Why this digital marketing expert says SEO is dead

Two-women-updating-SEO

Source: Unsplash/Kobu Agency.

Search engine optimisation (SEO) has been a prominent strategy in marketing plans for over 20 years. But for the sake of businesses, marketers and SEO professionals alike, it’s time we call it. SEO is dead. 

As a digital marketer who has run two marketing companies offering SEO services, it’s not a statement I make lightly, but it is a statement I believe wholeheartedly.

Let’s look at the cold, hard SEO facts.

1. Confusion reigns supreme

When you ask someone what SEO is, every single person on the planet will give you a different answer. When you pay somebody to do SEO, they all do different things, without a clear overriding mandate of what’s involved. 

Most customers don’t know what’s good SEO and what’s bad, and nearly all get a general feeling of unease. Read: ‘smoke and mirrors’.

  • Doctors, they fix you.
  • Engineers, they build cool stuff.
  • Architects, they design things.
  • Solar installers, they install solar panels.
  • SEO specialists, ‘no idea what they do’ is most people’s response.

There is no other industry on the planet where this sense of confusion exists, and this drives deplorable behaviour across the board by both businesses and agencies.

2. SEO flies in the face of why Google exists

When you break it down to its very essence, ‘doing SEO’ actually goes against the very thing that Google is trying to achieve.

It’s the search engine’s mission to categorise the world’s information so that when you type something into the search box, it shows you the most relevant, authoritative and expert website first, and so on down the list. 

SEO is trying to circumvent the system so that Google places you in high esteem. And this is at the expense of long-term results. 

So, it’s time to switch this up.

Let’s work on turning you into the authoritative, relevant, expert business or individual that you are, and stop trying to circumvent a system that is getting better by the day.

3. No standards

There are no standards at all in this industry. None.

This is because nobody really knows what goes into Google’s secret herbs and spices. So you end up with a few bottom-dwelling sharks who add no value whatsoever and rip people off.

This happens all while the good honest ones, who know their craft, get lumped into the same boat.

Malcolm Gladwell was definitely onto something when he said 10,000 hours of experience is required to become a real expert.

Yet you have ‘SEO experts’ with three months’ experience saying how they are going to skyrocket your revenue. That’s just not cool.

4. SEO is just tidying up other people’s mess, mistakes and laziness

This point is going to hurt the most. Ultimately, SEO exists because other people haven’t done their jobs well.

Every single SEO task I’ve ever seen needs to be done because other people aren’t doing their job correctly. 

While this is a relatively new thing in the past three to five years, as Google’s algorithm gets better and better, today SEO people are just tidying up other people’s mess and mistakes.

For example, onsite work.

This means either the web developer hasn’t done their job correctly (which is all too common when it comes to sitemaps, robots, load speed, interlinking, et cetera) or the content hasn’t been produced and uploaded well, which means your marketing and communications person needs to pull up their socks.

Building backlinks?

No, you don’t need to build backlinks! You need to market your business on the main business directories.

You need to join and become active in your industry (and the respective websites), you need to get social and engage on social channels with your target audience.

You need to sponsor the local footy/netball/chess team.

You don’t need to build backlinks. You need a good marketing person to do better marketing and digital PR.

Focus on 10 keywords?

No, you don’t need to focus on ’10’ keywords. You need to know your target audience intimately. Know what information they are searching for online and answer every single possible question they may ask to add so much value that you impress their socks off all through your website (and that’s your marketing department’s job).

You need to do great content marketing.

If you hire the right people to do the right work (and pay them well), SEO becomes redundant.

5. SEO is a lazy person’s marketing (and a lazy agency’s solution)

Because most businesses don’t understand it (primarily because the industry has created so much smoke and mirrors), here’s the chain of events that often transpires.

  1. Business owners throw up their hands saying: ‘This is too hard, can’t I just pay somebody to do it for me?’
  2. SEO cowboys come along and say: ‘Sure, I’ll take your money. Outsource it all to me, and I’ll make the problem disappear. I’ll get you on page one of Google, guaranteed! Trust me. I’m an expert.’
  3. And so, it just gets outsourced, with the expectation of results and value being delivered.
  4. Most SEO cowboys think they can get results by circumventing the system (see point two above). But that’s not doing good marketing, and that’s certainly not doing good business.
  5. Ultimately you don’t earn the right to perform well in Google organic search because you haven’t demonstrated you’re an authority in your industry, you aren’t the expert at your craft, you aren’t adding value to anybody and you can’t expect Google to reward you for doing lazy marketing.

Now, please don’t get me wrong. There are certainly some good SEO people out there doing good work, but my experience is that they are few and far between.

6. No barriers to entry

There are no barriers to entry, which means anyone can do SEO.

Speaking of which, I saw an ad on Facebook advertising an education course to take somebody from “zero to SEO hero in 90 days and make $150K per year”. That’s not cool!

That doesn’t do anybody any good and just digs a bigger hole for the industry to get out of.

Digital marketing is a hard game that takes real skill. It’s not something you can learn in three months and be an ‘expert’. It takes 10,000 hours to be really good at it, just like anything else.

7. ‘Doing SEO’ actually doesn’t work

After researching over 1,000 businesses, all of the data shows that ‘doing SEO’ doesn’t work. It doesn’t work doing it in isolation.

Paying somebody $2,000 per month to ‘do SEO, including creating four blog posts for you’ doesn’t work. It will not get you the results you want.

SEO doesn’t work when you have a mediocre website, when you outsource your content, when you treat digital marketing (and all your marketing for that fact) as an afterthought, in a hit or miss approach.

SEO is a component that won’t work if the rest of your marketing isn’t working as it needs too.

SEO only works when your whole marketing is working as it should when the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. When you know your target audience intimately, and you continually add value to them. When your reviews are so good because your whole business is working like a dream.

I know what the SEO people are going to say.

  • ‘What about low word count on a page? Or low keyword density?’
  • ‘Broken links are important to fix.’
  • ‘Backlinking is still so important.’
  • ‘We need to be producing content with a word count of 1,200 per page.’

Well, let me tell you something: Google doesn’t care!

It’s Google’s job to:

  • Analyse your business relative to your competitors;
  • Decide on which one is more important;
  • Decide which one is engaging with their audience better;
  • Decide which one is more authoritative;
  • Decide which one is contributing and adding to their industry more;
  • Decide which one is supporting the local community better; and
  • Decide which one is marketing their business better.

Do you know what Google does care about?

Which business is marketing their business better.

That’s what Google is analysing and that’s exactly how they are going to rank you versus your competitors. It’s based on your marketing.

Ultimately, SEO results are driven by how you market your business better than your competitors.

So how do you market your business better?

Now that’s a great question, and one I’m glad you asked. I have the perfect answer for you: The one who adds the most value wins!

Nothing more, nothing less.

Your mission is to add the most value to the most people: your target audience, your industry, your staff, your customers.

You need to help them, educate them, develop them, lead them, manage them and Google will reward you accordingly.

Word of warning: you don’t get to define what ‘value’ is. That’s for your customers to decide.

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Kathy Long
Kathy Long
20 days ago

I love this! Believe it or not, SEO is part of what I offer my clients, yet I’ve been saying the same thing in my talks for 10 years! Seriously. But I still offer SEO to my clients. That’s because I see SEO as marketing, and getting found in search is good marketing. But I go about it differently. My job as an SEO it to make my client remarkable because I’ve understood since I started doing SEO in 2000 that that’s what Google is looking for. It’s not what you (or I) do to try and trick Google into thinking you’re something you’re not. Yet that’s what 99% of the SEOs out there do, including the one my client’s competitor is paying $20,000 a month to to write very high quality blogs and build backlinks. Yep. $20K a month. That is no exaggeration. The problem with that kind of approach and SEOs in general, is they are caught up in the details and have completely lost sight of why they’re doing it and what they are REALLY trying to accomplish. It’s not to make the site load faster. It’s not to get some backlinks. It’s not to write a catchy meta title. It’s not even to get to #1. It’s to get customers.