Search Engine Optimization is No Longer Enough

It doesn’t matter what type of business you run, if you’ve checked your email in the last five years, you’ve undoubtedly received spam from the so-called SEO experts who promise to get you to the number one spot on Google for your keyword of choice – all for the low low price of just $39.99.

While this practice (ahem scam) has faded away significantly in the past 12 months, it still has left an fallacious perception in its wake that SEO – or Search Engine Optimization is the be-all-end-all of your online marketing efforts.  Get to the front page of Google and those 20,000 people a month who search for your particular phrase will come banging down the virtual door to your website automatically.  The problem is that not only is this not the case, it never was.

Another byproduct of the race to be number one on Google phenomenon is that it spawned a whole new group of people who call themselves SEO specialists, whose sole function was to implement as many of the known SEO techniques as they could for a sizable fee – with varying results.  The demand for this type of service flooded the marketplace with talentless hacks and wannabes – often charging thousands of dollars in return for very little.  As more and more companies got burned, they became leery of the industry as a whole, and legitimate web development firms were hurt as a result of this negative perception.

A couple of weeks ago, I was chatting with a web development partner of mine who mentioned that, while pitching my services to a client of his, referred to me as his SEO Specialist.

At first, I thought he was simply referring to what I do in terms that his client was familiar with, and I didn’t think much of it.  In many ways, calling me an SEO Specialist isn’t the most inaccurate or unflattering way to describe what it is that I do.  But when it came up again in a subsequent conversation, it made me a little uncomfortable with the possible connotations and limitations that this type of label could imply.

The problem I had is that I do so much more than simply implementing SEO tactics to on-page elements.  SEO, while it’s very important in the overall scheme of things, is only a small part of what a web strategy is all about.  Which brings me to the point of all of this, and saying this publicly isn’t going to make me very popular with certain ‘peers’ in this business, but it’s time to call a spade a spade:

Search Engine Optimization, as a discipline of Internet Marketing, is all but dead. SEO is now (and really always was) a fundamental aspect of the bigger picture, which is to determine who your customers are, what problems they’re looking to solve, how they are searching, what (if any) competition is already in the marketplace, etc.; then develop a strategy to attract targeted visitors, determine what actions you want them to take on your site, design/optimize your site with the right layouts and calls to actions, etc.  SEO is only one piece of that grand puzzle, and it is as fundamental as even having a website in the first place.

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