of the page.
Even then, well over 50% of people choose to click on organic listings instead. And that’s without factoring in the surging popularity in ad blocking programs.
The one major shift in SEO is from desktop to mobile search, and this has the added benefit of allowing customers to call you directly from your search listing – something they’re unlikely to do from a desktop or laptop computer.
Analysts expect the above number to double by the early 2020s.
This number is another one set to grow over the coming years, with the average business investing £3,500 per month in using SEO to grow their brand presence and organic traffic.
Again, we expect the above number to increase year-on-year for at least the next decade.
People hate being sold to.
Even a complete Internet newbie can tell a paid ad from an organic search listing. It’s gotten so bad that people have become so jaded by online advertising they develop something called “banner blindness”. This is when they subconsciously tune out paid ads and their eyes go straight to the organic listings instead.
What’s your first instinct when you remember you have to purchase a gift for somebody? Do you look for a catalogue, or Google for gift ideas?
You already know the answer to this question, so you’re actually part of the reason why SEO isn’t dead.
We expect to see voice search becoming a major aspect of SEO within the next 3 years, thanks in no small part to Google Search, Siri and the Amazon Alexa range.
More marketers are making organic search engine traffic a priority because it has long-term benefits.
PPC ads have the advantage of providing instant results, but your traffic stops flowing when your budget is gone, and there’s no residual traffic from your PPC efforts.
The cost of advertising solely with digital ads has become prohibitively expensive for many businesses, so they’re turning to search engine optimisation instead.
That’s 5.5 devices for every man, woman and child on the planet – assuming a population of approximately 9 billion people at that point in the future.
Not all of those devices will be capable of allowing you to conduct a search query, but they will be more than capable of running a search query themselves .e.g. ordering food for you when your fridge is almost empty.
As you can see from the above statistics, SEO is not only alive and well but it’s absolutely thriving.
The reality is that SEO was never dead, or even close to it.
Search engine optimisation is actually driving more traffic to websites than ever.
What is true is that SEO will continue to evolve over the coming years. But once you understand what those changes mean to your business, your organic traffic levels will continue to improve
Could SEO Ever Die?
That’s a hard one to call, but it’s an interesting question
Let’s take a few moments here to speculate on what might come our way in the next decade or so.
Google are rapidly developing their artificial intelligence systems, and they’re already using some of that technology as part of their search algorithm. We expect Google RankBrain to expand its scope in terms of gauging what is deemed to be a good or bad search result.
AI will have a definite impact on search results, because it will eventually mean that Google can provide individualised search results just for you, based on your online habits.
This will be like using cookies to personalise your shopping experience, but millions of times more powerful.
Google could eventually fall foul of an anti-monopoly move by a future government, forcing them to split the company up into its constituent parts. That would be the ideal time for a competitor to appear.
If that were to happen then it could change the SEO landscape dramatically, especially if some elements of web search were put under government control.
Why would any government ever take control of search?
Because of growing security concerns around the data mining capabilities of companies like Google.
And let’s not forget that Yahoo and AltaVista once dominated the search market, until Google came along. The big search engines of the time thought Google was a joke, and would never be taken seriously.
How wrong can you be?
Right now, there’s a team of developers somewhere creating an algorithm that will make Google as ineffective as Yahoo or Altavista. The question is who will get to buy this technology first?
The one constant in SEO is change, so whatever worked last year to rank websites and get organic traffic might not work just a few years from now.
To badly paraphrase Mark Twain, “…the rumours around the demise of SEO have been greatly exaggerated“.
And we can say that with our hand on our collective hearts because we’ve seen the results our customers get.