Is SEO Last Year’s News?

The other day I heard the comment, “SEO was last year’s news”, from a professional with respected credentials. Unfortunately, time and place were not on my side for engaging in a more detailed conversation about that statement. It’s not a new statement being made, but I wonder what the core position is for making the argument.

Consider three main reasons for making that statement:

1.) The traditional search result is a thing of the past.
Search Insider has an interesting post titled “The Last Days of SEO” which talks about a shift from the traditional 10 page search result to a more diverse search experience. The author talks about the concept of Digital Asset Optimization – making certain all of your digital assets (video, images etc) are optimized for all online channels, now and in the future.

In late 2007, Top Rank Blog also wrote a post on Digital Asset Optimization, which argues that it’s not that SEO will go away, but how we’ve been accustomed to optimizing content for search engines will change.

From the post:
As long as there are search engines, there will be some kind of optimization for improving search engine visibility.

We’ll still be optimizing for search (at least some of us), just not necessarily in the same manner we had before.

2.) There are more alternatives to search engine traffic than ever before.
A true statement, but no one would argue that obtaining search engine traffic is also valuable. According to the January 2008 ComScore numbers, over 6 billion US search queries were registered in Google (9% growth month-to-month) in comparison to 3.3 billion videos viewed on YouTube (10% growth from November 2007).

While this shows that alternative ways to find media content are growing in popularity, one can still argue that there is a stable market for acquiring traditional search engine traffic. More importantly, smart website marketers will be evaluating what percentage of each channel’s traffic actually converts for a company successfully visible in both marketplaces.

So it’s not to say that investing in other online channels is a bad idea, but understanding how to drive quality traffic from search engines can be just as important.

3.) There are more SEO resources online than ever before
Hundreds (thousands?) of SEO blogs, SEO related websites, forums and discussion boards, are available for interested parties to learn about best practices, guidelines and fundamentals. The development of easy-to-use tools, SEO analysis programs and search engines’ own features for evaluating search presence make it easier for marketers to comprehend what once seemed like a complex puzzle.

I would argue that the sheer volume of information – free and reasonably inexpensive – simply makes it more difficult to fully understand SEO. Knowing what a best practice is (or is said to be) is one thing; applying it to produce a positive result is another.

Also, most site owners don’t fully understand things like:

  • Why internal cross-links are important and how to test and apply them.
  • How to tell if an inbound link is effective for search engine rankings.
  • How to tell when and what pages search engines crawled when they last visited.
  • How video, blogs, and new ways to deliver/present information impact search results.

I don’t believe website owners will find the answers to these topics (and many others) for every situation. That means (to me) that there’s still a fair amount of information to be shared and discussed.

Those that know more want to know more
It was another respected professional who pointed out to me that the person who made the initial comment was the person who was most interested in discussing search engine optimization. And not from a standpoint of “why” but how SEO could be applied more effectively through example and walk-through.

The SEO community probably does itself a disservice by making things sound easier than they usually end up being. Statements like “Content is King” and “It’s All About Links” are much more digestible to the casual listener than actually trying to explain how content gets indexed in search, evaluating the importance of an inbound link or working on internal site architecture.

Website owners are bombarded with information from every angle. When there are only seconds to get someone’s attention, presentation and pointedness become equally important requirements for success of the actual topic being discussed. That’s why more complex conversations about SEO do not often happen in a mainstream environment.

But new developments in search, easily accessible technologies, and a more savvy business owner (looking to better apply SEO to their own website strategy) make me think that there still is a lot more SEO news to share. The real question is where are the interested parties going to go to find it.


8 Responses to “Is SEO Last Year’s News?”

  1. Steven Snell on March 1st, 2008 12:37 pm

    Every so often I hear (or read) people saying that social media is/will replace search engines. I don’t see this at all. When I need to find something specific I don’t go to social media, except for the occasional search on delicious. I think we all still have a need to find content with search engines and that means that website owners will always have a need for SEO.

  2. Adnan on March 1st, 2008 2:28 pm

    I agree with Steven – whilst new media is on the rise, with an increase in popularity of YouTube and social media networks and sites, I still use Google everyday for my source of information and for answers to my questions.

    From a branding point of view, it is sensible these days to open yourself up to other forms of media, eg. mp3 and video, but search is still a very dominant form and targeted way of gaining traffic.

    …But I’m no SEO…

  3. Derek Edmond on March 2nd, 2008 11:00 am

    My gut feeling is that because traditional SEO techniques have been documented hundreds of times over, it just seems like there’s not much more to explore.

    But it’s so far from the truth and (at least for myself) it’s often difficult to cover more complex SEO strategies in popular online formats. I tend to think the message gets confusing or is hard to apply on an individual basis.

    Plus – and this is another SEO business topic that is discussed and debated – why would you (or the SEO professional) really want to?

    Thanks very much for your comments – they are much appreciated.

  4. Jill on March 2nd, 2008 6:34 pm


    Bring all this great insight to this week’s SEMNE meeting on the future of search!

  5. Adam Maywald on March 2nd, 2008 7:19 pm

    You can see they’re starting to do that with the testing I saw the other day –

    Really transforming the result pages.

  6. SEO Pune on March 3rd, 2008 5:58 am

    Well ,I think the one thing that SEO has helped in is to spread information , through linking and optimization.But Im sure this industry has a lot more in store and its not quite at the stage of giving up.

  7. Tad Chef on March 3rd, 2008 6:42 am

    I still prefer the other term Lee Odden used: SEO 2.0, because “Digital Asset Optimization” is just so boring and nobody knows it so that it’ll take years before people understand it.

  8. Derek Edmond on March 3rd, 2008 9:00 am

    Jill – Unfortunately, we (KoMarketing) have a client in town from out of town this week and will not be able to make it. I was really looking for to attending that panel as well and was disappointed that scheduling did not work out as planned.

    Adam – Thanks for the insight, it is interesting to see how Google is playing with SERPS on both the organic and paid sides of the page.

    SEO Pune – Agreed

    Tad Chef – I would agree as well. My personal opinion is that we do not really need to coin new terms – but I also respect both Lee Odden and Chris Copeland’s opinions on the subject. They both have a bit more experience than I do.