Why “SEO is Dead” Claims Hold No Water

Over the past few months, I have got several emails inquiring about my SEO services- some from SEO practitioners and some from business owners. One important questions they wanted me to answer was…

Is SEO dead?

With so many changes Google is introducing, is it even worth going the search engine optimization route?

I can understand why people are concerned. Google is making things difficult for small time players. Most people are seeing fall in search engine traffic or losing their ranking all together.

So does it justify to spend on SEO?

My answer is a resounding YES! Provided you can justify the ROI.

comscore search engine query growth

Search volume growth trend- Jan ’07 to Mar ’13

Why Most SEO Campaigns Fail?

Contrary to the popular belief that Google’s algorithm updates complicates things, the biggest reason why SEO campaigns fail is- lack of proper keyword research.

credit card SERP in Google

SERP for term “credit cards”- all authority websites

Here’s a typical scenario- when most clients come to me for SEO campaigns, they already have some keyword in mind. Some of them are based on what their competitors are using, while some based on guess work.

When you want to rank for a particular keyword, there are a lot of factors that will decide whether you can rank for that particular keyword. For example- if you have a small credit card info website, ranking for the term “credit card” can be expensive, time consuming (might take years since competition is very high with high authority players dominating the first page), and not worth the ROI.

So it’s important that you focus on the right keywords. A good SEO consultant should be able to tell you whether your choice of keywords make sense. Before you start a campaign, make sure you choose the right keywords.

So Has SEO Not Changed?

Yes, SEO has changed- quite a lot.

Gone are the days where you can do a bit of on page SEO and shoot up in rankings.

It’s also hard to get rankings and hold on to them if you are buying links (even from anonymous networks). Google quickly discovers them and devalues them.

In some cases, Google is pushing structured data, ads, Google products, and knowledge graph so much that the organic listings (the one’s you rank in doing SEO), are not even visible above the fold.

hotels ny search result

Zero organic results “above the fold”

If you had relied on image search for SEO traffic- bad news. The new Google image format provides very less incentive for people to actually click on the image and go to the website serving the image.

google image results

Image credits: definemg

Another issue I am seeing with tracking search traffic is the increasing “not provided” numbers inside Google Analytics. Instead of the actual keyword, Google will only show you “not provided” if a user uses secure connection (https) while doing search. This will result in a huge % of keywords not available to us for analysis.

It’s estimated that around 40% of the total search engine traffic keywords is masked using “not provided”.  However, the fact that Google is willing to give the data to Adwords advertisers and not to regular webmasters in the name of privacy raises concerns among many.

not provided google analytics

GA stats for “not provided” from one of the personal sites I manage.

But that doesn’t mean SEO is not worth the effort. If you choose the right keywords, you can play to your strengths and rank for terms which are not really that competitive and can send considerable volume of targeted traffic to your website.

Old school SEO still works; black hat SEO works well if done right; In fact, most SEO strategies, still continue to work. What’s different now is that the effectiveness of each strategy has gone up or down depending on how people abuse these strategies.

FAQ’s About Future of SEO

Q. Is SEO Really Dead?

No, SEO is not dead. It’s true that SEO is becoming more challenging- but it’s not dead by any means. There are still a lot of sites that receive a huge % of web traffic through search engines. The ROI is still there for smartly planned and executed SEO campaigns.

Q. I am a small business owner. I can’t afford to spend thousands of dollars every month for SEO. What can I do?

Be smart. If you choose the right keywords, you won’t end up spending thousands of dollars. Talk to your SEO consultant and ask them to come up with keywords that can be ranked within your budget. Once you start ranking for smaller terms and revenues increase, you can reinvest the profits and go after bigger keywords.

Q. How much does SEO really cost?

I have written a SEO pricing guide for my client’s reference. You can refer to it and find out how usual SEO consultants price SEO campaigns.

Q. What about SEO packages that offer fixed backlinks, keyword optimization etc?

Be careful about packages that offer X amount of backlinks, keyword optimizations, and so on. Unless you know exactly how many links you need and the quality of the links that you should get (assuming the package has the same quality of links), you’d be better off if you stay away from such offers.

Q. How many backlinks should I build?

SEO is not about X social shares, Y backlinks of type A, and Z backlinks of type B. You can’t classify your search engine optimization campaign like that. Some campaigns can do with a few links while others might need thousands.

Remember: it’s about quality; not quantity.

Q. I hear that in 2013 and beyond, social media is a huge component of SEO. Does that mean I can get away with not building links?

It’s true that Google has started looking at social signals as one of the factors for ranking websites. However, that has not replaced high quality links- and will not for a long time to come. While it’s good to focus on social media, it can be business suicide if you don’t focus on building links as well.

Q. Is cheap SEO bad?

Cheap is a very subjective term. For you 500$ might not be cheap while for someone else, even 5000$ might be cheap.

Coming to the point of cheap SEO; I will  share an interesting story.

One day a prospective client emailed me regarding a SEO campaign for their corporate site. After a lot of to and fro emails trying to exactly understand the client business and needs, I give him a quote in the low XXXX$/month figure.

I din’t hear from the client even after 2 follow-up. So I assumed that the client was not interested and stopped following-up. After a few months, he followed me on twitter. I got into a DM conversation with him and asked about his project.

It seems he gave it to a well-known SEO company in the US for mid XXXXX$ a month. I was surprised. All this while, I thought the client thought my pricing was high. And the client thought my pricing was low!

He suspected something might be missing since I offered cheap SEO to him.

I could afford to offer lower rates because

  • I live in India and my cost of living isn’t very high. 500$ a month is all I need to live comfortably!
  • I am a sole consultant. I don’t have expensive office building rent to pay for or corporate sponsorship to make (all from client money)

But beware of cheap 100$ packages that offer you page #1 rankings. If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Q. Should I hire a SEO or do it myself?

It depends.

If the ROI for hiring a SEO is very high, it makes perfect business sense to get a search engine optimization consultant on-board. I recommend that you read this article on SEO outsourcing.

Q. Is it true that all I have to do is write high quality unique content and Google will reward my site?

While unique and high quality content is required for search marketing success, it’s by no means the only thing you need. With competition in the web space shooting up, high quality content that provides immense value is now a basic need.

Promote your content all over the place (don’t confuse this with spamming). Use it in your email signature, forum signatures, social media profiles, blog comments etc.

Spend 25% of your time creating content and 75% promoting it.

Over to You

Do you think SEO is dead? Have more questions regarding SEO in 2013 and beyond? Feel free to ask your questions via the comments section.

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  1. says

    Thanks for the post. I agree that SEO isn’t dead it’s just that the process has changed and the older SEO don’t know how to adapt.

  2. says

    Very well said! It was really interesting to read.

    I also think SEO has changed a bit because of percentage of people who started doing it. Recently it wasn’t such a trend, nowadays almost EVERYBODY uses SEO. So, it became harder to get to the top, but still possible, though.

    P.S. Liked the “FAQ” section=)

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