It seems every year someone comes out with a new article saying that SEO died, is dying, or is six feet under. There are a few reasons for this, mainly centered around the way Google’s algorithm works.
There are hundreds of search engines, but Google has managed to reign supreme through their general Google Search and their other specializations such as Google Images and Google Scholar. In 2019, Google products were used in 94 percent of searches.
“It is no question that Google owns the market when it comes to internet queries,” says David Brenton, President of BluShark Digital, LLC.
However, Google has made several changes to its algorithm over the years, leading some to claim SEO – or search engine optimization – is going the way of the dinosaur. Here are the facts and figures to get a better idea of why people think this (and why they are wrong).
Why They Think SEO is Dying
There are three main reasons people think SEO is dying, but first, let us get a firm grasp on what SEO truly means. Search engine optimization refers to the links, keywords, and other factors that tell Google what your website is about. From there, Google will rank your website among others covering similar topics. The ultimate goal is to have your website be the first link in the Google search results because that means you get more potential customers visiting your website.
SEO experts will alter a website’s links, keywords, and other factors to make their website more user friendly, and thus more Google friendly. Some people may pay to have their website promoted, but SEO specifically focuses on rising through the ranks organically.
There are a few hurdles Google throws at website designers to use SEO tactics properly. Firstly, Google changes. A lot. In 2010, Google made 516 algorithm changes. By 2018, that number increased to 3,234 changes. Having over nine algorithm changes a day can be hard to keep up with, meaning SEO has gotten much more difficult. It is no longer easy to manipulate the system to have your website appear first.
Combined with this issue is the over-supply of information on the internet. There are over 5.6 billion Google searches every 24 hours, with two trillion searches per year. Compare this to the one billion blogs on the world wide web, it does not seem to be a problem. However, the oversupply and the under-demand issue becomes abundantly clear when you use the search engine.
Take the phrase “what is marketing.” Search that, and Google spits out 665,000 websites with that specific phrase. However, only 11,300 people search “what is marketing” per month. Although there are billions of searches a day, each search falls into a different specific niche that can only be serviced by one website. This leaves hundreds of thousands of websites competing against each other for that click.
To make matters worse, Google has also thrown its hat into the ring. Google will answer some questions directly without needing to click on a link. By getting these answers to their user directly, it makes a better user experience: however, it can be a slap in the face to the SEO specialists who worked hard to get their link to the number one position in Google’s eyes.
Take a weather search. When looking for their local weather forecast, consumers have a 46 percent chance of clicking on the first link. However, when Google shows the daily weather forecast in a graph before listing links below, the likelihood of getting that click falls to just seven percent.
For this reason, the number of clicks SEO brings to your website has been decreasing over time. This decrease has led many to believe these changes to Google’s algorithm are SEO’s headstone. Here is why they are wrong.
Why SEO is Not Dying
The biggest issue in the claims for SEO’s death is conflating change with decay. Just because something is decreasing in one area does not mean the industry is going down. These changes have been rippling throughout the entire marketing world and have forced businesses to become more creative to survive.
In the past, advertisements stole attention. Take a television advertisement or its modern equivalent: the ad that plays before YouTube videos. In that instance, we roll our eyes and groan. Instead of focusing on the countdown until the “skip ad” button appears, we ignore the product and completely forget about whatever it was that flew across our screen.
With the increasing efficiency of the internet comes a demand from consumers for advertisements to be worthy of their time. SEO pushes businesses to be more creative in their advertising endeavors, and some marketing campaigns that would have been fever dreams in the past have become full-fledged realities.
Take Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC), which is famous for its classic fast food. They are probably the last business you would expect in the video game world, yet in 2019, they released a dating simulator featuring their mascot Colonel Sanders. No, this is not a joke. I Love You, Colonel Sanders! A Finger Lickin’ Good Dating Simulator is a free game anyone can download from Steam, a software that hosts several indie video games.
It sounds like a joke (because, deep down, it is), but by becoming creative with their advertising, KFC saw a huge boost around the game’s release. Famous streamers on YouTube and Twitch played the game, bringing free advertising to KFC and boosting their SEO.
It sounds crazy, but it worked. SEO is essentially a new platform for consumer behavior. By identifying your websites and social media posts with keywords, search engines can connect your business with other topics of similar interest, bringing new clients.
Take Olay, a beauty brand famous for its soaps and makeup products. Olay ran a study where they promoted two different websites featuring a product to reduce dark circles under people’s eyes. The first website was a blatant advertisement, while the second gave several tips and tricks on reducing dark circles and simply listed the product as one of their methods.
When they changed their advertisement to include other methods, engagement went through the roof. The number of clicks increased by 87 percent, while cost per click fell 30 percent. By creating organic content for people to enjoy, brands can properly earn their consumers’ attention. You are giving them more than just your branded product: you are giving them authentic content.
In this way, the changes Google makes to its algorithm improve how businesses advertise in the digital marketplace. Instead of corporations controlling the narrative, consumers can decide what is worthy of their attention, and products can be more effectively allocated to those who are actually interested.
SEO is not dying. It is simply changing to fit the needs of consumers. As the digital market begins to change from the Wild West to a consumer-centric society, SEO becomes more important than ever. SEO tells Google not only what a website is but what it can offer to its audience. By forcing businesses to provide more than just flashy banners before YouTube videos, marketing can become what it was always meant to be: for the consumer.