We hear it everywhere, from everyone. Even some people within the marketing world adamantly proclaim that SEO is a dead (or dying) practice, and that we should jump ship before it’s too late. But, are they right? Are SEOs (Search Engine Optimisers) a dying breed, soon to be extinct?
We’re inclined to say no. Whilst SEO has evolved massively since it first became a viable marketing practice, it has never left. Google (and of course, other search engines) have changed their focus several times, making it more difficult to optimise for search engines for sure, but they’ve never abandoned it. With claims that SEO is dead stretching back almost as far as SEO has been around itself, you have to wonder, “If SEO is really dead, then why do search engines continue to release new search algorithms”.
Here, we’ve decided to address some of the common opinions on why SEO is no more.
“Digital PR is replacing SEO”
Normally, when a person makes a claim such as this, it’s because they don’t truly understand how SEO works. Normally, when someone makes a claim such as this, it’s because they’re trying to sell you their Digital PR services. By no means are we saying that Digital PR is not a viable marketing practice, but it is not replacing SEO. It is SEO.
The vast majority of work completed by Digital PR companies (including ourselves), involves creating valuable connections with other people/companies/organisations around the web. Whether this is through Blogger Outreach (contacting relevant bloggers, asking them to review your products), Guest Blogging (adding a blog from your own company to another company’s blog), or Press Releases (across multiple news websites). There are several other practices involved, but all share one thing. The best results are achieved when an actual link is secured between the two websites. That’s backlinking, a core part of SEO.
But, the results will never be as good without a properly optimised website. Those who have made the move from SEO to Digital PR wouldn’t “un-optimise” their website. A Digital PR campaign can only have fantastic results when supported by a sufficient SEO campaign.
“SEO is spammy, and people are sick of it”
Let’s face it, most marketing techniques are invasive and exhausting for the user. We’re constantly bombarded with advertisement after advertisement. There are adverts when we’re watching TV, billboards as we travel, cold calls when we’re relaxing at home, and junk mail pouring into both our letterboxes and email inboxes. It’s easy to see why some people may view SEO this way too, but the key point to remember is this. SEO focuses mostly on inbound marketing.
What does this mean? It means that SEO as a practice is less about going out and finding users, and more about bringing the users to you. That does sound like basically the same thing, but there is a key difference. Here’s an example.
When you’re watching the TV, you’re not there for the adverts. You’re there to watch the programme of your choice. If there were an advert about windows during the break of your show, you may actually start thinking about them, but you probably weren’t thinking about them before the advert, as you were concentrating on the tv show. This is what reaching out to your audience looks like.
In contrast to this, SEO only affects you if you are actually looking for something. If you go to your favourite search engine and type “double glazed windows nottingham”, you’re actively seeking out websites that talk about double glazing windows in Nottingham. Should it be considered “spammy” for somebody to want to share their website that talks about double glazing windows in Nottingham at this point? We definitely don’t think so. Search engines provide people with information that they need, when they need it.
Granted, there are some “spammy” practices used by SEO agencies, but these are always viewed negatively by Google. Usually, those same spammy practices cause penalisation of websites once search engines update their algorithms.
“PPC proves that search engines don’t care about SEO anymore”
Since the birth of AdWords, many digital marketers have taken this as evidence that Google doesn’t care about SEO anymore. Their reasoning does make sense to a certain degree. Why would search engines allow you to gain rankings for free, when they are already selling those rankings themselves? It’s a very good question, and one that requires a good answer.
PPC is easier than SEO. That’s a simple fact. Rather than optimising your webpage perfectly, and building a comprehensive link structure in order to improve your domain authority, you can just throw some money at the search engine and immediately start ranking higher up the results. But, you do need SEO to use PPC well. Amongst the factors that influence how well you rank through PPC, are many that crossover with SEO. The relevancy of your page for one. Relevancy has seen a great increase in focus from search engines, as their sole purpose is to provide the most relevant information to the searcher.
As well as needing the support of SEO to succeed in PPC, there’s further evidence to support that PPC isn’t replacing SEO, including the labelling of adverts. As we established above, adverts can be seen as spammy, or untrustworthy. Of course the person who paid for an advert wants you to think that their website is the best. Why else would they pay for it? But search engines accept that once a person is aware of this, they’re likely to choose organic results over paid search results. Pages that rank through SEO are more trusted by “search-engine savvy” users, as it requires better content and harder work to start ranking.
That’s not to say that PPC is not effective though. It certainly is, or else it wouldn’t continue to be a viable marketing practice. We’re just saying that, for the purpose of this article, PPC will never completely replace SEO.
“SEO is now too hard for it to be considered practical”
SEO is really hard to do well. That’s why we have people within our team whose sole expertise is SEO. There’s so much to consider that you can’t just get by anymore. Those couple of backlinks you got for that piece of content aren’t going to cut it anymore. That perfectly-optimised page needs support from other factors.
SEO is becoming a ridiculously competitive market, with ever-changing rules and regulations. This isn’t proof that the practice is dying out, but proof that search engines are actively trying to improve it. SEO is evolving (and becoming harder to do well) because some webmasters would abuse the rules previously (see: black hat techniques). Instead of dropping the practice entirely, we should rise to the challenge.
SEO is not dead, but far from it. All the digital marketing practices mentioned above (and any others you can think of) will never replace SEO, as they are designed specifically to improve it. Digital PR creates quality, relevant backlinks (SEO). PPC leads traffic to your website (SEO). Content Marketing does both of these things (SEO again).
At the same time though, SEO does not negate any of these methods. All of them work together to create a strong digital marketing strategy, with each excelling in areas where the other fails. Rather than replacing SEO, we need to use other marketing channels to support it, and vice versa.