Is SEO Dead -- Or Decentralized?
As organizations continue to accelerate investments in digital channels, paid search appears to be the biggest search beneficiary. Organic search, which topped the list of marketing investments in 2011 for online retailers, is now listed as the fifth most important investment. The declining interest stems from a perceived “difficult(y) to invest in that media.” This, though undoubtedly connected to the limited control over impressions and clicks originating from organic search, is due in part to our shrinking abilities to measure SEO influence and success.
Yesterday The Guardian ran an article titled, “SEO is dead. Long live social media optimisation,” which, despite its sensationalistic headline, does offer an intriguing glimpse at how online discovery and influence is shifting. The author cites the rise of social media, the increasing presence of ads on traditional search results pages, and content discovery through mobile applications (rather than traditional search engines) as leading contributors to the “death” of legacy SEO.
As I often do when I read and reflect on new information or op-ed contributions, I internalize what I’ve read and think about whether it mirrors my own experiences. In the case of the deceased (SEO), I don’t think it’s dead at all. The trend I have witnessed firsthand, the result of both difficult measurability and shrinking influence (last click – an argument for a robust attribution model can be made here too), is a decentralization of legacy SEO activities across functional roles. In today’s marketing communications organization, everyone is an SEO.
In the olden days of SEO, programs were sold as complete packages. “Have a website? Time to optimize it for search!” It was an inevitable afterthought to website design and development, and it drove us crazy. SEOs wanted a seat at the strategic table, as site experiences were being ideated and defined. SEO programs that were sold as bolt-on solutions likely meant a lot of reworking would be necessary. A site’s information architecture is more intuitive to users when keyword popularity intelligence is leveraged in its formation. Crawl budgets are maximized when a site’s supporting code base is lean and efficient.
The list goes on. And we griped about it all.
As SEO considerations became more complex and performance became more difficult to quantify, many organizations were finally awakening to the importance of SEO. Our years of griping started to pay off. The result I’ve witnessed is that creative teams include content discoverability and SEO into their work streams; technologists are building sites and apps compliant with known onsite SEO best practices; and UX specialists are including keyword research before developing user personas and journeys.
None of these activities ladders up an SEO investment, per se. These individual activities have become accepted best-practice behaviors, and in turn, SEO has become decentralized.