Why SEO Isn’t Going to Disappear Overnight!

To a lot of people, SEO is a form of spam.  Over the last 10 years, affiliates and webmasters have invested an endless amount of time trying to arbitrarily “fix” Google’s ranking algorithm and cash in on the 1st page rankings.  Users have complained, Google has invested in countless updates to trim the spam from their search engines, and webmasters have lost their income source.

What people forget however is that there are also A LOT of big brands and marketing agencies who use SEO.  Whether Google likes it or not, SEO has become an integral form of online marketing in the 21st Century.

There no two ways about it – SEO isn’t going to disappear overnight.  I remember reading in the WebmasterWorld.com Forums, after one of the Panda updates in October 2011, that it signaled “the end of SEO”.  It was now impossible for one-trick ponies and black hat gurus to rank their sites in the search engines.

SEO still continued however.  Webmasters just worked out how to beat Panda. They, you, and me evolved.

Will Google be Able to Penalize Websites in the Future?

In a lot of competitive industries, such as gambling, porn and pharmaceuticals, everyone is engaging in some form of grey-hat SEO.  Even the biggest brands and companies are breaking Google’s Guidelines about link purchases and manipulating the search results.  I was at the LAC (London Affiliate Conference) last week listening to a lecture from UniBet’s Head of Search, who was talking about grey-hat tactics.  In industries like this, grey-hat has become the norm.

But whether or not the biggest brands are engaging in SEO is irrelevant.  The big issue for Google is that SEO is going mainstream, and it isn’t disappearing overnight.

The search engine index has become the new “marketplace” for ecommerce and retail sites, which are rapidly encroaching the high street market demand (particularly here in the UK and USA).  SEO is becoming a legitimate, cost-effective, method for companies to market themselves online – just like Facebook adverts and PPC marketing.

Some of the top SEO experts, working for big brands such as Amazon and BMW, have already estimated that grey-hat SEO marketing is around 10th the cost of running an Adwords campaign for the same traffic and keywords.  Grey-hat SEO can also generate an ROI of 130%-500% depending on which industry you work in.

The problem for Google is that if SEO continues to become the norm for online marketing then they’re going to be limited to the extent to which they can penalize websites in the SERPs.

Think about it.  If everyone is doing it, it creates and ethical dilemma for Google.  Of course it’s impossible for them to condone link purchases (Google’s own SEO Guidelines literally haven’t changed since 2003), but there will come a point where Google has to realize that everyone is buying links.  The “natural” link graph won’t be legitimate anymore and neither will the “social graph”.

Companies have a “right” to market themselves through SEO just like any other form of online marketing.  It’s not even just about Google.com.  It’s about marketing through all of the majors such as Bing, Yahoo and Baidu, to which Google cannot simply say, “No, this is wrong”.  Google penalizing sites for engaging in SEO will be like a TV network prohibiting companies from marketing themselves during adverts.

Google Will Continue to Rank the Best Results for Users

Naturally, Google will aim to promote the best results for users and will continue modifying, adding or removing factors to their search engine algorithm, which currents stands at over 240 unique variables.

I think there’s some interesting economics data to think about in the future of SEO though.  If grey-hat SEO does become more mainstream, for example, then will the companies that invest the higher amount in SEO marketing deserve to rank 1st in the search results?  Surely just like offline marketing, the most efficient companies will be able to outspend their competitors, which will also be the ones that provide the best user experience and value.  As such, maybe the top SEO spenders will be the best sites for users.

Google will get better at finding unique signals that indicate higher quality sites.  But the problem is that if all of the high quality sites are engaging in SEO, and all of them already have positive signals such as social media followers, return visitors and strong analytics then there will always be “something” left in the algorithm to game – hence SEO will never die.

Why Most of the Information your Hear About Building Brands is Wrong

One of the things that’s starting to drive me crazy is the number of bloggers and affiliates now providing guests posts talking about how you have to “add value” to the Internet.

It’s really easy to say this, but 95% of the time I think the people writing this are talking the talk but not walking the walk.  These are the same “innovative minds” that think paying someone to design a few info-graphics on their site all of a sudden makes their site amazing!

It doesn’t work like that.  The best sites and brands on the Internet have slowly grown over time, either through takeovers, re-designs, partnerships or mergers.  You can’t just take a 1-month old site and turn it into a brand overnight.  Brand building takes time and hard work, in addition to a HUGE amount of investment in human capital, coding, editorial staff, marketing teams, and resources – something which I’ve never seen anyone mention when talking about building online brands.

Everyone acts as though the difference between a low quality affiliate site and building a brand is just about a change in mindset.  It requires a completely different set of skills and investment though.

Trust me, I regularly talk to webmasters who spend $xxx,xxx on premium domains and then $xx,xxx on design and coding.  I know a huge company in the finance niche who are about to launch a site that they’ve invested over $x,xxx,xxx in the last few months.  These are the real success stories that will get you the “band metrics” you’re looking for.  Not the smaller affiliates that decide to hire a slightly better writer for $0.04c per work.

Why you shouldn’t Worry Too Much About SEO Changing in the Next Couple of Years

First of all, SEO hasn’t changed much in the last 5-10 years.  It’s still more then 60-70% about links, keywords and optimizing your page titles.

Sure, the latest 2011 search engine ranking factors from SEOMoz.org shows that social signals and brand signals are a tiny bit more important then they used to be. But so what?  The fundamentals have stayed the same.  Build good content, make your site good enough for users, and buy a bunch of links.

Facebook has remained a closed network, which prevents Google crawling a lot of its data, and if Social Media signals start replacing link metrics in SEO then you’re going to get a wild amount of social “noise”, and social media brokers selling Facebook Likes etc over the internet.

Even if content becomes more important, you have to remember that users prefer to read short 500-600 word articles rather then reading 1,000 – 2,000 word essays.  Long articles turn off users and if anything it will damage your user metrics and increase your bounce rates.  Hence, improving the rankings for sites with longer articles doesn’t make that much more sense if you’re Google.

The only thing that we can say for sure is that Google will likely be highly dependent on the link graph for the next 3-5 years.  As long as you keep building good sites, which are relevant and provide some sort of value to the visitor (such as recommending the top online casinos) then you are good to go.

This guest post was written by Adam, who has been successful in affiliate marketing in a number of industries such as gambling, trading, binary options and banking.  He also runs his own affiliate blog at AffiliateFYI.com.

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  1. Great post Adam and I agree 100% except for the short posts comment on the end. Sure people may be turned off by longer blog posts to an extent but usually the longer blog posts offer the most value, and they rank better in the search engines, so I just think it is a matter of preference and totally up to the blogger to decide the length of his or her blog posts.

    And your 100% right seo is definitely here to stay everyone just has way too much riding on it to let it disappear. Too big to fail like the auto industries, or big banks for example.

    Excellent post very in depth I enjoyed it.

  2. Jay, I agree too. SEO nowadays is much more powerfull than ever. My tests show, that you can get 20 times more traffic from that method, than from Adwords.

    You can get this results, but it is a very hard work!

    Thanks for sharing Zac, awesome work on your blog!

  3. What a great web log. I spend hours on the net reading blogs, about tons of various subjects. I have to first of all give praise to whoever created your theme and second of all to you for writing what i can only describe as an fabulous article. I honestly believe there is a skill to writing articles that only very few posses and honestly you got it. The combining of demonstrative and upper-class content is by all odds super rare with the astronomic amount of blogs on the cyberspace.

  4. I totally agree with you except for the long and extensive content. While it's easier to read 500 word articles that does not mean that 2k word articles won't perform better. I think it's all about structuring a page like that. When visitors see 2k words of plain text without propper headlines etc. chances are that they quit quickly. But if you make it look more attractive, embed images, graphics, tables, videos, whatever, it's highly likely that they stay and will enjoy their stay. I think the best long term strategy is to provide the best information for a certain visitor no matter if you can get it done with 100 words or 10.000. If Google really improves its searches regularly, it will rank these sites highest even though tese are thin 100 word articles.
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  5. True, can't imagine internet marketing without SEO. For me, it's even the core for all existing online businesses. Setting the social shares aside, links matter the most. Back links don't only suggest a site's popularity but so do quality and relevance.

  6. True, can't imagine internet marketing without SEO. For me, it's even the core for all existing online businesses. Setting the social shares aside, links matter the most. Back links don't only suggest a site's popularity but so do quality and relevance.

  7. A lot of webmasters today are suffering in rankings to their keyword since the last google algo update, we should not really be dependent on an unsure SEO fomula good rich content is really a big factor.
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  8. I have to agree with you to a certain extent. Basic SEO has not changed over the last year although some of the penguin updates have roiled some markets quite a bit. To a certain extent I have put the blinders on to all the changes and smoke and mirrors and continued to focus on my own site content, coding improvements, and innovation in the field. People forget that you actually have to have something novel to offer once you actually get some traffic.
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