Friday, 20 July 2012

Is SEO dying?

Is SEO dying? Shall we call the undertakers and order
a plot and tombstone? Typical, I just started this blasted blog

This morning I read an article on Forbes that intrigued me so much I'm changing the schedule of my posts to mull over it. A kind of STOP PRESS, STOP PRESS, BREAKING NEWS moment. 

The first half of the deadline is alarming: The Death of SEO... then it continues: the Rise of Social, PR, And Real Content. Phew, huge relief, I thought my career choice got canned, but no, I’m fine and dandy as a copywriter. But what about my newly launched SEO sideline?

Let’s rewind. An SEO guru made this statement over a business lunch: “Google is in the process of making the SEO industry obsolete, SEO will be dead in two years.”

Ken Krogue, the article's writer, was justifiably blown away. He posted this “bomb” on his blog and got a mixed bag of comments, several not very complimentary. Then Ken (if I may use his first name - we are all friends in the virtual world) goes on to describe what SEO is and the difference between white hat and black hat SEO. Now, this post is not going to be a blow-by-blow account of this intriguing article, so read the rest for yourself here.

White hat, black hat SEO

I agree that Google wants (no, demands) good quality content, but as a white-hat SEO copywriter I sometimes feel that there are dark arts still lurking: websites that are just a long list of links, ripped-off content from legitimate sites, or (worse) they are pretty good on the surface but have a page somewhere where the black arts are deployed to massage rankings. I find it particularly irritating when this is done by a smug copywriter who thinks he/she is the bee’s knees, yet has used dodgy SEO to get a high ranking for a keyword that is not relevant to their business but is a potential money spinner. I do rant about that on Twitter a bit, but I’m not the only one.... Others are getting pissed off about it, after all we all want to maintain a good image about our industry of choice.

So the white hatters are trying to fly the flag of quality content. Trouble is that this good  content is time consuming to produce and costs money - money that some clients are not prepared to pay. Yes, they are prepared to pay the designer top rates (mostly - designers feel free to share), but the copywriter? Oh, no, they don’t have much left in the budget for copy, the SEO specialist they hired after the designer has seen to that. So does this all mean that SEO copywriters will rule? I mean, content is king, all these digital conferences are saying that loud... Will the SEO expert wither and die? Will white hatters trounce the black hatters?

Well, those black hatters won’t leave without a fight. But yes, eventually the black hatters will have to go, the link builders will get shafted and the keywords stuffers will get stuffed.
Google is working on it. The Penguin update has started the process but I have a sneaky feeling it will be a slow death - think Star Wars, Darth Vader was a challenging foe to say the least. The dark side has plenty of wiles to deploy.

Power to the social media people

So links are dead ducks, hello Social Media! A social media strategy is vital for exposure. Everybody knows that, but do companies? Who is the real social media specialist? Usually somebody who has a communications background, in plain words, somebody who can write engaging copy. These specialists will come from  journalism, marketing, advertising and PR backgrounds. 

Scratch the surface and you will find that marketing principles have not changed much. They might have acquired shiny new buzzwords but they are based on consumer behaviour, which is based on human instincts, which haven’t changed. Humans are still trapped in the Freudian dichotomy of sex and death. Sex sells, death does too, albeit indirectly (life is short, you cannot miss out on this and that! Buy that car, live in the fast lane and so on...).

Saintly SEO, I’m getting all philosophical here... COD alert! So basically, you need good content. The problem is what is good content? Which themes and voices engage? This is the challenge. It’s not all about pretty words, it’s finding something that strikes a chord - writing for the web is not like writing for print media, oh no. 

But, the article continues, it’s not only about copy - it’s about images, videos and all things creative. You will probably know that tagging images and videos is a basic SEO strategy that works. If you have videos and images in your blog or website, do spare some time captioning them adequately. And do the same when writing for Pinterest, as this enlightened colleague explains (click here).

And to end this post, I leave you with Ken’s summing-up quote: “It is the overly aggressive marketers that always spoil it for everyone.” I know plenty of those, guilty of starting conversations in LinkedIn that are actually thinly veiled sales pitches.

P.S. This is a Seth-Godin-quotation-free zone. Sethsayers, please refrain from quoting.


  1. What's wrong with Seth Godin? I don't get that? You're happy to quote other people who you think are great, so why can't people reading comment and use Seth as a reference?

  2. Great post Simone. I always cheer when someone sticks up for good content. And it's not about endless list posts, it's about knowing how to present content which is useful, entertaining or informative. This in turn helps with the SEO in a way which feels authentic rather than through cheating the system.

  3. Seth Godin is very overquoted. It was a joke, a hazy reference to Michael Winner. Porter Restaurant in Covent Garden had this sign: This is a Michael Winner free zone

  4. Delighted that the original writer called my comment out in Forbes and wrote "Simone, I spent some time on your blog and found it quite interesting and fresh, from a copy writing point of view, which is one of my favorite." – Ken

    Great to hear because I wasn't sure if I was ranting or making sense...