For the past 8 or so years, organic traffic has been the magic potion of traffic sources. Its free, it’s huge, and everyone goes to Google first when looking for information. This rumble for good positions has sparked a 5 billion dollar industry known as Search Engine Optimization or SEO.
Companies shell out thousands of dollars every month, trying to get to the top of Google’s coveted results. Only to lose those positions days later and have to start over from scratch.
Every day I hear online gurus screaming “Search Engine Optimization is dead!” Others swear it’s just a matter of changing strategy (mostly SEO companies).
I don’t think SEO is dead. But, here are 3 indicators the SEO industry itself is being turned on its head. And if you’re working with firm that only does traditional SEO through link building and garbage content, it’s time to discover a company specializing in content marketing strategy… Or you might find your company paying for their mistakes.
It’s no secret Google has been fighting hard against search engine optimization firms, and that fight has grown much more aggressive in the last 2 years. Updates like Panda and Penguin have crippled businesses that relied on search traffic, driving many online companies out of business.
In the past, everyone knew that using tricks was against Google's terms of service. But they did it anyway because it was the only way to actually get ahead.
Today, some people believe Google has gotten too smart for these tricks, so that has already damaged many SEO companies business. You might think based on the topic of this article I agree, but I don't…
I think there are some pretty smart players in the SEO industry, and I think they’ll continue outsmarting Google. The problem is, it’s gotten much more difficult – meaning its price is rising. Worse, as soon as Google changes an algorithm, all of that hard work is gone and you have to start over from scratch.
As businesses get sick of the constant up down rhythm of trying to fool Google, they will move away from SEO as a traffic strategy. And that will put a serious damper on many Search Engine Optimization only companies.
The Cornerstone of SEO (Keywords) Is Getting Impossible to Track
SEO will always be based on keywords. Unfortunately, it’s getting difficult to know what keywords people are actually searching on. And what keywords generate leads, or turn into to sales.
If you track traffic sources to your site, you’ve probably noticed more search traffic reported as “Keyword Unspecified” recently. This is intentional. Google doesn’t want you knowing… Because they want you paying for targeted PPC traffic. Rumors are, within a few months, all keyword reports will come up unknown or N/A.
Sure, you'll be able to guess what keywords people are searching on. But you won't know for sure.
As a web copywriter, I know guessing is only a starting point. You pick a headline you think will be great… And then you test it against others.
Google is actively removing the ability to test for keywords. Keywords are the cornerstone of the SEO industry, and I think this will have a devastating effect on many firms. How can they track the success of keyword campaign if they don’t know how much traffic is coming from it?
Reputation Management (Reverse SEO)
Since most customers realize just being found isn't enough, many SEO firms are now offering reputation management services. Almost everyone recognizes that a good reputation online is critical to making sales.
Reputation management companies work by “forcing” bad reviews down in the search results by increasing positive reviews for your business. This is also known as reverse SEO.
Many firms employ tactics like creating hundreds of profiles and IP cloaking to create hundreds of positive reviews. The end goal is moving the primary site up in the search results, and flooding the web with positive reviews.
False testimonials are illegal. And finally, the laws are being enforced. For example, Attorney General A.G. Schneiderman just hammered 19 companies with fines amounting to $350,000 for false endorsements. And this is only the tip of the iceberg.
Both reputation management companies, and the firms that that use them are getting smacked. They’re playing a very dangerous game.
Do these 3 nails in the coffin mean the SEO industry is dead?
I don't think so. Organic traffic is always going to be critical, and you need to optimize to get any. But these nails are going to crush a number of companies, especially smaller ones. And it should cause you to think twice about using a firm that only does SEO.
Google is at war with most SEO companies… That's not a war I want to fight, and I don't think you do either. It’s just not worth it. Especially when there’s a way to win the game and please Google and other search engine companies at the same time.
Content Marketing Strategy
I'm talking about content marketing. Simply speaking, content marketing means supplying potential customers with valuable information they find valuable and learn from. It includes helpful blog posts, white papers, webinars, email and more.
Fortunately companies working with professional writers and content strategists, as opposed to 5 dollar per article hacks (which many SEO companies use), are finally seeing the benefits of their investment. And it’s only getting stronger from here.
I know I’ll piss a few people off by saying this but…
If content marketing isn't part of your strategy in the future, you’re going to lose the online marketing game to your competitors. Beyond helping you get found by the search engines, content builds your reputation and positions you as an expert in your field.
Search engine optimization is not dead. But do you want to spend your hard earned marketing dollars on something that has to fight so hard just to survive? Or would you rather invest for the future with a content marketing strategy that builds a foundation for the future of your business?
How big of a piece of your marketing budget today is going into traditional Search Engine Optimization (Link building, spam article submissions, etc) vs Content Strategy. Let me know with a comment below.