Despite the doomsayers, SEO doesn't die - it evolves, and we need to adapt.
You may wonder why one of the sessions at SES London is titled "SEO is Dead. Long Live SEO!" As you probably know, the phrase on which it is based - "The King is dead. Long live the King" - dates from the Middle Ages. It signified the continuation of the monarchy: although the old king was dead, a new one would succeed him immediately. SEO is the same: it's not dead; it has just taken new forms.
Prophets and Prophecies of Doom
Back when I started in this industry, people said, "There's no money in that, Dave," "That will never last," and even "You should get a proper job." Indeed, for the last few years, we've been hearing about "the end of Google" and "the death of SEO." I've learned not to pay any attention to these statements. Many people are using such phrases merely as catchy headlines, controversial as they are, to get SEOs like us to click and enquire further. Others are PPC advocates, some are doomsayers similar to people who wander around with billboards claiming that "the end is nigh," and the rest are just ignorant or misinformed as to what SEO actually is.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the people who make these predictions, based on nothing more than the usual evolutionary process of technology, seem to have spent time at the Rupert Murdoch School of Sensationalist Baloney.
Where were the cries of "computer networking is dead!" when wireless came out? They didn't exist, because this was just another form of networking. People just need to learn the new system, which is still based on the same core fundamentals and principles.
Actual Industry Health
SEO hasn't even been under threat, let alone near death. Until the day that Google decides to stop crawling the web and only put out ads (which, of course, will be the beginning of the end for the search giant, and they're smarter than to trigger such a thing), SEO will be very much alive. They might remove the search box from the search engine altogether, rendering it useless - again, a highly unlikely scenario.
As long organic search listings are found via keywords from a search box, there will be SEO. How can there not be? Owners of websites will still want more prominent, profitable positions with any search engine results pages because users will still want the first results returned to them to be the most relevant and to have a choice.
The problem is that many people simply don't understand SEO and how broad it is as a technical discipline. It doesn't die; it simply evolves. Maybe it will take a new name for itself at some point if that's really necessary, and maybe some aspects will change. Tactics will certainly change, as they always have done, but this doesn't mean that SEO is dead - far from it. The ever-changing aspect is what keeps the good SEOs passionate and achieving the best results through keeping up with the changes in the field.
At the end of the day, websites still need to be fast, usable, informative, and above all, index-able!
Supply and Demand
Maybe it's not the technical side of SEO that people are referring to; maybe it's the demand for SEO services.
Bearing in mind that many searches in Google for certain products and industries have dropped a little lately, the graph on the previous page doesn't show a dying industry to me. I'll accept that in the worst case scenario, demand for SEO is possibly evening out, but it's certainly not going down.
We know that this data isn't exactly reliable, but using it as a rough indicator for the health of the industry, I'd say we're pretty safe.
Lots of existing companies, wanting to conquer markets, are only just getting to grips with the potential of online marketing. Then there are new businesses, with new opportunities and new products, that want a piece of the action. Mix in the fact that the number of Internet users is still rising - meaning more people to buy products and services - and you've got the ingredients of a healthy industry for a long time to come. Sure, new technology will come out that will alter how things are done, but that's what evolution is all about. We need to adapt to the changes and keep up with it all.
What's changed so far? Well, it used to be about the on-page SEO and links. The effect of link profiles has changed, branding is more important now, and it's obvious that once Google gets around how easy it is to game social signals, these signals will become an increasingly important factor, too.
The problem is perception. If you see SEO as a static set of knowledge and processes, then you're looking at it all wrong. SEO is exactly what is says on the tin: it's optimizing for search engines and giving them what they want, which necessitates dynamic skills and processes, because what they want changes! It's just evolution (search evolution not Darwinian, of course).
This article was originally published in SES magazine. Get the complete magazine here.
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David Naylor (commonly known as DaveN) owns Bronco Internet, a successful web development and SEO agency. He is considered one of the best SEOs in the world, with a proven track record in the most competitive markets. His driving force is the belief that there is no point having a site if it doesn’t rank number one. His dedication to giving clients great ROI has lead to the constant development of new optimisation techniques and the ability to see algorithmic changes before most other SEOs. His blog attracts a worldwide audience and is well known for its down-to-earth, informative approach on all SEO issues.
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