Is SEO Dead or has it just grown up?

Is SEO dead? This is something I think about quite a lot.

In the ever changing landscape of Search (read Google), promising someone you can rank them on page 1 for any given search term in exchange for their hard earned money is becoming an increasingly tough sell, particularly if you just rely on paid links to achieve this.
The days where you could rank well by smashing a few paid links from crappy sites into any given page using exact match anchors and pat yourself on the back are all but gone. Sure that’s still possible, but its not sustainable for someone who doesn’t want their site nuked by Google.

Would you pay someone money to do this to something you loved?

In fact, I’d go so far as to say that adopting that sort of strategy for a client’s website whilst Google is handing out penalties like Candy Man Sammy Davis Jr handing out gumdrops is no different to taking someone’s prized Ferrari and smashing it into a lamp post and expecting them to pay you for the privilege as you stumble out the wreckage with your hand out saying “thank you please”.

So, SEO is risky and done badly it can get your site penalized by being wiped off the face of Google which can be a bad thing if you rely on SERP visibility for your business to make its money. Don’t believe me? This is what a Google penalty can do to visits to your site:

Yep, at the whim of Google, that’s a 80% drop in organic search traffic overnight which never came back

So SEO is dead right? Why bother? There is too much risk and people’s livelihoods are at stake. Wouldn’t it be easier just not to bother in the first place and play it safe? I mean build a sustainable business that isn’t leveraged to the hilt by having a sole reliance on a page 1 listing to generate enough business to pay the overheads? Well yep, there’s a lot of logic in that approach, and it has worked for others, but here’s the thing:

SEO will never die for the following two reasons:

  1. You still need a technically well designed website to rank – If your website performs like a turd, Google won’t rank it.
  2. As long as there are Search Engines that have to decide what 10 results to serve per page, people will look for ways to be one of those 10 on page 1 because that is where the real money is made.

Maybe the title of this post should actually be “Bad SEO is dead – Long live Good SEO”. Why?

Google loves speed, it also (it claims) loves good user experience. If your website meets these two criteria, it will rank better than if it doesn’t.


Let’s take Google’s Panda Algorithm as an example of why we need good, technical SEO people:

Did you know that the Panda algorithm (which penalizes sites for thin, weak and duplicate content) is close to being (or already is) part of the daily ranking algorithm? This means you are unlikely to see big traffic drops in your analytics account that you can cross reference with known dates of Google updates to understand what caused that drop in traffic to your site. Before, diagnosing that your site had a Panda problem was pretty easy, now it isn’t, you’ll see a decline in traffic spread over a number of days and no date to match it up to. This means you better really understand what thin and duplicate content is and whether your site is guilty of it. If you don’t, you could be scratching your head for the rest of eternity as to why your site doesn’t rank well.

Think you’ve got a good handle on whether your site stand’s up to a close inspection by Panda?

Google’s Panda – It’ll kill ya

Maybe you’ve got a basic idea (don’t duplicate other people’s content, ensure you aren’t creating countless weak pages for ranking purposes like solicitors in Kent, solicitors in Crewe, solicitors in blah blah blah). But, it goes way deeper than that technically and this is why there will always be a need for GOOD SEO PEOPLE .

Does your site create endless URLs with session ids appended to the end? Does your site use a filtering system to present the same content in different ways (sort by price, sort A-Z etc) that is served up on different URLs?

Know your SEO onions – If only it was this easy

Don’t know? Well I’d say you could do with someone who really knows their SEO onions to ensure your site isn’t being held back without you even knowing it.

Think I’m just making all this up to keep the SEO industry alive? Think again – Below are two real life examples of sites having their Panda issues identified and then fixed. The increase in non-branded organic search traffic speaks for itself:

Comparing the first full month after recovery to last full month under penalty, that’s a 96% increase in traffic
Comparing the first full month after recovery to last full month under penalty, that’s a 143% increase in traffic

So that’s some fairly significant increases in traffic to your site (and we are talking thousands of additional visits) meaning a lot more sales/leads & a big difference to your bottom line.

And its not just the Panda Algorithm where good technical SEO is needed. What about who you link to? Who links to you? What about local search, video, site structure, page load speed, user experience, international? The list goes on and all these things AND MORE have an influence on where your site ranks in natural search.

Before any technical changes, the page scored 55/100

Getting all these things right requires time, skill and knowledge and are all things Google encourages you to do. Think that’s just the SEO snake oil salesman whispering in your ear? Think again, the resources & tools Google provides to get these things right is quite incredible. Just take a look at their tool to help you improve the page load speed (a known ranking factor) of your site:

After technical changes, the page scored 100/100 but would you know what enabling compression & leverage browser caching meant?

This is the good side of SEO, the side that will never die & always be needed. SEO has a bad reputation and rightly so. Unlike a number of other industries, there is no regulation. All you need is a laptop and a website and you can pass yourself off as an SEO expert, speak some mumbo technical jumbo to less technically savvy business owners & promise them untold riches in exchange for their hard earned cash. As long as your pitch is slick enough to convince them that they’ll get a return on their investment, you’re already halfway towards ripping them off.

Indeed, in some ways, you have to applaud Google for actually trying to regulate what’s in their SERPs, no one else is doing it so filtering out fly by night “companies” can only be a good thing in my opinion.

Would you agree to a face lift procedure without first seeing some professional qualifications & examples of their work? Would you have your car serviced by a bloke who knocked on your door saying he could do it cheaper than the local garage down the road?

Would you buy a watch from this man?

No? Well SEO shouldn’t be any different. There is a legitimate need for it and it can deliver great results when done right. The problem is, there are too many people out there doing it wrong which is giving the industry and the good people who work in it a bad name.

I doubt the industry will ever become regulated in any sort of legal way so choosing whether to invest in SEO will continue to feel like walking through a minefield with your eyes closed and no metal detector in the hope there is a reward on the other side. However, there is a reward on the other side, you just have to ensure you’ve got the right people, with your best interests at heart on your side to guide you through.

In a later post, I’ll be giving my top 10 points of advice on whether SEO is right for you and what you should look out for when considering the services of an SEO company.