So, it’s March 20th, 2019 and SEO is dead… again… One of the oldest cliches on the internet, SEO being dead is about as old as search engine optimization. As Google rolls out its latest update (May Day, Caffeine, The Farmer Update, the latest Panda tweak, Penguin, the EMD update, Penguin 2.0, Hummingbird – whatever), people are cheering the death of SEO right on queue. Any quick search for the term “seo is dead” or “is seo dead” will quickly bring up results from both sides of the argument, though you’ll notice those who argue against this supposed death of SEO populate a larger portion of the top search results. I can’t imagine why…

If you can't see this image, have I got a treat for you - An alt attribute that actually describes the image rather than being keyword stuffed nonsense. Here goes: This image depicts an anthropomorphic skeleton kicking into the air because he's super excited that people who say 'seo is dead' are wrong. His name is Sid the asskicking SEO skeleton.

Check me out. I'm SEO and I'm totally dead. How am I still kicking so much ass?

The reality is that SEO is incredibly basic. Take the standard on-page factors – you know all that cliche crap like title tags, H tags, alt attributes, good keyword choices, properly keyword-laden content etc, and align them with your off-page efforts, and voila – you’re ranking. This should all be incorporated into any basic web designer or web development team’s plan these days. If it isn’t, fire those people. And whatever you do, fire anyone who claims to be an SEO expert, or worse yet, a Social Media Expert.

Do off-page efforts count as SEO? SEO is supposed to be about optimizing your website for the search engines, right? Sure, in 1997. These days it’s an all encompassing process of getting your website ranked. This includes the process of getting backlinks using means that are whitehat, blackhat and everything in between.

Spamming (comments and content) may be involved, if you so choose, in addition to “article marketing” which is a lesser form of spam that often involves paying for articles in large quantities from content sweat shops, and submitting them to article directories. This is a perfectly valid (though not very effective) way to get your sites ranked. These articles aren’t going to be mind-blowing “quality content” but they get the job done. Some people even choose to put this mass produced sweat shop content on their main websites. You see these content farms everywhere at the top of the search results. Just look for “how to” do pretty much anything and you’ll see what I mean.

[Update: Since this article was first published, Google has made a (sad) attempt to clean out these content farms when they initially rolled out the Panda update on February 23rd(ish), 2011]

[Update (10/17/2016): You’ll find the latest iteration of this keyword phrase exploitation using shallow sweat-shop content if you search for anything using the word “best”]

A lot of these basics haven’t really changed much since the inception of SEO. The great thing is that a lot of this is fluid and intangible. This means that people who need exact numbers (“how many links does it take?”) will give up long before they see results for their efforts. Fortunately for me, and my mediocre efforts, that really lowers the bar for SEO. But you’ve got to be wondering where all these quitters are going, yeah?

Twitter. These people that claim that SEO is dead seem to be flocking to social media. Why social media? Because it’s easy and cheap. It’s pretty damned easy to post a Tweet and assume you’re doing some real work. It’s even better if you’ve convinced some clueless business to pay you to do it.

The problem with Twitter is that even if people bother to click the link, they won’t be doing anything worthwhile on your site (buying a product or clicking an ad). And note I said IF they click the link. I’ve had articles on various websites of mine “Tweeted” and then “retweeted” throughout the land of Twitter by people with thousands of followers, and the amount of people that actually clicked through the link was depressing low. Good job “engaging your audience.” These mindless moronic zombies are just tweeting and retweeting their faces off and no one is listening. No one gives a crap. If this is where people default to when they fail at proper SEO, then they can have at it. Go ahead and call yourself a “Social Media Expert” (SME) or an SMO (Social Media Optimizer) and leave the real work to those of us who know what we’re doing.

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[Update: 02/21/2019] Despite propaganda to the contrary, old school blackhat link-building tactics still appear to work. For example there is a low quality spammy “review” site, ****.org, that ranks for tons of extremely valuable keywords using massive amounts of mediocre exact and near match anchors and even “hidden” links offset with a ton of links from the domain’s previous life (which isn’t at all related to its current topic). This site is ranking #1 for hundreds, if not thousands, of “money” keywords, many of them are those “best” keywords I mentioned above.

They have achieved this in about 1 year.

Prior to early 2018, this domain started as some educational website about some educational ocean project (either in 2005, or before), and then spent some years in limbo before being picked up by whoever is filling it with the spamfarm looking content on it now.

A bit of an amusing irony is that the website appears to be hosted on a Google server.

Regarding the “hidden” links I refer to above, I am seeing a lot of period links (as in just a period –> .), not just for this particular website but across the board. Really strange, that such an old technique is making a comeback when SEO is supposedly RIP. Can I tell whether or not this is having a real effect on rankings over the other work being done? No, but I keep seeing this as the #1 anchor text by volume for these sites with piles of #1 rankings, so it’s not just random or a coincidence. There is a reason this is being done.

Don’t believe the hype, folks. SEO (even obvious blackhat) is alive and well.

Will it last? Probably.

[Update: 03/02/2019] This period (.) linking thing just keeps cropping up in my research. I feel a bit out of the loop not knowing about this until finding it in the wild like this, and I can’t really figure it out what’s going on beyond the superficial “this is linkspam.” I assume they’re all drinking from the same informational source or using the same service.

I’m talking tons (like 100,000+) of period links, tons of blank links, no “real” links from anything with authority, and they’re suffering no ill effects. They seem to be thriving with just absolute garbage content and mountains of links. It’s like 2006 all over again.

And these obvious “hidden” links are just a piece of it, these websites are gaining hundreds of thousands of links in general. The one I’m looking at right now went from 100,000ish links to over 700,000 in the past 3 months.

It’s so blatant, even I’m a little surprised that it’s working. Is Google asleep at the wheel? I’ve seen some crazy clever shady shit, but most people try to hide it. This is just looks like “Hey the gate’s open! Charge it!”

But I never stop being amused by the pre-mature SEO coroners. This is total shit linking structure that is resulting in mountains of #1 rankings, which translates into many thousands of dollars. In 2019.

[Update: 3/14/2019] Found a fresh one moving up into my vision with this “.” linking bullshit. I’m curious how this will work out for them so here’s some here info:

  • 3 period (.) links – they all link to jpg
  • 5 ~img~ links that link to png
  • a smattering of shitty fake wiki links
  • a couple of FOLLOW links from a government agency’s blog that looks like a corpse covered
  • blackgnats blackhats’ comments. I might use this one myself…
  • other misc shit links
  • handful of okay #1 rankings
  • ranked 60 with a two word product name with a volume of 65,000 (highest volume keyword it ranks for)
  • 65 keywords with a global volume over 1,000 in the top 100
  • about 2,500 keywords visible in the top 100
  • over 100 keywords visible on page 1

    I dunno what will come of this but it will be interesting to watch.

    [Update: 08/19/2011] Case in point about Twitter sucking – Some chucklenut with 5,000 “followers” tweeted this blog today. 11 people clicked through. 11! That is a whopping .2% CTR. Talk about an engaged audience. With those numbers, I’m reconsidering shifting vocations to SMO. What a joke.

    More reading: The Social Media Ponzi Bubble Explodes @ SEOBook.com – This is basically a much better version of parts of the rant I wrote here more than two three four five six seven eight nine years ago. The article is superb, and there are a lot of links; I suggest you follow them all and read the associated articles as well.

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