SEO Doesn’t Die. SEOs Do.

By Bryson Meunier, Natural Search Supervisor

I thought we were done with the whole SEO is dead thing, but two posts came out Friday that addressed the subject: Ian Lurie’s "How the SEO Bubble will Pop" and William Flaiz’s "The Evolution of SEO."

Although Dave McAnally already covered this, I have to add my $0.02 to the conversation.

Flaiz’s article doesn’t specifically speculate on how SEO will die, but I see it as a good answer to Lurie’s questions. What Lurie doesn’t get that Flaiz does is that SEO doesn’t die, it just takes a different form. SEOs that don’t evolve with it, however, well… they may not be as lucky.

Lurie’s article is kind of perplexing, actually, as it gives three ways that SEO will die that don’t actually end with the end of the practice. In the first instance, SEO is being taken in-house and going to big agencies, which, having done SEO years ago in-house for a large corporation, and having worked on SEO for a big agency for the past three years, I know doesn’t kill SEO. There are different people working on it than there were in 1996, but the discipline is far from dead.

The second scenario involves an economic meltdown that somehow makes SEO less desirable as advertising, which is odd considering that search is actually more recession-proof than other forms of advertising due to its efficiency.

Finally, Lurie says that clients are becoming savvier and rip off artists are becoming extinct—which somehow kills all of SEO in the process? If even Google is recognizing the existence of white hat, ethical SEOs, can we please stop with the snake oil salesmen nonsense? Obviously, that scenario doesn’t kill SEO any more than prosecuting spammers stops me from getting legitimate newsletters or the mass retirement of corrupt cops and unscrupulous lawyers would prevent me from being able to get arrested and prosecuted if I committed a crime. Eliminating unscrupulous practitioners of a discipline doesn’t diminish the discipline, just the unscrupulous practitioners of it.

The real answer to how the SEO bubble will pop is one of two scenarios: 1) search engines become obsolete or 2) all the listings become sponsored. You can debate about whether either of these unlikely scenarios will ever play out, but as long as people use search engines to find things, there will be people helping these people get found. I call these people search engine optimizers, or SEOs.

Search engines may take (and are taking) different forms and refining the algorithms, and as Flaiz points out, SEO evolves with it. As specialists in web design and development for search engines and users, SEOs specialize in making digital content visible to search engines and the consumers who use them.

In 1996 this meant putting as many keywords on your page as humanly possible. In 2002 there was more of an emphasis on crude link building than the early days. In the past few years, social media and video SEO have become more commonplace. In the future there may be more of an emphasis on semantic search, mobile search, or something none of us can even conceive of yet. And there to help content owners navigate the waters will be SEOs.

Not the keyword tag stuffers, though. They haven’t been relevant for a while and have, as a result, gone the way of the dodo. SEO, however, is still here; along with the smart SEOs who evolve with the search engines. And both of us probably will be in some form for longer than many people seem to understand.


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