A few years ago, SEO (Search Engine Optimization) was the talk of the web. There was a barrage of “marketing companies” that claimed they could get your site to the top of search engine results, and people were willing to pay money for it. In the last couples years, however, the buzz about SEO has almost seemed to have died down. Why? Does SEO even matter anymore?
What is SEO?
First, let’s have a look at what SEO is, exactly — and what is isn’t. Most people would probably say that SEO is optimizing your site so it shows up better on Google. While this is true, it is only a part of it.
In simplest terms, SEO is the art making your site popular. I use the word “art” here loosely, because, well, it’s not exactly a science — despite what some people would like you to believe. Although there are many things you can do to improve your search rankings, when it comes to organic SEO (i.e. free), there’s certainly no guarantee that your site is going to be on the top of Google search engine results, no matter what you do.
The other half of SEO that most people neglect is how their site is linked from other people’s sites. Forget what Google says, if other people are saying bad things about you, you’ve got a huge problem, because Google’s going to pick that up, too. Therefore a major part of SEO is investigating what’s being said about you and your website, and doing your best to ensure that that info is accurate and true (assuming it’s all good).
What it isn’t
SEO is not the be-all-end-all for internet marketing, and it is not for every company or organization. In some cases focusing on other marketing tactics like PPC advertising can be much more effective and have a higher ROI (What SEO Isn’t, 2006).
So, does it still matter?
Search engine rankings, obviously, are very important if you want your website to be easy to find. At least 80% of web users start with a search engine (Stokes, 2011) and 91% of search engine users say they find what they’re looking for when they use a search engine (Purcell, Brenner, & Rainey, 2012).
However, SEO has changed and so has the internet. SEO used to be somewhat simple in that there was your website, some other people’s links to your website, and Google/Yahoo/Bing/AOL’s link(s) to your website. Now, with the influx of social networking sites and other platforms in the last few years, it has become a lot more complex.
As an example, within Google itself there are many added complexities that contribute to organic search results. Google Maps, Google+ and ratings have all been integrated with one another and also show up in search results.
In addition, people spend more time on social networking sites like Facebook, and these sites have their own array of links and choices for consumers. If people are finding more of what they may be looking for on these sites, then they’re less likely to go to a search engine.
All this added complexity has contributed to the rising popularity of paid advertising (PPC). With more marketers hopping onboard with PPC, organic search results are likely to get more buried.
While SEO may not be for everyone, it is certainly still important. However, what marketers need to understand is that it is no longer theonline marketing strategy — in fact, it is far from it. As the internet grows, digital marketing strategies will become even more complex, and tactics like SEO will only be a small part of the mix.
“What SEO Isn’t.” V7N Web Development. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Feb. 2014. <http://blog.v7n.com/2006/06/24/what-seo-isnt/>.
“Search Engine Use 2012.” Pew Research Centers Internet American Life Project RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 22 Feb. 2014. <http://www.pewinternet.org/2012/03/09/search-engine-use-2012/>.
Stokes, R. (2011). Digital Marketing Strategy, The Essential Guide to Digital Marketing (p. 288).