August 13th, 2012 Comments Off

Google in the Process of Making the SEO Industry Obsolete in 2 years

I came across this Forbes.com blog post titled: “The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content” via Twitter and immediately felt the need to read through it to find out the author’s thoughts about the SEO industry. The second sentence of the article actually got me hooked:

“Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in 2 years.”

I was expecting to read a gust of anti-SEO vociferation but much to my surprise, some of what the author (Ken Krogue) said made sense. I shall summarise his article here in a few bullet points:

  • Internal SEO – the mechanics of SEO, comprises of about 15% of the entire SEO process – I agree.
  • External SEO which used to entail writing articles, press releases, blogs, comments, and content with target keyword “backlinks” comprises about 85% of SEO – agreed
  • External SEO is now changing because social sharing (likes, shares, tweets and 1+s) are emerging as important ranking signal - agreed but links are still the most important ranking factor. Content that successfully gets social media traction with a reasonable amount of reshares would in-turn get written about and linked from blogs and other sites. The backlinks to content shared on social media sites would ultimately improve a site’s search rankings. We wrote a blog post about the impact of social media on search rankings a few weeks ago.
  • Google’s objective is to deliver the most relevant search results to searchers or they are not doing their job - 100% agree but Google is in a life-long battle against spammers or gamers.
  • Ken implies that old style Search Engine Optimization (SEO) by means of acquiring backlinks is a artificial means of “gaming” Google’s search results - well I agree & disagree with Ken here. Backlinks fuel search rankings; so getting backlinks as a dividend of strengthening your brand online cannot been seen as “gaming” Google’s results. Link spamming however can be viewed as ‘gaming’ Google
  • His conclusion is that generating real content (articles, images & video) that is beneficial and focused towards an audience and not search engines is the way forward - I agree but what is fundamental to content creation and publishing content to the web is the knowledge of how search engines work. I draw parallels of  knowing how search engines work to knowing traffic rules or the highway code before attempting to drive. 

My Thoughts: An Over Sensationalised Headline on Forbes.com

I’ll have to jump in and say that as much as I agree with 80% of Ken’s article, the reason I do not agree with the remaining 20% is because the article title was rather sensational. Using a platform with a global reach like Forbes.com to declare that the SEO industry is dead is sure to generate unprecedented amount of buzz and reaction from the industry.
Ken specifically implies that the old darker and grey hat SEO techniques that involved writing and ‘spinning’ articles, linking from hundreds of article directories, listing in low quality ‘free for all’ directories, spammy blog commenting and joining so-called link networks are over. But this is by no means ethical OR intelligent  SEO. Newer forms of grey and black hat SEO would eventually emerge in a bid to game Google’s results. As Google becomes smarter, spammers would also up their game.

Creative & Ethical SEO

Creative & more ingenious SEO involves creating highly compelling content (videos, images, infographics or stories) and promoting this content online in a bid to generate buzz, discussions, citations and mentions that ultimately turn to links.
Social media has now emerged as the de facto channel for the promotion of quality content. That is why Social Media is so important.
Creative SEO has also always involved collaborating and strategising with PR professionals and the PR industry (which would arguably include bloggers) in a bid to get press mentions that translate to links.
Creative SEO is about holistic brand promotion online – this is the state of the digital marketing industry
I have to admit that over the last 5 years, the SEO and digital marketing industry grew too big and allowed unscrupulous individuals that forgot the ‘marketing’ in digital.

Would Your Business Exist Without Google?

This is a very pertinent question and the resounding answer should be YES. Your business model should rely on multiple marketing channels and not a single volatile channel. Never put your eggs in one basket with marketing.
Search marketing Google accounts for either less than 40% of traffic OR 40% of revenue for our most successful clients.
They’ve already had a working multi-channel marketing model before they approached us and were looking at increasing the share of digital in their marketing mix.
Even online retailers strive to become memorable mainstream brands and household names – Amazon, ASOS, Zappos, Kiddicare, etc.
How many people are searching for your brand online?
How many people want to find your business because they seek your goods or services to add value to their lives or help their businesses bottomline?
If searches for your brand name are static or dropping, then you are doing something wrong and might be becoming more dependent on Google. Active SEO KPIs should not only focus on improved rankings for target key-phrases but should also include a focus on increasing brand name searches.

Top Brands Are Winners both Offline and Online

Google is desperately  trying to mimic the dynamics of real world online. And as much as we hate to admit it; big brands dominate the real world. Google’s search result for commercial terms are not so different as it strives to deliver results dominated by sites it deems as brands & trustworthy. This is not to say only offline brands rank on Google – the beauty about digital marketing is that brands can be developed online.
The questions you might ask now are that:
How can a brand be developed online &
How does Google determine brands?
Google works on signals that indicate if a site is a brand. Here are five pointers:
  1. How many people search for your company name in comparison to other companies in your industry? (Use Google Insights to compare search volume)
  2. Do you have active Social Media profiles?
  3. Do ‘authoritative’ publishing sites in your industry mention or link to your website?
  4. How often and to what degree is content that you create, shared on Social Media platforms?
  5. Do you use multiple marketing channels that all point back to your website (see below)?
Inbound Marketing for Branding Online

How to Rapidly Build Your Brand Online

Creativity is key to building a brand online and the key metric to success are the number of searches for your brand name.
Take the viral and highly creative ‘Dollar Shave Club’ commercial YouTube video that (at the time of writing this blog post) generated 5.5 million YouTube views, 12,772 Facebook likes, 16,800 tweets, 873 Google +1s and 1, 343 pins acorrding to ShareCount.com so far.
This propelled and established dollarshaveclub.com as a brand in a space of 4 months!
Better still they got 12,000 sales within the first two day of opening their eStore to the public (after the video created the buzz for them).

 

Looking at their link graph, they have acquired 37,938 backlinks (dare I say ethically) over a 4 month period from ‘authoritative’ sites like Fastcompany, Wall Street Journal, Business Week, Lifehacker, Mashable and serval other high profile sites:

Dollarshaveclub.com backlink profile on Majestic SEO

And their rankings:

As at the time of writing this post, their rankings on Google.com were:

  • “cheap razors” – #2 on Google
  • “mens razor blades” – #6 on Google
  • “razor blades online” – #6 on Google
  • “men’s razors” – #15 on Google

Not bad for a company that started operating in March 2012.

New SEO

Going forward, an SEO strategy now involves building a well thought-out keyword-centric site, excellent user experience and site navigation as well as and most importantly: creating well above average content both onsite & off-site. Onsite content would keep your audience ‘glued’ to your site, whilst off-site content would attract an audience to your site.

With Google’s roll out of the Panda & Penguin updates and the unnatural link penalty – the corner stone of SEO has emerged to be content marketing, which must be creative, social, viral as well as technically adept. Links are still the most important metric to rank sites – the method towards acquiring links has changed from a rather laborious and mechanical process to a much more fluid creative focus in a bid to gain viral attention and mentions. If you are not creative as an SEO, you may want to consider working with creative professionals to assist in the content creation phase of your campaigns.

Best of luck building your brands online.

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