Is SEO Dead? The Jury's Still Out

by Deborah Ager on February 2, 2010

Being a search marketer, I recently turned to Google to find out if others had written on the topic of SEO being dead and was amused to see I’d been scooped by Danny Sullivan.

At Search Engine land, Danny Sullivan writes:

I submit that search engines are dying. In fact, I would say they are dead already and just don’t know it yet – gone the way of the reciprocal link exchange and the “you have a cool page” award as an effective promotional tool. A victim of their own success.”

So: is SEO dead? Yes. No. Maybe So.

YES: Why SEO Might Die As We Know It

SEO Can Take A Long Time

With market share of searches hovering in the 70-percent range, Google continues to be the dominant player among search engines. That means Google’s rules are important to any business wanting to rank high in search engine results. Relying on one channel for marketing is too risky for an organization. If a company must pick and choose which channels to use, SEO might score low on the list. It can take 6 months to two years to rank for highly competitive key phrases, and some organizations may think that is too long.

Google Can Have a Conflict of Interest

In December, Google started showing advertising on their home page for a cell phone. Imagine if you are a cell phone company. Which company do you think will get the best organic results? We’ve already seen Google favoring certain sites with which they have partnerships. If you type “heart failure” into Google right now, you’ll see that Medline Plus, Google Health, Mayo Clinic, and WebMD come up in a box at the top.

Since most searchers will click on the first results on the page, most people will visit these Google-selected links over any other links appearing below. Did you notice one of the links belongs to Google?

Organizations may think twice about wanting to rank for search terms if they can get faster results with pay-per-click marketing, email marketing, joint ventures, partnerships, and list rentals.

NO: Why It is NOT Dying Yet

As Aaron Wall at SEOBook.com writes: “So long as search engines display a list of sites, for which payment is not required, SEO will exist.”

There’s plenty to like about free listings on search engines. However, those free listings usually are not as free as people think. Companies either pay a person – with fringe benefits – or pay an agency to achieve rankings for them. Although it’s technically against the rules, some companies will pay for backlinks.

Despite the above, search engines still offer a low-cost way to test out product and business ideas. This is especially true for an entrepreneur, who can move quickly on the latest trends. An aspiring entrepreneur can take a product, put it on a website, get the page with the product to rank in the top ten, and see if people buy.

That’s an oversimplification of the process, yet you get the idea. Although the SEO process is often time consuming, it allows entrepreneurs to test out ideas before sinking a lot of money into banner ads, contextual ads, pay-per-click, or other costly measures.

Maybe… But The Jury’s Still Out

No one can say for certain what will happen in the next 10 years in terms of search. However, it’s probably safe to say it’ll be a lot different than it is now. That’s why online marketers and business owners have to keep learning and evolving.

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Image: gainesp2003, Creative Commons

Deborah Ager

Guest contributor Deborah Ager is an online marketer, consultant, and speaker. Visit her blog and sign up to get free online marketing tips at http://www.clickwisdom.com. Follow her on Twitter, too!

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