SEO is Dead: A Fun Romp through the "Death of SEO" Graveyard

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“The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.”
-Mark Twain

It’s been said that SEO is dead. It’s been said a lot, actually. But no, this is not another dumb, disguised, fake controversy “death of SEO” linkbait article. No. This is a fun, full-disclosure, zero-controversy death of SEO linkbait article. Now that you’re done groaning and rolling your eyes, settle for a fun-tastic journey thought the SEO graveyard!

What Killed SEO in the Past?

Here’s what I dug up (pardon the pun) as to what seems to have caused the demise of SEO over the years, in no particular order:

  • Google Instant
  • Web 3.0
  • Social Networking Sites / “Social Media Marketing”
  • Apps
  • Facebook / Bing Deal
  • Personalized Search
  • Search Plus Your World
  • Panda
  • Google Caffeine
  • Various Google Algorithm Updates
  • Google Local
  • Siri
  • Mobile
  • Google Plus
  • Google SearchWiki (my fave on this list… remember that one?)

Judging by my list, Google is more than just an accomplice in the murder of SEO.

Notable Quotes about the Death of SEO

Things have been said. I’m putting the credit/blame away right now, and letting you guess if your favorite SEO made one of these statements:

“SEO is dead, long live SEO!”

I just wanted to get your attention. Ok?”

“SEO has become a bad word.”

“SEO: never done and dusted” (Me: yeah… wait – what?)

“I’ve said it before, but SEO is in many ways about change. The best SEOs recognize, adapt, and even flourish when changes happen.”

“…I figured I’d say it before someone else gets all the links.”

“…seems like it might be alive and kicking after all.”

” SEO is here to stay, it will never die” 

And my personal favorite quote from someone writing recently about the death of SEO:

“I have no back ground in SEO.” [sic]

Do you think anyone would eat their words now?

How Often Does SEO die?

What’s the “death to SEO” velocity over time, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know. And as your intrepid graveyard-romping reporter, I decided to check it out.

I used Google’s nifty custom-range date search feature, and here’s what I found:

How Often Does SEO Die?
How Often Does SEO Die?

Pretty self-explanatory. If I were a betting man, I’d think it’s a safe wager that SEO will be dying more this year than last year.  What’s your bet? Seems to me that SEO has a bright future when it comes to dying!

Why Would Someone Say That SEO is Dead?

There are plenty of reasons you might hear this:

  • They really, actually, think SEO is dead
  • They hope SEO will be dead soon
  • They’re link-baiting (ahem!)
  • They’re creating completely misleading headlines to get your attention so you’ll read their stupid article, only to find out that the “article” is not about SEO being dead at all. In fact, they’re just trying to impress you with how much they know about SEO so you’ll want to hire them. (I wonder if that actually ever worked – did you ever hire someone after reading something like that? C’mon, you can tell me – I’ll keep your secret safe!)

Sidebar: There are some extremely intelligent, experienced, passionate people in this industry who are discussing if SEO should, um, evolve – not the practice of SEO, that’s always evolving – they’re talking about the term “SEO” itself. I’ve read some very insightful commentary on this from the likes of Rand Fishkin, Ian Lurie, Danny Sullivan and others (sorry if I didn’t mention your name, you’re intelligent and experienced too – oh, and passionate).

Semi-Entertaining “SEO Is Dead” Data

To accurately analyze SEO obituaries, I did some rooting around. Let’s start with Google Trends. What do we get for “SEO is dead” and “death of SEO”?

Nothing. Skunked. “Not enough search volume to show graphs” – my heart sank… but ever hopeful and always optimistic, I headed over to Google Insights for Search.

Surely there must be data there! (There is, and don’t call me Shirley).

Hmm. A little more interesting, but not by much. Making me feel like “Insights” is an inaccurate name for this tool right now.

Next I tried Ubersuggest, but found nothing interesting (or funny) there.

Okay okay – let’s go to AdWords and see what we can find:

Wow, really? Ten bucks a click for “SEO is dead”? Hmm, I wonder who’s stupid enough – I mean enterprising enough – to bid on such a term:

Huh. At the bottom is of the Google SERP is, um, Google.

Well, I’m not too surprised and you’re probably not either. I’ve heard of this kind of thing before, and you probably have too. Wouldn’t you just love to peek inside their AdWords and Analytics reports?

But I do scratch my head a bit as I think about why Google would be bidding on this term. Are they betting that SEO will die? Do they want it to? I’ve heard people – smart, experienced, respectable people – say as much, but I wondered if they were just being dramatic. Or if it was just the beer talking. Let’s presume they were talking with Google beer-goggles.

What do you think? I really, really want to know.

Hurry up and tell me – before SEO dies!

Disclaimer: All of the following represents completely unscientific research and analysis on my part. No SEOs or Internet Marketers – and certainly no inbound marketers – were hurt or injured in the writing of this article. If any of this gets your panties in a bunch, I suggest lying down and taking some deep breaths until the feeling passes, or switching to looser-fitting undergarments, or both.

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  1. SOCIAL MEDIA will replace SEO.
    SEO will be Dead! The Death of SEO is near. SOCIAL MEDIA RULES!

  2. Thanks David for the laugh !
    As SEO *might be on its way* to die a long agony, so is Social Media : 2011 has seen the rise of social bots, fake personas, “buy followers, like, digg…” schemes, of course prohibited by search engines and Google in particular.
    My guess is that SEO is far from being dead as long as it’s made in purpose, with transparency (read “no more anonymous whois” and/or “nonsense credits and mentions”) and strategy.
    And as for the high bidings on the “SEO is dead” query, I think it’s to avoid buzz effets and link baiting, because it’s a good way to attract potential customers : businesses owners wanting to improve their site’s rankings but reading everywhere that SEO is not the way to go… My two cents 😉

  3. King Tutan, lol if you’re joking. You are joking, right?
    While social media is sometimes awesome, I don’t think it will replace search. There are often times where I need to know something that no one I know knows about or that I need to know sooner than my network can respond or that my network knows but doesn’t have bookmarked.
    SEO has evolved and the shift is away from “gaming an algorithm” and toward “providing good stuff.” Providing good stuff and helping search engines find your content isn’t going anywhere just like the need to search isn’t going anywhere.

  4. For a minute there I thought SEO was really really dead.
    Google commit the murder??? Would they? Should they? COULD THEY?
    its like the notorioty that killers need. The more they do, the more they get talked about and in turn it all makes them a bit stronger as people begin to fear them….
    thanks for the chuckle Dave!

  5. I believe it’s going into an era of less bot-ish SEO and more emphasis on the user experience and engagement (takes me back to the first lesson of SEO – content is the king!) .. so instead of crying out loud that SEO is dead, SEOers should just update their methods and techniques into this evolved search engine optimization world and keep it up-to-beat.. but you were right when saying “SEO is dead” is a eye-catching title for another yet an article. great entry! loved reading it.

  6. The name SEO is outdated and as such the techniques that used to be labelled SEO are dead with it.
    The service has evolved to a more holistic online marketing approach, so it will be interesting to see how long till the name also evolves.
    Even in a worse case scenario, Products & services never really die, they evolve or simply take on a different name or approach.

    1. I don’t really think the term and techniques of SEO are outdated. Search engine optimization? I still know a lot of SEOs who help their clients achieve higher rankings in search engines by optimizing their website. That sounds like SEO to me.
      If you’re talking about a “more holistic online marketing approach,” then I think that would probably be internet marketing. That’s a pretty holistic term for online marketing. SEO is a just a part of that.

  7. I don’t think SEO is dead, I just think some of the practices have changed. Look at how many changes google has made just this year alone.

  8. I think social media optimization has been very effective and probably helped the SEO demise. Basic SEO is still important but it’s not panacea to marketing

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