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Laura Hampton

SEO Isn’t Dead: The Facts Behind The Theories

31st Jul 2013 SEO 4 minutes to read

Zombie GraveIt’s not the first time SEO has come under criticism, but The Guardian’s claim that ‘SEO is dead’ has really ruffled some feathers. Even a swift clarification felt like little consolation. Here, Laura Hampton, Digital Marketing Manager at Hallam Internet, explores the facts behind the article and gives her take on why SEO really isn’t dead…

Search engine optimisation is an integral part of any digital marketing strategy. But look to The Guardian newspaper last week and you’d be met with the sensational headline:

SEO is dead: Long live social media optimisation.

The article by Tim Anderson caused a stir within the SEO and business communities as readers voiced concerns about the claims made, anger at the misrepresentation of SEO and confusion over the inclusion of such an article in what is usually a high quality technology blog.

What struck a chord for a lot of the article’s readers was the use of ‘facts’ which appeared to have little or no foundation in truth or experience. Let’s debunk some of those theories now:

“Search engine optimisation was always a flawed concept.”

The premise of SEO is simple; create high quality content and follow a few simple rules to show search engines that yours is the most relevant result for any given query.

Rooted in user experience and providing the best content for the web audiences, we’re not sure what in SEO Anderson considers flawed. Needless to say, we continue to support any practices which improve online experience.

“Google search may display only 13% organic results; ‘the rest is ads and junk’”

The research Anderson cites here is that of Dan Graziano, Android Editor for technology blog BGR, in which it is allegedly ‘found’ that true organic results only account for 13% of Google’s search display.

Let’s unpack this a little further.

Firstly, ‘13% organic results’. A strong claim – until you read further into the research and find that the ‘experiment’ was done using a 13 inch screen and that the total space available was only considered to be that which is above the fold. So what is actually being said here is that 13% of the space above the fold on a 13 inch laptop is taken up by what is considered by the author of the report to be ‘organic results’.

Next, let’s look further at ‘organic results’. There is an assumption put fourth here that ‘organic’ means good and ‘the rest is ads and junk’. But the ‘ads and junk’ here refers to a map showing providers in the local vicinity (can’t argue that’s useful), some PPC (which is still reliant on relevancy) and, oddly, the navigation and search bar at the top of all Google search results. This seems a very subjective way of categorising what is valuable and not valuable in search results.

“A recent Forrester report on how consumers found websites in 2012 shows that social media is catching up with search”

Now this is true – in part. The Forrester report did show an increase in website discoveries through social media compared to last year, when participants in the study were asked the question ‘How have you typically found the websites you’ve visited in the past month’.

But percentages and year on year studies are not the full story. As Martin Macdonald suggested in a response article, ‘internet traffic is not a zero sum game’. There aren’t a finite number of internet users for the different medium to fight for a share of; rather, the number of internet users grows every year and with it, the number of search users and social media users. Both will continue to grow, but neither usurps the other.

“Recommendations from friends count for more than a search engine algorithm will ever achieve”

As Emma explained in a post on Koozai’s blog a few months ago:

“It is believed that Google considers social signals to be a strong, natural indication of site authority and uses this in its ranking algorithm. If everyone is talking about your brand or following your profiles on social networks, there’s a good chance that people will want to see your site over your competitors in relevant searches.”

Google continue to evaluate and update its algorithms to take into account online developments and ensure the results it generates are the most relevant to the user. Social is a big part of that, and therefore discussion of SEO and social as two separate entities is no longer viable.

It’s always a shame when the topic of SEO is negatively portrayed. But its value is something very difficult to argue, and it is those businesses that learn to combine search engine optimisation with other digital marketing strategies that will succeed on Google and in the eyes of web users.

Read Hallam Internet’s interview with SEO is Dead author Tim Anderson for more insight into the author’s opinions and how he responds to the reaction his article has received.

What do you think? Share your comments in the area below.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.

Image Source

Zombie hand by BigStock

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Laura Hampton
About the author

Laura Hampton

Laura is one of a team of consultants at digital marketing agency Hallam Internet, which specialises in search engine optimisation (SEO), social media management, Pay Per Click (PPC) management and email marketing. She is a featured author in publications including Mashable, Figaro Digital, PR News and Marketing Donut, as well as the Hallam Internet SEO blog. In her spare time, she is an avid skydiver and spends her weekends jumping out of planes.


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