SEO Is Dead…Love Live SEO!


Holy moly, there’s been a lot of running around like a crazy person today.  Well, at least for me. You’ve been getting all your coverage hand delivered to you. No, I’m not at all bitter about that, why do you ask. OH! There’s a session starting!

Up to talk about whether SEO is dead, alive or somewhere in between we have Fionn Downhill, Todd Friesen and Marcus Tandler. Frank Watson is manning the moderation duties. My wrists are burning so let’s just go.

Frank starts off saying he understands why people are saying SEO is dead. It’s because its changing.  Frank asks how many people are using HotPot and no one raises their hand. Frank says if you have any kind of reviewable product you’ve GOT to be using HotPot and be aware of the impact of those things.  He starts us off with the first question:

What have been the major impacts that you’ve seen in the search results?

Marcus: It’s just evolved a lot. Coming back from the days where you just had ten normal results, now you have the onebox. It’s not about SEO being dead it’s about your traditional approach being dead and now having the most real estate you can possibly have on the front page. If you have the Google Images popping up, you want your images in there. If you have Google Video popping up, you want your videos in there.

Todd: At Performics, it’s exactly that. It’s about search domination. RAWR!  They have a pyramid structure where it’s paid, earned and owned media. There are all these other places where you need to be now. The more real estate you own, the better the chance you’re going to get the click.  SEO has moved beyond leading a horse to water.

Fionn: She agrees with everything the boys have said. Don’t participate, dominate.  It’s about digital assets now. SEO still applies. Its a dream come true. There was a time when you’d type a brand into Google and you’d be lucky if you owned the number one spot. Now, with domain stacking, you can own the top five spots, you can have Twitter, YouTube, etc. You can literally dominate the top 10. The good news for SEO is the opportunity has really expanded beyond the borders of the Web site.  When is the last time you saw a result with just ten blue links? It’s completely different. SEO is more interesting than it used to be.

Todd:  Go search for Charlie Sheen – there’s video, images, twitter, etc. It’s all loaded in there.

Frank: If you type in [The Beatles], they’re not even showing ten links anymore. In some cases it’s 8.  Everyone needs to spend a certain amount of time each week reading about what is happening to see what’s going to come around the corner. It just happens. The Panda update – that didn’t roll out one day, it was started late last year.  They’ve been slowly bringing it in but people weren’t reading.  He recommends reading the WebmasterWorld Forums to help yourself keep up on it.  You want to develop networking at the conference.

Marcus: You don’t always want to look at what people are doing right now, especially if it’s a grayish tactic.  People will see something up on top and think they have to go do that, too. But Google is probably already working up on something to tackle it algorithmically. It’s about sustainability, not getting to number one as fast as you can. Don’t just apply what works now, apply what makes sense.

Fionn:  There’s too much analysis paralysis of what the other guy is doing.  Instead of looking at all the great opportunities, you waste time looking at your competitors who are getting links you won’t be able to get.  You want to focus on getting lasting results.

How much control do we have in optimizing Facebook & Twitter for search?

Todd: Links are links. Your Facebook pages, your LinkedIn profiles – you have to link to them to get them in the SERPs. Twitter is different. If you have Twitter results being pulled into a results page you’re chasing, you need to be constantly tweeting.

Fionn: Anything you want to show up in search results, treat it like a Web page. Use keywords, descriptive titles. An asset is an asset.  Apply SEO principles to everything.

Frank: As far as Twitter goes, you want to build up your profile because that will influence how your tweets rank. You want to be aware of all the other properties outside of search and how they’re coming in to be manipulated.

Dani from Daniweb is in the audience and launches into a little rant:

Google has been saying if you want to increase your rankings, write for the end users, not the engines. Everything should be designed with the end user in mind. Is SEO dead because we’re not writing for the engines anymore, we’re writing for the end user? She has a tag cloud on her site. It’s there because the end users love it and it helps the site categorize their content. But Google hates it because it’s keyword stuffing. She had to use JS to inject the tag cloud into every single page so that Google can’t see it. SEO can never be dead. She’s doing something for the end user – who is Google to say they don’t like it?

Marcus: Google says don’t buy links, don’t do this, they can’t crawl your site if you do that – it’s horrible. Google has all these rules. They can’t rank your site, so you have to play by certain rules.

Todd: Google told people to write content. So they did! It was crappy, but it was content. But it wasn’t good enough so Google did something that changed 12 percent of all searches. It’s a balance, really.  Google doesn’t want to see your seearch results in their search results so you have to block that. That’s GOOGLE’S problem, not my problem.  If they’re not smart enough to crawl a site and not include my search results, why is on me to conform to what you think the Internet should look like? [Because you’re relying on Google for traffic?]

Dani: You need a college degree in SEO to build a Web site.

Frank: Google’s really good at getting us to do the work.

[Everyone is now bitching about what they don’t like about Google.  Speakers, attendees, everyone’s hopping in. It’s a free for all.]

Fionn: They can tell us to do whatever they want because we need their traffic [AMEN!]. We do what it takes to get into Google and we do their work for them and then they change the rules.  She doesn’t do SEO, she does marketing for clients. We need to change the name of what we do. We’ve played the Google game for too long. She’s never optimized a search engine, but she’s optimized a lot of Web sites. We’re stuck with this label that has this bad connotation.

[Look, you can bitch about what Google is doing and how Google changes the rules all the time – OR you can build a site that is defensible and start varying your traffic sources. Stop being lazy and expecting Google to deliver you customers.  Go market your site. Be creative. ]

Would you invest in buying a domain network?

Marcus: If you want to own a lot of domains, you should invest in a domain network.  It depends on the niche. If you’re really fighting the game, then you might need to get more creative.  If you’re selling party supplies, there’s a good chunk of links you can get organically.

Todd: Seek professional assistance if you’re going to do that. You can get yourself into a whole lot of trouble. That’s very advanced, potentially bad result-kind of stuff. JC Penney did it the wrong way. So did Overstock.

Rankings question – how would you go about clearing up the varying approaches to rankings now that they’re different everywhere?

Todd: He hates tracking rankings, he doesn’t think its useful. You don’t need to look at rankings to see if its working. Go into your analytics and see if it’s converting.

Frank: It’s all about converting. What we do is sell stuff.

Fionn: There is no top ten. So by telling someone they’re number 5 in the organic listing when there are 8 things above them, you’ve lost the eyeballs.  Ranking reports are useful to inform your SEO efforts but if you’re giving out ranking reports in 2011, you need to come to a lot more conferences and learn how to do this properly.

How can you better rank locally?

Marcus: Reviews.

Todd: Be everywhere. Be in Merchant Circle. Be in Yelp. Find a company that has tons of reviews in Google Places and see where those reviews are coming from. Have your contact page on your Web site and list all of your locations and make sure they all have their own pages that are crawlable.

Fionn: The main Web site needs to be well optimized for the local search terms.  You need to have a local strategy and the main Web strategy and they need to blend together. Google Places isn’t going away. Google is cold calling SMBs trying to get them to opt into the $25 Tags advertising.

Frank: That’s why they were looking at Groupon because they  have that sales force to do that.

Todd: SEO now isn’t just if you’re number one in Google and Bing, but are you doing everything to rank in Facebok or Flickr. Anywhere that has a search box can be optimized in one way or another.

Marcus: YouTube is the second largest B2B search engine. You can do so much stuff there.

Fionn: If you want to do do well on YouTube, rent a baby and make it do something. Heh!

How do you build high-quality backlinks?

Fionn: They write high quality How To articles, include video. People link to the blog all the time.  Within that post they’ll link to the section on their site that links to what they’re talking about. It’s good in terms of links and traffic. There’s a limit to how much content you can put on an ecommerce page without diluting the message of “buy the tire”

Frank: You have to think outside the box. We’ve gotten really lazy relying on Google. It’s time now that we have to go out and do a little work. Hire an intern. They come up with the wackiest ideas in the world.

Todd: You can outsource that stuff for a lot cheaper than you’d expect.

Marcus: Do good research. If you want to push something on Digg, research Digg to see what worked before.

Todd: Go in the Digg archives and see what went hot a year ago. Digg users have new users and old users forget they saw that a year ago.  The same stuff goes hot all the time. Whether Digg is useful or not, it’s useful for ideas for sure.

Is there any damage to providing external links? What if she linked to JC Penney, would she get penalized?


If you don’t want to be an SEO, what do you want to be called?

Frank: Rich

Todd: Search marketer.

Fionn: Organic Search Marketing

Marcus: Pirate

Conclusion: SEO is dead as a term, as opposed to something you actually have to do.

Your Comments

  • Anonymous

    Wow, it really is changing. I’ve been trying to learn seo over the past year and its daunting to say the least. Now add in the fact Google is leaving “less results” and more places,videos,images, etc. Do you recommend using a landing page for your Google places account that could be optimized for Geo locations?

  • Jillian

    dear god that was A.D.D

  • Aussiewebmaster

    you did a great job following all this – it got a little heated… but think people came away with some ideas

  • Mitch Bartlett

    “Look, you can bitch about what Google is doing and how Google changes the rules all the time – OR you can build a site that is defensible and start varying your traffic sources. Stop being lazy and expecting Google to deliver you customers. Go market your site. Be creative.”

    A-F’n-men! Since the Farmer update, we haven’t really gotten anything but complaining out of a lot of SEOs. Many of which are only complaining because they were gaming the system and can’t do it anymore.

  • Kelvin Lee

    It’s indeed quite hard to follow, but sucha magnificant post, Lisa! It’s pretty much proven the vision I had a year ago.

    Next problem will be to find a way to bring this to our clients…

  • Reg Charie - NBS-SEO

    I have never seen such confusion out of supposed “experts”.
    Linking is not SEO. Social Networking is not SEO.

    Frank starts off by plugging HotPot.
    HotPot is a marketing ploy. It helps increase your local visibility.
    While it might be weighed higher in the linking algo, it still falls into the much depreciated “link influence” category.

    Optimizing YouTube, FaceBook, and social network pages is about opening your markets, getting those pages top rankings in their search niche. It is not about SEO, it is about the necessity of using SEO.

    Twitter is different.
    Twitter links fall into the same category as all links, but retweets are counted differently. The more retweets you have the better the link performs in the SERPS. A retweet by several followers moved one of my articles into the #1 spot, (from #24) and it stayed there for 9 days before dropping back to the original position.

    A lot of this discussion centers around how much the search results display pages have changed. The only thing that has not changed is that a #1 position is a #1 position. If because of the Google display you move from the #5 to the #8, you still only get the 1% of clicks because of page position.

    No matter how much Google changes the display, a properly SEO’d page will place well.
    Things like image and vid searches are but another channel to work in.

    Dani said:
    “Google has been saying if you want to increase your rankings, write for the end users, not the engines. Everything should be designed with the end user in mind.”

    This is 100% on the money.
    However to do this you have to understand the user, what they are looking for, how they find it, and what they do after they have found it.
    To apply this to a webpage is the optimization process.
    Optimization is building relevance to satisfy and lead the user through the information silos to an optimal solution.
    The page needs to attract, confirm, direct, and convert.

    Call me a Search User Psychologist (in)Engine Ranking. (SUPER)

    Google is getting smarter in defeating those that would influence their results by means they do not condone.
    This is a cause for major concern among those that do SEO for a living.
    Linking was a major factor in the indexing of SERPS.
    Google changed the linking algos thousands of times in an attempt to defeat the non organic linkers.
    In the past, even with the errors, it was still the best method.
    The Mayday update saw a major change in the way the algo approached designating relevance.
    Google said the Mayday update affected the long tail, bringing them into the same process that they used for the short tail indexing.
    What was mostly missed in this update was that not only the long tail affected, the algo that was used for PR was changed also.

    SEO, in the true sense of the word, does not change.
    It is still the same process of building sites for users.
    It is still the same process of presenting relevance for the readers.
    It is still the same process of telling Google (in code) what you are telling visitors in the visual display.
    I do not think that professionals in this area (or any area), should use “grey tactics). Showing the search engines one thing and showing the visitors another is one of the basic “No-NOs”
    A professional should never do anything that *might* generate a penalty.
    This is one industry where there is rally no “Grey” areas..
    You either stick to the rules or you break them.

    If the search engine thinks that a bunch of keywords in a “Tag Cloud” is stuffing or spam, so be it. I am certain it was not an arbitrary decision. They say no because it serves no real purpose and is a source of spam.
    I have run eyetracking studies on pages with tag clouds and it is rarely, if ever, a focus point. Saying “People like them” is more of an opinion than a fact. They get about the same attention as generic graphics. They also do not lend any real value to the topic.
    It would be much better to include the cloud’s keywords into the content using anchor text than to present a block of related or semi related words.

    SEO is getting harder, not because of changes in display, but because of the necessity of understanding the users. We need to understand how Google defines “relevance”.


  • Stanislas

    At Google, many are complaining. Instead, complaints have to make your site unique!

  • Jerry Nordstrom

    Wish I could have been there to hear this being debated. I can hardly believe my eyes when I read that it was suggested SEO has died as a term to define this old school practice.

    Creating and deploying strategies to generate traffic via search engines, social media sites and other means is certainly not dead.

    Internet marketing is the industry defining term, everything else is a sub category term for a specialized service.