20th Jul 2015

SEO: where has the last 20 years gone?

SEO is older than content marketing – can you believe that? There is some debate on the actual date of the birth of SEO, but most marketing ‘old timers’ agree it was around 1995. That means that this is the year that it turns 20 year. The question is, what have we done with it?

For most corporations SEO has become a line item on every year’s budget, and one that keep increasing is size, but is that a real sign of maturity? Those that have been in SEO since the beginning have gone from the marketing introduction of,

‘I’m in SEO’

‘Erm… ???’

‘SEO? Search engine optimization? I’m an internet marketer’

‘Oh! Well… I … erm…. SEO? Internet?’

‘You know… search engines … and optimising them… SEO?’


‘SEO? Oh dear! I’d tell you but I’d have to kill you…’

It was easier than explain your particular brand of marketing.

Now the introductions run to:

‘I’m in SEO’

‘Give me your card – I need you’.

SEO has come of age, but it has also become a double edged sword. On one side it’s the ‘must have’ marketing for every company serious about survival, on the other – it’s a dirty word that has been more of a pain than it’s worth. If you do SEO wrong the penalties are severe. 

For twenty years smart companies have charted their marketing by SEO tactics and the strategies have had varying degrees of success. Hiring a professional has turned out to be the only way to produce a successful campaign but has SEO gone as far as it can? IS there a future for SEO?

Those that have been the mentors of SEO for the last two decades, like Jill Whalen and Jonathon Coleman, are now ready to move on to something new leaving the stage open for SEO to take on its next incarnation. It may be hard to see how SEO can remain productive in today’s loud and saturated market. Will it be replaced? Downgraded? Or taken in a new direction?

Our bet? A new direction. SEO will not die – as long as there are search engines, there will be SEO. And here’s why:

SEO is Marketing

Marketing is a blanket term, it covers a lot of disciplines, devices and media, but SEO is still a branch of effective marketing. Tactics shift, blackhats get smarter and the penalties for misuse gets harder but aligning your keywords for maximum exposure is the only thing that works on the internet, and online marketing is here to stay. Marketing in about being amazing and SEO makes sure that amazingness spills over into the real world.

Remember the dot.com bubble burst in the 2000’s? The ‘get rich quick’ online marketing scheme that had been promised was also a bubble that burst at that time. Internet marketing is here to stay but it’s a long term strategy for those that have a legitimate product or service to sell and until search engines are replaced, SEO will always be the way.

SEO is Relevant

Getting on the front page of Google is more than just SEO. For instance, if your product was gorilla food, could you get it to the number one spot on the front page of a search for aeroplanes using only SEO tactics and the correct key words? No. The keywords would stick out like a sore thumb in the content and be completely irrelevant to the industry and the bots will quickly weed it out as a fraud. If you’ve got on the front page of Google your whole site is relevant to the keywords, or it would be listed back on page 57,097 under the ‘blacklisted’ file.

We have moved past the days when a few well-chosen keywords repeated in a block of badly spelled or spun text would get you front page, or indeed get your anywhere. Your whole site has to be relevant to your product, including your images, videos and links. SEO refined content alone is not enough to trigger the very sophisticated bots that now police online marketing.

SEO is mechanism that makes you relevant to your audience. That will never go out of style. 

SEO is Strategic

The future of marketing is inclusion. With developments like the Apple watch and Google glass marketing has to look at being included as digital culture speeds along.  It has been called experience optimization, but does that go far enough? It won’t be long before we are pushing the edges of website marketing and spilling over into other media. We have to look for, and find, a fourth dimension.

SEO is not just a string of tactics sewn together on a sea of keywords or continually analysing algorithms in an effort to beat them, if you think it is, your SEO will fail. Your product or service has to fit in to your sales strategy. It has to be an integral part of your plan, and in some places, its guide.

SEO is Relational

Who knows what gears to grind to get success? There are so many gears in SEO that, as frustrating as it may be, it gives you many, many choices to find a way to success. Take a look at Googles Hummingbird.

Hummingbird is a fundamental change in the way the Google database is structured — in the way that the algorithm processes information. It’s the largest change to Google since the introduction of PageRank. To optimize in the age of Hummingbird, it is critical that you understand this.

This by the way is why guest posting is not dead, directory listings are not passé, and reciprocal links aren’t necessarily evil. Too much of any of these things is bad, and doing them for the purpose of gaining links is bad. But in order for people and search engines to understand where you fit into the universe, they need some of these relational cues.

Do any one of those too much and you’ll encounter the Google algorithm’s wrath. Think about what will help your business, and do that instead. If you have the opportunity to post on an industry publication that is well respected, don’t think twice — do it! If you have a business where location is important, get it listed in the online yellow pages!

SEO is Collaborative

Being is SEO sometimes feeling like a rat on wheel, continually running and going nowhere as you can’t keep up with the pace, which is why you need to make a friends of other SEO professionals and talk about what you are finding. From these conversations you can formulate the best plans but also see SEO from another view.

Building these relationships shorten the life of your SEO journey, as the only way to understand where to go is by testing. By building a strong relationship with other online marketers you can ask them any questions, almost anytime to help you create the best campaign possible. After all, there’s a lot of work to go around.

SEO is Holistic

SEO is the perfect combination of creativity and writing, technology and data mining, analysis and implementation. It’s the alpha and the omega, the yin and the yang.

A great SEO won’t be happy just writing tags; she’ll want data on user behavior, conversion quality and product margins. A strong SEO won’t shy away from learning black hat tactics; he’ll delve into them to understand them and how they work. An ethical SEO will refrain from using them other than to help identify and obliterate them.

But just as we need each other, we also need the darker side of SEO. It pushes us (and the search engines) to be better, to do better. We’re all part of a beautiful marketing whole and we balance each other out.

Whatever you feel about SEO, if you are part of a company or a marketer, you are a part of it. Now is the time to be visionary. The future of SEO depends on it.