So, it’s April 23rd, 2017 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…
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: 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 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.