Yes folks, you heard it here first – SEO is dead! But first, let me clarify. SEO as in “I want to be number 1” is dead. Off-Page SEO such as mass article marketing and aimless link building is dead (and has been for some time). Yet some businesses out there are still promoting the old 500 links, 50 articles per month “SEO Packs” to unsuspecting business owners who don’t know any better.
Anyone who has been in the industry for a while knows that these old school techniques provide no long term, if any value at all.
“Get number one on Google”.
Many of you would have received those ads, emails and cold calls from companies spruiking “get to number one on Google” for some cheap price, I even saw one the other day claiming to get you there for $5!
It constantly surprises me when clients ask “what do you think of this deal?”
My instant reaction is “surely you can see that’s not a good idea!”, but my second thought is – how do business owners know any different? They’re not experts in online marketing; they are just being told constantly that being at the top of the search results is crucial and want to get there as cost effectively as possible.
The average business owner knows very little about how the search engines work, how often they change and the multitude of ways customers can now find your business online.
Take me back!
Ten years ago when Google showed a list of 10 websites in their search results, being the first page that displayed was paramount. Having a page targeted to a particular topic, and having links pointing to that page from anywhere on the internet with a few keywords on the page got you to number one. It was that simple.
Upon realising it was that simple, many people started to abuse this by ‘spamming’ the internet with useless comments on blogs, link farms, and low quality sites – all in an effort to get them to the top of the search engines. From this they had hoped to make themselves money from advertising, virus software, pop-up ads and the like. It was because of this low value SEO behaviour that Google (and likewise the other search engines) decided that this had to stop.
How SEO has changed
Fast forward ten years and hundreds of search algorithm changes later and the Google search results are no longer simply a list of ten websites. Last year’s panda and content updates had a big impact on many sites that had been using low value SEO tactics. For more info on that you can read the JC Penney story.
SEO is now about Search Placements – getting your business in as many places as possible online so that it appears in the search results however a person is searching – whether its Local Places, Video Results, News articles, Blogs, Image Search, Shopping and of course normal website results as well.
If you’re a local business, read this!
If you’re a local business, and someone enters a search with a specific location – your search results will more than likely consist of two or three paid ads at the top, followed by 7 local business results from Google Places listings, a local news article or two and some industry directories. A few traditional website results will be scattered amongst / below these. (Confused? See our previous blog post on understanding a search results display page)
Where previously being number 1 meant everyone went to your site – now, the number one organic result means there is probably still 9 or so other ways for people to find your business before they see your “number one” organic ranking result!
If you have an online store / E-Commerce Businesses, read this!
When people are searching for products online it’s an even more complicated story! The search results will likely feature 2-3 paid ads at the top, some product images from Google image results, a news article that has something to do with the products or brand you’re selling, a Wikipedia entry on the brand, a bunch of Google shopping listings and 2 or 3 comparison shopping networks.
Actually, if you’re an e-commerce site these days you could rank number one organically for a product and still struggle to get on the first page as there are so many 'platforms' blended in (local listings, news listings, shopping listings etc can push all the organic listings off the first page). We made some predictions last year about what will happen in Australia by analysing search results pages in the US – the irony is that they are so out of date, Google has changed the game again.
So, do we stop trying?
No. My point is not that you should give up; it’s just that strategy and diversification are now more important than ever. You could try getting your business everywhere online to maximise the number of people that see your website, but to maintain everything and use each platform effectively you’d need an entire online marketing team for your business, and most small businesses just can’t afford that.
A few things to try:
- The key is testing & measuring, see which avenues drive the most / highest quality leads and focus your energies on those areas.
- Continue to product great content, if you want your website to be number one, make it the best website on the internet in your niche!
- On-Page SEO is still key – making sure each page on your website has the best keywords included in the key places and content of your page is still crucial to get that page popping up higher in the search results.
- Get social – build relationships, leverage contacts and share your knowledge with others and they’ll surely return the favours, share your content and help you promote your business.
- Make your content engaging – for ecommerce websites, try demo videos, reviews, high quality images. People can’t try on or feel a product when purchasing online, so you need to give them the next best thing.
- Local businesses – make yourself approachable, include your local phone number, address, tips on parking, how to find you. Make sure you list EVERY service you offer on your website, don’t assume your customers know every service you offer, make sure they know!
Are SEOs now OMs – Online Marketers?
I’ve always called myself an SEO and can proudly say I have taken many webpages to the coveted number one position in organic results. But with all the other options available today it’s getting harder and harder. An SEO these days isn’t someone who can get your home page number 1 when someone searches for what you do.
An SEO in 2012 is an online marketer; someone who can work with you, to identify where your customers spend their time online, and put your business in front of them as easily, and as cost effectively as possible. Make sure your website content is fresh, optimised and ever expanding – that it’s sharable and that it targets the words people are searching for.
To make sure your business is in all the important places online, when people search for a product or service in Google – that there are multiple ways for them to find your website in the search results.
Strategy, Implementation, Measurement, Repeat
Strategy is more important now than ever, focussing on what brings results. Once you have your online marketing strategy, it is imperative that it’s followed. A strategy that is not followed isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on.
Implement your strategy, measure the results it brings, refine and repeat – just like the famous Pantene slogan: “it won’t happen overnight, but it will happen”.
Convert the masses!
Our job as online marketers is to change the mindset of businesses who have been hammered by cheap nasty SEO services from fly by nighters for too long. We need to educate, illustrate and explain to business owners and their personnel that this ‘spammy’ old school SEO is evil. And that to be a success online in 2012 you need to build, create and engage.
SEO is all about content and getting that content where people will see it. Google will reward hard work, and remember – if an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.