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Is The SEO Industry In A State Of Decline

Is SEO dead?

Inevitably, just about every trend, practice, fad, and institution has its “Is it dying?” article. Attention, SEO industry, please report immediately for the requisite “Is SEO declining?” blog post. Thank you.

For anyone who’s even slightly paying attention to the Search Engine Optimization industry, it’s clear that Google’s steady stream of algorithm updates make it increasingly difficult to work the system and manipulate search results.

Content Is King

Google’s algorithms are paying more attention to shares, tweets, Likes, and +1’s. And the way you get those things is by providing interesting, engaging content that makes people not only say “This is awesome”, but even more importantly go to their friends and family and say “Hey, you have got to see this!”. The currency of backlinks is being devalued big time.

Is The Concept Of SEO Inherently Dishonest?

Let’s look at the phrase: Search Engine Optimization. Isn’t this just a high-minded way of saying “Let’s fool Google?” or “Let’s cheat the system”? Never mind that SEO gets split into black-hat and white-hat SEO strategies, which lends credence to the idea that SEO, or at least portions of it, has a dark, sleazy side to it.

SEO is marketing, and marketing isn’t always seen as a nice, honest profession. Rather, in some circles, it’s synonymous with snake oil salesmen, sleazy ad men, and liars. Now, throw in the fact that social media is still a relatively new concept and thus vulnerable to being misunderstood, then it becomes rather clear why the whole idea of SEO seems a bit sketchy.

But Is SEO Dead, Jim?

According to a 2011 SEMPO (Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization) report, the number of organizations using SEO has dropped from 91% in 2009 to 86% in 2011. At the same time, the number of those conducting social media activities has increased by 2%. Hardly world shattering, but if these figures are indicative of a trend, well … .

The word out there is that an increasing number of businesses are depending on good content to drive web traffic, not search engine manipulation, er, optimization tactics. Outright manipulation of search results is out, giving the people something good to read is in, or so many say.

And yet, there are SEO companies out there that, in 2012, have raised over $100 million in funding. Does this sound like SEOs are dying?

A Rehabilitation Of The Term

So if you go to your favorite search engine and plug in “SEOs dying”, you’ll find persuasive information for both sides. Either SEO industries will be dead in two to three years, or SEOs are experiencing a bumper crop of funding, guaranteeing a rosy future. Which is it? After all, both sides seem to be rather confident in their conclusions.

Perhaps the truth lies more in the redefinition (and in some people’s opinions, a disinfecting) of SEO as a term. While Google doesn’t invalidate the use of white-hat SEO techniques, content’s importance continues to grow. Perhaps what’s called for is defining SEO as strictly legitimate tactics (relevant keywords, link building), operating in concert with creating useful, entertaining content to lure in readers and prompt them to share it.

Only time will tell if SEOs truly are here to stay, but if the term gradually evolves to mean a partnership between providing good content and legitimate link building, then that will be a true marketing accomplishment.

Byline: John Terra has been a freelance writer since 1985, and has tackled such esoteric subjects as office furniture, running 5K road races, and business reputation.

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