SEO is not dead. Is it what you think though?

People have been writing articles about “SEO being dead” for the last few years. But of course, it’s not dead; otherwise perfectly sensible companies wouldn’t be spending millions of pounds every month on “SEO consultancy”. The problem is that the meaning of SEO may not be what you think. And those companies which don’t get it (and there are a lot of you) are wasting their money.

Here’s the thing. “SEO” (search engine optimisation) means “setting up your website to get as much traffic as possible from the search engines”. Always has done, always will do. However, in the minds of website owners ten years ago, that objective became simplified to “getting to number one in the search results page”. Specialists who could get a client up to the top for a single generic search were much in demand. Those who could generate ten times as much traffic through general improvements struggled to compete (and were snapped up to work for the big retail corporations who did understand the real point of all this).

And that’s how it’s stayed. Even the best SEO specialists long ago stopped despairing when they outlined to a client how they’d improve the client’s traffic from search engines, only to be told: “Yeah, but you will get us to number one for blue widgets, won’t you? That’s what the MD wants”. They just got on with doing what they were told. Customers are always right, even when they’re wrong.

Then there have been the people who just preyed on the general ignorance of what SEO actually is. Web designers realised that many clients weren’t keen on paying them a subsequent retainer to maintain the website. But offer them an ongoing contract to “do SEO” and clients would be much more receptive. What this “doing SEO” actually means has sometimes been, well, nothing. Yet still companies have been willing to pay.

It’s time that we took back the term “SEO” from the ignorant and those who can make money out of pretending it’s some sort of magic. Search engine optimisation means “setting up your website to get as much traffic as possible from the search engines”. It’s not about manipulating them, and it’s not something you can’t do yourself, although getting in expert help can be a sound investment. Tomorrow I’ll look at what you should be doing.

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