Is Search Engine Optimization Obsolete?

In a nutshell, I've believed this since last fall with the onset of Google+, and probably even hoped for it before that. I have been a fan and believer in content marketing over search engine optimization_ for a very long time and with the use of (the apparently non-existant but still in use) _AuthorRank. To me, it feels like control of search results are coming back into the control of the digital publisher and the knowledge seeker. Basically, produce great and targeted content designed to benefit you and your potential reader (customer etc.) and – if the search engines do what they are supposed to do – bubble up the right content to the right person at the right time.

People used to rely on search engines to answer a query to produce results that best matched the information requested. That isn't good enough any longer. We want knowledge, not information. Knowledge = the applied use of information. Guess what? Computers and algorithms, even ones designed by humans, cannot (currently) produce genuine knowledge. It can take a 'best guess' but that's as close as it gets. PEOPLE are needed for the missing link. Enter both AuthorRank and SPYW (Search Plus Your World).

WE now get to create knowledge out of the content we write, record, video, and the like. Search engines like Google are now rewarding our social graphs, digital publishing content, frequency and relevancy to the information we create. While I have friends in the SEO fields, honestly I say good riddance! For too long great content has been buried or displaced by SEO practices (mostly blackhat, but still…). Just search for something along the lines of making, I don't know, homemade window cleaner or something. shows up everywhere and I can't stand it. I think the writers are being paid, but honestly the content is designed to maximize CPM on the ads they serve. This is architected content, not useful content, and yet it's been designed and SEO'd to death to rise to the top of the search results. Meanwhile other highly relevant and useful content is shoved on page 3.

Granted, I feel SEO still currently has a strong use for online reputation management or cleanup as well as creating a unique presence when using common terms or names (John Smith or Acme Co. you must have one hell of a time getting found online…)

All in all I think this is finally the 'in' real content producers have been looking for to have decent content – and knowledge – rise to the top. SEO has a place, but I don't feel it should be nearly as large a piece of the puzzle as they have carved out for themselves. Maybe instead of keyword articles and creating link matrixes the SEO folks will have to learn how to actually talk to people. Just a thought.


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The Death Of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content – Forbes
I had lunch back in March with Adam Torkildson, one of the top SEO consultants in Utah and one of the best in the country. Adam Torkildson, SEO guru, says Google is killing the SEO industry (as we kno…

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  1. says

    I truly agree. However, wouldn't you consider it as SEO.. the optimizing part? As search engines are getting better at digging knowledge and coming as close to it as possible, the content generators have to evolve with it and make sure to provide quality.

    I feel instead of saying it as Death of SEO.. probably it is evolution of SEO.. Since you cannot just rely 100% on quality, you have to reach a large number of people to provide them quality content. This can be done only by being search engine friendly.

    What do you think +Lynette Young ?

  2. says

    I believed SEO was obsolete as soon as everyone knew it existed.  Linking to good content will always be the goal of search engines, so trying to optimize around their algorithms will inevitably zero in on content being king anyway.

  3. says

    And one question – if someone will google for something, by what reasons he will get search results?
    I think, SEO exists because of searching for something – so SEO will exist ever :)

  4. says

    I don't think content and SEO are in opposition, and of course the tweaks Google is making reflect that — they want to make sure more quality content ranks and crappy content farming gets depreciated. I always wonder why SEO is so divisive in our industry, seems to me it's part and parcel of any kind of content strat. 

  5. says

    +Amanda McCormick I think the division is partly coming from the fact that SEO is often seen (and was initially) an extension of the engineering profession: getting around algorithms, or working with them. When you focus on content, you need a different skill set, focusing more on communication people, journalists. I think the magic smell of the past is going away, now it bowls down to hard content-related work. 

  6. says

    SEO is a constantly evolving and no one can say for sure they have it figured out… so when these so called "experts" or "gurus" come and say stuff like this i can't help but laugh.

  7. says

    I agree with you Greg…it is evolving and changing and that makes is so much more fun and allows those who are experts to earn commensurate value from their clients

  8. says

    You know I love how Google is approaching good content however, it just kills small business websites that are only trying to get themselves online and visible.  It is not the job of a remodeler, landscaper, or auto repair shop to hire a content marketer at $1000 a month to write them award winning content.  Their job is to do their job!  

    Content marketing is great for us geeks but not for them.  It's out of their realms.  I wish Google would start thinking about adding a "Business Search" option only (which yes is what "Maps" is for but we know how unbelievable inaccurate Maps is and even Google can't tell you how to rank well there…)

  9. says

    +Justin Throngard in the past small businesses like landscapers or auto repair shops had to pay big money to have big ads in the Yellow Pages. Sometimes thousands a month in highly competitive categories (a few of my family members owned such businesses and spent upwards of $13k a year for ads in the Yellow Pages). There were plenty of other methods of getting their name out to the public as well – newspaper ads, local radio, in-person networking or even sponsoring the local softball team. The need for advertising and marketing isn't gone, and neither is the cost, it's just shifted.

  10. says

    +Lynette Young don't you think that by having those high costs that we, as technology marketers, get lumped in with the ilk that is the yellow pages?  At least they can guarantee where the business will be "ranked" in their book.  The best we can do is guess based on past success.  Pretty hard to justify to a guy who still has an aol email address and/or a Nokia 5600.  Thoughts?

  11. says

    Was my comment about not wanting to sift through content manipulated to please advertisers, displeasing :-/
    After I posted, and received a "+1", I notice its gone ?

  12. Jenna Joseph says

    I disagree with the idea that content marketing and SEO are wholly opposite–they work together. You can write excellent informational content while doing SEM all at the same time, by keeping in mind your target keywords. 

  13. says

    To say my dislike of most form of manipulation by advertisers is extreme, would be an understatement, when I couldn't find my original post I automatically blamed the proponent of advertising, my apologies.

  14. says

    +Justin Throngard high costs? I've come across some that think 'knowledge work' is expensive, after all, it's only the stuff you "know" in your head that you are charging for, not something that can be produced as a product. Why is spending the money on something like a radio ad 'worth' more than spending it on hiring someone to create content? I've helped out friends with small businesses (under $1m annual revenue) in the past few months that spend upwards of $3,000 a month just on radio ads. Their marketing budget is about $150,000 a year. Single owner small businesses (I call them micro businesses) such as myself or say other freelancers can't afford this, I know that. That's when we have to learn it ourselves to stay competitive. The Internet becomes an even playing field in this way. It takes time or money, sometimes both – but never neither – to learn and get results.

    I'm not pro/con paying for content development, but the tools are evolving. Yes, that auto mechanic may still have an AOL account and an old phone, but a good number of their customers do not. In two years from now it will be tipped more heavily to mobile, social, and digital content.

    I don't open the Yellow Pages or flip on the radio to find someone to install carpet in my house. I search online, via Google, and then ask my friends for recommendations. This is about communication and referrals, evolved. Large companies that don't keep up with trends loose sales, and now after some years, it has trickled down to small and "mom & pop" businesses. When the television gained popularity, businesses resisted running live ads, preferring to stick to radio. While the old ways don't completely die off, attention, and money shifts.