Is The SEO Ship Sinking?

SEO has always been the biggest, baddest, and most powerful ship in the online marketing ocean, but is this ship sinking? You’ve probably heard the cliche “SEO is dead” at some point, but is this an accurate statement? Did SEO really die?

SEO is the Unsinkable Ship

Well if SEO died, then someone forgot to send out the invitation for the funeral, and today alone, there have been more SEO sightings than Elvis, Bigfoot, and UFO’s combined. In fact, just search Google for “SEO is dead”. Notice how none of the results returned for this query are for websites who actually claim that SEO is dead? Instead, it’s articles written by people in the SEO field who argue against these claims. Hmm, imagine that? Why aren’t the naysayers’ articles ranking for this query? This isn’t a coincidence. It’s just one of the many examples of proof that the SEO ship is not sinking, it’s never taken on water, and the penguins on that iceberg ahead are an SEO’s best friend.

Wake up Jack! The SEO Boats are Coming!

Jack, Wake Up! SEO Boats!

First, you need to understand that there are submarines lurking in the online marketing ocean. These vessels come to the surface and look exactly like the real SEO ship, except they have spammers, scammers, and sharks aboard. When someone is convinced that search engine optimization is no longer effective, chances are that they’ve been taken for a ride on one of these clones and didn’t know that it wasn’t the authentic SEO ship. As a business owner, marketing manager, or SEO professional, you should know the difference between the two and be prepared to get on the right ship or you’ll be like poor Jack.

The SEO Pirates

Captain hook, his rats, and his associates on the submarines are out to get you. The ship looks real and they talk a good game, but there are definitely some ways to identify the pirates in the SEO world. These include:

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  • Cheap Tickets: SEO simply isn’t cheap. It comes with a price if you want it done right. The providers who offer “$99 link building”, “$10 articles”, or “$125 directory submissions” are going to leave you stranded at sea. Do your homework and don’t fall for these “bargains”.
  • Stinking Linking: Buying links or hiring anyone who makes guarantees for a specific number of links has negative implications of gigantic, Titanic proportions. These tactics stink and will get you into trouble. Links from most directories, blasting out comments on blogs and forums, or guaranteed social shares is basically the same thing as drinking sea water; it quenches your thirst in the short-term, but eventually kills you.
  • Quick Tricks: Short-term tactics and promises of fast results are red flags that an SEO is trying to manipulate search engines. There are definitely some cases where good results can be achieved fairly quickly, but generally speaking, SEO takes time. Although the SEO ship can take you to some awesome places, don’t expect it to take you around the world and back overnight. Anyone who promises to overcome this or says things like “rank in 30 days”, “double your traffic”, or “guaranteed sign-ups” is not going to provide anything that’s sustainable.
  • Search Engine Tunnel-Vision: SEO professionals who chase erroneous metrics, implement most things solely for search engines, or can’t explain the reasons behind their recommendations have search engine tunnel vision. This means that they’re not looking at the big picture. They’re simply making moves based on what they think looks good on paper. Obsessing over rankings, links, and traffic is usually a good indication that your SEO is leading you in the wrong direction and you’ll be calling out mayday signals before you know it.

The Legitimate SEO Convoy

Those on the authentic SEO ship drive sales, strengthen your brand, and create more opportunities for your business. Professional SEOs bridge the gap between search engines and users. That means that they lead the convoy and combine the powers of all your online marketing channels to work as a single entity, including:

  • Technical search factors
  • Content
  • PPC
  • Reputation
  • Branding
  • Social media
  • Site Structure & Design
  • Videos
  • Off-site presence
  • Earned Links

Here’s what your SEO skipper should be about…

  • Versatility: Whether you call them your SEO consultant, manager, or agency, their skill-set shouldn’t be composed of just search engine knowledge. Your SEO should be a very versatile online marketer. They should be able to or tell you how to implement things to achieve your goals in the different aspects of your online presence such as social media, content marketing, and PPC. From design, to coding, to branding, a true SEO will take all of these things into account and make them work as one.
  • Transparency: The person or company in charge of your search engine optimization should be transparent with you and constantly give you advice on ways to improve your online presence. You should receive periodic reports with data that you can confirm is accurate.
  • Analytical Driven: There are a lot of moving parts when it comes to search engines and your website’s overall performance as well. Google Analytics is an SEO’s best friend. Search engine optimization without considering industry data, your website’s historical data, and user behavior data is like shooting in the dark; you might hit your target, but the chances are slim. There should be constant analyzing, monitoring, and testing, along with fine-tuning of the website based on that data.
  • ROI Chasers: Rankings, links, and visits are definitely metrics to watch, but they’re often times misleading. Rankings can be unique to a user and will constantly change in both directions, which often times has nothing to do with anything you’ve done. Obsessing over the “number of links” pointing to your site will eventually cause more harm than good. One million visitors per month won’t do you any good if you don’t get any sales. A good SEO will understand the degree in which these metrics play a role, but they should essentially be chasing ROI over anything else.

Okay Captain Obvious, Why Do People Say That SEO is Dead?

The search engine optimization industry has seen a lot of changes and evolved at a rapid pace. Five years ago, there were plenty of folks in the legitimate SEO convoy, but they were definitely the minority. Most SEOs were pirates and their tactics were indeed effective at one point in time, but they’re quickly losing momentum more and more each day. It’s that area of search engine optimization that’s sinking and considered to be dead, but legitimate SEO is still alive and thriving.

Many pirates have jumped ship and joined the SEO convoy, but some are simply unwilling or not capable of making the change. A lot of people in the SEO industry are now changing their titles because of the stigmas associated with SEO and the fact that the pirates just won’t go away. Rand Fishkin from Moz (formerly known as SEOMoz) hit the nail on the head with his post about why SEOs can’t just be SEOs anymore.

SEO truly is so much more than what it’s traditionally believed to be, so you can definitely understand why a lot of people in the industry want to change their titles to more appropriate names. However, not everyone is willing to give up the fight to clear the SEO name and people outside of the marketing world still have a demand for this service. Plus, it will take some time for the other titles to catch on, and even then, the same pirates will eventually tarnish those names as well.

Don’t Rock The Boat!

It’s imperative that business owners and marketing managers distinguish the difference between the two categories of SEOs. If you’re on the real SEO ship, then don’t rock the boat. Just stay on the right path and listen to your SEO skipper, who will push for awesome content, an engaging social media presence, and an overall strategy that bridges the gap between users and search engines.

If You Jump, Then I Jump Rose

Maybe this is romantic on a Hollywood screen, but in real life, you need to tell Rose that she’s a lunatic and if she jumps into that freezing water, you’re going to videotape it and upload the footage to YouTube. If your SEO provider is constantly showing the signs of being a pirate, then you’re putting your business in danger of being 5,000 leagues under the sea. Of course Rose gets to flop herself on that driftwood to live another day, or find another customer to ruin, but you’re business is on the bottom of the ocean.

All Aboard!

Okay matey, the point is, you should know the difference between the two categories of SEOs and you’ll never have to worry about your SEO ship sinking. The pirates in the search engine optimization industry aren’t really doing SEO. They’re simply sharks in a dolphin’s suit. Fortunately, their black-hat tactics and effectiveness are quickly fading away. This is why you see so many people saying that “SEO is dead”, but in reality, that was never SEO in the first place. The true SEO ship is run by individuals who combine marketing knowledge with technical expertise and this convoy will continue to rule the online marketing ocean until it runs dry.

Comments: 8

  • The only way SEO is “dead” is if Google stop doing natural search results and go 100% commercial.
    The entire logic of “SEO is dead” is baffline. – Ask yourself 2 simple questions.
    Are their organic search results (Yes)
    Do the search engines apply rules/procedures to decide where a particular site ranks in these results (Yes)

    Then SEO is simply the implementation of design features onsite and offsite to best position your site to benefit from question 2
    You might argue that “Blast” linking is dead or “spun content” is dead. Fine – I can see some merit in saying that.
    But SEO dead? As long as their are “SE’s” their will be the ability or “O” for them. Surely that’s just a blindingly obvious logical progression?
    I say this as a proud SEO myself who has never sunk a client in 16 years. Longer than Mr Fishkin for example :)
    But the main point of your article is 100% correct.
    Old spammy ideas of marketing are dying and to perform some of these tricks on a clients site is paramount to professional suicide.
    Great article Michael!

    • Thank you, Sally. I couldn’t agree more about your points. As long as there are search engines who have organic search results and there are rules/procedures/best practices for how they rank those results, then SEO won’t go anywhere.

  • Greg says:

    Hi Michael,

    After all the huffing and puffing about white hat seo you go ahead a drop two (Earned?) links in the author bio, and the only nofollows I can find on this page are in the comments section.

    Nudge nudge wink wink, I get it ; )

    Guess I called you out here and you won’t be publishing my comment now will you?


    • Greg,

      I’m not sure that I understand the nature of your comment or what you’re trying to get at. The two links in the author bio can in fact be considered earned links due to the fact that I’m contributing content on a 3rd party site. But hey, you can say the same thing about submitting your website to thousands of directories. I can explain the difference between the two some other time. Lol. With that being said, do you think those 2 links are important to me? Do you think I wrote that article just to get those 2 links? Lol. Really? You’re deceived my friend. I’m not sure what “huffing and puffing” I did, but if it ruffled your feathers, then chances are you belong to the group that I’m referring to and I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

  • SEO cannot die! Anyone who thinks SEO can be replaced or die does not understand SEO. You have to fundamentally understand SEO is “strategic” and when applied correctly as your online strategic “PIE” mixing the ingredients of a combination of online components: keyword research, on-page optimization, tags, back-links, social media, article/content submissions daily etc. You then add “PPC” as the icing to your strategic SEO Pie unless you require immediate wholesale traffic, conversions, campaigns and sales for e-commerce, luxury brands, ad and promotional campaigns. Someone needs to read this Forrester Report: enjoy.

  • Theoretically, SEO can die, but it would go hand and hand with the death of search engines. In other words, as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO.

  • David Stewart says:

    This is a brilliant post Michael. Great blackhat and whitehat comparison. Rand Fishkin videos are always good to.

  • Thank you for your feedback David.

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