I wrote the post, SEO is Dead, back in April. I still stand by that post… in fact, now more than ever. The purpose of the post wasn't to attack search engine optimization as a viable online marketing strategy, the purpose was to drive marketers to move their focus away from the popular tactics associated with search engine optimization and towards improved content marketing efforts.
For those of you that aren't familiar with SEO strategies, optimizing a site is a combination of several strategies:
- Incorporating a content management system that presents your content well to search engines.
- Designing your site hierarchy and navigation so that your content is presented in the order of precedence.
- Writing and promoting compelling content to keep your site's content recent, frequent and relevant.
- Using keywords effectively to ensure you are using the same keywords and phrases within your content as those who are searching for your industry, products or services.
- While the previous items all ensure your site is in great shape, SEO agencies tended to overstep their boundaries and work on offsite promotion, incorporating linking schemes, directory services and publishing networks… all without disclosure. In other words… backlinking.
For companies and agencies not willing to cheat, backlinking has been a huge headache. A typical agency simply could not compete with a company that invested large dollars into backlinking schemes with SEO agencies. But the revenue associated with backlinking was too good to pass up for the agency or the client, so people climbed onboard a $5 billion industry according to Forrester.
Google's Panda algorithm change started the war, eviscerating sites overnight that expanded dramatically to capture additional search engine results. Google Penguin was next, incorporating more and more social influences and even pushing back on sites that were over-optimized for keywords. While these advancements improved search engine result quality, they still hadn't attacked the real issue: backlinking.
Google has sent out messages like this to companies that may be incorporating unnatural links:
This is an alarming find. One of our clients actually fired a previous SEO agency when they discovered they were backlinking. But the damage is done and it's too late. How can they go back retroactively and remove links? We've counted over a thousand that were left behind… and on sites, networks and directories that we don't have any access to! Google is talking about perhaps adding some kind of disavow tool where you can basically police your backlinks within webmasters.
Matt Cutts, who runs Google's quality and spam operations and engages in social media with their users, has stated that companies may not have to immediately respond or react to the report. I'm not sure whether that clarified the issue or added additional confusion… but the bottom line is clear as day. Google is finally serious about dismantling the SEO industry.
If your SEO agency is backlinking, not fully disclosing those links, and generating unnatural links in accordance with Google's terms, you need to cancel that contract immediately and even request that they undo the damage they may have been doing. You are putting your company at risk.