Is SEO Dead or the Internet’s Fabulous Invalid?

Embracing New Strategies for the Social Media Era

Check Google yourself, and you’ll find countless articles proclaiming SEO is dead.You won't find SEO buried in this graveyard

Pundits point to the recent Panda and Penguin updates, the rise of social media and other factors to account for the shift in the efficacy of traditional SEO practices, causing agencies and industry leaders to hold their collective breath with each mouse click.

And then Ken Krogue, on Forbes.com, posted The Death of SEO: The Rise of Social, PR, and Real Content on July 20th. Judging by the response, he had no idea he was unleashing the genie from the bottle. Comments rained down. He listened, questioned, tightened his original thesis,wrote a followup, and then posted a final entry on his blog to close the conversation. Phew … Talk about a whirlwind.

Dead or Dying?
Is SEO like the theatre, which has earned the moniker “the fabulous invalid” for its ability to weather the storms of change as new forms of entertainment sought to supersede and render it obsolete?

Krogue’s basic premise, after he fine-tuned it in his second attempt, The Death of SEO (Part 2): Generating Real Content, is that the times (and Google updates) are changing and online businesses need to keep up. Krogue argues that Google is moving to counter SEO practices that consist of embedded keyword “backlinks” in favor of relevant, real content that people want to read and share. He defines real content as “something that is specifically designed to provide direct value” to Internet users in the form of text, audio, video, images, infographics and other forms.

Semantics & Naïveté
Getting lost in the comments, all 297 of them, as SEO experts, business gurus, and copywriters weighed in, were rare moments of insight. Ultimately, it comes down to a question of semantics. While those who dubbed themselves SEO experts generally derided the article, they did not argue against the benefits of publishing solid, legitimate and informative content. Instead, those critics focused on how the services they provide serve a necessary purpose based on the way “things are now.”

Krogue’s claim that SEO is dead chummed the discussion waters to such an extent that no one followed up on his central thesis: that pushing out mediocre content to drive backlinks merely produces fake, derivative content. Moreover, most readers shied away from the naïve position that PR and social media drive real content and are, as Krogue claims, replacing SEO.

Krogue credits Socrates for “the beginning of wisdom is a definition of terms.” Dell’s Connie Bensen chimed in and noted that their success is due to a focus on listening and engagement, as Dell believes that content and community are the key to what Google is doing. Cara Posey, a UK expert, suggested that companies need to worry less about their SEO budgets in lieu of mastering the concept of promoting their best and brightest as thought leaders for their company. And Daniel Ripoll added, “Business leaders need to build up their reputations as legitimate mavens in their field.”

What Really Matters
But, folks, in the end it all comes down to user-focused content. How the page is optimized, what keywords and meta data are used, excellent site architecture, good code, and a positive user interface cannot and should not be the primary purpose of any web page or SEO campaign. “Content is king” is an oft-repeated phrase that is in danger of becoming as meaningless as “have a nice day.” Abby WambachBut it’s the bottom line for the billions of real people who are in search of real answers to their questions, solutions to their problems or, simply, just a little helpful advice.

Leave it on the Field
Team USA’s Abby Wambach created a sensation when she tweeted, ““It doesn’t matter who gets the goals – I’m going to leave my whole Human Beingness on that field.” As she demonstrated in helping her team win the gold, she laid everything out there on the line. Those responsible for a company’s or client’s website need to take that same wholehearted approach to content: Leave it on the field and give those who visit your site the very best.

Forget shortcuts, secret techniques and questionable tactics. Focus on throwing your “human beingness” out there so that audiences get honest and accurate perspectives on your brand. It will build trust, that will lead to authority and credibility which creates and sustains community. And that means a golden bottom line.

Kathleen Gossman – Project Manager

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