Micah November 9th

SEO is Dead

Yesterday I moderated a panel on SEO and Social Media Marketing at the Thin Air Summit in Denver. Panel went great, the folks on the panel were fantastic. Jeremiah Oywang has a great run down of the panel and the advice given, so I wont rehash it here.

A hour or so after the panel was over, and we were all at a post-conference mixer, I sent out this tweet:

“If you do SEO for a living, you will be out of business or irrelevant in 3 years.” – @micah

Which got a lot more response that I figured, and I was asked to expand on that thought.

Almost as soon as the graphical browser was introduced, people have been trying to make money online. Over the years, online marketing has evolved, with some tactics continuing to have value, and many others falling by the wayside.

Banners – Still work, but the average click through rate on a banner is 0.4%, and there is research to indicate that its possible that 6% of internet users account for 50% of banner clicks. Banners have morphed a bit into rich media advertising, but really are only effective for brand plays (to get marketing touches).

Email – Noise/Signal ratio has destroyed what was once a great communication medium. Does email still work? Sure. Do people spend large parts of their marketing budgets on email? nope. Like banners, email has become relatively ineffective for lead generation or customer acquisition without an extremely targeted (read expensive) list, or a massive (read spam) list.

Which brings us to SEO. To be clear, I am not speaking about Pay-Per-Click marketing, which will probably be an effective medium for marketing for a long time. Its easy, specific, and makes sense. The market sets the price, so as people are priced out of the market, it should self-correct, and settle on pricing that works.

But the act of SEO – adjusting the code and content of a website with the primary purpose to be ranked highly in search results, is on its way out.

There was a time when SEO was seen as magic that only a few knew, but everyone wanted. SEO consultants could charge wild high rates and provide quick and obvious value. As all online marketers became wise to the tactic, more and more designers and developers were being charged with ensuring the SEO efficacy of the sites they were developing. Writers were expected to write for search engines.

Suddenly, everyone was an SEO expert.

Then social media blasted on the scene a couple of years back. People took their SEO tactics, and laid them on top of social media, completely missing the point of social media.

The content generated by users of social media began to rank highly in search engines, because it was RELEVANT. Because it had VALUE. Because it was TIMELY. Because it was REAL.

Suddenly, all the SEO experts also became Social Media Experts, as social media marketing became the hot new thing.

And, being resistent to change, as most industries are, SEOs just removed the word “search engine” from their tactics, and replaced it with “social media.”

With the net result being social networks and user generated content that is full of useless, noisy, crap.

Twitter, Facebook, even the biggest social network, MySpace, which was built as a place to market to young people, has been destroyed by the attempts to commandeer them by marketers.

Not only is SEO on its way out, (as platforms such as WordPress and other CMS’ integrate SEO principles into their frameworks), we see the glut of SEO consultants now gloaming onto Social Media Marketing in an attempt to not drown.

Here are the truths of todays marketing marketplace:

If you are a company who employs an agency to provide Social Media expertise, fire them. Hire an internal evangelist. Several companies are doing this. Zappos and Ford are two examples that come immediately to mind.

If you are a company who employs an agency to provide Search Engine Marketing expertise, fire them. First, take the principles of search engine optimization (write focused content and use clean code) and have them distributed among the important personnel (development, marketing, sales, etc.). Make SEO organic, integral and integrated into your organization. Dont “do” SEO. Dont make it a separate function. Make tracking it part of your marketing effort.

Second, select a CMS framework (I recommend WordPress–it works great for even non-blogs!), that supports solid SEO principles. With WordPress, install two plugins: All-In-One SEO and XML sitemaps. Thats it for SEO.

If you are a company that thinks that SEO and SMM will be the holy grail to success, please send whatever you are smoking to me. There is only one thing that breeds success, and that is passion. Hire people that are passionate about your product; that can talk about your product with passion. Remember, its not your call as to whether you are passionate or not. Its the people listening.

If you are an SEO or SMM consultant, you have three years. Three years to adapt or be out of work. Learn how to be passionate and breed passion or find another line of work (I hear that Personal Branding is the hot thing).

After all, like Rob Blatt at the Thin Air Summit tweeted “The issue I always have with SEO is that I ALWAYS feel like I’m being told how to lie, cheat and steal my way to optimization.” – @robblatt