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

  • Nathan,
    As a small manufacture of fine cigars we have a need for your services. There is so much “spin” ou there in regard to SEO work.
    Many of the firms are using deceptive approaches and charge high prices for services that do not match their assurances. Its hard to find honest people in this field. We have something special to offer but getting the word out via SEO seems to be our only option.

    Can you call me please: 1-888-751-3489
    Best Regards,
    Robert
    Bucanero Cigars

  • Nathan,
    As a small manufacture of fine cigars we have a need for your services. There is so much “spin” ou there in regard to SEO work.
    Many of the firms are using deceptive approaches and charge high prices for services that do not match their assurances. Its hard to find honest people in this field. We have something special to offer but getting the word out via SEO seems to be our only option.

    Can you call me please: 1-888-751-3489
    Best Regards,
    Robert
    Bucanero Cigars

  • You’re absolutely right. SEO is going to be dead meat soon.

  • You’re absolutely right. SEO is going to be dead meat soon.

  • Martyn

    I must say a great link bait article, but I think the subject is total rubbish!

    I do work as a SEO consultant natural SEO traffic is more valuable then PPC traffic as it’s leads to more conversions.

    So I guess your statement untrue.

  • SEO

    SEO is only a component of internet marketing which includes many others such as SEM, ORM, PPC, SMM, etc. The inclusion of Universal Search concept and other new concepts do not mean the death of SEO. It might be an evolution where many other factors are included in the rankings system.

  • maybe SEO could be dead soon. no one after this don’t want to know about seo. what happen after this if seo dead soon? say good bye to seo. we’ll wait what can be happen to seo after 5 years from know. who knows maybe seo is really dead…. the death of seo.

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  • Busby SEO Test!!!

    yep, seo is just about how many backlinks you have, both natural and unnatural links. that’s why seo is dead. lol :D

  • I agree that SEO experts as a whole will see their roles change over the course of the next few years as more and more companies learn how to “do it yourself”. If you own an e-commerce site you know that it is very important to stay on top of trends, to have an ear to the ground at all times. For this you do need someone who is devoted to SEO, not someone who is managing it part-time amidst there other responsibilities. For this reason you will see alot of companies regret letting their SEO guy go too early in favor of doing it themselves.

  • There are so many University students who sailed through Uni learning nothing and now provide SEO for a living its a joke. Theres one guy I noticed today on Guru.Com who has a Masters Degree and is a SEO expert! Wonder why eh.

    If you support SEO Services do you know know where to begin on creating an Administration area for their clients to edit their own META data or you have actually done it before? If your reading this and thinking, how and why or no then wake up to the fact your rubbish at web development and your job is about to come to an end!

    All this “If SEO is dead who is going to edit the keywords” lol Pathetic. I write thousands of lines of complicated code for a living you SEO Experts bash on with your keywords that my own clients do themselves its so simple.

    Rant over…
    I agree SEO is dead and all my clients get admin pages to edit their own META data editor no matter how small or big the site is. I'm also taking part in campaigns to rid the internet of SEO Services and replace them with SEO Site Upgrades, all about improving sites long term/permanent. Something a lot of SEO people can't do they just can't cope, I know loads of them from University.

  • Ambassador

    I can't disagree with this blog post more…and many of the comments afterword. It reminds my of the guy who retired from the US Patent Office in 1894 because he was convinced that everything of meaning that could be invented, had been invented by then.

    I doubt I'll change anybody's mind here.

    That said, it will be interesting to see what everyone is saying 3 years up the road. Here are my reasons why SEO will be hear 3, 5 and even 10 years from now.

    1) Good SEO works. I agree with the sentiment that MOST SEO techs don't know true SEO. However, don't lump all SEO firms into the same pile. There are many good/ethical onsite and offsite optimization techniques that can move a website up to the top. We do it every day in our company.

    2) There will always be a need for SERVICE. Of the 24 million small businesses out there, the vast majority of them can not or will do it for themselves; and they shouldn't. Business owners should always focus on their core competencies…deviating divides their energy, their focus and costs big money. I was taught by a very successful man “don't do anything in your business you can pay someone else to do, only do the things you can't pay someone else to do”. Most business management can no more design a good website, create outstanding content and do all the things to get them to the top of the search engines for relevant terms than they can to Network their own computers, design their ASP database, build a web application, do their own accounting or be their own electrician. The smart ones will focus on their core skills and hire a professional for the rest.

    Effective SEO for competitive terms is certainly not as easy as some of the comments suggest. But even If they could do it themselves..who wants to. I can cut my own lawn or fertalize my own yard…but I'm not going to. Why should I when my lawn guy does it for $100 per month and Chemlawn sprays for $39 three times per year.

    Now I'm not naive, and certainly understand the industry will mature…I do believe things will be different down the road 3yrs, 5yrs and 10yrs from now. But there will be a methodology behind a Search Engine Algorithm and business websites will need to conform their websites to it.

  • What i know about SEO is just how we optimize keywords and inbound links. as long as we do it correctly, we'll move to the top spots of the rankings. Considering the statement whether SEO is dead or not, i have no comment :D

  • I quess I'll have to start looking for a new day job.. lmao

  • Micah – I agree with some of your points and disagree with others. For example, I agree with your suggestion that companies consider taking SEO activities in-house and integrate it within marketing, development, etc. as that will most likely be benefical in the long term. While I don't believe that SEO is some form of black magic voodoo, I do believe that it takes some experience to master. Merely utilizing Google's best practices, along with some title optimization, won't be enough in a highly competitive market. In those markets, you'll need to be very good at several specific SEO based responsibilities to even moderately compete. Giving your IT guy or girl a book on SEO and cutting them loose, won't do it.

    I do agree that SEO will change and evolve over the next few years, but it's been doing that since it's inception.

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  • SEO dies when Google dies. There's an old ancient proverb: “TO SEO, IS TO OPTIMIZE FOR ONE'S SEARCH”

    SEO IS A THRIVING MARKET.

    You don't realize it, because we're not using old traditional methods, but rather, were our here on MySpace, Digg, and CitySearch making it happen and we're better than ever. When you search, you find what we want you to find. Cut and dry.

  • josh

    I totally disagree with you on this article to say that SEO will be gone in 3 years. I currently have my own SEO consulting company and I can tell you it is going stronger than ever. First of all just because you have a work force of all these players helping you SEO does not mean it will be effective. Working smarter and not harder is the key to being a good SEO person. I will give you an example as a test site I did. I had 2 website created one using Whitehat Practices that typically companies will use and Blackhat Practices that I use. The Whitehat Practice website never got up on the first page and my other site did. And second website search engines are always changing to improve search engine results if you know how to manipulate them to beat the big competitors you will always have work. I have gotten first page ranking on very competitive keywords vs companies that are doing in house marketing. The reason is because the people at there 9-5 jobs do not care about what they do normally. They are there to get a pay check and be finished. It is my passion to be beat the big competitors on there own keywords. To say that SEO will die in 3 years is a foolish comment and you are not very wise at all. Why not give examples of keywords you have ranked very high on and let me try to out rank you!!! YOU ARE FULL OF CRAP! You either dont know anything about this business or you are angry because bad SEO guys are getting the work you want to get. Either way you are uninformed and your article is a complete waste of time and space on the internet!

  • Josh

    Also social media sites are fad. They come and go. Twitter announed this week that 40% of the users using this service never come back! So being ahead of the competition is the key to being a good SEO guy. Also the guy who said that HTML coder is the same as a SEO guy is also the stupid comment I have ever heard. Think about it idiot! HTML is a set standard doesn't change. SEO always is changing and adapting to the market. So how can you compare HTML coder to a SEO guy. WOW everyone is an SEO expert these days but the comments I heard are so full of crap. Most of you on here commmenting I guarantee make crap money and because you are not successful doesn't mean others are in the same shoe as you. I guess the saying when your on top everyone wants to bring you down is a fair comment.

  • CRS

    So Josh, You are basically bragging about how the Black Hat site you created beat out the White Hat site?? Well of course it did, but that that's not a good long-range tactic. Good luck with that “principle” guiding your business.

  • I've recently realized that I'm doing more keyword searches in Twitter to find recommendations to websites than I am finding in the search engines. For example, keyword search “SEO” and you'll get more reliable hits in Twitter. Maybe Twitter is going to replace Google some day soon?

  • I've recently started using Twitter to keyword search topics like “SEO” so I can find good sites that are recommended by people, rather than marketers. I wonder if Twitter will some day replace google?

  • great conversation for knowledge

  • I have to say, I don't 100% agree.
    What's stopping seo's to use social media or video sites to promote their business?
    This will only make things a lot like the beginning of seo: only the good ones will survive.

  • I've spent the past hour reading this blog, and following links on the blog. What a fascinating topic. Seriously, I don't think I have anything to add as I am just eager to read more! I see this topic is months old but will keep garnering replies and opinions for years to come I imagine!

  • kamalpatel

    I agree with you Micah…………..

  • kamalpatel

    I agree with you Micah…………..

  • kamalpatel

    I agree with you Micah…………..

  • kamalpatel

    I agree with you Micah…………..

  • I personally prefer other sources of traffic besides seo but the truth is that #1 spot is worth money even if you just flip the site in it's prime.

  • I personally prefer other sources of traffic besides seo but the truth is that #1 spot is worth money even if you just flip the site in it's prime.

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  • SEO is dead, long live SEO! i agree with you however not 100% because some people will be always better, some must be number one, two etc. Not anyone can rank on first page. Cheers.

  • SEO is dead, long live SEO! i agree with you however not 100% because some people will be always better, some must be number one, two etc. Not anyone can rank on first page. Cheers.

  • Nice one. I have stumbled and twittered this for my friends. My friends will enjoy reading it also.

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  • This is impossible. SEO is making internet marketing popular. It helps distributors to reach to the customers across the world.

  • SEO gives good results, however; if you are dependent on SEO alone for sales or online inquiries then think again. It can however promise good number of visitors.

    As far as its death is concerned after 3 years or so, I would like to mention that same thing was said 3 years back or even later but it actually didnt happen.

    It will of course change its course and various new developments will take place, but quoting it death would be a little too much.

    rest of the elements mentioned in the article truly work and a lot of marketers use them widely.

  • SEO gives good results, however; if you are dependent on SEO alone for sales or online inquiries then think again. It can however promise good number of visitors.

    As far as its death is concerned after 3 years or so, I would like to mention that same thing was said 3 years back or even later but it actually didnt happen.

    It will of course change its course and various new developments will take place, but quoting it death would be a little too much.

    rest of the elements mentioned in the article truly work and a lot of marketers use them widely.

  • Other seo techniquestend to be exploitative and only work short term until the search engines detect them and deal with them.

  • ericafiller02

    Andrea Hill reflects on the bold statement that SEO is dead and social media is the new idea means of online promotion.

  • ericafiller02

    Andrea Hill reflects on the bold statement that SEO is dead and social media is the new idea means of online promotion.

  • hello friend i think your idea is so good and i agree with you!

  • i really happy looking this site and there are more tips!

  • Leon

    I'm happy to have found and read this article. When I first began online publishing in 1996, the website I ran implemented some very basic SEO tactics (as befits that era), but very soon, the old adage, “Content is King” proved itself. The more relevant, valuable content we generated, the more “hits” and attention we got. Even today, the content we published back then remains high on Google's search results. I realized that you don't need to prioritize SEO efforts at all – in the obsessive way many companies still do – so long as your content was good. And that's still my philosophy today. It remains very difficult to get some SEO people to understand the paradigm of social media marketing from the content rather than SEO point of view.

  • I'm happy to have found and read this article. When I first began online publishing in 1996, the website I ran implemented some very basic SEO tactics (as befits that era), but very soon, the old adage, “Content is King” proved itself. The more relevant, valuable content we generated, the more “hits” and attention we got. Even today, the content we published back then remains high on Google's search results. I realized that you don't need to prioritize SEO efforts at all – in the obsessive way many companies still do – so long as your content was good. And that's still my philosophy today. It remains very difficult to get some SEO people to understand the paradigm of social media marketing from the content rather than SEO point of view.

  • Mind if I put a link to my website here? I think it will help my SEO and my personal brand. TIA!

  • 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.
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