Search MarketingContent MarketingSocial Media Marketing

SEO Is Dead

SEO is dead as we know it. The old math of increased backlinks and stuffing keywords is now a target for Google to identify your site and bury it in the search results. SEO is no longer a math problem, it’s a human one. Social indicators are becoming key to ranking and link algorithms are being retired. It’s time for you to see the truth about SEO… and adjust accordingly.

Of course we utilized a nice baity title to attract some attention, but it’s time that someone stood up and said it. Traditional SEO is no longer a viable solution for businesses to invest in. Sure – people still utilize search engines… and we still ensure our customers are on solid, fast platforms that presents their content properly for indexing. But we’re no longer using the old methodologies of trying to figure out how to squeeze in keywords or to get backlinks by any means necessary.

A true, new SEO package goes way beyond site optimization and link building and incorporates conversion analysis to determine keywords, writing compelling content, making it easy for readers to share that content, employing public relations connections to find opportunities to share that content, and promoting the heck out of that content.

This presentation was originally sponsored and shown through a webinar with Compendium. Today it was featured on the home page of Slideshare!

UPDATE 10/4/2012: Google has updated its Webmasters guidelines and specifically targeting link schemes and recommending nofollow for all links that have been paid for.

Douglas Karr

Douglas Karr is the founder of the Martech Zone and recognized expert on digital transformation. Doug is a Keynote and Marketing Public Speaker. He's the VP and cofounder of Highbridge, a firm specializing in assisting enterprise companies to digitally transform and maximize their technology investment utilizing Salesforce technologies. He's developed digital marketing and product strategies for Dell Technologies, GoDaddy, Salesforce, Webtrends, and SmartFOCUS. Douglas is also the author of Corporate Blogging for Dummies and co-author of The Better Business Book.

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  1. Off-page links made up most of the strength before. Now, those “votes” we were trying to collect have taken the form of (social) sharing.

    As always, simply make great stuff that people want to share with everyone. But it doesn’t stop there. There needs to be a human element to it – take Jason for example. You want to connect with him (because of his real world actions as well) & you want to share the great stuff he creates – which ultimately leads to some type of conversion that will benefit him. (or you)

    Search isn’t necessarily dead, how you play within the scope of Google’s rules have.

          1. You need to change your terminology here Douglas, is a backlinker a black hat SEO? Backlinking is not bad its actually essential. Using back hat tactics is cheating and gaming the system. A real successful SEO actively targets links through multiple strategies

  2. With my three blogs getting spammed with backlinks, I’ll be very happy to see this trend going out of fashion! Great pieve, it’s about real content at last – well I hope so anyway!

  3. Google likes what its users will like.  So, you don’t want to optimize so much for the search engines as you do for your target audience.  Create great content that you know target audience members will benefit from.  

  4. I would love to see people release studies that categorically show the “causation” between top rankings and social sharing. In most cases this is still a pretty weak signal. Social sharing leads to lots of other good stuff like visits, maybe secondary links as a result of more eyeballs etc etc. But as a ranking signal on their own, I haven’t seen any great studies on how they influence search results in a major way. No doubt they will eventually.

    Also, it’s really debatable if we can just start throwing new things into the acronym SEO. It means “Search Engine Optimisation”. Conversion happens on a site and has little to do with optimizing a page for search engines. I am not saying this isn’t important to companies. But I see countless posts just lumping new things into what SEO means, even when they make little sense.

    In essence I totally agree with the sentiment of the slide deck but I don’t agree with “back links … will no longer impact your business as much as writing great content”. This is dependent on so many things, the reality is you need both, one should drive the other.

    1. you’re ******* smart. There is no causation, exactly. Top ranking results have more Facebook likes because they get more traffic, and are likely higher quality to begin with (factors that translate to quality also translate to high search ranking). Of course top ranked results for competetive terms have more social actions, but they aren’t ranked at the top because of social actions – they have more social actions because they are ranked at the top. I’ve tested this to death across several categories, THERE IS NO CAUSATION – and I want to hire you for a guesy post brat.

    2. @searchbrat:disqus @etelligence:disqus @twitter-15353560:disqus Google confirmed in 2010 that social was used to determine authority for ranking in this video:

      Recent algorithm changes continue to rank it more heavily. Branded3 did a simple test using Twitter Retweets.

      There are also findings here:

      And I disagree wholeheartedly with you on backlinking. Backlinking schemes pollute the web and push poor pages higher. Google is now warning webmasters within Webmaster Tools when backlinks appear to be unnatural. If they haven’t already, they will be impacting your rankings negatively. The best way to produce backlinks is to produce content that generates them naturally… not going out and forcing them. If you’re doing that for clients, you’re violating Google’s Terms of Service and it will come back to haunt your client.

      1. There is a difference between backlinking (black hat tactics) and solid link-building strategies. You cant say backlinking is bad and doesn’t count as much anymore. You need to be specific. Telling your readers that backlinking is bad is very vague and can be misleading. Google is targeting spammy links and not quality links. So buying low quality links is a bad tactic but you absolutely need to acquire links!! As long as there are search engines there will be Search Engine Optimization. The tactics and strategies might change but that is not to say it is dead!

          1. A natural backlink is not, a paid backlink is. If you’re being paid to backlink, you’re black hat. And we don’t tell people we “do SEO”, we tell them we get business results and can help fix the problems that SEO consultants introduced that put them at risk.

  5. I’ve read countless blogs heralding the efficacy of content. Content, content, content!!! While I agree, I’d like to see a post that actually breaks down the ways in which marketers can provide their customers with interesting information AND draw them to check out the company’s website.

    If content is key, how do you define “good” content?

    1. Hi Brian,

      Pretty simple for me. Good content is content that drives visitors to do what you’re asking them to do. For every company, that could be different. For some companies, it’s short videos. For others, it’s long copy. It’s why it’s imperative to set up analytics properly and code all your events and campaigns. Try everything… implement, test, measure, refine and repeat.


  6. Exactly. Content is King! Now more than ever. If you have freaky content, your site will attract visitors and links without any SEO-Campaign. Just be different and write informative and of course unique content.

  7. The content you produce for social media exposure as a brand is no longer relevant unless it has contextual relevance with your target audience. You can say whatever you want as a social media marketer but unless people are interested in listening to what you’re saying you’re basically irrelevant white-noise that goes unnoticed at a cocktail party- and let’s face it, Facebook is the ultimate cocktail party, with or without alcohol.

    The problem is that too many social media “experts” are mindlessly repeating what has already been said by someone who actually thought about what they’re going to say before they simply said it, or at the very least thinks ahead of the ubiquitous press release and online media propaganda. These are glorified bloggers at best, or unpaid content curators trying to make an unpaid living by copying and pasting someone else’s content.

  8. LOL: I think SEO is just in a coma after the incident on the freeway.And I agree with those old die hard folks who regurgitate “content is king” too. Google, any such company, is bound to “try” pushing the envelope.

  9. The new SEO, in five steps:

    1. Create an article with a deceptive but attention-grabbing title.
    2. Write blog article with little actual content.
    3. Bombard user with many methods to share said article.
    4. Talk about uselessness of links on page infested with links.
    5. Collect paycheck.

  10. This article convinced me I didn’t need to google SEO to find out what it was. I was able to figure out all I needed to know: it’s an acronym that is desperately trying to catch on but never really will.

  11. Bahahaha this is hilarious. Reminds me of an article Pesach Lattin did a while back. Guess what?!! Content Marketing is SEO!! Changing the rules doesn’t change the game. It’s called evolution. We are still playing Basketball over here.

  12. yup ,its dead. Another great article here explaining it. Search engines are a mess and the more they change things (algorithms etc) the messier it gets. Social media decides what user generated content they want, much more efficiently. Search engines are also incorporated into Facebook and twitter, so why need Google? You can find any company and information you need on social media.

    1. SEO is now inclusive and requires expertise across mediums. Most pure SEO firms we know have gone under, what’s left are agencies who understand the bigger picture and understand how to develop content, social, mobile, and PR strategies – leveraging efforts across all mediums.

  13. In principle I agree with the core of the sentiment, but forget “SEO is dead” and think instead more about “SEO has evolved.” Certainly ye olde SEO (tons of keyword laced backlinks, and/or keyword stuffing onsite) is dead as a doornail, but I think it is fair to argue that GOOD SEO (as opposed to majority SEO) is really UXO by another name.

    It is all about optimising the experience of a user from first touch onwards (and certainly doesn’t end at conversion or contact or “insert goal here” as so many people seem to think), and while this can and does include some considerations like markup and commonsense “optimisation” a lot of that also boils down to good, accessible web builds and just plain old common sense.

    The problem in my view is that too many people think of SEO in a silo as something you do separately – whereas actually, if you’re doing it right, SEO is something that you’ll do naturally as you go along with business as usual for your website. It should be thought of less as a “marketing” activity and more as a “hygiene” one, like spell checking!

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