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The evolution of SEO

Written by David Harry   
Wednesday, 20 August 2008 09:50

SEO is dead, ranking is useless and other fairy tales

Well peeps, it seems it’s that time again and peeps are shovelling crap once more. Not that it’s anything new, but worth me taking time away from my sabbatical to rant off a bit.

First off we have the ever popular ‘SEO is a dead man’ routine that is making the rounds again of late. Let me explain this to you right now; as long as there is organic search, SEO will be viable. It’s a fact. It truly behoves me to see folks believing that the future of search doesn’t include optimizers. Are these folks merely trying to put fellow SEOs (and the competition) off the track? Dunno….

As a search geek guy that follows developments from universal and personalized search, phrase based (and semantic) approaches all the way along the trail to behavioural metrics. I can tell you that in many ways SEO has become more technical than ever. It’s not merely throwing links at the wall to see if they stick…. if you haven't been evolving then your SEO is truly weak!

Could it be that the old fashion optimizers see their tactics of yesteryear becoming less effective and thus think the sky is falling? Dunno….

SEO Fairy tales

SEO and rankings

Another wonderful little fallacy that has also been making the rounds as of late is ‘rankings don’t matter’. What really makes me wonder on this one is the fact that most peeps use the reasoning that search results are varied and hard to nail down. Once more I have to wonder what bubble these folks have been doing SEO in for the last few years? Over that time we’ve had many issues with rankings from Geo-targeting (DC and Geographic locations) as well as things like personalized search that have made rankings a moving target. This is NOT a new thang...

But NOT at least monitoring rankings as a metric (including geo-targeted campaigns) is insanity. I hope that any good SEO worth their salt understands that all keywords (phrases) are not created equal; that’s what KW research is all about. So we certainly don't want to rank for a bunch of useless terms, but let's not get carried away. Tracking core terms and secondary targets and associating values for them is still an important part of the process. Effective keyword research and targeting is part of the 'Art of SEO'.

Which brings me to my third biaatch

 

SEO and Conversions

This one has been a laughable one for me for quite some time. When did conversions become the domain of the SEO puzzle? Sure, it is the end goal of the client… and we obviously want to get targeted traffic, but it IS NOT the responsibility of the optimizer. I mean, come on… conversions often rely on;

  • Landing page optimization
  • Product or service quality
  • Customer service
  • Pricing models
  • Unique selling propositions
  • Analytics and split testing

… and much more.

How in the name of all that’s holy is the average SEO supposed to affect these changes, little lone be responsible for them? If your SEO contract involves reaching conversion goals and you are not in control of the factors affecting it, yer gonna go broke in short order. Give your head a shake peeps… just because you attain targeted traffic, you may still not necessarily increase the conversions… it is NOT the job of the SEO to actually convert the traffic they bring.

In many cases the optimizer is not trained in conversions and does not have the power to control the many factors affecting conversion rates. It is your job to bring targeted traffic… not to convert it. That is a utopian dream that sounds nice on paper, but doesn’t fit with the job description. Show me ONE course or training system (for SEO) that delves into the many areas affecting conversions… most SEOs simply are not trained in this area. I personally think it is an important sub-set of learning, but at this time it is not fully understood by most SEOs.

Conversions are their own area of study beyond SEO - while useful, not in the job description.

 

Maybe SEO is dead?

Brain dead that is. Has the community gotten so tired of themselves that prognosticating such fallacies has become the fodder of the day? Dunno…

Funny thing is that one actually should be tracking rankings from a given term on varied DCs via analytics to see which terms are actually bringing quality traffic. Understanding the conversions/profitability for each term is actually PART of the SEO process… it shouldn't be anything new.

What exactly are you tracking if it is NOT these metrics? If it's conversions alone and yer getting 'Pay for performance', then it is a slippery slope unless you have the power to affect real change. I have been working on several tests on personalized search and even doing some qualitative research into how people search for stuff and other behavioral metrics; there is still much to learn.

Have search optimizers become do fixated with sexy social media that they have begun to use engagement metrics and links as the end goal? Are they too lazy to learn what effects personalization and geo-targeting have on their campaigns? Or are peeps just writing this shit because it’s good link bait within the industry? Dunno…

SEO is not dying… it is evolving. Maybe it’s time that the SEO community did as well.

(and BTW; at this rate, seems we're due to see a spate of 'SEO Ethics' or 'Standards' posts any day now... sigh... same ol shit, different piles)

 

Comments  

 
0 # Garrett Pierson 2008-08-21 11:03
Dave,

I totally agree with you that SEO is evolving and if we don't evolve with it we will be left in the dust. Thanks bro!
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0 # Dave 2008-08-21 15:39
Hiya G - well, I noticed some posts about 'the death of SEO' (again) and some others that just had me somehwhat fraggled.

I do start to wonder how SEO peeps are going about their jobs or if it is more of the website owner/SEO perspective?

I also rarely see folks writing about the new parts of the job as far as personalized search, behavioral metrics, query analysis and the other new ranking signals that have come about the last few years...

WTF are peeps doing out there exactly? Search engines are evolving, SE optimizers better be as well IMHO

...sigh, thanks for dropping by as always bro!!
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0 # paisley 2008-08-22 12:20
wait til next week.. there will be another "SEO is dead" article by another PPC assclown.

The "seo community" is a popularity contest. within itself..

i prefer the popularity contest and the top of the SERPs for my clients.
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0 # Dave 2008-08-22 13:06
Yeah, that was kind of the genesis... seeing some of the usual suspects as far as topics go (I see shoe is back at it)... I figured a little poke would be fun.

Just wait, SES is over.... SEO Sucks/Dead, Ethics/Standards, Conversions/rankings chit chat shall pick up once more
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0 # John H. Gohde 2008-08-23 21:39
SEO is not dead, but plenty of SEMs are dying.
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0 # Kenneth 2008-09-09 01:35
I think that SEO is still evolving. It is always in contention to help websites of having a respectable page rank.
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+2 # Everett Whitehead 2008-09-17 11:53
SEO won't be dead until people no longer use search engines to find stuff on the Internet. I don't see that happening anytime soon. The SEO community as a whole needs to evolve in order to keep up with search engine technology and stop hanging tight to the glory days of the mid 90's where keyword meta tags ruled. Great article.
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