SEO is dead – probably the worst advice you will hear all year

Posted by Dave CollinsSEO

I’ve been working with SEO since 1997. And while a lot has changed, one fundamentally bad piece of information keeps making a highly undesirable appearance:

The mistaken belief that SEO is dead.

Here are seven reasons why the person giving you such terrible advice is wrong, and four compelling reasons to never take them seriously again.

The wisdom of declaring that SEO is dead

1 – When someone tells you that SEO is dead, what they mean is that they can’t do it.

There are really only two possibilities.

One possibility is that they tried to make SEO work, but despite their best efforts failed.

The other possibility is that they never even tried. Maybe they read an article on Facebook about it.

Either way, this is another example of the cause and correlation mistake that seems to have become so fashionable in recent years.

I tried SEO and it didn’t work… therefore SEO doesn’t work” is simply illogical. And terrible advice.

2 – When someone tells you SEO is dead, they’re falling for Google’s propaganda.

I used to belong to a UK business organisation, who ran a national event where three employees of Google sat on a stage and promoted AdWords.

They were nice guys, and deeply intelligent, but I was surprised that the event’s organisers couldn’t see how much they played right into Google’s hands.

Google don’t put people on stages to tell you how to do SEO better. Not because SEO doesn’t work, but because Google don’t make any money from it.

Google do, however, invest extensively in plugging the advertising platform that is the main source of their income.

They tolerate SEO because it’s in their interests to do so. But they don’t promote it. And why would they?

3 – The correlation between Google’s updates and people announcing the death of SEO.

Two things consistently produce a surge in SEO death announcements.

The first is a major Google update. Typically a few months after this has happened, SEO is proclaimed dead and buried. There may be a relationship between this and the reason (1) listed above.

The second is the start of a new year, when people begin making their predictions. And the trickier the last year for SEO, the more likely they are to declare that it’s dying..

There’s a pattern emerging here.

4 – The SEO techniques of 10 years ago don’t work any more.

SEO has changed an enormous amount, even over the last few years. In some ways it’s become a lot easier, yet it’s also become more technical and a lot more fun.

The last point isn’t 100% accurate by the way.

But seriously, if someone’s idea of SEO involves PageRank, invisible text and keyword density, their techniques will have no relevance to Google today.

This isn’t SEO in 2016.

5 – The person who tells you SEO is dead is almost certainly overwhelmed by it.

Outside of Google, no-one knows precisely how many factors play a part in what gets ranked and where.

But the figure is widely believed to be in the hundreds.

So when you have an SEO problem, you need a pretty expansive set of skills to get to the bottom of it.

And even if you’re just toying with “doing some SEO“, it’s easy to become paralysed by indecision.

Should you start with on-page optimisation, keyword research, links, your competition, Google’s latest updates,  on-site technical issues, errors and faults or creating new content?

It’s easy to get bogged down by indecision, and it’s even easier to write SEO off as a waste of time. That’s always a poor option for anything complicated.

6 – The “SEO is dead” preacher is most likely over-reliant on AdWords.

Who needs the complexities and uncertainties of SEO strategies? Especially when they may take weeks or months to work.

And why put up with that when you can use AdWords to instantly target your customers, in just the way you want to?

The only flaws in this argument are (a) that you have to pay for every single click and costs are going to rise, (b) as a result of recent changes you’ll either end up in a bidding war or be unable to compete, (c) that really isn’t how AdWords works.

We’ve seen a few instances where AdWords accounts have been inexplicably frozen by Google for some truly absurd reasons.

When this occurs you’re quite powerless, as such actions are allowed by Google’s terms – and you agreed to them.

If this happens to you, having all your eggs in one single basket may prove to be deadly.

7 – Shiny Object Syndrome.

For the right sort of person, AdWords has the wrong sort of appeal.

It’s a powerful system mapped onto a rigid framework, and there are all sorts of real-time data streams to sink your teeth into.

But Google keep the most important facts from you, as it’s not in their interests to make this information easily accessible.

Which is why they encourage you to focus on relatively unimportant facts such as Click Through Rate, and insanely irrelevant data like Quality Score.

It’s too easy to be dazzled and swayed by the power of AdWords data. And doing so is a whole lot easier than doing SEO.

The icing on the cake.

But let’s look at the more important facts. Four compelling reasons why you have to not only growl at the person telling you that SEO is dead, but never take them seriously again.

That may sound a little harsh, but make no mistake about it: they’re hurting your business.

A – If Google were at some point to only show paid ads, would you still go there?

I wouldn’t, and I suspect you wouldn’t either. And while Google’s behaviour may be a little unsavoury sometimes, they’re certainly not stupid.

So the organic listings aren’t going to go anywhere any time soon.

The question you need to ask yourself is whether you want to entirely miss out on those free click opportunities or not?

Bearing in mind that if you’re not there, your competition will be.

B – What’s good for SEO is good for your users.

If that raises your eyebrows a little, then you probably still think of SEO as saying the same phrases over and over again.

That was a brief moment in the history of SEO, and those “techniques” have no role in modern SEO.

Modern SEO has nothing to do with disrupting, annoying or misleading your website’s visitors. It’s all about helping both users and Google to understand your content.

C – AdWords may simply not work for your business on mobile.

We know how much mobile usage is growing, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that AdWords on your mobile phone is always going to work.

Google-hype aside, mobile search goes far beyond just being on a smaller screen, and usage habits and patterns are very different.

On top of that, what you sell might not be a great fit for AdWords.

If you sell Windows software, then you can’t download a trial to your iPhone or superior Android device.

If you require registration, filling in a form may be too impractical on a phone.

And that’s even before we get started with the issues of tracking.

AdWords on a mobile device will work incredibly well for some businesses, but not all.

D – Your competition aren’t going to do SEO any time soon.

You’ve been stalling because it looks harder, there are risks involved, it’s too technical, it’s too time consuming, and all the other 200+ reasons you’ve neglected SEO for the past few years.

Yet the fact is that all these reasons are entirely untrue. But your competition don’t know that.

There’s never been a better time start doing SEO, and let’s face it, if your competition are listening to the cries of “SEO is dead“, this is cause for you to celebrate!

So when the next update rolls out, when Google make it that little bit harder to get their traffic for free, will you allow them to push you into paying for your share of traffic?

Or will you relish in the ease of dominating your competition?

One final point.

This isn’t an anti-AdWords stance. I think AdWords is one of the most incredible developments for online business in the history of all things online!

But it should never be about choosing between AdWords and SEO. It’s all about embracing both.

And it should never be about listening to the misguided person who tells you SEO is dead.

They’re wrong.