The End of SEO
Ian Lurie Jul 30 2009
HAH. Bet THAT got your attention.
No, I’m not actually saying SEO is dying, or SEO is going away, or that SEOs are crooks. I’m an SEO. Some of my best friends are SEOs…
But the definition of SEO is changing. The latest YaBing news will probably accelerate that change. And when the dust settles, or at least starts drifting in a different direction, SEO will no longer be a standalone craft.
Instead, SEO will become about deriving value from search visits to a web site. And that will make SEO a full-on marketing discipline. Here’s why:
Rankings are dying
Optimizing for a specific keyword and ranking is an even dumber strategy now than it was a year ago. With personalized search, behavior tracking and other fine things, the search engines are constantly tweaking and adjusting which sites go where.
Focus on the keyword rankings and you’ll lose your mind, as well as your business.
What can SEOs focus on, then?
Instead, watch your organic search traffic (traffic from unpaid search results). Is it going up? Great! Your SEO is working. Is it going down? Bummer. Your SEO hasn’t kicked in yet.
So, SEOs aren’t in the rankings business any more. We’re in the traffic business.
But quality matters more
‘More traffic’ is not a business goal. So search traffic quality is more important than quantity.
‘Quality’ is determined by search traffic’s direct contribution to the growth of the business. Nothing else matters.
SEOs aren’t in the traffic business, either. We’re in the business growth business. Ask any competent SEO and I’ll bet they have at least one story of clients asking about bottom-line results rather than rankings. If someone’s going to shell out cash for your services, they want to know the work’s paying off, directly, for them.
Traffic will shrink
I’ve talked about the big shift from index to aggregator that most search engines are making.
That’s going to reduce traffic. It won’t reduce attention, though.
Clickability will rule
So, SEOs are going to be caught up in a battle not just for first-page real estate, but also for clicks. Our ability to craft search listings that grab attention, answer questions and make searchers click is as valuable as our ability to increase traffic.
And, our ability to get the right clicks (see ‘quality’, above) will become more important, because you can’t write a different search snippet for every search query.
OK, you can, but I’ll not talk about such black hattery here.
Conversion will rule
If you do a fantastic job of search engine optimization but the web site is a pile of steaming poop, you’ll still end up fired.
No conversions = no quality
No quality = no benefit
No benefit = you’re FIRED
SEOs must start learning about conversion optimization and usability. We have to be able to make query-focused recommendations that improve a page’s conversion rate among searchers.
SEOs must become marketers
In short, SEOs have to become marketers. We have to learn to help companies derive real, bottom-line value from SEO. If we can’t do that, I may someday write about the end of SEO and mean it.
Ian Lurie is CEO and founder of Portent Inc. He's recorded training for Lynda.com, writes regularly for the Portent Blog and has been published on AllThingsD, Forbes.com and TechCrunch. Ian speaks at conferences around the world, including SearchLove, MozCon, SIC and ad:Tech. Follow him on Twitter at portentint. He also just published a book about strategy for services businesses: One Trick Ponies Get Shot, available on Kindle. Read More