SEO is a Phoenix Rising, and it's more powerful and important than ever.

Like a phoenix rising, SEO is stronger and more important than ever.  Though many claim the sky has fallen on the industry, the opposite is true.

Would a dying industry be getting more clients, hiring more staff, and growing their businesses?  I think not, and yet SEO is doing all three according this recent survey.

Far from being dead, SEO is growing into a marketing juggernaut, incorporating social media, public relations, branding and good old-fashioned advertising.

SEO Simply Defined

At its core, Search Engine Optimization (SEO) exists to help websites get more traffic from people interested in their products and/or services.  Basically, it’s marketing a website.

How Google Influenced SEO

When Google emerged, they revolutionized web searches by treating links and anchor text as signals of relevancy.  Unfortunately, many people then created thousands of garbage links on garbage sites with over-optimized anchor text and stuffed keywords into every nook and cranny on a website to boost their rankings.

Google Cleans Up

In the last few years, Google’s Panda and Penguin algorithm updates devalued and punished many of these unscrupulous tactics as they tried to make the web more user-friendly.  This changed many evergreen tactics, forcing SEOs to think and act like marketers, not just link builders.

Out with the Bad, In with the Good

Gone are the days of bulk link building.
Gone are the days of keyword stuffing.
Gone are the days of crap marketing.

Now is the time of thoughtful, strategic website marketing, which is what SEO should have been from the start.

People First, Search Engines Second

I always tell businesses and organizations that websites should be built and written to appeal to people first and search engines second.  With Google’s constant algorithm updates, people-focused sites perform better.

Sanity Amidst Hype

Every time Google changes something, SEOs have to recalibrate.  Something Google said yesterday was good may now be bad.  They’re bipolar that way.  But one thing they will never do is kill organic search results.

As our friend Brad of BConnected says, “SEO will never die as long as everyone keeps searching for things online. [SEO] is just changing; that’s all.”  Those are wise words to keep in mind to keep yourself rooted amidst hyperbole and hype.

(Funny thing is, a lot of those doomsday articles get links, which is SEO.)

“Content Marketing has replaced SEO”

We chuckle and roll our eyes every time we hear this because “content” is anything.  It could be articles, infographics, videos, PDFs, pictures, and anything else on a website, including pages.  So, content marketing is website marketing, which is SEO…just by a different name.

“Build it and they will come”

“Want links?  Just create great content and the links will come!”  Unless you’re a major brand with thousands and thousands of followers, this is stupid and damaging advice.  It’s like telling a business, “Just open a store and pack it with wondrous products that people crave and customers will find you.”  They won’t unless you tell people who you are, what you offer, and where you are.  That’s SEO.

“Social is the New SEO”

Social doesn’t replace SEO; it complements it, and vice versa.  It’s another way to promote a site, build its brand and manage public relations.  A savvy SEO team works with their clients’ social partners to brainstorm content to put on the site and push to interested parties.

What SEO Should Be

SEO is more than some guy building links in a back room.  It’s a complete marketing solution focused on helping you get found in search engine results, building your brand, and giving your market interesting stuff they care about.

Here’s an example:

Your store sells custom running shoes for serious runners.  You’ve been open for a few years but few people know you.  Your site is buried in search engine results because you haven’t had time to optimize it.

To help you rank better for “custom running shoes,” your SEO team interviews one of your customers.  Then they write an inspiring article about how they ran a half-marathon with your custom shoes and beat their personal record, while feeling great.

They augment it with pictures, perhaps a video, and share it with pre-approved bloggers, journalists and editors.

Some of them link to you from their sites, sending you links from authoritative and relevant sites, improving your brand, and possibly also sending qualified referral traffic.

Then your social team shares article snippets, photos, and teaser videos with a link to the article to your followers.  People love a great story, so they share it, spreading your brand to their like-minded friends.

That’s a far cry from a dodgy link on a foreign manufacturing site, isn’t it?

Rising from the Ashes

Is SEO dead?  That’s the wrong question to ask.  A better question is, “Is crap SEO dead?”  Yes, it is.  And from its ashes has risen a purer SEO industry focused on adding quality, building relationships, strengthening branding, meeting needs and delivering sustainable results – as it should be.