“SEO is dead!” – the rallying cry of people who know what good linkbait looks like.
The word “SEO” is being dropped by more and more agencies and tool providers, but search engine optimisation isn’t dropping from their attitudes. The likes of Builtvisible and Moz aren’t abandoning a sinking ship – they’re repositioning to take on the mainstream.
In another time, and another life, links cost $15 each – plus another Fiverr to pay the copywriter you were using. And the exchange rate used to be excellent. Being “good at outreach” meant convincing the site owner to field the PayPal fees.
Now if you want to build links your “link building team” has to be capable of PR, copywriting, designing and often developing. Now it matters if nobody sees your links because an arbitrary output of “search visibility” doesn’t impress the C-Suite.
Despite the fact that we’ve been basically ignoring Bing and Yahoo! for years we’ve suddenly become extremely proficient at channel hopping. We drove the social revolution; now we’re driving the demand for content marketing as brand marketers are realising that link building is dead (link building – not building links).
Any SEO worth his salt is fluent in Google Analytics, and as a consequence we find it laughable how difficult traditional agencies find it to track the ROI of content and social. To us it’s available in a few clicks, and it comes in the form of traffic and transactions – not abstract concepts like “brand awareness”.
We’re the ones driving mobile (because we know it’s good for SEO), and we learned a long time ago that “because Google likes it” isn’t a good enough business case, so we developed robust ways to project traffic, suggest how it might impact conversion rate, and how quickly we can pay off the investment. We can do this because we know where customers come from.
We understand that Facebook runs on an algorithm, and therefore what makes it into people’s feeds must be chosen based on some sort of signal. We can work with that. Marketing on Facebook and Twitter is impossible without great content…but Matt Cutts taught us that years ago.
Rankings don’t come from being good at SEO. They come from knowing how to leverage PR, platform, content, creative, data, development teams, social, paying Google lots of money…we have the broadest skill set of any marketers.
As the 00s progressed PR agencies frequently failed to retain their creative talent and – understanding that this wasn’t strictly required to deliver coverage for their clients – increasingly hired people who could “smile and dial”, according to Applied Futurist Tom Cheesewright.
“This is why SEO agencies turned up in the late noughties and kicked their asses” he says.
Now link building has become PR, the race is on between PR agencies who want to convince brands that they’re good at SEO, and SEO agencies who want to convince brands that they’re good at PR. PR agencies are building better links than we were a decade ago, but are they doing better SEO than we are now?
Articles declaring that SEO is no more seem to be getting less and less frequent.
Search isn’t dead. Google is a shopping channel and we help you sell more stuff. Google is also an information centre, and we help convince your customers that they need to buy your stuff.
When a person searches Google for something they’ve shown intent that they want to see something come out. SEO is the purest form of permission marketing. We’re giving the people what they want. In our decade of spamming the internet we provided more value – and inconvenienced fewer people – than 100 brands with flash mobs.
Marketers of all disciplines have done plenty of crap stuff over the years. The only difference is that our crap stuff worked.
Far from yearning for the “good old days”, the SEO industry has just found new ways to add value. For us, X will always go in and Y will always come out – the difference is that X looks a lot nicer than it used to. It’s probably interactive, it’s probably multi-channel, it’s probably disruptive – it’s probably a lot easier to get buy in from the key stakeholders so that we can do it in the first place.
The world needs SEO to drive marketing forwards. We come from a mindset where we optimise everything. We have never just provided rankings – we provide introductions between businesses and customers. The big budgets are still in TV but the scattergun approach is becoming less and less effective.
There’s only one thing that has really changed. It’s harder. It’s a damn good job we’re good.